East Timor solar eclipse in 2023

Want to know a secret? On 20 April 2023, a hybrid solar eclipse will fall across parts of Australia, East Timor and Indonesia. When the shadow of the moon crossing the sun is first cast across the Earth it will be annular, meaning that while it’s over the sea there will still be a ring of light around it. Spectacular, yes, but not the complete shroud of darkness that many eclipse chasers are looking for. And that’s likely to mean less demand to travel and witness it. However, for a brief period – coincidentally, just as the eclipse’s path begins to cross land rather than sea – totality will be achieved. It’ll last 1min 16sec – short, but enough to satisfy even the most ardent of eclipse admirers.

Another reason to be excited about the April 2023 solar eclipse, which will be best observed from East Timor and a handful of Indonesian islands, is the likelihood of seeing the phenomenon known as Baily’s Beads. In the last few seconds before totality, the rugged topography of the moon causes sunlight to shine through in some parts while not in others.
The eclipse will begin at sea, clip the edge of the Exmouth Peninsula in Western Australia, then continue in a north-easterly direction, passing above the coastal community of Beaco in the east of East Timor from 11.44am onwards. The known weather pattern in this area – East Timor is a mountainous country, and there are several high peaks beneath the eclipse’s predicted path which can cause clouds to form – shows around a 50 percent chance of fairly clear skies. Sounds like pretty good odds. But given that, and the travel distance involved, you’re definitely best off making the eclipse the centerpiece of a vacation rather than the sole focus.

East Timor is a poor country, still recovering from years of war and a brutal Indonesian occupation. Tourism here is in its infancy. So while you’ll definitely enjoy that ‘off the beaten track’ sensation, you’re well-advised to travel with a specialist company that can navigate East Timor’s basic tourism infrastructure. Our responsible travel partners will ensure that you’re in the right place at the right time for the eclipse and accompanied by an expert guide. They’ll also make sure that money from your trip makes its way into local economies that will really benefit from extra income. That might mean staying in a guesthouse, using the services of guides drawn from the communities you visit, or eating at locally owned restaurants. It will definitely mean an authentic and enjoyable take on a country that to date is little-known by tourists.

Highlights of an East Timor solar eclipse vacation

Any East Timor vacation is likely to get underway in Dili. East Timor became a sovereign state in 2002, so it’s one of the world’s youngest capital cities, with a sleepy charm that belies the rapid pace of development since the country gained independence. Much of the older architecture is still scarred by war, but there are plenty of attractive buildings dating back to when this was a Portuguese colony.

A typical itinerary will then follow the northern coast past white-sand beaches, fishing villages and ocean views to Baucau, then head inland past terraced mountainsides lined with rice paddies to Loihuno. Loihuno, where you might stay in a traditional hut for a taste of Timorese culture, is a good base for the eclipse. From here, it’s a short drive to Beaco on the south coast, and the eclipse won’t begin until late morning so there is plenty of time to get there.
Leaving Loihuno, your trip might then take you further east, past Ira Lalaro Lake where local people are said to believe that using boats would cause the fish in the lake to die. Unfortunately for the fishermen, the lake has plenty of crocodiles as well. Tutuala at the far eastern tip of East Timor is home to the Ile Kére Kére, one of the country’s most significant archaeological sites, and from here you might pop offshore for a night on an uninhabited island.

Some East Timor vacation itineraries include an optional sunrise hike to the summit of Tatamailau the highest mountain in the country. Getting up in the very early hours for an uphill trek might not appeal, but it’s not a difficult hike and the views are sublime. There are hot springs nearby to soak tired muscles in.

Balibo is your final destination, bringing you close to the border where Indonesian West Timor makes up the other half of the island. Here, you might stay in a hotel converted from a 400-year-old fort that was the setting for several battles during the Indonesian invasion of 1975.

Practicalities

East Timor solar eclipse vacations will usually be small group tours led by local guides. In some cases, you may also be accompanied by a scientific expert able to explain the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of solar eclipses. Besides the advantages of a readymade group of traveling companions, and all the logistics being carried out ahead of you, joining a small group will minimise the impact on more remote communities where there isn’t the infrastructure to cope with large numbers of tourists.

Many roads in East Timor are in poor condition, so an inflatable pillow will be a useful addition to your packing list. Itineraries, likely to be finalised in spring 2023, tend to take that into account and keep travel distances to a minimum each day. Outside major towns and cities you can expect very simple accommodation – it won’t hurt to also bring your own mosquito net and a wind-up torch.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: James Niland] [Baily’s Beads: Nicholas Jones] [Traditional hut: Pittwater friends of Soibada] [Manatuto: Trevar Chilver]