High Rock lies some 500 metres to the south of Quion Island, just 25 km from Kawthaung. It is a small islet with a single tree, and has a wall on its north and east sides, and a rocky reef on its south and west. This is usually the first dive in the waters of the Mergui Archipelago on a Burma liveaboard safari, as most of the islands south of here are closed to diving boats.
The sheer volume of fish life at High Rock hits you as soon as you descend. Blue line snapper form huge schools that obscure the reef wall from view. Glassfish are equally numerous, as are gold-striped fuseliers and yellow tail barracuda. Trevally dart into shoals of bait fish that move as one, safety in numbers their only defence. Large flutemouths stalk their prey and titan (giant) triggerfish guard their territory.
Striped soldier fish and squirrel fish congregate together in the many cracks and crevices, and barrel sponges dominate the seabed with common lion fish sheltering from the currents inside the rims. The number of bearded and humpback scorpionfish on the wall make touching anything a risky business. These poisonous fish are prevalent most places in the Mergui Archipelago but there numbers are highest here. False stonefish can also be spotted here. Several grouper species such as white-lined and blue-lined grouper are common as are wrasse and leatherjackets. Freckled porcupine fish hide in the crevices.
The walls feature orange and green cup corals and a small overhang. There's a huge variety of invertebrates here such as lobster, hermit crabs, zigzag clams, black diadema urchins, oysters and squid. Yellow-margin, fimbriated, giant and white-eyed moray eels can all be seen in abundance, and different species are often even seen sharing the same hole. Look into the crags and you may be surprised to see Indian Ocean nurse sharks, residents of the Mergui, snoozing the day away.
Parts of the wall are draped in old nets of the Mergui fishermen, which are now encrusted in corals, but divers should be wary of entanglement. The nets are a favourite residence ofyellow tigertail seahorses that like to wrap their tail around the nets.
High Rock is also an excellent night dive location too, when all the cup corals burst open in brilliant orange. This, together with the orange reflected eyes of the Durban dancing (hingebeak) shrimps, makes a spectacular sight as the whole wall appears alive and feeding in the nutrient rich water. Decorator crabs, hermit and round crabs can be seen. Moray eels swim over the wall, avoiding divers torches and parrotfish sleep in their protective cocoons.