a field guide to the planet - by Damon Ramsey
a remote island in a new country...
I have been lucky enough to visit the Jaco Island part of this national park a dozen times over the last few years with Silver Sea. I have also had the chance to briefly explore the village of Com a few times.
The Nino Konis Santana National Park makes up the north-eastern tip of East Timor. Jaco Island is the island off the tip of the mainland and is included within the park. The island does not have a connecting bridge nor roads, and thus can only be accessed by boat.
The land, including Jaco Island, is made up of pushed up limestone. There are some great 'wave'-like formations of uplifted coral all the way along the coast.
This is East Timor's first national park, established in 2007. The rather long name is in honour of one of the independence fighters (with FRETLIN) who was born in a village within the park.
Within the park are a few villages, including one called Com where expedition ships often clear in and out on their Kimberley voyages.
on the Jaco Island part of the national park include: Dusky Cuckoo-dove, Timor
Green Pigeon, Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove (race roseipileum, that has no 'rose crown'),
Yellow-eared Honeyeater/Timor Meliphaga, Fawn-breasted Whistler, Flame-breasted Sunbird, and Tricoloured Parrotfinch.
Birds seen around Com include Leseur's Triller, Pied Bushchat and Timor Bushchat.
Other small critters include lots of butterflies, including the magnificent 'Silver Birdwing' Triodes plato.
On the rocky uplifted coral reef seashores you can see small skinks running about, a species of 'Snake-eyed Skink', Cryptoblepharus leschenault, endemic to the Lesser Sundas of Indonesia.
In 2016 and 2017 Silver Discoverer with Silver Sea was visiting this island. They included it as their 'outside Australia' stop on their Kimberley itinerary. However, in May 2017 the East Timor government stopped expedition ships traversing through and anchoring in protected coral reef areas. This change was due to another expedition ship from a different company crashing into a reef in Rajah Ampat. I did occasionally see independent tourists on Jaco, and there are several homestays in the village of Com.
Thinking of travelling again after everything settles down? The first expedition I am booked to work on after the virus is Micronesia, New Guinea & Indonesia in 2021 with Silversea. Meanwhile I am giving a lecture on the Sunshine Coast (Australia) on the "Sounds of suburban south-east Queensland".