I recently spent a few weeks scuba diving in the southern part of Raja Ampat on the tiny island of Batbitim. At just three and a half kilometers in circumference, this island is not only a stellar diving destination, but it also hosts the luxurious Misool Eco Resort, while maintaining an eco-friendly environment. I was so impressed with the resort and the conservation work they are doing there that I wanted to share a little bit about it.
The beauty and serenity of the resort itself is apparent as soon as you arrive. The island of Batbitim lies about four hours south by boat from the nearest port. It lies among other uninhabited islands and is about twenty miles from the nearest local village. Each guest enjoys their own cottage on the water, or residence on the beach. You can walk down the stairs from your front patio right in to the water for snorkeling or swimming.
Although the diving in this area of Indonesia is astounding, I believe it is the accomplishments of the resort itself that make this destination truly remarkable. Just ten years ago, this island’s bay was a place where fishermen came to fin sharks. Because the bay is a black tip reef shark nursery, that included juvenile as well as adult sharks. Misool bought the island and has since successfully turned it into a marine sanctuary. In fact, they have lobbied to make the entire location a marine protected area and now protect more than 1200 square kilometers. This is policed and enforced by the local island population with great success. The bio-mass has been documented since 2006 and in this particular area, it has a richer density and diversity than anywhere else in Raja Ampat.
Another great accomplishment of Misool Eco Resort, is the minimal environmental impact they have. Everything from the cottages to the furniture are made from materials found on the island, with no trees being cut down to build with. Fresh water is obtained through desalination, they generate their own electricity, and they recycle the gray water through the roots of a beautiful garden where it is naturally filtered.
All this is accomplished while maintaining the highest level of service and luxury in the industry. The local islanders work on the island, the food is delicious and plentiful and the guest list is small. In addition to scuba diving, guests can enjoy snorkeling, Stand Up Paddle boards, kayaking, local excursions and more.
It is the scuba diving and the photo opportunities that draw visitors from all over the world. Raja Ampat is known for its beautiful soft corals and colorful fish.
The image above was taken at a site called Boo Window. There are two swim-throughs close to the surface that look like the eyes of a ghost. One of the “eyes” is partially covered by the gorgonian fan, but you can see why the site got its name. I asked my guide, Marfal, to show me critters such as the Raja Ampat pygmy seahorse which is found only in Southern Raja Ampat. Everything I asked to see, he found without fail.
I even mused that what I really wanted was a shot of a giant manta hovering above the colorful reef, to which he replied, “Okay.”
Truly, Misool Eco Resort is one of those fantasy destinations that most people only dream about. I can tell you that I will be dreaming about it for a long time to come.
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