Myeik Archipelago, Myanmar
Intro to Mergui Archipelago
The archipelago consists of about 800 small islands, most of them uninhabited except for some fishing villages. Most of the islands are home to pristine coral reefs, while others are covered with thick mangroves. There are no roads connecting the islands; boats are used to travel between them. A number of resorts and bungalows dot the landscape, offering visitors everything from diving to snorkeling to island hopping.
The Moken: sea gypsies inhabitants of the Mergui Archipelago
Still pretty unknown to the world are the Moken, a shy, peaceful tribe numbering just over 3,000 people. The Moken live in Myanmar, bordering Thailand and India. Their name translates into English as Sea Gypsies because of their nomadic lifestyle and their unique way of life. They are experts in the art of diving and navigating the seas, even though they have never heard of the concept of decompression tables.
In 2004, the Moken discovered the approaching waves long before it was too late. They had noticed the change in water level and alerted others about the danger. Many died as a result of being caught off guard by the tsunami while many others lost everything.
The Myeik Archipelagoes are located off the coast of southern Laos, just north of Vietnam. They consist of around 2,500 small islands and islets spread over an area of approximately 940 square kilometres – about four times the size of Singapore. While most visitors come to explore the islands themselves, there is much more to discover than merely swimming and snorkelling. Here are our recommendations for what to do in the Myeik Archipelago.
Lampi Island National Park
The Lampi island is the most famous island in the Mergui archipelago, located off the coast of Rakhine state in Myanmar. It is surrounded by beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters. Its lush green forests provide shelter for many birds and animals including hornbill, kingfishers, herons, white breasted sea eagle and the pacific reef egrets. This island is now a designated national park of Myanmar, the only one in the Mergui archipalego island so far.
Mergui Archipelago is located in the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of Myanmar. This region is known for it’s spectacular coral reefs, and the waters surrounding the islands are home to hundreds of species of fish, including sharks, barracuda, tuna, grouper, snapper, jacks, sweetlips, triggerfish, parrotfish, eels, octopus, moray eel, stingrays, turtles, rays and many more. There are over 60 dive sites around the islands, making it one of the best regions in Southeast Asia for scuba divers.
The site name “Western Rocky” refers to the large rock reef that lies directly south of our main resort, Mergui Rocks Resort. It is a very popular spot for both night and day dives, and offers a wide variety of marine life, including schooling hammerheads, eagle rays, manta rays, giant trevallies, nurse sharks, blacktip reef sharks, bat ray, frogfish, scorpionfish, butterflyfish, clownfish, angelfish, lionfish, surgeonfish, pufferfish, gobies, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, shrimps, sea cucumbers, nudibranchs, seahorses, cuttlefish, jellyfish, starfish, sea stars, sea urchins, sea snakes, conch, clams, oyster, mussels, barnacles, anemones, corals, sea fans, sea whips, sea anemone, gorgonians, soft corals, hard corals, sea pens, sea horses, sea dragons, sea hares, sea slugs, sea cucumber, sea squirts, sea lice, sea angels, sea butterflies, sea spiders, sea eggs, sea shells, sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea cucumbers, squid, octopuses, moonworms, sand dollars, sea urchin, sea anemone and much more.
Few live-aboards make the journey to the northern extreme of Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago. But those that do find themselves in for a delightful surprise. Tower Rock offers breathtaking scenery with coral reefs, caves, fans and spiky rocks providing shelter for spiny lobster, banded shrimp, oyster and clam species, while mantas and schools of giant trevallies glide silently past the impressive backdrop of the stunning limestone outcrop.
The Mergui Archipelago is located in Myanmar and Thailand and covers an area of around 200 square kilometers. This remote region is home to many species of marine life including manta rays, turtles, dolphins, sharks, and even whale sharks. However, one particular site in the archipelago stands out among the rest.
Located about 15 km north of Tachileik Island, North Twin is a small island with a surface area of just 3 hectares. Its name stems from the fact it appears to look like two islands stuck together. But what makes North Twin truly special is the diving opportunities offered here.
North Twin is part of the larger Tachilek Islands Marine National Park and is therefore protected from commercial fishing activities. The park offers visitors several different types of dives ranging from shallow snorkeling trips to deep sea dives.
