Misool Eco Resort
Misool is a very luxe eco-resort located on a tiny island called Batbitim in a region also called Misool, to the very of south of Raja Ampat. Like Papua Paradise and the tiny handful of other Raja Ampat land-based resorts, Misool is expensive and it's a really long distance from Sorong.
We travelled to Misool in February 2019 and it was a four-hour journey by a very new, shiny private speedboat named the Merantau. Fortunately for us, the weather was good on the way there; on the way back, it was a roller coaster of a voyage as a thunderstorm rolled in.
Our accommodation was in the Villa Santai – set on the secluded southern side of the island. There are just 7 thatched-roof hardwood villas on this side of Misool, and for that reason it feels like you have the entire place to yourself. Each villa has its own individual character, but as far as amenities go, they all come with air-conditioning, a fan and an open-air bathroom.
As the dive centre and restaurant are on the other side of a pretty high peak, you had to be able to climb steep stone stairs (sometimes several times a day). The view over the entire resort was great from the top – with plenty of turtles in the lagoon below to spot.
We also regularly made use of the complimentary kayaks and stand-up paddle boards to get to our room, paddling from the restaurant straight to our villa’s front door and vice versa.
The food at the resort is also commendable for its variety, quality and quantity, with both a la carte and set menu or buffet-style dining at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests can choose to sit at a couple of long communal tables or privately at smaller tables.
Vegetarians are well catered for, with gado-gado, mi goreng and nasi goreng being particular favourites. Fresh fruit and a variety of non-alcoholic drinks are also always available at the restaurant so you’re never thirsty (or hungry for that matter!).
The Dive Experience
The dive centre was fantastic – with hot showers and ample drying racks for wetsuits, fins and other equipment. Divers could have their own wooden bench to stow camera gear, computers, etc with storage underneath for dive bags. A lovely old man - one of Misool's first staff members - always made sure there were fresh towels and drinking water, whilst there was a comprehensive library of marine life reference books plus plenty of comfy seating.
Our dive guide – Jemy – was also very good, partial to finding tiny animals such as porcelain crabs, nudibranchs and of course, pygmy seahorses.
What truly sets Misool apart from every other place in Raja Ampat however, is that the owners of the resort control access to an area the size of two Singapores surrounding the island. As a result, visiting liveaboards can only dive at sites with explicit permission from Misool and only when resort guests are not diving there.
As for the actual diving, thanks to the conservation efforts of the resort, its founders and the local community over a decade, the coral is in pristine condition at many sites. There were steep rock walls covered in gigantic Gorgonian fans, ridges carpeted in multicoloured hard corals, bommies alive with fish and vibrant soft corals as well as thriving shallow reefs where snorkelling was possible. Best of all, most were within 5-15 minutes by boat from the resort.
Snorkelling was fabulous around Misool. Green turtles and sizeable baby blacktip reef sharks were a very common sight every morning all around the island, while large schools of snapper and trevally patrolled the waters beneath the pier. There was also a hefty humphead wrasse named Pepito who spent much time here, and a visiting cowtail stingray called Steve who frequented the sandy-bottomed lagoon in front of the restaurant.
There were also big plastic kayaks and stand up paddle boards available anytime so you could explore the waters at leisure.
While there were no birds of paradise or dugong around Misool, there were a couple of unique destinations in the vicinity. One of them was Warakaraket, which offered a very similar landscape to the iconic Fam, without any of the crowds.
The other very memorable place we visited was an inland lake where we could snorkel with "stingless" jellyfish.