Burma Dive sites - Moken, Myanmar Sea Gypsies

FAQ

Mergui Liveaboard Diving & Discovery / Adventure cruise

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Mergui?
A:
Mergui Archipelago, located in southernmost part of Myamar (Burma), comprises over 800 beautiful islands. Due to its virtual isolation, the islands and surrounding seas are alive with an amazing diversity of flora & fauna and very beautiful underwater scenes and marine life.
   
Q: How to get there?
A:
There are Domestic Flights (Air Bagan and Myanmar Airways) operating from Yangon to Kawthaung and Myeik on scheduled basis. You can go Thailand, by local boat crusing about 30 minutes.Ranong (Thailand) is the border entry point where Phuket air has direct flight from Bangkok everyday.. Yangon-Kawthaung or Kawthaung-Yangon - by Myanma Airways.
   
Q: What is a Discovery / Adventure cruise?
A:
Discovery / Adventure cruise consist of live-aboard boat with island hopping, Mangrove tour, island trekking, Kayaking, snorkeling, bird watching and observation of native Salone or Molcen sea gypsies. Meals are served on the boat with dedicated cook. You can discover the hidden and well protected beauty of Nature in its pristine condition.
   
Q: What is liveaboard diving cruise?
A:
Diving facilities and living accommodation for divers are provided or live aboard diving cruise. The boat becomes your home and you eat, sleep and dive from it! Liveaboard boats stay at sea for the duration of the cruise and therefore can explore more remote destinations. This type of diving opens up a whole of top class scuba opportunities that would simply not be available on a regular daytrip boat.
   
Q: When is the best time to visit?
A:
The Burma dive season runs from end October to April . The weather and Andaman Sea are at their calmest during the months of February to April and this is when visibility is at its best. This time of year is also manta ray and whale shark season.
   
Q: How many dives will I make per day?
A:
Generally you can make three dives a day. A typical liveaboard cruise day in Myanmar starts at 07:00 hrs with the first dive, and the last being either a sunset or night dive. You have about three hours between dives at your leisure.
   
Q: What scuba license do I need?
A:
Generally you can make three dives a day. A typical liveaboard cruise day in Myanmar starts at 07:00 hrs with the first dive, and the last being either a sunset or night dive. You have about three hours between dives at your leisure.
   
Q: What scuba license do I need?
A:
A open water diving license is acceptable for diving in Burma provided you have an intermediate level of experience. Although there are some deep and exposed sites, there are enough easy dive sites and enough divemasters on board so that you will never need to dive beyond your limits.

To make the most of your Burma liveaboard diving adventure you need PADI Advanced Open Water Diver license. We can also arrange dive training with PADI certified instructors.
   
Q: Are there any strong currents?
A:
Some of the Burma dive sites visited by liveaboards can have strong currents. This depends on the site, time of month and time of day. Your divemaster will advise you in your dive briefings. Generally, there is never an occasion when you need to swim against a strong current.
   
Q: I don't have my diving license with me, can I still visit?
A:
If you have a PADI certification, we can check your details direct with PADI. Please provide your name as it appears on your card and your date of birth. If you contact the dive centre where you were certified, they can help you obtain a new card before you travel.
   
Q: How far in advance do I need to book?
A:
Due to the limited number of reliable boat operators running liveaboards in Burma, you must try to book 2-3 months in advance to ensure availability. You can always check with us by dropping an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
   
Q: Can I dive on my own?
A:
Liveaboards in Myanmar are recreational diving boats, and as such follow recreational scuba guidelines. This means you'll be expected to dive with a buddy to a maximum depth of 40 metres and observe safe diving time limits. If you prefer to dive without a guide, then this is not a problem provided you have all the equipment necessary to conduct dives unassisted i.e. dive computer or timing device, safety ballon, compass and dive knife.
   
Q: Do I need a wetsuit?
A:
It is recommended to rechange your batteries while cruising current is stable during cruising as we can run large generator. Please check with the boat captain how to change your batteries.
   
