Misool is owned and operated by a passionate group of divers, conservationists, eco-geeks, and dreamers
The project was conceived of by Andrew and Marit Miners. Andrew was a veteran of liveaboards and well acquainted with Raja Ampat's underwater riches, while Marit was a diver, ocean lover and devoted to the protection of the natural world. They struck out on their own with the idea of creating a Conservation Centre to foster further study and protection of SE Misool.
The very first time Andrew and Marit visited what was to become our resort island in 2005, they encountered the remnants of an itinerant shark finning camp on the beach, and finned baby sharks dead in the shallows. There was clearly an urgent need for direct action conservation. In response, a lease agreement was drawn up for the exclusive right of use for the resort island as well as the surrounding 425 sq. km of sea. This was to become Raja Ampat's first marine protected area.
The next few months were spent drafting agreements, gathering ideas, sketching on bar napkins, and seeking supporters and investors. It quickly became apparent that a funding vehicle would be necessary to achieve our conservation goals. That's when Misool Eco Resort, later known simply as Misool, was born.
We had very little applicable experience, no significant financial backing, limited language skills, and more than a few skeptical and vocal nay-sayers. The only thing we had in abundance was energy, blissful naïveté, a passion for nature, and a steadfast belief in the ability of one small group to manifest change. We knew we wanted to build the entire project in a way that minimised our impact on the environment. So we built the whole thing from reclaimed tropical hardwood.
Construction started in July 2006 with a skeleton crew and 5 local staff, 3 of whom are still in our employ. The group arrived in the peak of the South Monsoon with all the provisions they could muster. Unfortunately, there were a few things missing, like the key to the generator, the charger for the satellite phone, and enough food!
The first major project was to start hauling all the logs out of the surrounding beaches. We used our portable sawmill, affectionately called 'Lucy,' to mill each and every piece of wood used in the construction of the resort. The first concrete foundations were poured for the Dive Centre in late July 2006. Meanwhile, our crew were feeling the effects of poor nutrition (no fresh veggies or fish were available), bad hygiene (all the fresh water was used to make cement), isolation (no internet and the satellite phone was patchy at best, and often required standing in chest-deep water to get a signal), and unmitigated stress.
In December of 2006, we bought ourselves a Christmas present - a dive compressor! Our first dive on the House Reef washed away the exhaustion and frustration, and reminded us of what we were doing here in the first place.
We'd often see the lights of long-lining boats to the south, laying thousands upon thousands of hooks and systematically stripping Raja Ampat of her last apex predators. Together with our staff, we'd pile into our small plastic dinghy and chase down the poachers. There were plenty of nights when we confiscated lines, hooks, beacons, as well as tossing back plenty of sharks and shovel-nose rays.
One night, we stayed at the resort while our staff went out on their own to intercept poachers. They returned to the resort with 3 shark fishing boats and swiftly took the reigns, explaining to the fishermen why protected areas are important, and the function sharks serve in the ecosystem. We had reached a turning point in which we were no longer needed. From that moment on, our Ranger Patrol has been exclusively locally staffed.
Our conservation efforts have now been formalized into a separate organization called Misool Foundation. You can read more about the Foundation’s key projects here, or visit Misool Foundation’s website.
Our story is one of regular folks joining forces to leave the world better off than we found it, and our greatest hope is that it will inspire others to do the same.