A UNIQUE ISLAND & CENTER OF BIODIVERSITY, AND HOME TO A WARM & WELOMING COMMUNITY.
ATAURO WILL AMAZE YOU.
Situated roughly 30 kilometers North of Dili, the volcanic island of Atauro lies right in between the Ombai and Wetar Straits. Being about 25 kilometers long and 9 wide, its population fluctuates at around 10.000 inhabitants distributed mostly in between five districts (locally knowns as Sucos): Maquili, Vila, Beloi and Biqueli on the East coast and Macadade in the Southwestern hills. There are, though, especially on the West coast, a considerable number of small, isolated communities also making their livelihood mostly on small-scale farming and fishing, besides the growing tourism industry.
Historically, Atauro has strong ties with Indonesia, being used as a route for small trading with inhabitants of nearby islands Alor, Liran and Wetar, and an appeal as an exile island. The last comes from the fact that both the Portuguese (1975) and Indonesian (1980’s) government used it as a prison island on times during their rule of Timor-Leste.
The name Atauro means ‘goat’ on the local language result of the large goats being kept on the island in the past. Speaking of language, three indigenous dialects are still spoke in different villages, besides the local Tetun and Bahasa Indonesia.
One main road connects part of the island’s costal lines and transport can be arranged either with local people using their private vehicles or, for shorter trips, a visitor can use the handy tuk-tuks. Prices are mostly fixed and the drivers tend to ‘share’ guests on their own organized rotation system.
Cultural traits among the local communities of Atauro different from what is noticed on the mainland, starting with the religion. This is due to the majority of the islanders being Protestants, especially in villages located on the North, in contrast with a Catholic majority found anywhere else in Timor-Leste. Practices connected with animism are still also very much present on a few communities.
That’s not all that is done differently in Atauro, and traditional rituals also
follow their own courses, even within the island. Ceremonies like weddings
and funerals, which carry special importance on social network, each have their own peculiarities depending on the community.
One common trait that is clearly noticeable among the people from Atauro is their simple hospitality. Still relatively new to visitors, the local community tends to embrace visitors and greet them with smiles or friendly looks, allowing this paradise to be pretty much a hassle-free destination.
Standing on the path of the nutrient-rich waters of the Indonesia Throughflow, Atauro’s reefs are positioned to thrive on an ideal location where food is a constant and water temperature is balance by frequent cold upwelling coming from surrounding deep waters. Such depths, reaching more than 3000km in some points along the Ombai and Wetar Straits, also serve as a highway for pelagic life, including marine mammals that are often seen around the island on the boat crossings from Dili.
Environmental factors aren’t alone on the role of providing a favorable
scenario for the development of Atauro’s magnificent coral gardens. The low density of the island population and a long-lived harmonious relationship
between inhabitants and the ocean also contributed for the conservation of the reef, which in some location extends beyond a diver’s sight showing nothing else but colorful, thriving coral species.
Destined to be an epicenter of marine biodiversity, in 2016 Atauro was the
subject of a marine assessment requested by Conservation International and led by respected scientists Mark Erdmann and Gerald Allen. The result gave Atauro the highest recorded overall diversity of coral fish in the world per area surveyed!
Numbers aside, a visit to Atauro wouldn’t be complete without a moment of contemplation of its fantastic marine ecosystem! Be it snorkeling or diving, the visitors are bound for a memorable experience.
For the daily travellers or the ones venturing on the island for an extended
period of time, Atauro offers a wide range to its visitors, most of them
connected to nature and its community. We are glad to provide information
and suggestions or help arranging transportation and guidance to the guests interested in further exploring the island during their stay.
Climbing the highest peak on the island (Mount Manukoko), a short hike to nearby viewpoints or the crossing in between Beloi and Adara are just a few of the options for the ones who’d love to discover the island on foot.
"Live is a journey, travelling is living twice"