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Alex Mustard conducts Photo Workshop in Raja by Alex Mustard

Administrator’s note:  We are very fortunate to be able to call  Alex a friend.  You the BHS viewers are also fortunate… Alex is a great guy and is always willing to share with us!  We’d like to send a special thanks to Alex.  I’m sure you will too!  To see more of his images or attend a future workshop, visit his website, Alex Mustard.  

Healthy corals thrive around the sensitively developed resort.

When you are staying at Misool Resort, it is hard to think of anywhere you’d rather be. A wonderful resort, sensitively developed, that maintains a vital marine protected area (MPA) that covers arguably the very best coral reef diving to be found anywhere. Actually, even when I am not there I am not sure I can think of any place I would rather be than back at the resort!

Alex Mustard and friends, Misool Resort, December 2022

I visited in November/December with a large (30+) group of underwater photographers for a photo workshop with a difference. I was covering all the photographic content, but this time I was joined by Professor Callum Roberts and Dr Julie Hawkins, experts in both coral reefs and marine conservation. They joined the workshop to help educate the whole group in the way we tell the story of coral reefs through our images. The workshop took over the entire Misool Resort and was organised by Scuba Travel, a UK specialist travel agent.

Fans and soft corals grow in just a couple of feet of water in an island overhang.

Green turtles feed in the shallow lagoon at high water. This image is a panorama of two vertical frames.

A bleached anemone with spinecheek anemonefish.

I first visited Misool in 2006, when the Resort was in the early stages of construction, and fell head over heels for the diving there in the SE of Raja Ampat. I even took the photo that was on the very first Raja Ampat Marine Park tag (2008) in Misool on that 2006 trip. And I’ve been back as regularly as I can manage ever since. While I love a liveaboard trip in the archipelago, staying in Misool Resort always feels like an upgrade.

Baitfish are driven to the reef by predatory jacks.

Giant Malabar grouper resident under the resort’s jetty.

Everyone goes on about this amazing resort, but as a photographer I simply love being able to “house reef” dive and snorkel at my own pace in such a location. That ability to dive to nature’s schedule, hitting the water at specific times of day for the resident mandarins, flasher wrasse, venturing out for specific types of sunlight, sunset or night, or popping in for certain states of the tide, such as when high tide brings green turtles into the shallows to graze, or low tide brings corals close to the surface for split levels. And I also love when you do go boat diving, you hit the sites in much smaller numbers than you do on a liveaboard. Although we were a big group we were split across multiple boats.

Night diving for fluorescent corals right in front of the resort.

Colourful soft corals.

That said, late 2022 was a bit unusual as strong La Niña conditions were dominating, bringing warmer water than usual. The conditions were calm and sunny, which was nice, but the sea less productive than normal. There were not vast baitfish schools on the reefs and mantas were much less abundant than typical for the season. The conditions also caused some bleaching of the reefs, which usually is reasonably rare in Raja Ampat. Thankfully the bleaching has mostly not been lethal to the corals and photographically it was an excellent trip.

Schooling batfish with fusiliers behind.

The rich reefs of Boo/Fiabacet islands are right in front of the resort

I am not back in Raja Ampat until January 2024, but I am already counting down the days.

Alex Mustard is one of the best marine life photographers…ever.  His images have won more awards and have appeared on more magazine covers than he can count!  Check out his work on Facebook, Instagram and on his website, Alex Mustard.

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