A four-hour speed boat ride away from sleepy Sorong, West Papua, Indonesia, and seemingly light years away, is Misool, my favourite dive resort in the world.
I consider myself a member of the resort’s extended family, having had the pleasure of visiting three times in the past four years. Ironically situated on the site of what was formerly a shark finning camp on tiny Batbitim Island, located in the southeast Misool region of Raja Ampat, this beautiful resort is the epitome of what it means to be an eco resort.
The primary reason that I have travelled there several times, is the consistently high quality of the diving. The resort is located at the heart of the Coral Triangle, and is a proverbial stone’s throw away from some of the planet’s healthiest and most biodiverse coral reefs. The variety, abundance, and vibrant colours of the local soft corals is stunning. Furthermore, the dive sites are packed with a seemingly endless variety of marine life.
What makes things even sweeter, is the fact that Misool works in concert with the Misool Foundation, its registered charity arm. The foundation’s principal mission is to preserve an increasingly large marine protected area (MPA) surrounding Batbitim Island. Revenue derived from guests staying at the resort in part supports the conservation efforts. Largely due to these efforts, which include an active ranger patrol interdicting illegal fishing within the MPA, the biomass on the surrounding reefs has quantifiably increased over the past decade. Consequently, the diving just keeps getting better and better. The lagoon of what used to be a shark-finning camp, is now a nursery for a burgeoning population of blacktip reef sharks.
Audaciously conceived of by Andrew and Marit Miners, construction of Misool began in July 2006, and is now complete. This couple is living proof that if you dream big enough, and work hard enough, you can accomplish great things, particularly if you enlist the support of local folks, as Andrew and Marit have done.
Only reclaimed tropical hardwood, milled on site, was utilized to create the resort. All buildings have been tastefully designed to blend in with the pristine surroundings. The casually elegant accommodations include eight spacious and luxurious Water Cottages and four slightly larger villas, all built on stilts over the island’s north lagoon. The south beach side of the resort comprises five additional villas, and is a short walk or boat ride away.
The restaurant and dive center are both situated on the north lagoon. The menu features a variety of delicious and artfully prepared Asian and Western dishes. A comfortable lounge, often utilized for informative evening presentations, and a spacious, world class camera room, are incorporated into the dive center.
Dive sites include a wonderful house reef, which is loaded with a variety of interesting creatures, including large groupers, flasher wrasse, mandarinfish, wonderpus and blue ring octopus, and tasseled wobbegong sharks, just to mention a few.
Boat rides to the surrounding dive sites typically are 5-15 minutes. Diving is done in small groups, five or six divers maximum in my experience. The friendly and capable dive guides know the dive sites intimately, and virtually always succeed in diving them under optimal conditions.
My favourite local dive site is Magic Mountain, located near Warakaket Island, and about a 15-minute boat ride from the resort. This undersea ridge incorporates at least two manta ray cleaning stations, frequented by both reef and oceanic manta rays. In addition to the mantas, Magic Mountain features vibrant soft corals, schooling snappers and trevally, cruising whitetip reef and grey reef sharks, turtles, tasseled wobbegong and Raja Ampat walking sharks, friendly humphead wrasse, and whatever else might swim by. You never know exactly what you will encounter at this site. No two dives at Magic Mountain are the same. All are action-packed and terrific.
In between dives, Misool serves as a warm and friendly home base. Its staff members are extremely outgoing and helpful. From the moment you arrive, until the moment you leave, you are treated as a well-cared for member of the Misool family. I look forward to my next visit to this diving paradise in the not-too-distant future.
To see more photography from Steven M. Genkins, M.D. - aka 'SeaDoc' - check out his website at: http://www.seadocphotography.com/