However, the most popular activity at North Twin is undoubtedly scuba diving. Here you can explore the underwater world up close and enjoy some of the best visibility in the entire archipelago. In addition to the excellent visibility, divers are able to see some amazing coral reefs, large schools of fish, and beautiful tropical hard corals.
All in all, North Twin provides a great opportunity for both experienced divers and novices alike. If you want to dive in the Mergui Archipelago, make sure to check out North Twin.
The Burma Banks
Burma is one of the most fascinating places in Asia. A land of ancient temples, stunning mountains, fertile plains and pristine beaches, it attracts tourists from around the world. But few know about the vast network of hidden islands that lie off the coast. These remote outcrops are home to a unique collection of marine wildlife – including rare sea turtles, giant clams and coral reefs. And while many people dream of seeing these underwater wonders, very few ever actually do. For decades, the Burmese government kept the existence of these mysterious sites secret, fearing that such information could encourage illegal fishing activity. However, things changed in 2012 when a team of British explorers set sail aboard the MV Ocean Pearl II to explore the region. Their mission was simple: to document the incredible biodiversity of the area and raise awareness about the importance of protecting these precious ecosystems. Today, thanks to the efforts of these intrepid adventurers, the mystery behind the Burma Banks is finally being solved.
Diving and fishing
The Myeik Archipelagos’ diversity above the waves is matched by life below the water surface, where visitors encounter an amazing variety of marine life – including nurse sharks, grey reef sharks, eagle rays, manta rays, frog fish, ribbon eels, false pipefish, and many others. These creatures live among coral reefs, mangroves, rocky outcrops, sunken ships, and even under the sea ice during winter months.
Visitors can dive into crystal clear waters, while local fishermen catch cuttlefish and squids, which are sold fresh on board the yachts and cruise vessels. They also catch crabs, lobsters, and prawns, which are cooked at night over open fires and eaten raw straight off the grill.
Many of the boats that sail around the archipelago have their own fishing rods; however, you are also free to use your own equipment. Some of the boats even offer guests the chance to catch their own dinner!
When to visit and sailing conditions
The Myeik Archipelagoes offer some of the finest cruising in Southeast Asia. With almost 300 islands, ranging from small cays to large coral atolls, it is one of the world’s largest archipelagos. And while many people come here just to dive, others enjoy the laidback pace of life, taking day trips around the islands or relaxing on board a yacht.
November to April is the high summer season, with clear skies, constant breezes, and calm seas. This is the ideal time for exploring the islands, especially those close to shore, where you can find deserted beaches, pristine white sand, and turquoise water.
In contrast, the low season is from December to February, when the trade winds drop off and the sea becomes rougher. However, even then, the Archipelago still offers excellent sailing conditions, although the waves are bigger and the winds stronger. In addition, the visibility is often better, due to fewer clouds.
March and April brings slightly cooler weather, with lower humidity and more frequent showers. Winds pick up again towards the end of the month, bringing another round of rough seas.
May to July are the wettest months of the year, with heavy rain falling throughout the day. Although the rainfall doesn’t stop completely, the sun shines brightly and the air temperature is usually pleasant.
August to October is the dry season, with little rain and very hot weather. Temperatures reach 40°C, making it uncomfortable to spend long periods outdoors. At night, however, the temperature drops considerably, allowing visitors to enjoy stargazing under the stars.
From mid-June to early September, cyclones are common, particularly in August. These storms bring heavy rains and gales, and sometimes cause damage to boats and yachts.
Permits, access and places to stay
The Myeik Archipelagos are located off the coast of Southern Thailand. They consist of over 200 small islands, many of which are uninhabited and very remote. However, since 2011, some of the larger islands have been opened up to tourists, and now offer accommodation and activities.
A special permit is required to enter the archipelago. This is obtained as part of the cost of a cruise package. Processing is straightforward, but usually requires around one month to complete due to the number of documents involved.
Taking a multi-day cruise gives visitors the opportunity to explore the archipelago without having to worry about visas, permits or getting stuck in traffic. You will be met at the airport by a representative, and taken directly to your boat.
Most cruises have a set schedule, although this can change depending on the weather. Your crew will provide alternatives if the weather does not allow you to visit certain sites.
There are three main places to sleep on the islands of the group, all at the southern tip of the archipelago. These include the Myanmar Andaman Resort, the on Macleod Island and the nearby Myanmar Andaman Beach Club.