Q: Can I rent an underwater camera?
A:
You can buy 1-time use underwater with film loaded. Please check with our crew for availability.
   
Q: What kind of food is served?
A:
Chinese, Myanmar, Thai and European Breakfast is served on board. The standard of cuisine is quite good throughout the industry here.
   
Q: Can I request vegetarian food?
A:
Please do tell us your requirements at the time you make your booking, so that we can meet your request.
   
Q: Can I bring alcohol onboard?
A:
You can bring what you like on board Myanmar liveaboards. If you have a favourite tipple or taste, feel free to bring it along.
   
Q: Where can you pick me up from?
A:
We can arrange transfers to your liveaboard from your hotel, from Ranong Airport if you arrive just before your boat departure. Please advise us of your preferred transfer point before you arrive.
   
Q: Where can I find you?
A:
Our dive centre and office is located in Kawthaung, on a very busy street at the top of Myoma Jetty. We suggest you look at the map below and print a copy for your reference.
   
Q: What should I bring on board?
A:
All your personal equipment (expect tanks, weights and weight belts), a bathing suite, towel, toiletries, T-shirts, shorts, and sun cream, You may also want to bring something a little warmer for the evenings.
   
Q: Where can I leave my access baggage when I go on a cruise?
A:
If your hotel can not help you store your baggage, then we are more than willing to help. You can store your bags and valuables at our office for the duration of your liveaboard trip. Just don't leave any valuables and money.
   
Q: Will I get sea sick?
A:
All the liveaboards in the Mergui Archipelago use mooring points to over-night at the islands visited on the cruise. These mooring points are located in the island's bays, sheltered away from any open sea swells.

If you are particularly susceptible to motion sickness, then you should consider joining a cruise in February to April, when the seas are very calm. Do bring your own motion sickness medicine.
   
Q: Is insurance for customers included in the cruise price?
A:
We recommend you have your own personal insurance, for your own peace of mind. Please make sure your insurance covers myanmar waters.
   
Q: Is Malaria a problem?
A:
The Myanmar liveaboard scuba destinations are free of Malaria.
   
Q: Can a non-driver go on a liveaboard?
A:
Non-drives and snorkellers are welcome on all our liveaboard safaris. Most of the sites visited offer good snorkeling too.
   
Q: Do I have to share a cabin?
A:
As space is the ultimate premium on all liveaboards, single cabins are extremely rare and expensive. Unless we manage to book you a single cabin, you will be expected to share. It may be, if the boat is not full, that you can have your own cabin but this situation can not be guaranteed. The only way to guarantee a cabin for yourself is to bay for two beds!
   
Q: Can I explore the beaches at the islands?
A:
Our Discovery/Adventure cruise will stop at each selected destination for you to discover the island, beach & under water beauty. Please do advise the tour leader before and each time you disembark from the boat. Note, make sure you bring sun-cover of some sort as it can be very hot.
   
Q: What about tipping?
A:
Tipping is entirely a matter of choice. If you Burma liveaboard charter met or exceeded your expectations, you may wish to leave a tip of up to 10% of your cruise price. Smaller tips are welcome too!
   
Q: Will I see sharks?
A:
We certainly hope so! Leopard sharks and white-tip reef sharks are the most common and seen on all trips. Nurse sharks and silver-tip sharks can be seen quite commonly on Burma Banks liveaboards. Whale sharks sightings also occur every year - keep your fingers crossed!

Manta rays sightings have been very common in recent years, and you will always see blue-spotted sting rays, marble rays, and fantail rays.

For more adventures on liveaboards, visit our website www.merguiprincess.com

 

Mergui” discussed on ThornTree.

14 Nov Myanmar Travel Discussion Forum : Going to Mergui soon. Does anyone know whether it is possible to visit this area, island hop, utilizing the local fisherman boat? Or what kind of transport and accommodation available. Any input will be much appreciated.

