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The-Mergui-Archipelago2

Mergui Beach

After hundreds of dives in the Mergui Archipelago off the southwestern coast of Burma, we are still enthralled. The remoteness of the islands, the pristine seascape and the abundant marine life that thrives in this region still holds for us the promise of new discovery. Reachable mainly by live-aboard or sailboat, the isolated islands and dive-sites are never crowded with other boats, perhaps only the occasional Moken sea-gypsy longtail in the distance. A visit to the Mergui Archipelago remains a true sea expedition.

WELCOME TO THE MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO

The Mergui Archipelago (not to be confused with the Burma Banks), comprised of over 800 individual islands, was opened by the Myanmar government to foreign visitors in 1997. Since then, however, it has remained untouched and largely undiscovered. Visitors are free to explore at will, seek potentially new dive-sites and wander uninhabited islands bordered by white sand beaches and dense mangrove swamps. Unlike the Similan and Surin islands to the south, the sea terrain of the Mergui Archipelago is characterized mainly by limestone rock formations. Expansive and intricate dive-sites and excellent visibility ensure adventurous diving. Rare marine species may be sighted, large pelagics are frequent, and colorful hard and soft coral gardens at shallower depths teem with reef fish.

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Unspoiled terrestrial scenery…

Dense brush and rainforest cover most areas above the high-tide line, while vast stretches of mangroves and magnificent white-sand beaches are interspersed with rocky headlands, tidal creeks and a few freshwater rivers.

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MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO FACTS

Name: Mergui Archipelago, Union of Myanmar (also known as Myeik Archipelago)
Location: 35-65 km west of the southern Burma coast on the Malay peninsula
Area: 36,000 km²
No. of Islands: 800+
Average Temp.: 24 – 32° C
Average Water Temp: 26 – 29° C
Activities: Scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, fishing
Accommodation: Available on live-aboard boats only
Fees 2010-2011: Immigration fee when entering from foreign countries 200 USD – please bring new, unmarked cash in US dollars
Immigration: Please do NOT forget your passport!
An adventure to the Mergui Archipelago typically begins in Phuket, Khao Lak or Ranong, Thailand. An immigration stop is made at Kaw Thaung, Burma, before venturing west into the islands. Thailand Dive & Sail will gladly advise you of your exact itinerary and best options for travel.

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Thailand Dive & Sail is currently the most knowledgeable source of information and experience in the region. We are some of the first people to have explored and mapped the area. Our services include every aspect of a safari to the Mergui Archipelago. Whether it be a live-aboard booking, a reliable guide for your individual trip, a sailboat charter or visits to local Moken settlements, please feel free to contact us – you’re in experienced professional hands.

CHECK OUT OUR BURMA LIVEABOARDS

A Burma liveaboard trip is the best way to enjoy scuba diving in the Mergui Archipelago and at the Burma Banks. If you have enjoyed diving in Thailand before or you’re simply looking for a dive destination to get away from the crowds, then diving in Burma could really add a new dimension to your experiences so far.

HOW TO GET TO THE MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO

An adventure to the Mergui Archipelago typically begins in Phuket, Khao Lak or Ranong, Thailand. An immigration stop is made at Kaw Thaung, Burma, before venturing west into the islands. Thailand Dive & Sail will gladly advise you of your exact itinerary and best options for travel.

From Bangkok: Daily flights to Phuket or Surat Thani with Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways and Air Asia, then taxi or bus to Phuket, Khao Lak or Ranong, taxi to Thap Lamu or Ranong Pier
From Phuket: Taxi, mini-van or hourly bus service leaving Phuket Town to Khao Lak or Ranong, then taxi to pier
From Surat Thani: Taxi, mini-van or hourly bus service departs Surat Thani to Ranong, Khao Lak or Phuket, then taxi to pier

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MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO SCUBA DIVING

Even after years of diving in Burma, we discover new things and unknown sites on each trip. And the feeling that we are indeed free to continue to explore draws us to this region again and again. Local experience and expertise in this area is rare, so that few operators run live-aboard trips to the Mergui Archipelago. This ensures that dive safaris are both adventurous and relaxing, with practically no other boats to be encountered in the islands and on the dive-sites. The Mergui Archipelago remains a diving frontier. Individual discovery expeditions of new sites may be arranged by Thailand Dive & Sail. We are currently foremost in exploration of this region.

