Since opening several years ago Misool Eco Resort in Raja Ampat has fast become one of the world’s diving hot spots and has excelled in conserving an area widely known for its marine biodiversity – more than 1400 species of reef fish have been recorded.
Created and owned by a group of passionate divers, conservationists, and adventurers, their aim was to demonstrate to their local hosts, their guests, and themselves that responsible tourism can be an integral part of environmental protection and the welfare of the local community.
The 8 spacious Water Cottages are built, Balinese-style, on stilts over the lagoon, and for extra seclusion there are four deluxe villas, the latest being Villa Santai. A walkway connects them with the restaurant and dive center.
THE NO-TAKE ZONE
The cottages were built from salvaged driftwood bought from the local community and milled by the resort’s own portable sawmill. Aside from compostible food waste, nothing is thrown away on the island, either in landfills or into the sea. Black and gray water is cleaned and recycled using a chemical-free waste water garden system. Packaging is minimized, and what cannot be avoided is returned to the mainland for recycling.
In 2006 Misool formed a 168-square-mile No-Take Zone. Now islands, reefs, and surrounding waters are protected. The resort raised funds to buy a patrol vessel and trained locals as rangers to prevent fishing, long-lining, shark finning, turtle harvesting, or removal of any marine creatures. By 2011, the No-Take-Zone had been extended to 465 square miles, and there are two patrol vessels.
The zone includes four green turtle nesting sites, fish spawning and aggregation sites, manta cleaning stations as well as islands that are home to protected species of sea eagles, cockatoos, coconut crabs, saltwater crocodiles, and mambruk birds. A recent project has been to research the Manta Rays in Raja Ampat and educate locals about about them. In addition, Misool organizes beach cleanups.
Misool is developing a second No-Take Zone to include a nearby archipelago of significant ecological value, after it was approached by a neighboring community that saw the economic and social benefits of the zoning. This agreement will expand Misool’s NTZ to 468 square miles, roughly twice the size of Singapore. The resort also has a reef restoration project in areas that were damaged by blast fishing.
Approximately eighty percent of staff are local. Misool provides them with English lessons and job training. In addition, it created a successful apprenticeship program in which local workers were paired with highly skilled artisans from Java and taught their craft. It also offers its staff dive certifications and safety training, with the hope that one day its dive guides will all be drawn from the local community.
All of the rangers are local, which has empowered the community “to regain ownership and stewardship of their natural heritage. ” Misool also encourages locals to make traditional handicrafts to sell at the resort, and together with Conservation International has started a rattan-weaving project to make high-return furniture.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“We seek to provide exceptional and enriching experiences in a sustainable environment. We aim to protect and revitalize both our natural surroundings and the community in which we operate. We are committed to demonstrating that tourism can support a local economy with much more favorable terms than mining, logging, overfishing, or shark finning.”