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Atauro Island – Paradise on Earth?

Atauro Island – Paradise on Earth?

Instagram / @instanushreegram

Why Go to Atauro?

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, snorkeling, 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.

When to Go to Atauro?

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.

Diving & Snorkeling in Atauro

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.

Instagram / @compassdiving

Further south there’s Big Fish Rock and Shark Point, while Manta Cove is towards the southeast point.

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, year humpback whales make an appearance.

Where to sleep in Atauro?

Check our Atauro Island Accommodation to see where to sleep in Atauro.

Getting to Atauro

All services are weather dependent and bookings are essential. In addition to scheduled departures, transport operators run extra trips if there is demand.

Beloi Beach Hotel Boat

Modern motor-launches provide transport across Wetar Strait for hotel guests and other travelers on a demand basis. Departs Dili waterfront, just to the east of Palácio do Governo and Ataúro near the Beloi pier. Charters can be arranged.

Compass Charters Water Taxi

Regular water taxi service (90mins) utilizing motor launches. Departs Dili waterfront, just to the east of Palácio do Governo at 7.30am daily and Beloi Beach (Barry’s Place), Ataúro 9.30am (Monday-Friday) and 3pm (Saturday-Sunday).  Charter services can be arranged.

Dragon Star Fast Boats

Fast boat service (1 hour), departs Dili Port 8.00am Saturday and Sunday and Beloi Beach (near Beloi Pier), Atauro 3.00pm for the return crossing.  Extra charter services can be arranged.

  • Owner/Manager: Dragon Star Shipping Ida
  • Tel: (+670) 7302 2266/7302 2288
  • Email: [email protected]

Laju Laju Ferry

Vehicle and passenger ferry service (3 hours) Thursday only, departs 8.00am Dili Port and 3pm Beloi Pier, Atauro.

  • Owner/Manager: Dragon Star Shipping Ida
  • Tel: (+670) 7302 2266/7302 2288
  • Email: [email protected]

Local Boats

More adventurous or budget conscious travelers can arrange outrigger or other boat transport directly with owners/crew. 

Instagram / @ktbryden – Local Boats

Local boats usually leave very early when Wetar Strait is smoother.

These boats normally have no radios, lifejackets or other safety equipment onboard and passengers are usually exposed to the elements – Wetar Strait can get extremely rough.

MAF Plane (NGO)

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) light planes are available for charter flights between Dili airport and Ataúro airstrip (located midway between Beloi and Vila). Flights take 15-20 minutes.

Note: MAF Planes may not be available for short time periods due to medical evacuations.

Nakroma Ferry

Saturday only ferry service. Departs 9am from Dili Port (ticket must be booked day prior from wharf office) and 3pm Beloi Pier, Ataúro (ticket purchased on Island day of travel – available from 1:30pm).  Crossing by ferry takes approximately 3 hours.

  •  Owner/Manager: Timor-Leste Government
  •  Tel: (+670) 7723 0965

Timor Holidays (M.V. Ataúro)

Motor-cruiser departs Dili waterfront, just to the east of Palácio do Governo 7.30am (Friday or Saturday) and Beloi Beach (Barry’s Place), Ataúro 6.30am (Monday).  Crossing takes 2.5-3 hours. Charters can be arranged.

  •  Owner/Manager: Kevin Austin
  •  Tel: (+670) 7738 0000 / 7733 6612
  •  Email: [email protected]

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