At the beginning of December 2020 I had the absolute pleasure of being invited to Misool Resort in Raja Ampat to take a short (ten day) tour of their iconic resort island. Long story short I was absolutely blown away in just about every possible way. The location—of a remote tropical island in the heart of what is widely considered to the best snorkeling in the world is the first thing is the first that made my jaw drop. My mouth remained in this position as we settled into our eco-elegant water bungalows where dozens of blacktip reef sharks and juvenile green sea turtles paraded about below. I did eventually have to close my mouth around a snorkel though as Montse—my fiancé and snorkel partner for life—and I proceeded down our bungalow steps into the pristine waters for a snorkel session on their famous house reef. Through a combination of eco-awareness, natural and creative aesthetics, and world class service Misool Resort has cultivated an experience and atmosphere at a level like I’ve never quite seen before, and right now I want to highlight those different elements in detail for you.

Misool Resort Map

Arrival in Sorong

I’ll be the first to say that arriving to Sorong in West Papua—the port town to Raja Ampat—is not quick hop, not even from Bali. I promise you though the trip is well worth the reward and the moment you collect your bags at the carousel in Sorong you can begin to relax as the Misool staff pick us up in comfortable Air Conditioned vans and drive us around the corner to their own Cafe for a complimentary breakfast. While we relax in their cozy cafe the resort’s staff load our large bags into their custom built 1,500 horse power luxury transfer boat—Merantau.

Misool resort transfer boat

After breakfast we’ll be shuttled the ten minutes to the harbor where Merantau is waiting and ready for us to board. This boat is phenomenal. It has a fully enclosed main cabin with more than enough seating and even a little “cafe” where you can grab a drink and a snack for the ride. The main cabin is also equipped with air conditioning, a large restroom, and a specialty built rack for storing hand carry luggage. There are also plenty of outdoor seating areas upstairs, on the bow, and in the stern of the boat so you can watch for whales and dolphins. The trip from Sorong to Misool takes 3-4 hours depending on sea conditions.

Arrival at the Resort

Upon arrival at the resort we’ll of course be met by the outstanding staff and escorted to the sea-side restaurant for a quick resort introduction and a freshly prepared lunch. Our big bags will be taken to our individual bungalows so we won’t have to worry about lugging any heavy bags around. As people finish up their meals they’ll be shown to their exquisite rooms.

The Rooms

The resort offers a variety of room styles with the most “basic” being their water cottages. Let me just quickly say that there is nothing basic about these rooms. These eight water cottages fringe the north lagoon and seem to hover over the reef below with their stilted design. You can quite literally watch sharks, turtles, and schools of fish swim directly under your expansive veranda all day long. Each cottage is equipped with air conditioning, it’s own wall fan, mini bar, mosquito net, a huge veranda with a sort of hammock built into the floor so you can relax directly above the reef. Oh, and then there’s the fantastic open air bathroom and where you have amazing views of the limestone cliffs above. As I said, there is nothing basic about these rooms.

two girls paddleboarding in front of the water bungalows at misool resort

The other accommodation styles on the north lagoon are also stilted over the water but feature larger living areas with cleverly designed sofa beds and larger verandas. There is even a two bedroom villa with it’s own dining area over the house reef, a small kitchen, and an additional loft bed.

interior and exterior view of the rooms at misool resort

Then there’s the south beach villas which look as if they are a completely separate resort. These fantastic beach villas are on the other side of the hill from the main resort and set on their own private bay complete with a football field length white sand beach and backed but a lush tropical jungle. These rooms are truly exquisite in their location and design and will offer the most privacy for those of you that want to disconnect a bit more.

panorama of misool resort's south beach

However, I should point out that they are a bit removed from the main resort and restaurant and every meal time you will either need to arrange for the resort’s little ferry boat (a large aluminum dinghy) to pick you up and take you the 2 minutes around the corner to the main resort, or walk about eight minutes over the hill through their well paved stairs. It’s really not a major effort by any means, but it is something to consider for those of you who are not particularly keen on steps or would prefer a more simplified route to breakfast.

Map of Misool resort's south beach

The Food

With their own hydroponic garden system on the island and a regular supply of fresh meats and produce arriving regularly you’ll be treated to a vast array of creative culinary delights and mouth watering pasteries at every meal thanks to Misool’s team of skilled chefs.

Snorkeling guest admiring the fantastic food at misool resort.

What’s more is that the restaurant is situated at the head of the lagoon which is also the main thoroughfare for the baby sharks and main foraging ground for the green sea turtles.

