This article is intended to provide the already qualified scuba diver with information which will help to plan dives in the waters of Myanmar (Burma), whether as a local resident or a visitor. Information is provided without prejudice, and is not guaranteed accurate or complete. Use it at your own risk.
The Mergui Archipelago is a group of islands in far southern Myanmar and is part of the Tanintharyi Region. It consists of more than 800 islands, varying in size from very small to hundreds of square kilometres, all lying in the Andaman Sea off the western shore of the Malay Peninsula near its landward (northern) end where it joins the rest of Indochina. Occasionally the islands are referred to as the Pashu Islands because the Malay inhabitants are locally called Pashu.
Geologically, the islands are characterized mainly by limestone and granite. They are generally covered with thick tropical growth, including rainforest, and their shorelines are punctuated by beaches, rocky headlands, and in some places, mangrove swamps. Offshore are extensive coral reefs.
The area was only opened up to foreign tourism in 1997 after negotiations between Myanmar and dive operators from Phuket in Thailand. The archipelago's isolation is such that much of it has not even yet been thoroughly explored.
Owing to the archipelago's remoteness, a live aboard cruise is the only way for visitors to go diving in areas with names such as Big Bank, Rainbow Reef or Silvertip Bank. Some islands have huge boulders, soft corals and sea fans. Others offer wall diving, caverns, tunnels and drop-offs.
The best diving conditions exist from December to April, with whale sharks and manta rays visiting from February to May.
Photographers are attracted by frogfish, ghost pipefish, ribbon eels and cowries as well as many crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, and shrimps.
Dive sites include:
- Shark Cave — features grey reef, bull, nurse and whale sharks.
- Black Rock — has manta rays and schools of mobula (devil) rays.
The largest and highest island is King Island, across the inland channel from Mergui (Myeik). Other important islands are:
- Auriol Island
- Bentinck Kyun
- Christie Island, the southernmost island of the group
- Daung Kyun
- Kabosa Island
- Kadan Kyun
- Kanmaw Kyun
- Lanbi Kyun
- Letsok-aw Kyun
- Mali Kyun, the northernmost island of the group
- Money Island
- Sabi Island
- Saganthit Kyun
- Tenasserim Island
- Thahtay Kyun
- Than Kyun