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Lee and Joey return from Raja Ampat

Perth Scuba returns from our holiday to Misool Eco Resort, Raja Ampat

On our way back from Raja Ampat I have decided to write a short
article on what a great place Misool Eco Resort in Raja Ampat
Indonesia is.
My initial thoughts when Joey told me it was going to be about 4
flights to get there was that I will look forward to seeing the photos
from yet another Joey led tour. But she convinced me that Raja Ampat
was somewhere I HAD to go and that Misool resort was the place to do
it.
MIsool Eco Resort was founded around 12 years ago by a couple of
English live aboard tour guides who stumbled across the islands during
one of their trips. At the time there was nothing but a small shark
fishermen’s camp and a few fishing boats. It soon became apparent to
them that the sharks were being finned and the remainder of the Sharks
were being thrown back into the ocean.
Concerned at the amount of sharks that were being killed and just for
fins, they decided to try to put a stop to the fishing of sharks in
this pristine and remote area by working with village elders and
villagers to create fishing exclusion zones around these small
islands. To cut a very long story short, they were successful and were
able to build an awesome resort at the same time where many of the
proceeds of the resort operation now go back into conservation,
patrolling and researching these areas as well as supporting the
villages who own the islands.
so that’s a really quick description of HOW the resort started, the
story on how it became what it is today and the amount of hard work
that went into it is a lot more interesting but that’s for another
article later.
Our trip started with a flight into BALI where our group of 10 met the
day before to make sure no flight delays affected the next leg.
(Something you have to do whenever Jetstar flights are involved :)
our first night arrival came with the bad news that one of up trip
crew John had been diagnosed with pneumonia in a Bali hospital that
morning and that he was going to have to go back there after being
told that he couldn’t fly or dive for at least a week.
poor John was very upset to be missing out but probably relieved in a
way that he had found out why he wasn’t feeling so good.
so down to 9 and we hadn’t even started the trip!
John headed to the hospital that night and as I write this on my
flight home from Bali, he is still in Bali waiting for a clearance to
fly.
JOey was right when she said there were a lot of flights and our 5am
start was before breakfast was served so we just headed to the airport
for the first of 3 flights for the day. All of them were close
together so there wasn’t a lot of time in between them to stop and
think about the airports we were in or even to buy a drink. I think,
this was probably a good thing as the airlines (and airports) were
gradually getting smaller and less “modern”. Eventually we arrived in
Sorong where we would spend the night at a hotel with an amazing
cocktail list! This was going to be a great start to the trip!
we jumped in the swimming pool and waited for the poolside waitress to
take our orders. It was then that Joey had the worst moment of the
trip… She was told that the hotel no longer sold alcohol due to new
government restrictions and they only had Bintang (which of course
isn’t alcohol… ) An unimpressed Joey decided that Bintang it would
be and that her first world problems would have to be shelved. The
remainder of the day was spent reminiscing about old trips and funny
things that had happened in the past.

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at this time, I will introduce you to the awesome crew who joined us
on this trip. Heather, a primary school teacher (just what I needed!)
and her husband Jeff. Heather “are you listening Jeff?” fits perfectly
into the teacher description and I was going to be in trouble the
whole trip. I was already looking for the naughty step in preparation.
I think for the first hour or two I was under review like when I was
back at school… Guilty conscience or what??
Heather turned out to be great fun and we even taught her how to bend
the rules and maybe even break a few :).
Jeff, is a great guy who loves his photography and was on this trip to
improve it with his new camera & housing. (A nice big Nauticam housing
to suit his Nikon camera.) Then we had Lauren “does this smell like
chloroform to you” Petriw, who soon became Erin and after that either
or both. Erin / Lauren was the “unfortunate” recipient of her own room
the whole trip due to John’s sudden illness. she did very well to act
devastated at being told the news but she was genuinely upset for John
which was nice.
Lauren / Erin, like Heather and Jeff was on her first Perth Scuba
International trip and soon became the life and soul of the trip with
her funny comments and stories. More on that later… We then had
Sharin and Greg who are Perth Scuba trip regulars with 8 stars (this
was their 9th trip with us), these guys are awesome and are the
ultimate members of the SKI club. (Spending the Kids Inheritance).
They have both travelled the globe, diving their way into almost every
dive destination out there… over and above the trips we have been on
with them. Both of them out dive all of us and do pretty much every
dive on offer.

