Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Phase VI

Dili to Ataúro Island, Dili District

Why are we so interested in Ataúro Island to the north of Timor-Leste, apart from the obvious fact that along with Jaco Island and the Oecussi exclave it is part of the sovereign state of Timor-Leste and therefore part of our survey. The map below demonstrates the special importance of Ataúro in any zoogeographical study of the Lesser Sunda Islands.

While Timor lies in the Outer Banda Arc of islands, with Sumba, Sawu, Roti and Semau, Ataúro lies in the Inner Banda Arc with Flores, Sumbawa, Alor and Wetar, and may be expected to exhibit a somewhat different zoogeography.

Map showing the two island arcs of the Lesser Sunda Islands.
click to enlarge

We had to be at the Dili port in good time to get our "troopies" and ourselves on board the Berlin Nakroma ferry. The ferry was a gift from Germany to Timor-Leste and it had become a life-line for the people of Ataúro Island and the Oecusse exclave on the northern coast of West Timor. The limitations of relying on other people for transportation and its negative effect on fieldwork success had become apparent to us following our two previous visits to Ataúro so we determined to bring our own vehicles over this time.

But once there we had to sit and wait a long time while the ferry was unloaded and then loaded again with boxes and baskets of supplies for Ataúro. Eventually Hinrich and I were asked to drive the two troopies onboard and turn them around, then we had to leave the ferry again to board again as passengers. Our troopies were followed onboard by a two-door SUV and a ute (pickup) and around a dozen motorcycles. Eventually everyone was allowed to board the Berlin Nakroma for the two-hour crossing to Ataúro.

The Troopies waiting for loading The Berlin Nakroma refuelling
Hinrich's Troopie Mark's Troopie


Dili to Beloi, Ataúro Island, about 2.5 hours on the Berlin Nakroma

At the Ataúro jetty Hinrich and I disembarked with the troopies and the other transport and then waited for the rest of the team to leave with the other foot passengers.

Approaching Ataúro Island Disembarking at the Beloi jetty