Area is possible for visit but you must go by licensed transport. Any other local boats without permit cannot be board by foreigner. They have a very strict rule and an organization for control of illegal foreigners (MaKaPha) will catch you and put you in jail.

That is the most expensive area in Myanmar. There is only one Myanmar private company operating tourist boats but they do Discovery Cruise – not diving. They seemed totally on their own not related to gov.

The only informative site I found is mergui.org.


Mergui Archipelago

11 Nov. Myanmar Travel Discussion Forum : Has anyone of you been to the Mergui Archipelago? If so, is it difficult to get there, to stay there for some days or (even a few weeks) and what is your impression?

Another possibility is doing a dive-live aboard departing from Phuket, Thailand - but beware of the price, it's unbelievably expensive, as they charge about 3000$ boat license to get the concession to go diving there. Few resort, hotel, guesthouse on the islands and access from the Burmese mainland (with fishing boats or the like) is heavily controlled by the government.

It looked gorgeous on Google Earth and the pictures posted on Google Earth. The area below 11 degree Latitude is the best which includes Lampi, Kyun Phila, Wa-ale, Nyaung Wee and 115 (Crescent Bay). I also find www.mergui.org the most complete information on Mergui Archipelago.

It is possible to set up a multiple day tour from inside Myanmar as well, with hired boat and guide, there was a post here as well, they started off in Myeik, but again not cheap and has to be set up in advance to get necessary permits. No diving on that boat however.

Without those permits you are restricted to the towns of Kawthoung (where the border is), Myeik and Dawei. In Dawei you can see the close by surroundings, in Kawthoung you can take a long tail to some nearby islands (no permit for those). However there's no dream beach with bamboo huts on these spots.

New is the following resort, with diving, off Kawthoung: Myanmar Andaman Resort www.mergui.org/myanmarandamanresort


Some other comments:

Buggar... I was looking at going there too... for diving, but saw the prices on the live aboard option from Phuket and it's bloody ridiculous!

Replied by another poster : Hey! That resort looks pretty neat - do you have any info on prices, location, room and food?

No, it's new and haven’t been there yet. L They sure need to arrange something with the government to be able to put up a resort there...everybody in the tourism business in Burma has to...

Wow-
That place looks fantastic.....pretty remote....very cool...PADI too

Price for 5 Days / 4 Nights based on two person sharing one twin / double room:

US$ 590 per person www.mergui.org/accomodations

Inclusive services
- Twin Sharing accommodation in Superior Cottage
- Meals : Half – board (breakfast & dinner)
- Airport transfer (Kawthaung Airport – Kawthaung Jetty – Kawthaung Airport)
- Jetty transfer (Kawthaung / Ranong Jetty – Myanmar Andaman Resort – Kawthaung / Ranong Jetty)
- Kawthaung Zone Fee (Royalty Fee)

Exclusive services
- Yangon Services
- International and domestic airfares and Airport Taxes
- Meals : lunch
- Cost of visa
- Personal expenses
- Personal or baggage insurance
- Diving, Kayaking, Snorkeling and Sightseeing are not included in the above quoted prices.

USD & Euro notes can be used at the Resort. Need to apply visa – available On Arrival.
...not exactly budget, but of course, they are pioneers in the region and I suppose you're paying for that too...
In particular if it is based on twin sharing. Does that mean one has to pay extra if only one person in cottage?


Posted: 14 Sep 2007

From Phuket to the Mergui Archipelago

I've seen some dive boat operators offering 7-day trips for about 1200$, is there anything cheaper around?

I know it's probably not getting much cheaper because of the expensive permits.

I was wondering if anybody has done the trip?

Yes, the permits this year are 2000 US$, making diving there very expensive.

Cheapest option: this boat, but since they offer longer trips it can still become quite expensive. For a shorter trip: check this boat. No diving though.
www.merguiprincess.com


Mergui Archipelago's: Can I kayak on my own?