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Last but not least for our guests, Elaine & Paul. They are also great
fun to be on a trip with. Paul had some classic jokes (some as old as
the e type Jag he drives), as well as a full repertoire of DAD jokes
to keep us going. Elaine has been trying to get me to come on a trip
with her and Paul for ages… Beware of what you wish for Elaine…
then there’s Joey and me. I haven’t seen Joey much this year while she
trips around the world all in the name of leading dive trips and
educational dive trips. So this was a chance to finally catch up with
her again.
I”m sure she would also have preferred her own room  but who would
she have been able to get to carry her camera gear then?
The next day, after a four hour boat trip, we arrived at the Misool
resort. Situated in a white sand bay, our water cottages looked just
like the post cards. It was truly one of those places where you see
the pictures and hope that it is just half of what it looks like when
you get there in real life. You know the ones… Awesome 4 star hotels
that turn out to be “B” grade even though you were expecting what you
saw in the photos (obviously taken 10 years before). This was even
better than the pictures. we even had the cutest little baby black tip
reef sharks swimming around in front of and underneath our water
cottages.

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we settled in and went for our first dive of the trip just a few hours
later. This was a house reef dive under the jetty. Not expecting much,
(it was a check out dive after all), we were amazed at what was there.
3 Potato Cod as big as we’d seen in Cod hole at the Great Barrier Reef
only weeks before, sharks, massive Snapper and GT’s as well as
thousands of other fish. I was told Raja Ampat was a marine life
paradise but I wasn’t expecting so much in such a small area. A great
way to start the diving.
After the dive Lauren / Erin met the Tom Selleck of Misool. he is the
security guard there and he has already been building up to Mo Vember.
and I have to tell you… This guy is gonna win!
The rest of the week of diving, eating and sleeping is a blur but not
without it’s funny moments, like when we taught our teacher how to
collect a parcel or registered post letter fro someone else if they
weren’t there to collect it themselves…. The computer said “NO” and
so we started to explain again… And again… And… Well you get the
picture. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand, she just… Didn’t
understand how you could do it without getting into trouble. We
decided that in future, the dog would stamp a paw print on the back of
the Aussie Post collection card and everything would be fine and
dandy. :)

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Meal times were interesting too with my eating habits being the target
of almost all dinner and lunch and breakfast (first and second) time
jokes. OK so how was I to know that custard in Misool was green?? I
mean who does that??? then I worked it out… It was so the adults
would be able to eat custard without the kids wanting any. KIds don’t
eat anything green right? So that got me thinking about a range of
products just for adults. green chocolate, green chips, green
sherbies… No kid is gonna whinge at the checkout… “muuuuuum I want
some green chocolate”… I reckon They’re onto something. Anyway, back
to the story… So i know this is going to confuse you, but I don’t
eat much. OK OK before you start with the Small Marquee jokes… I
don’t eat much VARIETY. I think I do ok… Cheese burgers, Quarter
Pounders, Big Macs (without salad), Double Cheeseburgers and triple
cheese burgers… And that’s just one restaurant! How much variety can
you have? Ok so I am told Variety means “Eat your Rice and funny
looking cube of cooked polystyrene covered in peanut sauce Lee… Are
you listening Lee?” Tofu! EEEEW! Whoever invented that seriously got
it all wrong. so he cut up a pair of old thongs into squares and
covered the squares in peanut sauce and called it “Toe Poo”. Lost in
translation over the years it became called Tofu. And people ate
it!!!! And worse! After eating it once… They ate it again!! Not me.
The projectile that it became will remain as the half chewed eraser /
foam seat composition block that it was served as. Hard to understand
why anyone would want to eat that instead of chicken… I mean
everything in the world that is weird tastes like chicken right? Not
Tofu. I am not going to be responsible for the starvation of anyone
who eats that stuff. My promise to the world. Surprisingly, a few of
our crew did eat the stuff. All the while I chuckled to myself because
that just meant more real chicken for the rest of us. I did try a lot
of new things while I was there though. Mum would be proud.
5pm every day was Lauren / Erin’s favourite time of day… “Cookie
Time”. Cookie time meant that we had coffee or afternoon tea served
with a variety of different types of cookies… Most had been booby
trapped by the kitchen version of ISIS. Chocolate chip cookies with
white chocolate chips that were actually Peanuts! (Could have been
worse I guess… Tofu), but most of the cookies had something weird in
them that didn’t go. Orange peel, stuff like that… Why wreck a
perfectly good cookie with orange peel? Anyway, lucky for me… I
didn’t starve at cookie time because there were also muffins!
Apparently the teacher enjoyed watching my facial expressions at every
meal time…not sure what she meant about that
Enough about food… Onto the third day there we dived a place called
Magic Mountain. I know – for all of you who have at some point (or
not) had the opportunity to see Charlie and the Magic Mountain, you
probably reacted the way I did. Charleeeeeeee!

