Best Place to Swim with Sharks

Vivienne Tang

A private island in the midst of a pristine marine ecosystem, the Misool eco resort in Raja Ampat is a paradise, underwater as well as above

Stepping off the boat after a four-hour ride, you realise that the long journey (with an overnight stay in Sorong) is well worth the trek. A private island in the midst of a pristine marine ecosystem, Misool in Raja Ampat is a paradise, underwater as well as above. Located in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, the secluded sanctuary is fringed with white untouched beaches.

The area is part of a no-take zone and known to be one of the most bio-diverse regions on this planet, spanning 828 sq km of protected habitat that is home to a number of endangered species.

A former shark finning camp, the Misool eco resort, which is nestled deep in an archipelago of uninhabited islands, now boasts eight beautiful overwater cottages on stilts, as well as nine villas of which some are situated on land on the southside of the island. The rustically luxurious overwater cottages have a hammock built into the veranda, which allows for reading, relaxing and watching fish, shark pups and other sea creatures go about their day.


For that extra bit of privacy, opt for room number eight, which is located on the far right when facing the ocean. The steps from the veranda lead straight down into the lagoon, and just a few metres from your villa you’ll find yourself at the edge of the house reef (which surrounds the entire island) where turtles feed off algae and blacktip sharks patrol the site. Occasionally they’ll swim into the lagoon, but most of the time you’ll find yourself crossing paths with them farther out on the reef.

As cottage number eight is the closest to the house reef, there are a number of animals, such as banded sea kraits, that will veer off and come to enquire the surroundings underneath your cottage, which makes the hammock a perfect spot to while away and watch the underwater world pass by. This particular room also boasts the most stunning sunset views; so do get your cameras out in time.


Most guests come to enjoy the breathtaking dive sites surrounding the island (Magic Mountain is famous for manta ray sightings), but snorkelling as well as diving the house reef is just as impressive and overwhelming. Gorgeous corals and massive sea fans, as well as wobbegongs, juvenile blacktips, schooling horse-eyed jacks, stingrays and eels can bee seen from the jetty, while micro diving on the house reef allows for encounters with pygmy seahorses, blue-ringed octopuses and a number of nudibranch species.


The resort offers barefoot luxury in harmony with the surroundings and the native people. Built entirely from reclaimed tropical hardwoods and milled on site, the rooms have been designed for comfort, privacy and sustainability, featuring open-air bathrooms, but also air-conditioning inside. There is no light or noise pollution and no mobile phone signal. Wi-Fi is available in the dive centre – but then again, who can be bothered connecting to the modern world, when you have unflawed natural beauty right at your doorstep?


  • The blue lagoon and the house reef in general are without a doubt an underwater paradise that allows guests to see and experience Indonesia’s aquatic wildlife in a safe setting.
  • The island is so remote that there’s no phone signal, and the only Internet reception is at the dive centre. This is the best excuse to go on a digital detox!
  • Ocean conservation is highly important to Misool. There is a no-take zone spanning 828 sq km, and the property also leads other protection and preservation programmes, including the Misool Manta Project, the Raja Ampat Shark and Manta Sanctuary and the Reef Restoration Project.


  • You can only book packages in 7+1, 9+1 and 12+1 night intervals.
  • If you and your partner aren’t into diving, rest assured that a leisurely afternoon swim or snorkel session, a massage at the al fresco spa, a kayak trip around the island or a day spent watching the marine life from the comfort of your veranda are just as impressive.
  • Meals are served buffet-style and eaten at communal tables which allows you to get to know other guests on the island fairly quickly. There are four meals per day, but no room service.


The stairs from the water cottages lead right down into the lagoon, which allows for early morning and evening swims. Follow shark pups around in the shallow water, or wait for high tide to see some of the bigger blacktips, who are said to mate and also give birth in the lagoon.


In between dives and snorkel trips, book yourself in for a massage at the outdoor spa, The Lookout, which offers sweeping views of the beautiful lagoon. Treatments make use of natural products, created fresh every morning in the kitchen. Scrubs are hand-blended from candlenuts and coconuts, the face toner is derived from freshly pressed cucumber and body wraps use home-grown aloe plants and freshly harvested banana leaves.


November – March is best for visibility underwater.

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