21 Sep: Is it possible to walk into Myiek or kawthoung and rent or buy a kayak and disappear a week or two? If it were to be illegal, could you buy a permit of some kind? Also how tight is security and government regulations when there are over 800 islands? If I keep a low profile on just some dumb kayak, 800+ islands, how many authorities are around there anyway?! I mean I guess it is becoming more popular, but I mean 800+ islands!!!!

I wonder if you could somehow live with or travel with the sea people there. I know in Fiji the tribes are hospitable.

The answer is that you have to stay in government approved hotels or guesthouses. You can not go anywhere, without a permit and an approved guide, outside the tourist trail and if or when you, they will see you sorted in no time.

If some innocent Myanmar person transports you outside approved areas or lets you stay in their home, you put them in a very serious situation.

I highly doubt you can just go off into the distance on a kayak, boat or whatever....its all controlled, and mostly Liveboard operations thru Phuket.

One fellow I know was caught with a rented moto outisde 'allowed territory'. He was taken back to where he started off by the authorities.

Myself was trying to get over border to China once, without permit. Officer was very friendly and Chinese visa impressed him a lot. Until he called his superior, then there was a polite 'there's absolutely nothing I can do for you'. Trying to bribe (I rent a car from you with driver, we talk about price...) didn't help either.

Strayed off past a (unmanned) road block once. Headed of hiking, about 15km. Suddenly olive drab pick-up stopped next to me...The uniforms inside were polite and even took me to the lake I intended to go. But then took me back to where I started off...

As stated above- please be aware that breaking certain rules will most likely have no effects for foreigners at all but it is not courageous at all to break certain laws, even if they are stupid in our view. But it can have an extreme effect on locals you contacted before, friends or guesthouse owners, transport people for instance, who are "responsible" for you and might have to pay a very high price for foreigner’s "courage".

If nothing else, is it possible to go to a island that is alot on a ferry of some kind and stay on the island (not in a hotel or anything) for an extended period of time

Look, it pretty much gets down to the rule about foreigners staying in government approved guesthouses... and not straying outside the approved areas> Myanmar Travel and Tourism say that it’s for the protection of visitors... Whatever you do, please consider the situation that you, by your actions, might put local people in and offcourse, consider your own safety. Day trips yes... overnighter on the islands... not really.. only one that I know of.. Andaman resort @ USD 200 plus per night.

I'm reading that line very slowly, but it still sounds like an oxymoron. If you were to be put in a detention prison, could you buy your way out? Guess money talks.


This is an excerpt from a Canadian magazine called Outpost.

The full article doesn't seem to be on the web. I have the magazine at home, though, and the story goes like this ... Basically, a couple of Canadians went as guests of the junta to the Mergui Archipelago to tour some areas by kayak. The junta is (or was) considering opening up the area for this kind of tourism. The couple then headed out with a Burmese guide after their visit was supposed to be over. They paddled the islands and didn't get caught. The thing is, they were seen by a lot of people, and there was no follow-up info with regards to their guide (who was also seen in several places AND who was known to the military guy who arranged the visit).

It is a very interesting article, but I felt that it was a highly irresponsible move on their part because, as mentioned many times above, it is always the Burmese who pays the consequences and locals are always involved. First of all, it is very difficult to get around in the islands without some kind of assistance (fresh water, food, guidance, shelter if necessary, etc.) or contact with locals. Second, you will be seen, putting whoever sees you into a very seriously precarious situation (Do I tell, or don't I tell? If I don't tell, then what if someone finds out that I knew but didn't say?).

From what was written in the article, it is a spectacular area that is worth seeing.


I think I've read somewhere that is possible for foreigners to cross from Myanmar to Thailand, near a place called Kawthuang, at the very south of Myanmar. But I think I've also read that it's not possible to reach this town overland, but it is, or it was, possible to reach it by boat. Does someone have some recent information about this?

To reach Kawthoung you can get on one of the infrequent ships of MFSL - however cabin for foreigner is about as expensive as an air ticket (or even a bit more...). Most people gong that way take a flight to either Dawei or Myeik and then travel down the cost by fast ferry to Kawthoung,

These days one needs permit to enter and exit at this border as well when coming from Yangon/upper Burma.


