Like traveling back in time. Corals upon corals upon corals.
I came across a recently published marine science paper that stopped me dead in my tracks. A group of marine biologist have just declared a coral reef off the coast of Timor Leste the most biodiverse on the planet, by a factor of nearly 20%. Excuse me? Timor what? I’m a pretty darn well traveled photographer and this one had escaped me. After a little research I found out that they are the youngest country in Asia, declaring their independence from Indonesia in 2003. I knew right away that I needed to photograph this place. After calling all my favorite underwater photographers and asking about the diving there, I got the same response, “Never heard of it. Never been.” I had my tickets booked that day.
I joined some good friends out of an environmental protection agency in Washington DC who was also interested in the new published findings and we flew into the capitol city of Dili for a week of photographing and research into how the reef is being managed and what is needed to help foster and protect it.
Dili as a rich and beauty city with some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Still scared from a very violent and oppressive invasion and occupation that lasted 15 years they are moving on with peace in their hearts and a new outlook on their island way of life. The interesting thing about conflict countries is that most return to conflict, shortly after any stab at democracy or independence. But Timor and its people are changing the mold and it’s so inspiring to see.