So after a great trip with the guests who chartered the magnificent ship, the Dunia Baru (The New World), I was very fortunate to be asked back on board by the owner, but this time as a guest.
Wow! This was far from what I had imagined was going to happen. I returned to Khao Lak briefly between trips just to take care of a few bits and pieces; I packed all my camera gear for this trip and off I went back to Kawthaung, this would be our starting point on this trip.
I arrived a couple of hours before the other guests. They consisted of close family of the owner (a super keen diver himself) and a journalist writing an article on diving in Myanmar (Burma) and the Similan Islands in Thailand. Also joining us would be a couple of very experienced agents working to promote the boat and the region. They were both diving instructors and had dived extensively in Indonesia and the Maldives. It was great to have such an experienced group of divers on the boat.
The Dunia Baru: Not Your Usual Burma Liveaboard
The boat itself is magnificent: It was built over 7 years ago in the jungles of Sulawesi, the craftsmanship and attention to detail is incredible it is almost like one large piece of fine furniture. The special touches that grace this ship include the furniture and ornaments that make you feel like you’re within a 5 star hotel adjacent to a deserted beach in Bali.
The layout of the ship is masterfully designed with every thing stow-able so it gives you a feeling of that timeless age when ships of this class sailed the seas from Asia. Although having a feel of an old vessel, this is just a fantastic facade and hides state of the art engineering and electrical systems for all aspects of the boat.
The crew of the vessel are nearly all Indonesian except the Cruise Director (who is French), and head Chef (Australian). The food is exquisitely prepared offering both asian and western cuisine. The Indonesian crew work tirelessly to maintain both the boat and also the great level of service provided on the boat, this is all overseen by the Cruise Director who shows excellent knowledge and man management skills keeping the standards up to meet the highest expectations.
Exploring the Mergui Topside
Having spent many years exploring the Mergui Archipelago I was very pleased to be asked by such a high end boat to be their guide both topside and underwater. My topside experience regarding the animal life is limited so I was happy to have Wey Wey with us. He is the local guide and works for Myanmar Travel and Tourism as a full time topside guide.
Island 115, Wildlife and Mangroves in the Mergui
We headed for some great places that we had experienced on the last trip. Our Route took us straight to island 115; this is one of the Islands in the Mergui that has had quite a lot of interest shown in it, and at the moment there are plans for an Eco Lodge with the ministry. There is a small fishing village on an Island close by and it seems to be a point where ice and fish are exchanged and transferred back to the mainland. We got the paddle boards and kayaks from the top deck of Dunia Baru and decided to explore some of the island by paddle.
From Island 115 we headed north to the very newly formed Lampi Marine Park. It was decided we would start again on the south east tip near the channel with Bo Cho Island. We again got the paddle boards and Kayaks out and headed for the Mangroves this area is renowned to be one of the finest and healthiest mangroves in the whole region. It stretches about 3 km into the island with many shallow inlets that could, for some, be prime nursery areas.
There are crocodiles in this region and sadly very rarely seen, but none the less we kept our eyes peeled. The mangrove is very clear and around 1.5m deep in the middle of the channel. We saw many birds in this area too including Brahiminey Hawks and White Breasted Sea Eagles circling above in the mangrove branches. We also saw many types of Heron and a Kingfisher.
Back To Bo Cho
For our afternoon adventure we headed for the village of Mykone Galet on Bo Cho island. This is the area that we first started with our See and Sea campaign. I will have to cover the amazing transformation in both attitude and actions that have benefited these island people in a separate blog, but I’d just like to say to everyone who supported this hands on project a big “Thank you!” from all at Bo Cho Island.
Further Explorations Through the Archipelago
That evening we upped anchor and headed for West Lampi and The Crocodile river. This is a unique area and all the villagers live on the island in the mid channel. This is a good place for shelter during low season monsoon and there is also a trading post on this Island. The blue waters give good access whatever the tide, and some of the larger fishing boats seek shelter here too.
After a couple of great days around Lampi Island we headed south to Great Swinton Island, or Kuhn Pi Lar as it is known in Burmese – this translates to “Island that faces the other way.” I found out later that the Moken view this island in high esteem as it is the place to go to when there is very little shelter from the South West Monsoon.
The beach on the north side is one of the most beautiful I have ever visited and has a small island that is accessible on foot at low water. We spent the day here and just took in the breathtaking beauty of this island. After our beach time we made passage to Macloed Island, this took around 4 hours and we had a fantastic sunset en route.
We awoke early at the island and many of our guests decided to head to The Andaman Resort for spa therapy and various massages, we again dropped the paddle boards and kayaks ready for the return of our guests. It seems that everyone is loving the silence and adventure of exploring by paddle.
An Awesome End to Our Wilderness Exploration
As we neared the end of this great trip we headed down to the very south of the Archipelago to an area known as Cockscoombe Island. This is a unique area having an almost completely enclosed lagoon in the middle of the island, it is only possible to enter at low water in a kayak or small dinghy. The lagoon itself is only around 5m deep at its deepest and has a splendid variety of marine life and proved a perfect spot for our keen snorkelers. The area is only populated by the birds nest soup collectors and it is possible to see their small homes and ladders precariously perched on some of these high rocks and outcrops.
We had a fantastic week cruising the area and all of our guests were amazed at the beauty of the region and also the feeling of being in one of the last wilderness areas left on the planet.