Misool, The Crown Jewel of Indonesia


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.

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 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.

A Coral Grouper rests among the iconic soft and hard corals of Raja Ampat

A Coral Grouper rests among the iconic soft and hard corals of 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.

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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.

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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.

Raja Ampat Pygmy Seahorse

Raja Ampat Pygmy Seahorse

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.”

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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.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me
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Aloha “Hāhalua” (Manta Ray)


I have had the pleasure of diving in the warm waters of Fiji with the world’s most beautiful soft corals, and the famed Great Barrier Reef with it’s colorful variety of fishes.  I have been diving in several places in the Caribbean ocean and spend my “home” days diving in the coastal waters of California, but nothing can compare to the wondrous experience of diving in Hawaii with the Hãhalua aka Manta Rays.

Dive lights illuminate two Mantas as they glide through the water.

Dive lights illuminate two Mantas as they glide through the water.

The dive takes place off the coast of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.  Each night these beautiful coastal Manta Rays come in to feed on the plankton that is attracted by the diver’s and boat operator’s lights.

Manta Rays channel water through their huge mouths with the cephalic fins where plankton is caught and digested.

Manta Rays channel water through their huge mouths with the cephalic fins where plankton is caught and digested.

The Rays can be individually identified by the markings on their underside.  The Manta Ray in the center (below) is named  Vinny Ray.

Vinny Ray (a young male Manta) and two friends

Vinny Ray (a young male Manta) and two friends

I did the dive on two different nights and used two different dive operators.  On the first night, I went with Big Island Divers ,  A fine operation that I would recommend highly.  The second night I used Kona Honu Divers, and had a good experience with them as well.  Both operations were dedicated to making my experience a memorable one,  and they catered to me and my camera equipment.

Friends Susan and Madison watch "Lefty" glide overhead.

Friends Susan and Madison watch “Lefty” glide overhead.

The divers sit or kneel on the bottom (about 35 to 40 fsw) and shine their lights up in to the water column, while snorkelers and boats above shine their lights down.  This attracts plankton which the Manta’s come to feed on.  The Manta in the image above is named “Lefty” because his left Cephalic fin is paralyzed.

Behind you!

Behind you!

Vinny again, coming in from behind.

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Most Reef Manta Rays weigh up to 1600 pounds and have an average wing span of 16 feet.  Their eyes are positioned at the side of their head just above the cephalic fin.  They are known as the “gentle giants” of the sea and look elegant as they glide through the water.

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The Manta Rays have a slime coating on their body that protects them from infection.  If this coating is scraped off, the skin will get red lesions and possibly infections as you can see on the cephalic fins of this manta.

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The lights from the boats above and a diver below, shine toward the Manta as it passes over my head.  This is an experience I will not soon forget.  The Mantas swept within inches of my head and did barrel rolls in front of my face.  The Kona Hawaii Manta Ray night dive is rated as one of the top 10 dives in the world.  It rates as the number 1 night dive in my book.