Published: February 2009Best Island Vacations 2009: Pick Your Paradise

Dive Green and Dive Often

Indonesia's Raja Ampat Islands

Text by Meg Lukens Noonan
Tiny batbitim—part of a mostly uninhabited karst archipelago northwest of West Papua—is home to great schools of giant tuna and mobula rays hunting shimmering clouds of anchovies. "We hung in mid-water watching this spectacular dance unfold," Misool Eco Resort owner Andrew Miners says of his first dive there. "I realized that not only had I stumbled upon a place of spectacular beauty, but, aside from a few intrepid divers, I had arrived before anyone else." Miners decided this was the place for the land-based conservation project he’d been dreaming of. Working closely with elders from nearby villages, he leased Batbitim and established a 77-square-mile No-Take Zone where all fishing (including prevalent cyanide fishing, bombing, and shark finning) and harvesting of turtle eggs is prohibited. With the help of his wife, Marit, and local craftsmen, he designed 11 unobtrusive but stylish cottages using salvaged driftwood and native thatch, incorporating a dive resort into his mini-eco-paradise that’s committed to operating sustainably. Request one of the eight stilted structures hovering over the lagoon; they have built-in deck hammocks and are just a few kicks away from the house reef.

The Lure: Reef diving

Vitals: Misool Eco Resort, 11 days, doubles from $2,291, including meals and ten dives; misoolecoresort.com

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