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This dive site was amazing! One of the best Manta dives I have done to
date and a site no bigger than 60m around a bommie that’s comes up
from about 50 or 60 metres. In the middle of nowhere. 20 minutes out
of the resort and in open water. The boat stops. We are here. Nothing
around indicates what was to come next. Dropping into the water, we
land on an area completely covered wth soft and hard corals, colour
everywhere and fish galore! Sharks, Napoleon Wrass, Bumphead parrot
fish more GT’s, Octopus, Wobbegong, clownfish, turtles and MANTAS!
There were 7 of them on our first visit to Magic Mountain and they
were very playful. I love Mantas! Couldn’t eat a whole one – but…
Anyway, not worried about us a all, they continued to feed and barrel
roll and chase each other around for the duration of the dive. We had
a great dive and the time passed way of quickly. Needless to say,
there were smiles all around after that dive. We ended up going back
there another 2 times. why wouldn’t you?
Joey did some photograph “workshops” for the photographers and Lauren
/ Erin showed that even Go Pro photos can turn out great. She has 10
photos of everything she saw. And I have to say, some awesome photos
considering the size of the camera she took them wth! From the first
session on shutter speed settings, ISO settings and aperture settings,
there was a huge improvement to the pictures being taken and everyone
seemed to be vey happy wth the results after that.
Elaine took the best Pigmy Seahorse photo, much to Paul’s disgust (she
wasn’t really even trying, and Greg and Jeff took some great photos of
them too without even knowing what they are taking photos of until
they got back to the resort and zoomed in on their photos.
The guides came up with some pretty cool critters to photograph which
kept everyone happy.

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The trip came to an end way too early. 7 days had flown by. On the
second last day Joey discovered WINE! Yep – she knew it was there, but
she had been drinking that non alcoholic Indonesian beer Bintang up
until now… Oh dear… Thankfully there WAS only a couple of days
left. BUT there is another story about the wine where our teacher
Stepped onto the other side of the tracks and broke the rules… That
part of the story when we get back to Sorong.
Joey likes the odd wine and when we decided to do a sunset trip she
liked what was on offer… So she participated with our “now becoming
more relaxed” teacher. They both participated through 2 bottles and
happily giggled back to the resort after we found our skipper who had
gone for a sleep up the beach somewhere and didn’t wake up when the
other crew were calling him. we were set for a long night of beach
camping before he finally stumbled out of his resting place and jumped
back on the boat. He was very apologetic to all of us but we were
happy. Joey and our teacher were exceptionally happy.
The final day and after saying our goodbyes to everyone, we jumped
onto the speed boat that would take us on our 4 hour trip back to the
mainland. We loaded the luggage and everyone else and waited… And
waited… The boat wouldn’t start.
We waited a bit longer and then the covers came off the motors and
there were 6 people madly unscrewing parts and topping other parts and
pulling bits off the motors. This was an opportunity to stretch our
legs so we all got off the boat, said hello to everyone again and it
was then that Joey, Elaine and Our teacher came up with
a plan. The delay was a sign… A sign that they should now get wine
for the journey home! 3 bottles in fact. (One each?)< so Sue our
friendly Canadian hostess and manager of the resort ran off to get
their requests. Just as she left the boat started and the fear in the
eyes of Joey and our teacher that we might now have to leave without
the wine was evident. Thankfully they held up the boat and Sue managed
to make it back in time to keep the wide smiles on the faces of our
female crew.

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After arriving back at Sorong (wine still intact) we headed to the
hotel for the night. we returned to the same non alcohol serving hotel
and went to dinner with 3 bottles of wine stashed in a backpack and
hidden under the table in the restaurant.
THIS is where our teacher became the rebel! She hid bottles of wine
and filled her glass under the table from not only the restaurant
staff, but the 8 policemen on the table behind us!. Then she passed
the bottle on to everyone else to top up their glasses. If only her
pupils could see her now! She was hiding it all very well and almost
looked like she had done it all before. Maybe our teacher wasn’t so
squeaky clean after all. The conversations eventually got more giggly
and Siri told us what the fox said and why fire trucks are red amongst
more sinister things. the night ended with lots of laughs and 3 empty
wine bottles.

Lee Johnson, Perth Scuba Manager


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