Thailand Dive & Sail can highly recommend several live-aboard options for the passionate diver seeking knowledgeable guides and crew, safe exploration and high-quality service.

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Dive with a smile :)

MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO SCUBA DIVING AT A GLANCE

Season: November – April
Best Time to go: November – April
Experience: Intermediate to advanced; beginners who require more attention should arrange for a private guide through Thailand Dive & Sail
Visibility: 10 – 40 meters
Tides/Currents: Weak to moderate; strong at full and black moon
Depths: 0 – 50 meters / dives generally limited to maximum 30 meters
Types of Sites: Limestone rock pinnacles; fringing, sloping reefs; boulder and hard coral reef gardens.
First Aid: All dive-staff trained in emergency first response, first aid and secondary care; all boats carry 100% emergency medical oxygen; evacuation plans in place
Re-compression: Located in Phuket; representative based in Khao Lak
Fees: USD 200 in cash at immigration
Training: PADI, SSI

MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO SNORKELING

There are no day-trips to the Mergui Archipelago and it is not a snorkeling destination in and of it’s own. However, for non-divers accompanying divers on a live-aboard trip, the islands do provide limites opportunities for snorkeling and swimming. Your live-aboard dive staff will not include a snorkel guide; however, you may make prior arrangements for a private snorkel guide to accompany you on your trip.

MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO SAILING

Experience the beauty of the Mergui Archipelago on your own sail boat! For individuals, groups and families of sailing enthusiasts, the islands are the ideal tropical destination and perfect basis for extensive diving and island exploration. Moor in stunning bays and enjoy the peace and relaxation of a remote, uninhabited island atmosphere. Adventure on your own time and at your own pace in an environmentally-friendly manner.

Let us charter your sail boat, skipper and crew to the Mergui Archipelago, arrange diving and snorkeling gear and customize your independent sailing trip itinerary. We are able to recommend and book charters with or without crew, as well as introduce you to experienced freelance diving staff and guides to accompany you on your adventure. If you are sailing independently throughout the local area on your own boat, please feel free to contact us regarding marine conditions, equipment and insightful tips and information about sailing the islands and diving.

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MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO DIVE SITES

Over the years, our exploration of the region has led us to discover and map many dive-sites scattered throughout the Mergui Archipelago, eleven of which we currently highly recommend for live-aboard trips. The sites are so diverse in their topography and marine life that each time we return, we find something new. The rugged, high-profile dive terrain, and healthy reef ecosystems are home to a myriad of rare indigenous species seen no where else in the world. Encounters with sharks and rays are common. Macro and wide-angle opportunities abound.

CRAYFISH CAVE Western Rocky

Crayfish Cave Western Rocky Dive Site Map

Site Name: Crayfish Cave at Western Rocky
Other Names: Western Rocky
GPS / Location: 40 nautical miles due west of Kaw Thaung
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Depth: 0 – 30m+
Currents: Moderate to strong
Topography: Expansive limestone cave system, sandy rocky bottom, sea fans, numerous swim-throughs, huge archway.
Sheer wall dive, massive cave entrance at 18 m, cave height ranges from 12 m – 1.5 m
Highlights: Entrance, exploration and exit of massive cave on beginning of dive.
Marine Life: Bowmouth guitar sharks, Leopard sharks, Grey reef sharks, White-tip reef sharks, Tawny nurse sharks, Eagle rays, Squid and cuttlefish, Giant frogfish, Clown frogfish, Ghost pipefish, Rainbow runners, Neon fusiliers, Harlequin shrimp
How to dive
this site:
Drop in and descend immediately in a northerly direction to access the cave on the southern side of site at a depth of 18 m, enter through the large opening 7-8 m in radius, exit located at 24 m on northern side. After exiting cave, shallow up on northern side of site.
Our tips: Be sure to drop in right above the mouth of the cave. To exit, take the right-hand, slightly larger exit. Site is diveable all the way up and through the safety stop. Make sure to bring a torch to explore the cave, where slipper and spiny lobster have been sighted.
Photo tip: Excellent wide-angle photography opportunities.

