Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 28 Feb 2014

Expedition details (GPF2014a-011)

Expedition Name (& Club): East Timor 2014
Destination country: Timor-Leste
Region: Matebian Mountain Highlands and Paitchau Range
Lat: -8.4560 Long: 127.1430 Elevation: m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Dr Ben Wright
Total cavers: 4
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 0
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 1
UK/nonUK cavers: 4/0
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 0
Expedition dates: 17th Oct 2014 - 9th Nov 2014
Duration (days): 24
Man-days in field: 80 Man-days travelling: 16
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

We believe that this will be one of the first caving expeditions to East Timor where we intend to:

1) Conduct reconnaissance around the Irasiquero River Sink. This is one of the country’s largest rivers, which sinks in the Paitchau Range and is likely to resurges over 5km away in the sea.

2) Explore the Paitcahu Range. Initial research suggests numerous cave entrances in these mountains, however an absence of roads means reconnaissance must be made on foot.

3) Locate known caves and further entrances in the Mount Matebian area. Contacts suggest that this area of limestone contains an accessible ‘massive’ cave entrance with flowing water within.
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

Please explain the aspects of the trip which make it eligible for Ghar Parau funding.

This expedition\'s main aim is to find cave in a country never visited before by cavers and hopefully open it up for future visits. So we feel that it is well suited for GPF funding.

Due to the remote nature of this expedition, costs for hiring a private vehicle and guide are likely to be fairly high. There is no effective local bus system for getting around, and we will need to cover a fairly large area in this reconnaissance. Any funding supplied by GPF, and hopefully MEF, would make the economics of this trip much more feasible.
Detailed description of objectives:

Give a more detailed account of the purpose of the trip, including any particular known caves you intend to visit, specific areas where you will explore for new cave, and scientific experiments you will attempt.

This will be one of the first caving expeditions to East Timor, which has large areas of limestone. The country has emerged from armed conflict with Indonesia, to become accessible to cavers. The overarching aim of the expedition is to confirm the presence of major cave development, make local contacts and determine ways to streamline logistics for future expeditions, including improving their value for money.

Based on initial research we have three key exploration objectives in three different target areas:

1) Irasiquero River Sink: One of the country’s largest rivers, which drains its largest lake (Lagos Ira Lalaro) sinks in the ground at the foot of the Paitchau Range. It is likely that this water traverses under the entire Paitchau Range, and resurges over 5km away and 300m lower in the sea. However, the resurgence of this major river is yet to be identified conclusively. Our aims in this area are to determine whether it is possible to enter and explore this sink directly, and to undertake exploration in the vicinity of this major feature. In addition the Paitchau range between the sink and likely resurgence rises to over 900m in elevation and offers the potential for further cave entrances (see Objective 2). The sink is located approximately 6km south-east of Lagos Ira Lalaro in the eastern side of the country. The sink can be seen at Photos of the stream sink and the surrounding Paitchau mountain range can be found here:

2) The Paitcahu Range is wilderness, and lacks roads for vehicular access. We will use local guides (originally part of the Fantil resistance movement – who hid their leader in these mountains) to explore the Paitchau Range on foot. The range reaches elevations of around 900m, giving significant height and therefore depth potential. It is postulated that this area may have fossil cave passages, even if the current drainage level is not enterable. We have made contact with a suitable guide; Pedro Lebre from the Villa Harmonia guesthouse in Dili, who has been recommended by recent travellers in East Timor. Cave entrances in the Mount Paitchau area are hinted at in the following paper: and we intend to follow up on this information to conduct a thorough reconnaissance in the area.

3) Mt Matebian: This is a large area of limestone that forms one of the highest peaks in East Timor. A local contact (Dave Bartlett) reports a ‘massive’ cave entrance near a main road on its eastern side, from which water flows. We will also use local guides to search for this and other entrances on the mountain, which has a full depth potential of over 1 km.
Previous work in this area:

Give details of any previous work in this area by your own and other teams. Include references to reports and articles published on the area, and the names of any local cavers or academics with whom you have discussed the Expedition.

As far as we have been able to establish, there have been no caving expeditions to East Timor due to the Indonesian occupation which ended 10 years ago. The country is now more stable, and recent advances have opened up the country somewhat to tourists. East Timor is situated in South East Asia, a part of the world well known for producing very extensive and large cave systems. To the North East of East Timor, is the island of Papua New Guinea and to the north west is Borneo. Both are well known for cave development. Although East Timor is on a smaller scale we feel that it is well worth an exploratory visit from cavers.

Inspiration for the expedition was a paper on a hydro electric scheme in the east of the country:

This paper talks of a large stream sink in the Mount Paitchau area of the country and gives geological maps detailing extensive areas of karst. Another useful resource is the paper “ Vulnerability assessment of climate change impacts on groundwater resources in Timor-Leste” which we attach to this application. Again this paper talks about major karstic areas with many cave entrances.

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
Fly from London to Bali, then from Bali (Indonesia) to Dili (East Timor). Once in Dili meet up with organised driver and vehicle for transport to the east of the country.

# from UK: 4 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £3,400 Flight London to Bali £650 per person
Flight Bali to Dili £200 per person

We have a quote for a driver, guide and vehicle at $250 per day. This is included in Special 1.

# from outside UK: 0 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £0

Travel total: £3,400 Travel p.p. from UK: £850
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £0


Total: £1,600 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £400 Based on experience from recent expeditions to Myanmar we think a cost of £20 per person per day for accommodation and food is appropriate. With 20 days in the field for 4 people this comes to £1600.


Total: £200 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £50 Rope and Rigging equipment £200

Special 1

Total: £3,000 Comments:
Special 1 p.p.: £750 From contact with local tour agencies it appears that the roads in East Timor are very poor and although public transport is available to a few of the major coastal towns from Dili, transport to more remote areas is only available with a guide and private transport via four wheel drive. From experience gained in Myanmar and other caving expeditions, the services offered by a local guide who speaks the local dialects is vital for obtaining local permissions, asking locals for drafting

cave entr
Exped Total: £8,200 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £2,050
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £0
Mean Exped cost per person: £2,050

Other Funding

Total: £0 Comments:
We hope that as this expedition is to a remote and rarely visited country we would be eligible for support from the MEF.
Total shortfall: £8,200 Mean shortfall per person: £2,050

Referees and Report

Please give the names, addresses and phone numbers of two suitably qualified people whom the Committee can contact. You should ensure that they are aware of the objectives of your trip, and that you have their permission for the Committee to contact them.

Referee 1: Ms Imogen Furlong
Affiliation: BPC

Reason: Imogen Furlong has extensive experience caving in this region from multiple trips to Myanmar and China and was one of the principal people responsible for opening up Myanmar to cavers. She is a suitable referee, knowing the expedition team well, and

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Mr Tony Seddon
Affiliation: NPC

Reason: Tony is an unusually experienced expedition caver. Although he has not visited the area in question, he knows the expedition leader and team well.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Ben Wright