When you visit East Timor, you should definitely try to make the trip to Jaco Island. Whether you are staying for a few weeks in the country, or you are stopping off as part of a cruise, Jaco Island is one place that you will never forget. This uninhabited island off the east coast of East Timor is nature at its most pristine and idyllic. If you want to get away from the rest of the world for a day, this is your chance.
Jaco Island Overview
Jaco Island is located off the very eastern coast of East Timor in the Lautém District. It is part of the Nino Konis Santana National Park, and it is completely uninhabited. It is 11 square kilometres in size, and it is low at only 100 metres at its maximum height.
The island is a picture-perfect vision of tropical forest surrounded by white powder sand beaches, ridiculously clear water and stunning scenery. The coral off the coast is spectacular, and if you go snorkelling, you will almost certainly see a wide variety of sea life including turtles and even dolphins.
It is also an important place for bird life, having been named an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International. This is due to its populations of birds such as Pink-Headed Imperial Pigeons, Fawn-breasted Whistlers, Timor Sparrows and more.
Planning Your Trip to Jaco Island
Jaco Island is not exactly easy to reach, but that is part of its charm. The trek to reach it puts off tourists who would otherwise swarm over the island. This means that if you do make the effort to get to the island you may be rewarded by having it all to yourself.
To get to the east of the country from Dili, the journey is about six hours. You should try to go in a 4×4 if you can, but if not you can take public transport or a car. Your destination is Tutuala, which is the furthest you can go in a normal car. From here an 8 kilometre trail – possible in a 4×4 or on foot – will take you down to Valu Beach, from where you can arrange your trip over to the island with a local fisherman.
The channel between the mainland and Jaco Island is 700 metres wide, and the journey should last no longer than about 15 minutes and won’t cost more than a few dollars.
The alternative, and a good option if you arrive on a cruise and only have a few days, is to arrange an expedition to the island with a tour guide. You can arrange this in Dili and this way all of the logistics will be taken care of.
Prepare Properly for Your Trip
When heading across to Jaco Island, remember that there are no facilities on the island, so you will need to take everything you need with you. This includes food, water, hat, sunglasses, first-aid kit and plenty of sunscreen. There is no accommodation on the island, but if you have a tent you could sleep on the beach before crossing over.
Make sure that someone knows where you are going because there is no reception for mobiles on the island. You are completely on your own, but then this is part of the attraction. If you don’t want to see any other tourists, try to plan your trip during the week rather than at the weekend.
If there is one thing you must take, it is a snorkel and mask. You will enjoy some fantastic snorkelling here, so go prepared.
More Reasons to Visit East Timor
Jaco Island is not the only attraction of East Timor. Tourism in the country is still relatively undeveloped compared to other countries in the region, but this means you will not come across hoards of tourists all the time. Even so, most people see Jaco Island as part of an East Timor cruise package like the deals for Curnard cruises.
If you like scuba diving, you will find some of the best diving in the area here. Sites are not over-dived like in many other countries, and the rich sea life is exhilarating. A good dive spot to head to is Atauro Island, 20 minutes on a boat from Dili.
Trekking is also popular. East Timor is a mountainous country and you can venture into the interior with a guide to discover it all for yourself, maybe even hiking to the peak of Mount Ramelau.
Whale watching, mountain biking, four-wheel driving and chilling out on the beach are other highlights, and you will never have to share it all with lots of other tourists.
Discover East Timor and Jaco Island
East Timor is a wonderful destination for adventurous tourists. Whether you stop here as part of your cruise, or you take a few weeks to explore the country, enjoy the relaxing vibe and pristine beauty and discover everything there is to see including the unique Jaco Island.
Ryan Posa‘s great love for voyaging on the high seas led him to establish Cruise Republic in 2008. He’s seen the world, including Alaska, Mexico, New Zealand, and the South Pacific, and he loves writing about fascinating and beautiful destinations across the globe. Keep up with Ryan’s latest Tweets here.