EAGLES NEST Western Rocky

Eagles Nest Western Rocky Dive Site Map

Site Name: The Eagles Nest at Western Rocky
Other Names: Western Rocky
GPS / Location: 40 nautical miles due west of Kaw Thaung
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Depth: 0 – 30m+
Currents: Moderate to strong
Topography: Five steep pinnacles that break the surface, sandy rocky bottom, numerous sea fans, canyons, swim-throughs and large overhangs.
Highlights: Large variety of sharks and rays.
Marine Life: Bowmouth guitar sharks, Leopard sharks, Grey reef sharks, White-tip reef sharks, Tawny nurse sharks, Eagle rays, Squid and cuttlefish, Giant frogfish, Clown frogfish, Ghost pipefish, Rainbow runners, Neon fusiliers, Harlequin shrimp
How to dive
this site:
Currents run northeast or southwest. Drop in an descend on side of site opposite of the current to provide protection and stay close to surfaces, spiraling around the various pinnacles to shallower depths and exit.
Our tips: The site is diveable all the way up and through the safety stop, as marine life is abundant at shallow depths and protection in currents is possible behind the numerous pinnacles.
Photo tip: Wide-angle and macro photography opportunities.

NORTHERN ROCKY

Site Name: Northern Rocky
Other Names:
GPS / Location: 8 nautical miles due east of Western Rocky
Skill Level: Beginning to advanced
Depth: 0 – 30m+
Currents: Occasional, mild to moderate
Topography: Sloping, stony limestone fringing reef extending from northern tip of island, small granite boulder outcrops, isolated limestone pinnacle
Highlights: Numerous massive orange-coloured sea fans.
Marine Life: Black-tip reef sharks, Manta rays, Octopus, Cuttlefish, Nudibranches, Scorpionfish, Bent stick pipefish, Moray eels
How to dive this site: Drop in on northern tip, descending to maximum depth of approximately 18 m, head out in northerly direction across sand to pinnacle, return back in southerly direction, shallowing up along reef.
Our tips: Explore the isolated pinnacle at the north side of the site (found by Thailand Dive & Sail!). Surge is often common on this site. Look for massive underwater rock-slide.
Photo tip: Wide-angle and macro photography opportunities.

FAN FOREST PINNACLE

Fan Forest Pinnacle Dive Site Map

Site Name: Fan Forest Pinnacle
Other Names: Mojo’s Pinnacle
GPS / Location: 40 nautical miles due west of Kaw Thaung
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Depth: 6 – 30m+
Currents: Moderate to strong
Topography: Completely submerged pinnacle at depth of 6-30m+, sheer limestone walls, massive granite boulders surround main pinnacle, especially to northwest side of site. Some areas covered in massive sea fans up to 3 m in diameter
Highlights: Abundant numbers of massive sea fans and stunning topography
Marine Life: Whale sharks, Manta rays, White-tip reef sharks, Blotched fantail rays, Kuhl’s stingrays, Jenkin’s stingrays, Spotted eagle rays, Schooling barracuda, Rainbow runner, Octopus, cuttlefish, numerous Cellopods, Harlequin Shrimp, Seahorses
How to dive
this site:
Drop in on shallowest point of pinnacle at 6 m for visual reference, descend to maximum depth heading in a northwest direction to boulder garden located at 30 m. Continue in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction around main pinnacle, depending on current.
Our tips: This dive is best divided into two dives, explore half the site on each. Various drop-offs – descend to 30 m and look down to 60-70 metre sandy bottom below in good visibility.
Photo tip: Wide-angle and macro photography opportunities.

