Sia Maubara – East Timor - Atlas Obscura

East Timor

Sia Maubara

A haunting place that is now home to thousands of birds.  

Sia Maubara (aka Lago Maubara) is an 8-hectare salt lake set in a natural reserve. Home to thousands of birds, Sia Maubara doubles as a bird watcher’s paradise and historical place.

It is all but impossible to visit the lake without sighting Australian Pelicans and numerous other species of birds that call the reserve home. Other birds frequenting the lake include Black Cuckoo-doves, Pink-headed Imperial Pigeons, Jonquil Parrots, Streak-breasted Honeyeaters, and Flame-breasted Sunbirds. 

Beyond bird watching, Sia Maubara has a tragic history. During the Timor-Leste war for independence, pro-Indonesia elements (including Indonesian soldiers) murdered up to 200 Timorese people in what became known as the Liquiçá Church Massacre. It was said that one way in which the bodies were disposed of was to sink them in Sia Maubara.  The suspicion was eventually confirmed when Australian Marine Divers recovered corpses of twelve victims from Sia Maubara.

Despite its violent past, Sia Maubara is a place of unsettling beauty where bright blue water and soil cracked by the heat meet. Dead trees bleached by the sun are scattered along the shore, giving the lake an eerie ambiance that is reminiscent of the lake’s macabre past. Adding to the unease, you may not be the only visitor, as crocodiles may be visiting the lake too.

Know Before You Go

Coming from Liquiçá, Sia Maubara is located 3 km from Maubara Village. It is clearly visible from the main road.

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