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Raja: A Multifaceted Journey, part 1 by Burt Jones

I recently had the good fortune to spend almost 3 weeks at Misool Resort in SE Raja Ampat.  Although I’ve visited the Bird’s Head Seascape numerous times since Maurine’s and my first journey in 2002, this was the longest period of time I’ve spent in one location.  Most of my previous trips were on LOB’s (liveaboards).  This trip had a unique focus, however, and it was much better served by staying in one place, namely Misool Resort!

A spectacular soft coral covered bommie on “Magic Mountain”

Misool Resort is situated in the heart of SE Misool’s best diving and provides a somewhat decadent yet environmentally-sensitive base for exploration.  In 2005, the resort, working with the local communities, created the Bird’s Head first private no-take zone, which now comprises an area of 300,000 acres.  The Misool Foundation, is the charity arm of the resort that manages the conservation of the area, one of the few places on the planet where biodiversity is improving rather than declining.  A single football sized patch of Misool’s reefs has 5 times the number of coral species found in the entire Caribbean, an area of over 2.5 million square kilometers.  If you are interested in visiting the world’s most biodiverse tropical marine environment; this is where to go!

Common but so beautiful I can never pass one by, a Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion). From the divesite known as “Selat 2”

While it is premature for me to reveal the primary focus of the trip (stay tuned), I will share some of my visit’s other highlights with you.  And there were a few!  So many, that it will require a series of posts to cover them all.

From “Birthday Cake”, a site exclusive to Misool Resort, which I had never dived.  (Another reason for basing the project at Misool Resort.)

Since I’ve only had time to edit a few images, the first post is about “Eye Candy” but with a caveat!  Although one of the “hats I wear” is being a marine life photojournalist, my mission for this adventure was primarily as a guide, therefore I wasn’t “behind” the 150 mp camera (stay tuned) nor did I carry my own, somewhat more pedestrian rig, on most of the dives.  I did manage to create a few images I hope you will like.  And I saw an animal I’ve never seen in Raja, which is a rarity.

I’ll be posting in more detail soon.  Enjoy!

Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), also from “Birthday Cake”


A coral trout/grouper “poser” (Cephalopholis miniata) on Misool’s “House Reef”


A rather large but well camouflaged Malabar Grouper (Epinephelus malabaricus) being cleaned by a Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus), which may help you locate the grouper! “Magic Mountain”


Giant Moray (Gymonthorax javanicus) being cleaned by a Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse from “Fiabacet Kecil”


A spawning aggregation area for Indo-Pacific Sergeant (Abudefduf vaigiensis) on “Nudi Rock”. Note: the purple patches covering the substrate are fish’s eggs.


Banded Tozeuma Shrimp (Tozeuma armatum), which usually matches its host gorgonian. Here on a black coral colony. Although this shrimp can be found by a diligent observer, I’d never seen one in Raja! On “Fiabacet Kecil”

Banner image from “Gorgonian Passage” but I prefer the site’s original name name, “Neptune’s FanSea”

Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock are the Bird’s Head Seascape’s website administrators and authors of 2009’s Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat and 2011’s Diving Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape.

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