Atauro Island – paradise on earth?
Enticingly close to Dili, Atauro Island’s siren song can be heard when the capital seems just too steamy, dirty and loud. Atauro Island is directly north of Dili, 30km across the Wetar Strait. The 140-sq-km island, which can be reached by ferry or water taxi, stretches about 25km north to south, and is thinly populated by 8000 people who mostly live in two villages on the island’s eastern side. There are a handful of small and delightful places to stay, where you can just relax while you work up the energy for some amazing diving, snorkelling, remote trekking or intensive reading. If you like a place where the water is so clear you can see the fish as you arrive, where you can stay in a simple, thatched beachside hut where your day’s activities are simply up to you, then you’ll love Atauro Island, where days can turn into weeks.
Like Dili, the best weather on Atauro Island is during the dry season from May to November. You will not only be able to enjoy the water and trekking during this time, but you will also catch the last part of the whale migration (towards the end of the dry season). As there is really only one road on the island, roads washing away is not an issue. Be sure to book, as accommodation is limited and it has become a popular weekend destination for the Dili crowd.
Check with the Dili dive shops for regular trips out to Atauro Island. There are dive sites all around the island, although the most popular ones are along the west coast. The principal sites include Rob’s Spot to the north of the west coast, Watertank near Atekru and Barry’s Barstool off Beloi. Further south there’s Big Fish Rock and Shark Point, while Manta Cove is towards the southeast point. Schools of dolphins and pilot whales may be encountered between the island and Dili. Dugongs, the large lumbering sea cows, are regularly seen around the island, and for a couple of months a year humpback whales make an appearance.