Two American scuba divers have visited East Timor for a photo competition, and been amazed at what they have found, AFP reports. Brian and Gina Blackburn, from Houston, flew 30 hours to Asia's newest country to take part in the inaugural scuba photo competition.
Drying off after a dive near Dili's airport, Gina said: "In the Caribbean, finding fan coral that big is impossible because the tourists have destroyed it. "We wanted to come here because it's undeveloped, people haven't been diving on it, it's undamaged and pristine. Our favourite, because we don't get it in the Caribbean, is all that soft coral." The Blackburns were in a group of around 30 mostly amateur photographers who took part in the competition from October 11 to 15 - part of president Jose Ramos-Horta's attempt to boost tourism in his tiny country. It comes after last year's Tour de Timor cycling race, the Dili Marathon as well as an international game fishing competition.
It shows how far the country has progressed after it struggled to field an Olympic team in Sydney in 2000, a year after the end of its struggle for independence from Indonesia. Local divers say the spectacular views in Dili are due to deep trenches around Timor, which carry cooler water and protect the island's corals from the higher temperatures that have triggered massive bleaching across Asia in 2010.