After being assaulted and very nearly robbed in Dili, I desperately wanted Atauro to be the haven I imagined it to be. I was to stay on the island with no way of contacting the outside world for a few days and after the previous days incident, I was worried it would be another horrible experience – but this time one I couldn’t run away from.
Luckily for me, all those fears were unfounded and instead, what I found on Atauro was nothing short of paradise. Better yet – it was off-season paradise – which meant that for the majority of my stay, I did not have to share this unspoiled island with any other travellers.
Atauro Island is located 36km north of Dili and is accessible by numerous different private boat companies and also occasionally by the Nakroma ferry. Transfers go for around $40 USD and usually take about 1.5-2 hours.
Oddly enough, on the boat I caught to Atauro, I was joined by another passenger – an Aussie bloke named Barry who has lived in Timor-Leste for the past 15 years. He arrived in 2001 as a PALMS volunteer and volunteered for 6 years, during which time he began to build ‘Barry’s Place’ on the island.
Barry’s Place is open to anyone, but it is not exclusively designed as tourist lodgings. Thanks to Barry, this is the epicentre of a huge number of community projects on the island and also where volunteers and NGO workers are based out of when they come to work on Atauro. He assists in the creation and continuation of sustainable projects within the island communities and is the PALMS Australia in-country manager of volunteers in Timor-Leste.
With all this emphasis on creating sustainable projects and jobs for those on Atauro, it seems completely fitting that the place would also be completely environmentally friendly!
Camp showers, composting toilets, communal meals, a distinct absence of wifi, very few electrically powered appliances and solar power are the name of the game here, and while it may sound a bit like ‘roughing it’, it is more like eco-friendly glamping, but without the tents.