For the past five years, my husband and I have taken a two-week scuba vacation in May to the South Pacific or coral triangle. First, there was Taveuni, Fiji, with abundant fish in a rainbow of soft corals. I kinda felt sorry for the next place I would visit. But that would be North Sulawesi (Indonesia), at Siladen – with its gorgeous corals and fabulous fish life, and Lembeh - where there were creatures, which I am pretty sure, arrived from other planets. Wow – again I felt sorry for the next place. That turned out to be the Atlantis Resorts in Puerto Galera and Dumaguete (Philippines), where again, among the throngs of fish and healthy corals, I managed to encounter unique marine life I had never seen before. Good luck to the next place. That was Sabah, Borneo, where in addition to the massive, tame schools of fish in Sipadan, and the crazies in Mabul, and even those in the deep blue of Layang Layang, I also saw unique land animals – including pygmy elephants and orangutans. Talk about a tough act to follow! That act was Misool Eco Resort, in Raja Ampat. Now I feel sorry for the next place.
If you want to see beautiful hard and soft corals all mixed together, go to Misool. If you want to see reef mantas and oceanic mantas on the same dive, go to Misool. If you want to become blasé over pygmy seahorses, candy crabs, and reef sharks, go to Misool. Want to see wobbegong sharks and epaulette sharks? Go to Misool. Hairy squat lobsters, sexy shrimp, and pom-pom crabs? Go to Misool. I could go on, but you probably get the picture. If not, my husband has dozens of great photos he could share with you! The diverse and profuse marine life and varying seascapes were spectacular. The only possible complaint from a diving and photographic standpoint was slightly poorer visibility than we had experienced in our other trips to this region. Photographers, brush up on your backscatter reducing techniques!
Then there was the staff and resort itself. Each staff member was helpful, warm, friendly, happy, and courteous, and aimed to please (and sometimes tease). Our dive guides, Ferry and Djamal, were exceptional at finding all the little critters, and great fun to dive with (Djamal, possessor of the worlds greatest smile, even found those penguins we asked for!) And the resort… It looks somewhat unassuming from a distance, but as you get closer, you are struck by its beauty. The water cottages are fabulous. We had #5, which provides an unobstructed panoramic view that we could enjoy from the large deck that offers several comfy seating options. The air conditioning does not get the room super cool, but the fans inside the mosquito netting get the job done. Be prepared for those mosquitos. They don’t buzz around your ears, but outside the mosquito netting, they sneak in and get you. (I threatened to bite back, but they must not have understood English.). Stairs from the deck lead to a well-protected, shallow lagoon and house reef filled with everything from turtles to baby reef sharks (Just watch those last few slippery steps!). On our farewell snorkel, we even saw a spotted eagle ray skimming along the shallows.
The restaurant was a focal point where, when not diving, we could eat excellent, healthy, and varied food while socializing with the other wonderful guests. The dive center is also a well laid out focal point, with nice photo work stations, and couches where you can check out all kinds of references or catch the evening presentations, and an area where you can attempt to get on the internet (for a fee). The internet? Kinda, sorta. Kinda frustrating. But they make that clear. (What can you expect in such a remote area?).
The resort also offers several worthwhile topside diversions. We were too reluctant to give up dives to go on more than one, but that was an excellent boat trip through “The Labyrinth”- a twisting, turning confusion of channels through beautiful tropical islands. Along the way we visited 5000 year-old petroglyphs and swam through a sacred cave with impressive stalactite/stalagmite formations. Other guests took the village tour and visited a jellyfish lake and seemed to enjoy themselves. For the romantically inclined, you can be “marooned” on an isolated beach for a few hours of tropical seclusion. Even the short walk over the hill to the newer facilities on the other side of the island was an adventure, offering stunning views of the resort and the surrounding islands.
Equal to the exceptional resort stay and dive sites, are the wonderful efforts and accomplishments Misool has made towards conservation and education. Catch their presentation explaining how the resort was built almost completely from downed wood and recycled material and even sports an organic sanitation system that eliminates human waste without pollution. Learn how the founders, Andy and Marit, with support, established the Raja Ampat Shark and Manta Sanctuary, plus an enormous no-take zone. They help to support research on mantas, and reef restoration. They have trained locals to patrol the area, and they provide them with the means to do so. They not only cover salaries of their employees, but also those of patrol rangers, and several teachers in the local villages. They have built a school, and ranger stations, and they provide books for school libraries. Recently they started up a number of recycling centers, with requests to start more. So while Misool comes at a price, it is not all being pocketed by the owners, but rather given back to the community in so many ways. I cannot praise Misool enough for their achievements in creating a true “Eco” resort.
Did I say remote? Well yes, getting there is definitely an adventure. From our home outside of L.A. it took over 50 hours of travel to get there, and a little longer to get back. Was it worth it? Undoubtedly. We would gladly go back to any of the South Pacific sites we have visited so far, but when it comes to Misool, both my husband and I agree it is just a question of when, not if, we will return to this little slice of paradise.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Misool Eco Resort is an exclusive dive resort and conservation center located in the southern part of Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Our private resort island is nestled deep in a vast archipelago of uninhabited islands, in the heart of marine biodiversity. Our island and our scuba dive sites are surrounded by our very own 1220 sq km No-Take Zone. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Misool Eco Hotel Raja Ampat