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It’s World Oceans Day! To celebrate, yoga teacher Amy Ippoliti and photographer, yoga teacher, and conservationist Taro Smith are highlighting one of nature’s rare success stories: Misool Eco Resort and Misool Foundation in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.
The area’s pristine reefs in the heart of the coral triangle were devastated by the destructive practices of fisherman capturing sharks for the shark fin trade, the use of cyanide fishing, dynamite fishing, manta gill-raker harvesting, consumption of sea turtles, and more.
A former shark-finning camp, Misool Eco Resort was founded over a decade ago by Andrew and Marit Miners for the purposes of transforming the area into a marine preserve and as a result, is now teeming with wildlife.
Their years of hard work leasing the fishing rights of the area, setting up a foundation to establish ranger patrols, and persevering through the constant logistical challenges of running an operation in a remote part of the world resulted in the transformation of the area. Misool Resort and Misool Foundation stand as one of the few examples of how shark, fish, and reefs can actually rebound instead of degenerate.
The reefs in the area are protected by a 24/7 ranger patrol in Misool’s 300,000-acre marine reserve and “no-take zone.” In the last 12 years, biomass has increased by 250 percent since the days when the destructive fishing practices dominated the area.
This March, filmmaker and conservationist Shawn Heinrichs and his family made an epic pilgrimage to Misool with paddleboard and dive gear in tow. There, Ippoliti and Smith witnessed this remarkable regeneration of nature with 21 different reef dives during their stay! “The dives were all astonishing and extraordinarily beautiful. We are forever changed by laying eyes on the sheer infinitude of life underwater,” Ippoliti and Smith say.
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Slideshow: Scenes from Misool Eco Resort
Every day produced more jaw-dropping scenes of radical aquatic abundance, including Misool’s recent community of baby black tip reef sharks that were almost completely absent from these waters only 13 years ago.
Amy can’t say she’s ever done SUP yoga with this many fish and sharks below the board!
These jellyfish live with their many siblings in a lake in Raja Ampat near Misool. Amy and Taro climbed over jagged volcanic rocks with gear to encounter this rare occurrence! There are roughly only 11 known jellyfish lakes around the world. What fun to swim and hang out freely with jellies that don’t sting!
It’s not hard to have an open heart around this kind of water life!
Amy got to swim and play with this friendly reef manta ray for almost 20 minutes! It was an awe-inspiring moment to feel so connected to another species with whom we share this planet—so foreign and yet so familiar. Hard to believe manta rays are endangered by poachers killing them solely for one part of their gills for falsely touted medicinal purposes in Asia.
Many of the local green and hawksbill turtles on Misool’s house reef will let you hang out with them for hours!
Thirteen years ago, before Misool Resort was built, it was commonplace to have sharks without their fins strewn across the lagoon, left to suffocate for Asia’s shark fin soup trade. Without the work of Misool Foundation and its founders, there would be no reefs left. Photo taken by Taro in 2006.
In honor of World Oceans Day, Ippoliti and Smith are asking everyone to support the continued work of the Misool Foundation so that other communities can follow their lead, but also because this area remains under serious threat. The downside of the unbelievable gains in fish biomass means there’s a renewed aggression from poachers hungry for their no-take zone’s treasures.
Between now and June 9, Misool Resort will be matching all donations up to $25,000. This campaign has the potential to raise an incredible $50,000 for Misool Foundation, providing critical support for maintaining the 300,000-acre Misool Private Marine Reserve.
If you would like to donate please do so at the links below:
What your gift gets:
$50: Buys 30 books for kindergarten students
$200: Buys fuel for 1 routine patrol of the Misool Marine Reserve
$400: Pays the salary of 1 English teacher for 1 month
$3000: Covers the Misool Ranger Patrol’s monthly payroll
$15,000: Buys a pickup truck to transport waste to their community recycling center (Bank Sampah).
Ippoliti and Smith are grateful to their continued supporters who helped outfit them so well on this trip with equipment, water gear, and so much more:
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