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This Private Island Resort Is on the Doorstep of the World’s Richest Reefs

PHOTO: Derrick Thomson

Your new neighbors are daily encounters with turtles, rays, countless fish, and the most colorful coral who also call the “house reef” home.

Misool Resort is the sort of hideaway you thought may not even exist anymore. It’s a place where you wake up thinking you’re still dreaming: in an overwater cottage, listening to the sounds of waves lapping and endemic birds chirping. It’s a private island paradise and the hideaway you’ve probably been longing for throughout the pandemic.

With a 40 guest capacity, this resort on a small Indonesian island in the Raja Ampat archipelago of islands is surrounded by the world’s richest reefs. They’re there to discover as if you’re a castaway with no one else around, except, in this case, fending for yourself means finding time for the inclusive package of four meals a day, kayak and paddleboard rentals, post-scuba dive head massages, snorkeling on the house reef, and additional add-on’s like scuba diving, spa, cooking classes, and excursions.

Located in the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat is the most biodiverse place on earth and is known to most as the best scuba diving in the world. You know a place is good when David Attenborough has narrated it at least three times. Scuba divers and snorkelers will be living their best Planet Earth life while meeting locals such as giant clams that are 70 plus years in age, manta rays, sharks, seahorses, turtles, countless schools of fish, and the more than 600 species of hard corals and 1,700 fish species who call this place home.

Tobias Zimmer

At the time of writing, Misool Resort is currently open to domestic travel so if you live in Indonesia, take advantage of the rare discounted rates. If you’re dreaming of going, book a trip sooner rather than later to take advantage of the flexible cancellation policy and to avoid disappointment when the world opens up.

As if perfectly placed among congested traffic of marine life always on its way to and through Misool and the other islands around, you can’t help but feel always unnoticed or almost invisible to all life around. Rarely does anything look as it seems but always and inevitably the marine life you discover, whether big or small, is seemingly playing a perfectly choreographed role and symbiotic relationship with everything around it. The marine life here is in such abundance, new species are recorded nearly every year.

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With Raja Ampat being one of the most remote destinations around, a journey here or to Misool isn’t for the faint of heart. But then again, most travelers know going the extra mile rewards those who make the journey.

After transferring to Sorong in Indonesia’s West Papua province via Jakarta, Misool’s new luxury transfer yacht makes a very scenic journey from Sorong to the resort in just three hours. Arriving at the resort is a memory you won’t soon forget. Without any exaggeration, reef sharks (which are not dangerous), turtles, schools of fish, and the healthiest corals are all instantly seen on the house reef below from the boardwalk. While the overwhelming beauty above and below the water is a reflection of the biodiversity in which you are visiting, it’s also a reflection of Misool Resort’s main purpose, “Protecting the World’s Richest Reefs.”

Shawn Heinrichs

The island which you dine on the finest locally-sourced food, lay your head in Balinese style luxury cottages, watch the sunset from balcony nets above the water, and swing life away from private white-sand beaches was once home to an illegal shark finning camp.

You see, with such great amounts of biodiversity comes eyes for extraction in all illegal and destructive forms. Shark finning, bomb fishing (where fishermen blow up a reef so the fish float to the top and are then collected), and illegal poaching were decimating Raja Ampat and this specific region. In addition to fish and sharks, manta rays (a majestic animal known as “angels of the sea”) are prized for their gill plate in medicines and are targeted as well. However, this problem and lack of action was identified in the early 2000s by the now-owners of Misool. Following agreements with local government and indigenous communities, Misool Resort was built to fund a conservation initiative that would become one of the most important sustainable travel stories of our time.

INSIDER TIPSunscreens that are not reef-safe are banned at Misool and should always be avoided when going in the ocean. These are sunscreens that contain the ingredients of oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate. For a large selection of natural and feel-good reef-safe lotions, try Raw Elements.

A no-take zone was established (a zone forbidding fishing which would later become part of the Misool Marine Protected Area), Misool Resort was built, and the Misool Foundation was born which collectively drives a pioneering conservation model that is funded by the resort. The Misool Foundation runs the Misool Ranger Patrol—a team of conservation officers who patrol the area to fend off illegal poachers. This team is responsible for dramatically reducing poaching and has played a heavy role in increasing marine biomass by 250% to 600% and increasing shark populations by 300%. There are 25 times more sharks recorded inside the marine reserve than outside of it, and Oceanic Manta sightings have increased 25-fold as well. When we travel again, it’s important to prioritize supporting tourism operators who support conservation and community and have tirelessly continued investing in these environments even when revenues have been depleted from COVID-19.

An excursion to Jellyfish Lake (one of only three freshwater jellyfish lakes in the world) includes visits to more remote islands and a viewpoint lookout over the lagoons and limestone islands of Raja Ampat. This experience will not only dive deeper into the region’s rich geologic and human history through shallow lagoons and pictographs, but it will quickly bring into perspective just how huge the area is that is being protected.

Shawn Heinrichs

Misool Resort stops at nothing to continuously improve the guest experience while reducing their impact and helping others succeed. Electric catamarans are being built and on their way, they have assisted in founding and funding the only plastic recycling facility in Sorong to which ocean plastic is sent, their solar farms aim to reduce their carbon footprint to as close to zero as possible by 2022, and the conservation models here have inspired the creation of a shark and ray sanctuary for all of Raja Ampat and a nationwide fishing ban for mantas.

With a protected playground at your doorstep, it’s hard to find time to fit in all the diving, snorkeling, excursions, relaxation, and sunsets. Without even leaving the private island and its waters, though, make sure to circumnavigate the island on a paddleboard or kayak, go night-snorkeling or diving to see who comes out to play when the sun goes down, visit the hydroponic garden and solar farm (which is a shot viewpoint hike from the resort), get a traditional Indonesian spa treatment, and try your hands at a cooking class.

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