Chasing Myiek (Kayaking)

hello....wondering if anyone has reccomodations for a kayak trip to explore some relatively remote islands for an experienced, but not expert kayaker. thanks for the tips

MerguiPrincess.com
They'll get you as remote as you can get. we organized a group of 10 for a "kayaking safari" which was an all-inclusive camping trip, complete with tents, bedding, excellent food, guides, etc. they're based out of Phuket, but you can meet up with them in Ranong as well. The base camp at the time was a couple of hours out by speedboat to a remote island near Lampi in the Mergui Archipelago. You won't see another human that isn't in the crew for days, unless they take you to visit some of the nearby fishing villages. Absolutely pristine, and worth the trouble of getting there.

You will be restricted as a foreigner where you can go, some area are military sensitive, some the government can not allow you (a foreigner) in areas the Government has no contact/relationship with (Ethnic Tribes-Drug Lords-Factions Fighting one another), so the will not allow anyone there, sometime they will allow you there, with a permit and a guide, this can change daily and monthly too.

Some routes you can not take, some boats you will be escorted from landing to a taxi, cant even go in the town, some towns you can not go out of via a car, you can only fly in/out. There is fighting on the Thailand/Myanmar borders in the south, there is huge areas in the north nobody can go, or you need a permit, and these permits take 4-6 weeks, or longer, depending on all types of things...

They are also very suspecting of anyone possible associated with a journalism background, or affiliated with a Human Rights group, if they suspect you of either, good luck!


New Scuba Diver Suggestions

I am a farily new scuba diver who got certified in Cozumel last year and I loved it.

I am wanting to do another scuba diving vacation but this time aboard a liveaboard. As I can only take vacation during high season (late Dec), I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions?

I live in CA, so something closer than Thailand would be great...like the Roaton Islands but it looks like it is not so ideal in Dec? Also, I would be going by myself so I don't have a buddy.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Diane

 

Hi Diane,

Welcome to the wonderful underwater world of scuba diving!

Couple recommendations:

1. Post your question on Scubaboard -- it is like Thorntree, but dedicated to scuba divers. Scubaboard website

2. I wouldn't recommend a liveaboard for a new diver. They tend to be targetted to more advanced divers. Feel free to contact a company and ask though!

3. Cozumel is the best diving in the Caribbean (in my opinion...). Roatan is good - massive coral formations but you won't see nearly the amount or size of marine life that you do in Coz -- because the Bay Islands have been overfished. Belize is decent but expensive. Caymans and Bahamas is good too. Bonaire has been a divers haven for decades. Dominica has lots of little critters and beautiful coral.

4. I suggest you get in touch with a good local dive shop in your area. Most offer organized trips and will buddy you up with another solo diver.

Cheers!
Kay


Mainly, and most importantly, Liveboard is normally not for a novice, as its extreme conditions, far away from civilization. The Coco islands off Costa Rica is one such venue, but a OW certification is not enough, as its over 100 feet dangerous currents, that has even killed Divemasters.

You also shoul know the expense of Liveboard, whether Thailand or Honduras, is very expensive, about $300 day and up, with minimum of 3 days.

Liveboard also tends to be for area that are protected, where no tourist are allowed to impact the lands and natural surroundings, like in Thilands Andaman Islands and Mergui Islands off Burma.

If you are PADI OW Certified, you will always dive with a Divemaster, whether solo or with a buddy, and normally a novice will be paired with more senior diver for a buddy.

Go to PADI.com for dive shops, divemaster and divesites worldwide, they have the info for each, phone email etc.

Source : LonelyPlanet.com – Thorn Tree Forum, MTT, Mergui.org

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The Islands in the Mergui Archipelago

There are so many islands lying between North Lat 98.38' E to 11N in Kawthaung district. Among them, some islands have the beautiful sandbanks, clean water, sea creatures and animals that c