Only 25km long, Ataúro has a rugged mountainous centre and very narrow coastal plains. We regard the highest mountain, Manukoko (999m), as being sacred.
Our Island, mostly made of limestone, with some volcanic rock formations, has a diverse landscape and vegetation which varies from dry grassland and eucalyptus savanna, to semi evergreen tropical forest on mountain peaks and in gullies.
Ataúro is fringed by one of the world’s best coral reefs and is a very significant fish breeding ground. Two exceedingly deep straits – Ombai and Wetar, meet at the northern and southern ends of the Island.
Ataúro is administered by the Government as a sub-district of Dili. It has recently been designated as part of a special economic zone (ZEESM) which also encompasses Oecussi. Divided into five areas (Sukos) – Makili, Makadade, Vila-Maumeta, Beloi and Bikeli, each is under the control of a Chefe de Suko.
Around 10 000 people, mostly subsistence fishers and farmers, live on our Island in small towns and villages linked by dirt road and walking track. Small wooden outriggers used for transport and fishing, ply the coast.
Our main towns – Makili, Vila, Beloi and Bikeli-Pala are on the eastern side and Anartutu is in the mountains.
Churches are important community hubs and visitors are welcome to attend Sunday services – the singing is vibrant.
Market days are another weekly highlight, bringing the community together to trade and socialize. Cash income is mostly derived from what is harvested and sold on market days or in Dili.
We grow annual crops of corn and beans and supplement our diet with fish, seaweed, seasonal fruit and vegetables, coconuts and coffee.