Dozens of sharks swimming in front of Misool Resort's restaurant

Non Snorkeling Activities

While Misool is a full service snorkel and dive resort where most of the guests arrive for one or both of these activities, you could easily spend your entire holiday doing neither and still depart on the final day feeling as if you’d fully experienced the area. Paddle boarding and kayaks are the most popular non snorkeling activity as the main island and the small neighboring islands are well suited for both with their many lagoons, secret beaches and just jaw dropping scenery.

stand up paddleboarder in hidden lagoon

Misool also offers a variety of day trips to nearby mangroves, a hidden lagoon system where once again you can paddleboard, kayak, snorkel, or search for the exquisite birds and carnivorous plants that live within these unreal ecosystems. These day trips will typically include a stop at one of the areas pristine beaches where they will have bean bags and a snack buffet set up for us.

guest being massaged over a coral reef

If it’s leisurely activities you are after, there’s always the stroll on the beach, reading a good book on your verandah, or indulging for a massage right over the reef from the resort’s fantastic masseuse.

The Snorkeling

Misool Resort is not only a five star snorkeling and dive resort in the heart of the most biodiverse marine ecosystem in the world, but also an industry leader in marine conservation. Since Misool Resort helped establish a marine protected area (MPA) around the most vulnerable parts of the Misool in 2005 they’ve seen rebounds in marine biomass by up to 600%.  What that translates to is a snorkeling experience like you would’t believe, particularly on their house reef.

snorkeler floating above green sea turtle

As you take that first plunge into Misool’s house house reef theres a very good chance that the first creature you are greeted by will be a member of their blacktip reef shark population or a green sea turtle, or both!  The turtles and sharks here are so used to people snorkeling by that they will casually swim beside you without giving you a second glance.

blacktip reef shark swimming through a school of fish

The house reef is absolutely massive as it extends for hundreds of meters in all directions and continues on around the corner and will eventually leader you to other small islands. The coral is outstanding and comes right up to the water line, and even above it with a low tide. The resort’s pier is buzzing with life and it’s also where you’ll see the resident grouper and a friendly napoleon wrasse, both of who could easily outweigh me on a scale. Other residential fish include a large school of adolescent big-eye jacks and even a group of about thirty bumphead parrot fish who can be found grazing on the coral right up in the shallows. Even mantas are a common occurrence as they will occasionally found feeding in the channel.

snorkelers over coral reef

While the house reef is world class, you’ll defiantly want to explore the other neighboring sites which are just a five to fifteen minutes boat ride away. Every day we’ll visit at least two of the different sites in the area with each offering something unique. The style of sites range from gentle drift snorkels, placid mangroves, to small limestone island with unreal underwater topography, and even several manta ray hot spots. Regardless of the site though, what you’ll experience underwater will be sure to sate your appetite for tropical reef snorkeling and big marine life.


Misool is the first resort I’ve been to which has a well stocked supply of underwater scooters for rent. This was the first time I’ve ever used one of these underwater propulsion devices and I’ll admit I was hesitant at first as I’m quite set in my traditional snorkeling ways, but my traditions were quickly shifted once I pressed the throttle button.

Not that you’ll need it with all the marine life action surrounding us, but if you want an additional injection of adrenaline then take one of these sleek scooters for a ride. They pull you along at any pace you like and even allow you to duck dive down with very little effort. What’s more is that you can explore huge swaths of reef with little to no effort and in a fraction of the time.

Departure from the Resort

On the final day of our Misool adventure we will have a breezy morning with breakfast and lunch as usual and then around 1:00 we will once again hop onboard  Merantau, their spacious high speed transfer boat and make the journey back to Sorong. Upon arriving Sorong we will be met by more of the Misool staff who will load our large bags into air conditioned vans and then drive us the ten minutes to the Swiss-Belhotel, Sorong’s nicest hotel, where we will relax and enjoy a nice group dinner and a good nights sleep before our departure flight to Jakarta the following morning.

girl floating in the water above a school of juvenile blacktip reef sharks

The Top 5 spots for Snorkelling Raja Ampat

Alongside Indonesia’s Komodo, snorkelling Raja Ampat is a paradise with endless opportunities. What makes Raja Ampat so good is its range of shallow reef systems – everything from a variety of corals and reef fish – all seen with outstanding water clarity. What’s more is that Raja Ampat offers more than your typical tropical reefscape. Raja Ampat boasts an impressive diversity of sites, everything from clear blue mangroves to village jetties bursting with colorful life.

