Atauro Island, Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste isn't necessarily on people's radar as a family-friendly destination. But, if you want to get off the beaten path and are looking for a low-key island getaway away, eco huts and snorkeling where your family will get an insight into local Timorese culture, Barry's Place on Atauro Island, off Dili looks AMAZING.
Photo Credit: Barrys Place
Atauro Island is located about 36km north of Dili. It's about 25 km long and 9 kms wide with a mountainous spine and narrow coastal plains. Approximately, 9,000 people, live on the island who are mostly subsistence fishermen and farmers. The island is fringed by internationally recognised coral reefs. Transport around the island involves either boat, 4WD, tuk tuk or walking depending on where you want to go.
This little gem was shared with Growing up Troppo by 2 totally awesome, inspiring and well-travelled friends who have both stayed here with their kids (who range from 2 to 11 years old). They tell me that Barry's Place has a laid back, warm and welcoming friendly vibe. Kaz lives in Dili, so she is in the know when is comes to getting out and about with kids in Timor-Leste.
5/5 with 76 reviews on Trip Advisor (at the time of writing this post).
Families with school age kids and older who want to get off the beaten track, and who don't need 5 star luxury.
Photo Credit: Atauro Tourism
The Low Down
Barry's place is a lovely little beachfront eco-resort with an open air restaurant and thatched bungalows and tent/gazebos style accommodation with shared bathrooms set in a tropical garden. The bungalows are spaced well apart and have their own chairs and some have hammocks. The rooms are basic and have fans, a wardrobe and mosquito nets. Don't go expecting flushing loos (they are drop toilets) and aircon because it's a simple affair here. There is the option of larger family cabins, twin cabins, or cabins with big double beds.
My friends tell me that their kids loved all the attention they got from the staff!
Photo credit: Atauro Tourism
This place won't break the family budget, and the daily rate includes all your meals as well as the accommodation. Cabin accommodation costs around $45 USD per night, whilst tent accommodation is $30 USD (at the time of writing this post).
Photo credit: Destination Astay
Barry and his partner Lina, the owners and hosts have a strong commitment to ethical tourism and community development. They support local community initiatives on the island. I love the fact that the entire place is designed based on permaculture principles, using locally-sourced sustainable building materials (like bamboo and lontar palm), traditional construction techniques and employing local builders. The power is also from solar panels.
Photo credit: Barry's Place
There are a few different options to get to Artuaro Island - local boats, the ferry, chartering boats and by plane. I've heard the boat ride can be a hairy ride, and the local ferry can be jam packed. The Artauro Tourism site has some pretty good info on transport to the island, as does the website for Barry's Place. So look into all the options and decide what is safest and works for you and your kids.
Photo credit: Barrys Place
Need to Know
There can be dengue and malaria, so be prepared with good mozzie repellent and clothes to cover up.
It can be VERY hot here and remember there are NO fans or air-conditioning
You can't book on line but my friend said that they were good at getting to text and phone messages.
Be prepared for more rubbish on the beaches than you see in the photos!
It's best to bring snorkel and masks for the kids to make sure they fit.
WiFi can be problematic (which is expected).
Come prepared and bring what you need because there are only a few very small local shops selling super basic food and drinks.
In terms on medical assistance there is a very small local medical clinic in Vila.
There are no ATMs or EFTPOS facilities.
Bring a torch (or two)
Cool Stuff To Do
This is the kind of place where you can do lots of great activities;
Go on a fishing trip with a local fisherman,
Snorkel on the reef,
Ride a bike,
Go hiking in the mountains,
Spot a dolphin or a whale
Visit local markets (and support the communities), and
Visit local community projects.
Walk across the island to Mario's place for snorkelling
Wander up to the resort on the hill for cocktails.
If you visit in July, ask about the Betel Nut Festival.
If that all sounds too much, you can sit back and read a book beach-side.
Photo credit: Barrys Place
Supporting the Community
The locals want to ensure that tourism development is sustainable, and is culturally sensitive, so conservative dress is good (i.e., no skimpy bikinis or snogging in public).
If you are interested in supporting the local communities, ask about specific projects underway. e.g. resourcing schools and kindergartens, equipping medical centre, developing the marine reef protection strategy and Feto Ataúro (womens group). Visiting the the Boneca de Ataúro (Ataúro's Doll, in Portuguese language) is a great thing to do and to support. It is the most well-known handicraft project in Timor-Leste and provides income to over 60 women and their families.
Book well in advance as Barrys Place is popular!
The Atauro Tourism website is really informative and provides heaps of great info on where to stay, play, the area and eco and ethical tourism on the island.
Check out this great video about the womens project you can visit by award winning film maker David Palazon.
Video Credit: David Palazon
I haven't stayed here personally, so if you have any feedback or have stayed here, Id love to hear your insights, the good and the not so good. I want the information on Growing up Troppo to be as honest and accurate as possible. Thanks for your input Kaz to help put together this review. The photos aren't mine and I hope I have credited them properly. Let me know if there are any issues.