During a few days in Dili, discussions with different non government organizations involved in tourism developments, local tourism operators and government agency staff introduce East Timor and explore issues for development and tourism. One week is spent on Atauro Island, a rocky volcanic island about 30 km off the coast of Dili with a population of around 12,000 people. Its landscape and isolation create challenges for development, but also unique opportunities for tourism.
The group stays at Tua Koin Ecolodge, but travels by foot, open boat and truck to some of the villages around the island, with opportunities to explore the mountains, forests, sandy beaches, rocky coastline and coral reefs. Participants will also have the opportunity to experience homestays with local families in different locations around the island. A second destination is visited providing an alternative tourism and cultural experience.
In past years, the group has visited community based tourism developments at Tutuala and Loihunu. Tutuala is at the far eastern end of the mainland, in the only declared national park in East Timor, and adjacent to Jaco Island, the sight of some of the regions best snorkelling opportunities. Loihunu is in the central mountains between Baucau and Viqueque, with steep limestone mountains and caves, tumbling rivers and thick forest.
To ensure students get the most out of their experiences in East Timor, they are required to undertake a study on a nominated topic relevant to their East Timor experience with a pre-departure review of the topic and a reflective report on the learning experience on return. Topics include tourism impacts in small communities, sustainability of tourism in Small Island Developing States, indicators of sustainability in Less Developed Countries, tourism and poverty alleviation, community-based tourism models and issues such as empowerment and gender in community based tourism.