Atauro, Timor Leste – 10 things to do in the island, and… dengue

…comme si je ne l’étais déjà pas assez! French will understand.

Two hours after I finished my last post on Timor Leste, I started feeling cold (strange with an average of 30 degrees there), and body ache. And yes I visited for you …Dili Stamford hospital!

They confirmed that was dengue. I am skipping all the details on this, bloodtests and symptoms that keep on changing everyday. If you are unlucky to get it one day, you will discover soon enough what it’s like. Unfortunately, that literally took me two weeks until I could recover and dive again.

But anyway as soon as I got back in the water I felt good again, diving definitively helped to get lots of energy back!

Finally got to do some benthic surveys (PIT) in different dive sites around Atauro, and also some manta towing. Both of these are helpful in mapping the marine habitat. We also went to dive off a few walls around the island, which was cool. No big fish but an incredible diversity in the ones we saw. Atauro reefs look like a nursery for the Coral triangle. Jen recorded more than 400 species already, just in a few weeks.

me - passing coral test

Above, after the benthic underwater test. 

Here are a few things you can do on Atauro island: You can do all these easily if you spend 3/4 days there.

1/Beloi Saturday market and lunch at Barry’s place: all the villagers bring vegetables and the fish they catched spearfishing. Barry’s place is where we stayed – read my previous post. All foreigners that work in Dili seem to come here for the week end.

fish at market

2/ Tuk tuks race: from Beloi go to Vila where you can eat at the Italian restaurant and visit Bonecas not for profit association.

tuk tuk race.jpeg

3/ Bonecas: an association in Vila village that empowers women through sewing. They are famous for the beautiful dolls they make. So happy to see the same Singer sewing machine my grand mother had. Remembering the sound of it was nice!


4/ A drink at Beloi beach hotel: Nice hotel with a view on top of Beloi village.

me chloe jen at beloi hotel

From left to right: myself, Chloe and Jen.

5/ Snorkelling: you can ask locals to take you on their boats to go on a reef to do snorkeling. Jen taught me how to free dive, which was really cool. Sometimes we think we can’t do things but actually we are just limiting ourselves! Totally brings a new level to the snorkeling experience as you can go see fish closely and just feel incredible freedom.


Back to front: Mike, William, myself, Chloe, Josh. 

me - free diving duck dive

me - free diving underwater

All 3 pictures by Jen Craighill. 

6/ Visit Berau village on the other side of the island. Arriving on a rocky beach with beautiful mountains at the back. Very isolated and beautiful place.


7/ Adara: another village on the North side of the island. Probably the place I liked the most on the island. Beautiful white sand beach and a mountain at the back. Mario has some huts if you want to sleep there. You can also eat there if you just spend the day. They managed to get a Marine Protected Area in front of Mario’s and the snorkeling and diving is beautiful.


8/ Wall diving: Manta cove, Franks’s creek, Adara. There is a diveshop in Beloi. Grab a tank, a buddy and go diving!

off the wall in Adara

Above: diving off Adara wall.

9/ Go around the island by boat: On our way from Beloi to Adara we were lucky enough to see more than 150 melon headed whales! These are from the dolphin family. They swam around our boat for a very long time so that was definitively one of the best things I lived in these 5 weeks in Timor Leste!


Dolphins in Timor Leste from Isabelle Brb on Vimeo.

10/ Watch the sunrise in Beloi beach/ Sunset in Adara

sunrise - last day

There is also lots of trekking that can be done on the island. And if you have one hour in front of you, please pick up some litter on the beach. There are so many water plastic cups that end up there.

But what striked me the most in Timor Leste is how friendly the local population is. Very welcoming, smiling and calm. I guess this is due to different things. First, Timor Leste is not very touristic yet, so it has this genuine feel that is very rare today. I only had this type of experience before in a few places, in Burma/Myanmar and some places in Cambodia. Second, sadly, I feel having a recent tough History makes people value more interpersonal relationships.

May Timor Leste develop smoothly, and remain in Peace.



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