PYGMY PALM POINT South Twin Island

Pygmy Palm Point Dive Site Map

Site Name: Pygmy Palm Point
Other Names: South Twin Island
GPS / Location: NW side of South Twin Island.
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Depth: 0 – 30m+
Currents: Occasional, mild to strong
Topography: Granite boulder outcropping descending from the island beach to large boulder pinnacle. Gently sloping fringing reef, large scattered boulder outcrops.
Highlights: Good spot to sight whale sharks
Marine Life: Whale sharks, Black-tip reef sharks, Tawny reef sharks, White-tip reef sharks, Blotched fantail rays, Porcupine rays, Eagle rays, Frogfish, Ghost pipefish, Nudibranches, Schooling big-eye trevally
How to dive
this site:
Drop in near the beach and descend opposite of current, following the natural contours of the site, if possible within protection of boulders during currents, spiraling up to shallower depths through the boulders.
Our tips: This dive is best divided into two dives, explore half the site on each. Various drop-offs – descend to 30 m and look down to 60-70 metre sandy bottom below in good visibility.
Photo tip: Excellent wide-angle photography.

TWIN CHEEKS North Twin Island

Twin Cheeks North Twin Island Dive Site Map

Site Name: Twin Cheeks North Twin Island
Other Names: Kaiser Wilhelm
GPS / Location: Due north of North Twin Island
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Depth: 15 – 30m+
Currents: Moderate to strong
Topography: Huge granite pinnacle. North side slopes down to depth of 30m to scattered boulders and forest of sea fans. On south side, sandy bottom with large, scattered boulders.
Highlights: Large groups of eagle rays have been sighted. Good site for large pelagics. Massive sea fans.
Marine Life: Grey, white-tip and black-tip reef sharks. Leopard sharks, Mangrove whiprays, Manta rays, Eagle rays, Indian Ocean cownose rays, Blotched fantail rays, Mobular rays, Octopus, Schooling batfish, Cuttlefish, Barracuda, Rainbow Runners, Snappers, Schooling Fusiliers, Tuna
How to dive
this site:
Avoid diving in current on north side of site, as the rock is sheer and there is no protection and no soft corals. Drop in over pinnacle, descend rapidly to protection, spiral up depending on direction of current. This is a swimming dive-site.
Our tips: A good morning dive due to depth! Make sure to descend immediately upon drop-in to shelter behind the rocks, depending on direction of current. Check out the boulder outcrops for sharks and rays.
Photo tip: Excellent wide-angle photography.

NORTH TWIN PLATEAU

North Twin Plateau Dive Site Map

Site Name: North Twin Plateau
Other Names:
GPS / Location: 100 m west of North Twin Island
Skill Level: Beginning to advanced
Depth: 4 – 30m+
Currents: Occasional, mild to strong
Topography: Huge granite boulder plateau with surrounding rocky outcrops and sandy bottom composition.
Highlights: Massive schools of barracuda!
Marine Life: Blotched fantail rays, Kuhl’s stingrays, Moray eels, Parrotfish, Surgeonfish, Big-eye trevally, Harlequin shrimp
How to dive
this site:
Drop in on shallowest point in middle of dive-site and continue on with current.
Our tips: Good third or late afternoon dive of the day. Check out the gully on the north side of plateau on secondary rock for predatory marine species, marble rays and occasional mantas. Good drift and night dive-site, current permitting.
Photo tip: Good wide-angle photo opportunities.

