Atauro Island

Atauro (Portuguese Atauro, indon. Pulau Kambing ) is an East Timorese island in the Banda Sea north of Timor.

The island 's name means in the local language "goat", Kambing is the Indonesian word. The name comes from the goats that are held here.



Atauro Island is about 22 km long, up to 9 km wide and has an area of ​​140.50 km ². It lies west of the road from Wetar, about 23.5 miles off the coast of the capital Dili. Northeast of the Indonesian islands of Atauro are Liran (13 km) and Wetar ( 21.5 km ) and west of Alor, across the street from Ombai. Atauro is the easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands and part of the inner Banda arc, whose islands are mostly volcanic origin. So also Atauro, which was formed prior to 3 to 3.5 million years ago. Today the island is no longer volcanically active. Timor, however, belongs to the older outer Banda arc, the islands formed by the folding of the seabed.

Atauro is rugged and rough. The former submarine volcanoes are exposed to erosion. The highest point of the island is the Mano Côco ( Foho Manococo ) with 999 m. Further surveys are the Foho Tutonairana and Foho Berau. High cliffs dropping to the sea and sheltered bays with sandy beaches dominate the coast. A wide reef from 30 to 150 m surrounds the island. The strait between Atauro and Timor is deeply up to 3,500 meters.

Administrative divisions

The island of Atauro forms a subdistrict of the district of Dili. The subdistrict is divided into five Sucos. Beloi forms the northern center of the island, Biqueli ( Bikeli, Biquele, Biceli, formerly Pala ) is located at the northern tip Atauros, Macadade ( Anartuto ) in the southwest, Maquili ( Makili ) on the south east coast and Vila Maumeta ( Atauro Vila ) on the southern east Coast. Administrator for the subdistrict is Manecas as C. Soares (2010 ).


The largest city is Vila, the second largest Macadade. They are located in the south of the island. A possible alternative name for Vila Maumeta is Toro. Along the south coast the villages Berau, Nameta and Macelihu and on the northwest coast Adara, Maquer and Vatuo. The villages are Akrema ( Acrema ) Beloi, Biqueli and Uaro - Ana on the northern east coast. In the interior of the north Arlo and Douro find.


Atauro has a dry and a rainy season. Landslides and floods threaten the island during the rainy season between November and March. With increasing altitude increases, the annual rainfall. It is 700-1600 mm per year.

Flora and Fauna

Atauro is an Important Bird Area and part of the Timor and Wetar Endemic Bird Area. 2004 84 bird species have been recorded here. 13 more in 2007 came to.

In addition to the fields there are mainly grasslands with eucalyptus (Eucalyptus alba ) and some remnants of dry and evergreen tropical forests, especially in the mountains and canyons. Since the 16th century the forest was greatly cut down. The trees in the tropical mountain forest on Mano Côco reach 15 to 20 m height. 40 km ² around the mountain are a nature reserve.


On the island live 8,602 inhabitants (2010, 2004: 7,863 ). Unusually for the majority of Catholic East Timor are the majority Protestant inhabitants of the northern Atauros. They were evangelized by Alor by Dutch Calvinists in the 20th century. Also in the south of the island there are Protestants.

The residents speak Atauros Wetar which is otherwise mainly spoken on the island Wetar. Here designated as a National Language is also called Atauru.

On Atauro three dialects are spoken Wetar: Rahesuk in the north, to the southeast and Resuk Raklungu in the southwest. A fourth dialect of Wetar, Dadu'a is spoken by descendants of a group of residents Atauros, who emigrated in villages in the district Manatuto on Timor.

The average age on Atauro is 19.5 years ( 2010, 2004: 19.0 years ).

The human rights activist María do Céu was born on Atauro.


The Dutch ceded the island of Atauro Portugal in 1859 by the Treaty of Lisbon, but until 1884 the Portuguese flag was set in a ceremony on the small island, and only in 1905 the residents paid taxes to Portugal. In April of that year, a military post was established.

The parched island was used by the Portuguese to exile political prisoners there from Portugal, Timor and from other colonies. A prominent prisoner, who probably died here, Boaventura, the Liurai of Manufahi and leader of the great rebellion of 1911/1912 was. ( Was born in 1933 here ) Another exile was the father of the East Timorese politician Manuel Carrascalão. By 1959, Lisbon sent more than 3,000 people according to Atauro.

As part of the preparation for the independence of East Timor, the UDT on August 11, 1975 attempted a coup to counter the growing popularity of the FRETILIN something. The last Portuguese Governor Mário Lemos Pires fled to Atauro, where he tried to mediated between the two parties. FRETILIN tried to get him to return to Dili and the continuation of the Entkolonisation move, but Pires was waiting for instructions from the government in Lisbon, but due to the problems in Africa had little interest in East Timor. The chaos favored the subsequent invasion by Indonesia. Atauro was occupied on December 30, 1975 by the armed forces of Indonesia, 23 days after the state capital of Dili.

Between 1980 and 1986, Indonesia also used as a prison island of Atauro and resettlement camp. At its peak in 1982 lived 4,000 prisoners here. After Marabia attack Indonesia sent in July 1980, the first group of prisoners after Atauro, many of them children and the elderly who have relatives in the underground movement had. Many suffered from malnutrition because the food supplies of Indonesians rarely sufficient. Members of the Koramil and Hansip were responsible for guarding the prisoners. Relatives was not permitted to visit. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC ) began from 1982, record the names and origins of prisoners to inform family members.

1999 protected the remote location Atauros the inhabitants from the pro-Indonesian militias that ravaged the rest of East Timor during the crisis.

During the colonial period, the island was incorporated into the district of Dili, to which it belongs today. After the restoration of independence of East Timor was discussed to rank the districts new and separate the island from Dili. These plans were not ultimately implemented.

Traffic, transport and economy

78 % of households in Atauro grow corn, 74 % coconut, 73 % cassava, vegetables 19% and 6% coffee. In addition, peanuts, bananas, papayas and other fruit trees are planted.

On the island there are few roads. A paved road connects Vila Maumeta and Biqueli. There is a runway for aircraft. The IATA code is AUT ( WPAT ). Overall, the supply of the population is not very good. From Atauro a ferry to the capital Dili, which requires about two hours. There is also the possibility of fishing boats to get to the island. Atauro wants to devote increasing the eco-tourism. Its coral reefs inspire recreational divers.

From the UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs ) 14 municipal solar installations were built between 2005 and 2008 on Atauro. In planning is since 2013 a submarine power cable that will supply Atauro from Dili with electricity. Portugal from 2004 helped expand the water supply of the island.

Atauro Island is an interesting diving site for tourists

Devil crab in Atauro

Fishing boat in Maquili

Fishing in Maquili


Maquili is known for its wood carving. Originally carved one dance masks, male and female figures. There were also carvings of mermaids and eels that are intended to highlight the creation myth of the island. According to an eel, as a woman who lived in the Sea ( Tasi Feto ) designated Banda, who created the island. Christianity influenced this anmistischen representations. So they began to cover the genitals of the figures with towels and also to carve Christian motifs. Still be found on Atauro masks that hang on trees and to protect the gardens from thieves. Even warriors and dancers took the masks. Today you can find a souvenir to new audiences.