The Five Summits of Timor-Leste – A New Adventure Tourism Challenge

A new tour company, Adventureiro Azula Outdoor (AAO), has created a spectacular adventure experience for tourists – 8 days of guided treks to the summits of all five of Timor-Leste’s highest peaks. The “Five Summits” tour aims to promote adventure tourism Timor-Leste, showcasing the beauty and diversity of the countryside. Promoting the trip on social media with the hashtag #HauNiaTimorLeste, the group aim to boost the domestic tourism industry by spreading the message that these places are not just for international travellers, but they are beautiful and exotic places that all Timorese people should make an effort to visit, too.

AAO Director Joel Manuel Freitas Soares said that he had the idea when he read about the international “Seven Summits Challenge to climb the world’s highest mountains. “This motivated me to explore Timor-Leste’s own highest peaks, to show them to the world and to attract visitors to our country”, he explained.

In order of altitude, Timor-Leste’s highest mountains are:

  • Mount Ramelau (2967 metres), in Ainaro Municipality, which is also known locally as “Tatamailau”. Ramelau is already an established tourism destination, renowned for the stunning beauty of the countryside and also as a faith-based tourism attraction. Visitors hike from a shrine in Hatobuilico to offer devotions at the statue of the Virgin Mary at the summit, site of a major Catholic pilgrimage every year on October 7th.
  • Matebian is the second-highest mountain in the country, at an altitude of 2376 metres. Situated between Quelicai and Baguia in Baucau Municipality, this dramatic peak has a special cultural and sacred status for local people, and is best visited with a local guide. It was also a base for Falintil resistance fighters and a refuge for local people during the Indonesian occupation; some died and many suffered hunger in this isolated spot. Matebian is also a site of religious importance and the Catholic faithful make the pilgrimage to the statue of Christ The King at the summit.
  • Aileu Municipality is the location of the third-highest peak, Mt. Maubohilau (2312 metres). Maubohilau is not as well known as Ramelau and Matebian, and whilst it does not have a shrine or monument at its summit, this mountain rises up from a lush, green virgin forest. The 3-hour ascent is also more suitable for less experienced hikers, passing through easier terrain than the higher peaks.
  • Although Mount Kablaki (2062 metres) is only the is only fourth-highest in terms of altitude, its double peaks – Kaikas and Berlaka – can only be reached after a challenging ascent through steep, rocky terrain. Trekkers need to be prepared for a physical and mental challenge and whilst local people do make the trip for cultural and religious rites, it is suitable for the most adventurous and physically-fit visitors. On its initial tour, AAO cleared a pathway to the Kaikas peak, to take their group up to see the big white cross at the summit.
  • Datoi–Tapo is the fifth-highest mountain, at 1941 metres. Situated in Bobonaro Municipality, the ascent to Datoi-Tapo passes through areas of particular beauty, particularly in the rainy season, with lush green vegetation, whilst in the dry season the landscape is arid and rocky. It is a favoured location for local people seeking to hunt wild boar.

AAO organized the pilot tour for members of Timorese adventure groups who were experienced in trekking through mountainous terrain and who were willing to offer their expertise in helping to devise the package. Before setting out, AAO consulted the local authorities for their suggestions on routes and attractions and they conducted a survey afterwards aimed at helping them to refine the package in light of the group’s experiences. The local community provided their hospitality during the eight-night journey.

As the AAO group travelled between locations, members were able to refresh themselves by bathing in rivers and pools along the way. On the final day, the team spent some time at the small seaside resort of Com in Lautem Municipality, on the way back from the challenging ascent of Mt. Matebian. They all felt a sense of pride, as the first group to climb five mountains in eight days, and were thrilled with beautiful sights they saw along the way and the sense of achievement as they stood at the summit of each peak.

Freitas Soares said that the benefits of the Five Summits tour also extended to the community and to local authorities. The tour will help to put the peaks and the surrounding areas on the tourism map, promoting local culture as well as providing an income to some people in the area, who will have the opportunity to work as guides in the future. He also emphasised that AAO planned to conduct its activities under strict environmental principles: “Leave nothing but footprints; take nothing but photos (and videos!) and kill nothing (except time).” He added that tours such as this also presented an opportunity to raise environmental awareness amongst local visitors, mentioning recent incidents of littering and vandalism in the Mt. Ramelau area.

Whilst international tourism is at a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Freitas Soares Manuel said that his group had embraced the national #HauNiaTimorLeste campaign to promote domestic tourism.  “Through this campaign, we hope to create more interest in tourism amongst Timorese people, and make them feel proud of the beautiful places and wonderful experiences they can have when they travel around the tourism attractions throughout the country.”

Freitas Soares has a strong vision for tourism in Timor-Leste: he’s not going to stop at Five Summits: “Now we want to explore the sixth and seventh highest mountains in the land. And we’ll go beyond that, to develop more great adventure tourism experiences in Timor-Leste”.

To find out more about the Five Summits tour, contact Aventureiro Azula Outdoor:  

Phone: +670 7460 8080, +670 7739 7403

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: Aventureiro Azula Outdoor

Instagram: @azula_outdoor

Source: Adventureiro Azula Outdoor (AAO)

All photos copyright Adventureiro Azula Outdoor (AAO)