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Dreamtime in Southern Raja Ampat (Misool)

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I have found my paradise off Papua

 

Dreamtime

 

 

Waking up in the morning from a big, extended splash underneath my water cottage I recognize millions of small fish being chased by a baby blacktip shark, and then another one and still another one. It doesn’t need much to convince me of an early morning snorkeling out into the serene lagoon of Misool Eco Resort (MER). Curious parrotfish accompany me out. And then I bump into a majestic school of large parrot bump-head fish, none less than a meter in size, there might be more than 40 in this group. I can hear them chewing. Their teeth are impressive. On my way back I spot a medium sized hawksbill turtle. Now I am ready for breakfast as I still “have to go diving” --- but even if I didn’t I have already encountered more than I ever would have imagined for a short swim.

 

Raja Ampat is said to host the greatest variety of marine life and it’s supposed to be one of the areas of origin of all life on earth. But predators are foraging: shark finning hunters, also fishing boats from Sulawesi using dynamite to ensure a huge catch within minutes. Misool Eco Resort which is the only resort operating in the Southern Raja Ampat region which otherwise is just being passed through by live-a-boards is the only one dedicated to marine protection. They have rented a large area of 250 sea miles2 around the resort which is marked now as a “no fishing zone”

 

Today we are off in one of the speedy dive boats to a manta ray cleaning station. On our way we pass a live-a-board and see some of the crew fishing off the vessel. We interrupt our journey to remind them that they have to stick to the rules set in the protected area if they expect to still do diving here in the years to come. It can’t be that the local owners of the area refrain from fishing whereas “intruders” don’t care, Lauren, one of the very knowledgeable dive guides explains. Her eyes, together with local guide Sanggut, spot even the smallest macro creatures. And they have a very good timing to avoid currents which can be violent in Raja Ampat. Still on that same trip we spot a bag filled with rubbish swept ashore. We inspect it and read the name of a live-a-board on the packing, empty bottles of wine, milk, plastic bags. Although they should, it seems that liveaboards operating in the area don’t care about the marine conservation as Misool Eco Resort as a stationary enterprise does.

 

We not only encounter several manta ray this morning, but also jack, emperor, a few white tip sharks and an octopus defending his feast against some ferocious groupers. Lunch is back in the resort’s stunning setting. The buildings are all constructed from drift wood which they dug out under meters of sand, as far as Seram. It was cut on site and then arduously transported back to Batbitim, the little island the resort sits on. Buidling here must have involved oceans of sweat and heart blood. A delicious buffet lunch is served in a very stylish octagonal restaurant on the far end of the lagoon which is thatched with elephant grass from Seram. That way it’s always nice and cool, also in the cottages (which are too comfortable to leave) and the resort could employ a whole village over several months sowing roof elements. It’s part of their philosophy. Ecological and environmentally friendly as much as is possible and socially responsible.

 

I didn’t know that these bizarre islands must have been inhabited some 60,000 years ago. Andy, the resort manager and director of MER, explains to me when he takes us on an excursion to a little island labyrinth one day. In caverns and ridges just above the waterline we amaze at rock paintings which are thousands of years old. There’s fish, dolphins, hunters, there are hands in a print negative and there are shells piled up on ledges in a certain pattern that must have been used by the former inhabitants of these waters as sign markers. It’s unreal. Those sharp, bizarre rocks sticking out of the water, some like mushrooms, being shaped by water erosion and wind abrasion. I imagine people paddling their canoes around here and at night gathering for chats and feasts.

 

During the night dive in the absolutely amazing house reef off the resort we encounter a walking shark and a huge moray eel. I choose to keep my distance…

 

I am a dive resort owner myself in Sulawesi, a different class though, and this is my hide away. I love to swing in my cottage hammock just above the crystal clear water of the lagoon. I enjoy diving as a guest, not a host. And I am impressed by this stunning beauty under water and the amount of big fish which exceeds what we have in Sulawesi. Visibility is - except for two dives – more than 30 metres. Coral colors vivid. Maybe I will come to live out here when I retire. Dreamtime, timeless-

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Thanks for your inspirational post !

 

Sad to hear the story about liveaboards dropping their garbage at sea . It will be good idea to document such cases ( photos or videos ) and make it public . I will not spend my money with an operator that not care about the enviroment.

 

Regards

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Thank you for the wonderful words and the honesty. You managed to take me from the desert to a beautiful place this morning, you made my day!

Welcome to Wetpixel. :(

 

Cheers,

Steve

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Reading this brought back memories of my trip to Misool this March and my first magical snorkel in the bay and it sounds much like yours , amazing what you see in this shallow lagoon.

The baby black tips were mesmorising and the shoals of Bumpheads playing away.

Seven Pygmy's on one fan and two meters below a couple of Denise Pygmy's just round the corner on the house reef.

 

i could go on but thanks for bringing the memory back

 

cheers

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