Portuguese Fort Ruins – Cova-Lima, East Timor - Atlas Obscura

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Portuguese Fort Ruins

Cova-Lima, East Timor

The remains of a former colonial fort on a stretch of beach that is occasionally visited by crocodiles. 


In the 16th century, the Portuguese started trading with East Timor, and by the end of the century, East Timor had become a Portuguese colony. The Dutch and the British managed to take power for short spells of time in subsequent centuries, but the Portuguese managed to win the colony back. It was not until 1975 that East Timor became independent. After two decades of violent struggle with neighboring Indonesia, East Timor finally formalized its status as an independent country in 2002.

In effect, the Portuguese ruled over East Timor for about 500 years, and they mainly relied on Indigenous semi-autonomous governance. They did, however, build a number of military forts for the protection of the territory. Several forts were built throughout East Timor, but very few remains can be found, partly due to the fact that they were usually built with locally found rocks neatly arranged to form a wall and held together by a mineral adhesive that eventually lost its binding properties. One of the most scenic of these forts is in the Southern village of Suai Loro, which also used to serve as the administrative headquarters and prison. 

Located along the beach, the few walls remaining of this structure are now being reclaimed by a banyan tree. There is no guardian, and no entry fee, but do keep an eye out for crocodiles. It is unlikely you will encounter one, but if you do, be mindful that they are particularly dangerous all along the south coast of East Timor.

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July 15, 2021

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