Just a few weeks after a research trip that discovered more tropical fish species in Atauro than anywhere else on earth, this island off the coast of Dili, Timor Leste makes the Sustainable Destinations Top 100 list....

Atauro Island has just been named one of the Sustainable Destinations Top 100 - a huge win for this tiny island, off the coast of Dili, Timor Leste. Scores of nominees from across the globe were competing this year, with the winners announced on World Tourism Day last week. It’s been a great few weeks for Atauro Island - a recent research trip by Conservation International found that the island’s reefs may be home to the richest diversity of tropical reef fish anywhere on the planet. And the fact that it is being managed susainably now surely puts the island firmly on the dive tourism radar as one for the bucket lists.  

The Sustainable Destinations Top 100 was established last year to celebrate tourism destinations and initiatives that are making tangible efforst to make their opoerations more sustainable. The list is notable for the rigour of the selection process. Nominees were invited to participate  through an open call on social media and across high profile media platforms and newswires. The Top 100 were selected by a panel of experts based on 15 core criteria and each nomination had to provide extensive information about the destination, interaction with ecosystems, local communities and visitors.

Atauro sits in the Ombai Strait, some 30 kms north of Dili and right in the path of the famous Indonesian Throughflow as it streams between the main islands of Alor and Wetar, carrying a rich cargo of nutrients from the deep basins of the Banda Sea to the north. it is this that makes Atauro’s reefs so spectacularly diverse. The island’s volcanic limestone slopes soaring skyward and often crowned with cloud. Most of the 8000 strong population are subsistence farmers and fishers.

The diving off both east and west coasts is world class, with virtually all of the well known dive sites featuring magnificent walls that drop down in to the deep waters of the Ombai and Wetar Straits that surround the island. There are a couple of resorts on the island - Barry’s Eco Lodge is definitely the pick, with sustainability at the heart of their operation. This is visible in everything from their permaculture gardens to the traditional construction techniques and solar panels they use, as well as their involvement in local community projects.

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