Article by Shawn Heinrichs / Photos by Justin Ebert
Raja Empat is truly one of the top destinations in the world for shooting extremely healthy reefs and marine biodiversity. Currently, there is only one land based option in the entire region. The only way to visit and dive the southern part of the island group is by live aboard. Misool Eco Resort will be changing that. I met Andy Miners two years ago at the Asia Dive Expo in Singapore and was thrilled to hear that his dreams had led him to building a resort on Misool. The resort will be opening in 2008 - and DivePhotoGuide will be leading a special trip there shortly after. As a special feature, each month from now until the opening, we will cover a new update on the development of the resort and diving in the area. Enjoy! - JH
A Place Like No Other
Raja Ampat is considered by many to have the greatest marine biodiversity of any place on the planet. Recent findings are mind blowing, with approximately 1,000 species of reef fish, 565 species of hard corals, and 700 species of mollusks. In addition, many large pelagics make their home in these waters. Huge schools of jack and tuna, pods of dolphins, turtles and other game fish abound. Mantas, mobulas and even the giant whale shark frequent these waters. With such a prolific marine environment, it is no surprise that Raja Ampat has been nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One man’s dream
Andy Miners, a veteran live-aboard dive master in the region since 1999, was so taken by the beauty and pristine condition of Raja Ampat’s reefs, that he made it his personal mission to preserve them. He negotiated a long-term lease on Batbitim Island and immediately laid plans to construct an eco resort and conservation center. A man of no small vision, Andy managed to secure an area of 200 square kilometers surrounding Batbitim Island as a no take zone, the first marine protected area in Raja Ampat. Perhaps even more exciting is that fact that he rallied support for the protected area from the surrounding villages. When open to public (construction is scheduled to be complete in early 2008) Misool Eco Resort will be a dream destination for those seeking solitude and incredible diving in the worlds richest and most diverse marine environment.
A village to raise it
A group of like-minded divers and conservationists, who share Andy’s love Raja Ampat teeming waters, have joined him to construct Misool Eco Resort and Conservation Centre. Having witnessed the demise of reef ecologies across SE Asia, this group is taking a stand against the mounting pressures that now threaten Raja Ampat’s reefs. Their love for diving and passion for the environment is expressed in all aspects of the resorts development. The mission of the team is to build and operate a “true” eco dive resort that makes a significantly positive impact on the environment and the native people who live there.
Sustainable and renewable building materials are sourced whenever possible to minimize environmental impact during construction. Great care is taken to ensure that construction debris and bio wastes do not end up in the sea. To this end, the construction team and local villagers are continually educated about conservation. The 200 sq. km marine protected area surrounding the island is a cornerstone in this initiative. The agreement even includes a clause to protect nesting turtles and their eggs from poachers.
A Vision for the Future
The owners and employees share a vision for the future of Misool Eco Resort combined with the passion and dedication to realize it. While reefs around the world have been devastated by destructive fishing and industrial run-off, the reefs of Raja Ampat have largely flourished. As the focus of fisheries and industry now turn toward Raja Ampat, operations such as Misool Eco Resort will play a critical role in protecting the pristine marine environment. It is this urgency that drives the team to complete the resort.
Work to be done
It is an incredible undertaking to build a best of class dive resort that adheres to strict eco standards. That challenge is compounded when the resort is located on a remote tropical island! Sourcing eco friendly materials, transportation, equipment, supplies and skilled labour are all in short supply. Each day the owners and workers face a host of trials and tribulations. In spite of this, the progress has been tremendous with Misool Eco Resort well on its way to becoming a premiere dive destination in Indonesia.
DivePhotoGuide & Misool Eco Resort
DivePhotoGuide will be covering the development of the resort, and Andy's dream to build a great experience in one of the world's hottest dive destinations.
As part of our quest to offer our members some of the most photographically productive diving experiences available, we will leading a trip to Misool Eco Resort in 2008 or 2009 (depending on when the resort opens).
We wish Andy and his team our congratulations and best of luck with the new resort! We look forward to our next trip to Raja Empat! - JH
Shawn Heinrichs is a videographer and filmmaker who specializes in underwater video and adventure travel. He is committed to marine conservation, taking on roles such as conservation moderator for Wetpixel.com. His passion and work take him to the corners of the planet in pursuit of wild encounters with the ocean’s most impressive creatures.
Shawn took first place for the video category in last year's Wetpixel & DivePhotoGuide International Competition in association with Our World Underwater.
© Shawn Heinrichs / Justin Ebert & DivePhotoGuide.com
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