by Ashley Lodato
Whether you're a longtime or a new customer of Bronwen Jewelry, you're probably familiar with two of our most iconic photos. A woman in a red dress crosses a footbridge with a guitar slung over her back, aquamarine waters lapping beneath her. The same woman in the same red dress, holding a giant red fish, fishing boats bobbing on the sea in the background. This woman is no professional model (although you could have fooled us!) and this place is no custom-built set for a photo shoot. This woman, and this place--they're the real deal, and you can find them in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.
Bronwen Jewelry learned about the woman--Marit Miners--and the place--the Misool Eco Resort--through one of our photographers, Nicole Friend, who discovered Misool while sailing around the world with her husband. The remote physical setting itself is undeniably compelling: breathtaking white sand beaches, pristine coral reefs, an impossibly turquoise sea. Add to that a private island resort and conservation center on an uninhabited archipelago, marine biodiversity unparalleled by any other location on the planet, rustically luxurious Balinese-style accommodations, and world-class dining, and you've got the Misool Eco Resort.
The Misool Eco Resort is the labor of love of its founders, Marit and Andrew Miners, who chanced upon an abandoned shark finning camp on the island of Batbitim while diving in Raja Ampat (on their third date, no less). Inspiration struck, ideas flew, Indonesian elders were consulted, a marriage license was procured, investors were located, builders were recruited and the end result is a secluded island eco-resort in a place that could unironically be called paradise.
But--incredibly--it's better than that. You see, Marit and Andrew's motives were not simply to build a luxury beachfront escape, but instead to figure out a way to protect and conserve the pristine coral reefs surrounding the archipelago, as well as the 1500+ species of reef fish living in this habitat. The Misool Eco Resort funds this effort. That's right. Income generated by the resort's accommodations, dining, and dive center supports the establishment and maintenance of the Misool Marine Reserve--a 300,000 acre (larger than Singapore!) marine reserve patrolled by rangers committed to curbing rampant shark finning and destructive fishing habits that were destroying the coral reefs.
Resort income also funds the other work undertaken by the Misool Foundation, a registered Indonesian charity the Miners founded in order to launch other philanthropic initiatives. Through the foundation, the Miners have been able to:
- build a kindergarten in Fafanlap, serving 39 students and 3 teachers;
- start a community recycling program that keeps 700 tons of trash out of the sea each year;
- collect population and behavioral data on vulnerable manta ray populations; and
- contribute to the protection of sharks and rays across the 1 million acres of Raja Ampat
Although it is a relatively new resort, first opening its doors in 2008, the Misool Eco Resort has attracted international attention and acclaim. The New York Times has praised it, renowned conservationists and marine biologists practically prostrate themselves at its shores, and in 2017 it won the coveted Tourism for Tomorrow Environment Award.
Although they're based halfway around the world in Indonesia. Marit and Andrew bring Misool's message to North America and other continents through travel and talks about strategizing their unique partnership between business, conservation, and advocacy on behalf of local communities. In fact, on November 2, 2017, Marit will be at the Patagonia Portland event in Oregon: a fundraiser to protect the world's richest coral reefs. Along with Emmy award-winning filmmaker and Misool board member Shawn Heinrichs, Marit will talk about the challenges of building Misool and the opportunities and partnerships that lie ahead.
And speaking of opportunities, we can't pass on this chance to mention that guests at Patagonia Portland will have the opportunity to win a 7-night trip for 2 people to stay at the Misool Eco Resort. And even if you can't attend the event, there are a limited number of pre-sales raffle tickets available here, while supplies last. Oh yes, that's what we're talking about.
Self-described "divers, conservationists, eco-geeks, and dreamers," Marit and Andrew have achieved just what we at Bronwen Jewelry admire: they took a vision and turned it into a reality--and one that's doing good for the planet to boot!