Atauro Island is approximately 104 sq kms in area and 25 kms in length. It is a dry and fragile place and the population of 8,000 people is spread in 20 small hamlets over the island (five main village administration areas). The majority of people live around the coastline and fishing is an important part of their livelihoods. Fishing is still mostly traditional (spears and nets) and only a small percentage of fisher-people are professional i.e. in the sense that they live from the sale of fish.
Atauro is part of a chain of volcanic islands stretching from the southern Maluku Islands (Wetar, Liran) across to Alor and Flores. These surrounding islands are all part of Indonesia and geologically Atauro shares more with them than with mainland Timor.
The island is mainly limestone and basalt rock with a high mountain spine stretching from the south and gradually diminishing in the north. The southern part of the island is dramatic with rocky cliffs and the tallest mountain, Manucoco, reaching up almost straight out of the sea. The coastal plain, where it exists, is narrow. Towards the north the landscape becomes gentler with eucalypt and grasses on the hills and limestone caves and snowy white beaches around the coast.
Atauro is fringed by a reef which, in the majority of locations around the island, is still pristine. The diversity of marine life is incredible – ranging from large mammals (whales, dolphins, dugongs) through an incredible range of reef fish, sharks, hard and soft corals, nudibranchs, sea cucumbers, worms, shells, starfish, eels, turtles etc. For reef enthusiasts it is well worth a visit. (A list of over 400 identified reef fish (G.Samson 2004) is available).
In some areas the reef has been damaged by use of explosives and bad fishing practices in the past but the community is now keen to rehabilitate this valuable resource. A community-based marine management program will begin in July 2005 in Bikeli Village on the northern part of the island. This will include a marine sanctuary, environmental health and sanitation and regeneration of vegetation on the hills and around the coastline, including rehabilitation / replanting of mangroves.
An initial bird life survey (conducted by Colin Trainor and Tomas Soares, 2003) has identified the birds on Atauro, some of which may be exclusive to the island.
The Tua Koin Eco-Village project includes education and awareness-raising for tourists and the local community. Your visit will contribute to the awareness raising and rehabilitation program.