Ben Dark ventured to the remote Raja Ampat Islands
in the Ceram Sea, a four-hour boat trip from the town of Sorong in the Indonesian province of West Papua
His destination was Misool Island, one of the largest in the archipelago. It's home to around 7000 people, spread across 13 villages. Surrounded by wondrous reefs, it's a dream location for divers and snorkelers. Sloping underwater walls are carpeted with soft corals in a myriad of colours and some of your companions will be ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp and pygmy seahorses. The area boasts more than 700 species of molluscs and 1400 species of fish. It's a no-take area and a shark sanctuary, patrolled by rangers with the help of grants from WildAir and the Coral Reef Alliance.
Those in the know say it's so magical because it's where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet. The currents meet and a coral triangle has been created.
Ben met Andrew Miners, owner of Misool Eco Lodge, a dive resort and conservation centre. Andrew has spent a lot of time sailing on a live-aboard diving boat, and knew he'd found somewhere very special in Misool. His aim was to create a balance between the conservation of Raja Ampat and people enjoying its uniqueness.
There are eight cottages on stilts, a deluxe villa, dive centre, restaurant and walkways. Along with staff accommodation, everything was built from reclaimed tropical hardwood. Driftwood and fallen timbers were gathered and milled in a portable sawmill. All furniture and fittings were hand-crafted by resident Javanese artisans and their apprentices.
Cottages have wide, shaded verandahs and steps leading into the North Lagoon. Roofs are alang-alang grass and floors are natural stone. There are fans, air-conditioning and a hammock built into the verandah over the water. Accordion-style doors give unobstructed North Bay views. There is mosquito netting, hot shower and a flush toilet.
Ben described his experience like bushwalking underwater, but with so much wildlife down there, it would challenge any on-land walk. The area is the size of a couple of football fields and has six times as many coral species as found in the entire Caribbean Sea. Even a tough bushie like Ben was amazed by seeing his first gorgonian fan, a brilliantly coloured soft coral.
One experience not to miss is an afternoon with Misool's manta rays. They come in from the deep to be cleaned by smaller fish and head back out to sea. Like a visit to a beauty parlour!
West Papua, an Indonesian province on the western peninsula of New Guinea.
Misool Island in West Papua.
Prices correct at March 17, 2011.
For further information
100 Clarence Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9290 2055
Fax: (02) 9267 6118
Misool Eco Resort
It is recommended travellers to West Papua see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.
Ngholidays have eight-night Raja Ampat packages. They include seven nights at Misool Eco Resort in a water cottage, all meals and non-alcoholic beverages, one night at Sorong Hotel with meals and boat transfers from Sorong. They cost $2550 per person, double occuopancy. Five dive packages are $280.
Prices correct at 17.03.2011.