Raja Ampat has over 65% of all of the worlds known species of corals which means there is an incomprehensible amount of marine life to see once you are there.

Snorkelling Raja Ampat provides the most pristine and untouched reefs. We have compiled a complete guide of the very best snorkel spots to check out on your next visit:

5) Manta Sandy and Manta Ridge: Dampier Straight

Snorkeler Surrounded by Manta Rays

Manta Sandy and Manta Ridge are easily some of the most popular sites in Raja Ampat, quick hint, it’s not  because of gobies. These two sites, which are part of a large network of sandbars, submerged bays, channels, and several popular cleaning stations offer up everything a manta could ever wish for. The underwater topography is ideal for funneling and trapping plankton on the surface for easy feeding, while the cleaning stations offer them respite from the tiny parasites on their body. What does all this mean for snorkelers? Well, as it’s the most predictable place to see mantas in Raja, it can mean pretty incredible manta encounters right on the surface!

4) Yiliet Beach aka Baby Shark Beach: Misool

baby black tip reef sharks in the shallows

This picturesque white sand beach lined with palm trees and dense jungle is more than just a nice place for a selfie. It also happens to be a nursery for baby black tip reef sharks. Stand at the waters edge and it won’t be long before you start to see little “Jaws” fins breaking the surface. Wade in a bit further and if you manage not to move much the foot long sharks will swim right over your feet! This is a great place to spend a surface interval as you can just pack along your mask and snorkel and float in very shallow water to watch the dozens and dozens of baby sharks swim over the white sand  and refine their inherent predatory skills, starting by ambushing leaves floating on the surface. 

3) Batu Rufus: Piaynemo

school of batfish in coral reef

The reef itself is stunning, with sea fans and sponges growing right up the side of the rock walls of the island, as shallow fields of hard coral extend well beyond the line of visibility. The shallows are a great place to find more turtles, and on this particular site, lots of adolescent baby black tip reef sharks. This is all very beautiful and exciting, but what really sets this site apart from some of the others is its signature arch or window lined with sea fans just beneath the waters surface. That’s not all, the opposite end of the site is where the opening to a lagoon the size of an olympic swimming pool. Be aware though, the lagoon is very shallow and blanketed with fragile hard coral and can only be accessed at high tide. 

2) The Mangroves: Dampier Straight

Snorkeling the mangroves of Raja Ampat is an absolutely magical experience, and unlike any  reef you will ever snorkel. Now, there are mangroves all over the world, but what makes Raja’s mangroves extra special is that the water is clear and the bottom is full of coral and not silt like the other mangroves. As you paddle along and enjoy the serene view of the arching mangrove roots reaching down to the reef from the canopy above to seemingly stitch the two world together, you’re sure to see some unusual suspects. Archer fish, known for spitting a precise arrow of water at insects crawling on the leaves above to knock them into the water, dwell within the chaos of the intertwined roots, along with juvenile batfish and quite often baby sharks who use the area as a nursery. At this point, I know you’re what most of you are thinking, what about crocodiles. Yes, it’s true that salt water crocodiles have been seen in the mangroves of Raja Ampat before, however, if you go to the right mangroves, the chances of seeing a crocodile are about as likely as seeing a polar bear. The area is small and visited daily by the day boats and liveaboards with everyone keeping a keen eye out. In five consecutive years of diving the mangroves every week, I have still yet to see one or hear of one in this particular area. 

1) Sauwandarek Jetty: Dampier Straight

School of fish swirling around pier pilings

Raja Ampat is famous for a number of things as you may already know, the area contains the most coral and fish species, it is home to the first established manta sanctuary, and it’s just really really beautiful! Something else Raja is famous for are it’s jetties, with Sawandarek Villag’s jetty quickly emerging as the most popular. It might sound strange, but beneath the horizontal wood slats of the gangway lies a stunning scene where humans, for once, seem to have created something that benefits the environment. Snorkeling between the vertical wood pilings give the impression of floating though a psychedelic forest as purple and pink soft coral cling to the structure. Fish of all sizes congregate around the jetty as it acts as place of refuge from the serrated jaws of the lurking barracuda and jack fish beyond. If you are really lucky, you may find your self in a swirling silver cloud of scads who occasionally visit the jetty. While the jetty is absolutely the highlight of this area, swim just beyond it and you’ll find yourself in a vast coral garden that goes on for hundreds of meters in either direction.

VIDEO: See how amazing these sites are in this short video.