Atauro Island – if you really want to get away from the crowd
Although I only had a few nights in Timor-Leste, I knew I wanted to get out of Dili. I looked at three options: the coastal town of Bacau, the mountain town of Maubisse or the island of Atauro. Each option had its pros and cons. Maubisse is supposed to be nice for the climate and seeing the coffee plantation. Bacau is supposed to be a nice drive and relatively well preserved colonial architecture and Atauro a beautiful island.
I literally just decided on Atauro the night before. Public transport to Maubisse seemed a bit tricky and I wasn’t sure whether Bacau was really worth the drive. Atauro on the other hand was expensive to get to since on the days I went there was no public ferry (or too late in the day).
I ended up going with Compass Adventure’s water taxi at USD45 per way for the 90mins trip.
On weekends and some other day you can get there for USD5 with the public ferry. My water taxi left at 7.30am so we reached the island by 9am.
I stayed at Barry’s Place in Beloi. This eco lodge is the original accommodation on the island and has been around for a while. The vast majority of the few visitors that come stay here. Recently a small German-owned dive resort opened next door.
Barry (Australian) has been in the country and on the island for a few years. He’s done a fantastic job at building this small lodge with simple but beautiful cabins and huts.
My hut was USD35 per night and included three meals. The food was significantly better than everything else I ate during my time there.
The lodge is located in the village of Beloi. There are very few accommodation options in other villages, such as Vila.
In the afternoon drove with the local tuk-tuk version to the village of Vila, the island’s biggest settlement.
There are two development projects in Vila worth checking out: a doll factory where only women are employed and a jewelry factory employing women with hearing impairment.
There is an Italian restaurant in Vila (run by an Italian priest?). I did not get the chance to try it out and you need to preorder your food as everything is prepared fresh.
Also next to Barry’s Place there is a shop selling the products of a local organization, Empreza Diak.
The next morning I woke up early (you wake up early anyways since you go to bed by 9.30pm) to watch the beautiful sunrise:
And after just one night, I already had to return to Dili. I could have stayed a couple of nights more as it was so relaxing.
On the way back we took a detour around the other side of the island to drop off some supplies for an upcoming diving group.
I really like for far away Atauro Island felt from everything. If you’ve made your way all the way to Dili, don’t hesitate to make the trip to Atauro Island!
By the way, there is an interesting documentary about a community on Atauro Island where men and women share the workload for fishing and household: