Burma Diving – Mergui Archipelago & Burma Banks
For many years the beautiful Mergui archipelago in Myanmar (Burma), comprising over 800 Islands and covering 10,000 square miles, was closed to foreigners. Only in 1997 was Burma opened up for scuba diving to liveaboard dive boats. The Mergui Archipelago offers uninhabited islands with white sandy beaches, spectacular dive sites, sheltered bays with fabulous coral gardens and a huge variety of marine life. Here you have the rare privilege of seeing one of Southeast Asia’s last undeveloped archipelagos.
Diving in Burma (Myanmar)
Liveaboard diving from Phuket is becoming widely known as some of the best in the world. Standards are improving every year and locations such as the Similan Islands (Thailand) and Mergui Archipelago (Burma) offer world class diving. Many boats run to the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock, but there are still very few that venture across the border into Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
Burma liveaboard diving tours are generally longer than Similan Island liveaboards, often including 5-7 or even more days of diving. Boats either depart from Khao Lak or from Ranong, on the Thailand – Burma border, where all visitors must check in and go through customs. Liveaboard customers must then pay an entry fee of around $250 US cash – we can advise you of the latest charges. We also keep a close eye on the political situation. The Myanmar military government has been known to occasionally close the border without warning, though this is very rare.
Dive Sites of the Mergui Archipelago
The Mergui archipelago is still relatively unexplored and largely uninhabited. You may not see another dive boat during your whole trip! A Burma diving trip in Myanmar is something special that will leave a lasting impression of natural beauty above and below the water. In recent years, there has been much evidence of damage from dynamite fishing and some areas of reef (especially the “Burma Banks”) are no longer in good condition. Nevertheless the diving is still excellent with pelagic fish and wild exciting dive sites in this remote and beautiful part of South East Asia. Liveaboard divers will also find that the area is also very good for spotting small rare fish and critters that are hardly seen further south in the Similan Islands. Over the last few years this has been the main draw, with photographers in particular being impressed by the diversity of marine life. And in among the many islands and sheltered bays are some of the best shallow reefs in Asia.
The departure point for Burma dive trips is either Thap Lamu (Khao Lak) or Ranong. There are currently no dive operators running trips directly from Myanmar. Usually trips from Phuket will be combination Burma/Thailand trips which cover the Similan Islands and Mergui Archipelago. Those departing from Ranong head directly into Myanmar. Transfer from Phuket to Ranong is about 4 hours by minibus, quite a scenic route. If you don’t like the idea of the long transfer, you can meet in Ranong – you can fly into Ranong from Bangkok. You will then cross over to the Myanmar town of Kawthaung to pass through Myanmar immigration.
Ranong is a provincial town, the port area is always busy and you get a mix of people, as is common at border towns. Close by are some hot springs and waterfalls, plus the nearby islands of Koh Chang and Koh Phayam are worth visiting, if only to find uncrowded and beautiful beaches. There are a couple of decent hotels such as the Tinidee Hotel or the Blue Sky Resort. Across the river, you reach the Myanmar town of Kawthaung, previously known as Victoria Point where you check into Burma before heading off into the Mergui Archipelago.
For more hotel information – see Ranong Hotels on Agoda.com.