BLACK ROCK

Black Rock Dive Site Map

Site Name: Black Rock
Other Names:
GPS / Location: 60 nautical miles northwest of Three Islets / 150 km off Burmese coast
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Depth: 0 – 30m+
Currents: Occasional, moderate to strong
Topography: Sedimented limestone pinnacle, southern side more sloping, northern side sheer wall with large boulder outcrops at depths of 26-30m, numerous soft corals and sea fans, especially to the north and northeast of site.
Highlights: Abundant diversity of large reef life
Marine Life: White-tip reef sharks, Leopard sharks, Manta rays, Eagle rays, Kuhl’s stingrays, Blotched fantail Rrays, Indian Ocean cownose rays, Nudibranches
How to dive
this site:
Length of site 50-60 m, almond-shaped rock lying in east-westerly position, entry and exit depends on current. Drop in and descend to maximum depth and shallow up around rock or along wall. Protection is found on north or south side of site in stronger currents.
Our tips:
Photo tip: Good wide-angle photo opportunities.

IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR 3 Islets

In Through the Out Doormap Dive Site Map

Site Name: In Through the Out Door
Other Names: Shark Cave
GPS / Location: 6 nautical miles northeast of Great Swinton Island
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Depth: 0 – 24m
Currents: Frequent, moderate to very strong – best dived in slack currents
Topography: Three limestone rocks that break the surface with a central larger rock and two smaller outlying boulders. Numerous soft corals and sea fans at depths of 12-16 m, sandy bottom.
Highlights: Both the topography of the site and the marine life diversity is stunning! Our favourite dive-site in the Mergui Archipelago.
Marine Life: Rhinopia – confirmed sighting to date only by Thailand Dive & Sail, Horned cat sharks, Coral cat sharks, Tawny nurse sharks, Grey reef sharks, Blotched fantail rays , Kuhl’s stingrays, Nudibranches, Ghost Pipefish, Frogfish, Toefish, Squid, cuttlefish, Bent stick pipefish, Thorny boxfish, Horned cowfish, Harlequin shrimp
How to dive
this site:
Drop in and descend into large canyon, exit canyon through large archway, continue on past cave to right (warning: do not enter cave!) and through 12 m long ravine through the rock onto other side of site. Depending on the current direction, diver will be either pushed slightly through the crevice, or pulled out by the current crossing the face of the crevice upon exit. Surge is frequent.
Our tips: Our top Burma dive-site! Look for sponges and Nudibranches around the archway after canyon. Bring a torch to look into recesses. If you have sufficient time and air supply, or time for a further dive, explore the outer two exposed pinnacles due north and south of the site.
Photo tip: One dive macro, one dive wide-angle dive.

HIGH ROCK

High Rock Dive Site Map

Site Name: High Rock
Other Names:
GPS / Location: 21 nautical miles southeast of Great Swinton Island
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Depth: 0 – 30m+
Currents: Moderate
Topography: Large limestone pinnacle breaking surface with tree growing on peak. The sheer pinnacle descends steeply on east side to sandy bottom, more sloping on western side. Coral and rocky outcrops at maximum depth around bottom of pinnacle . Named Pineapple Rock by the Burmese locals.
Highlights: Whale sharks very possible!, Other pelagics and large array of rays. Abundant small marine life.
Marine Life: Whale sharks, Eagle rays, Blotched fantail rays, Ghost pipefish, Frogfish, Pineapple fish, Stonefish, Thorny boxfish, Sea snakes, Nudibranches, Crabs, Crustaceans, Peacock mantis shrimp, Wentil wrap snail, Cup coral
How to dive
this site:
Currents run northeast to southwest. Drop in nearest vicinity to exposed rock pinnacle and descend upon sheltered side opposite of direction of current. Descend as near to pinnacle as possible in strong currents. Spiral up around site to end dive near pinnacle on side sheltered from the current.
Our tips: Best divided into two dives. Don’t just follow your guide; feel free to explore slowly on your own in the vicinity of other divers, as site is abundant in smaller marine life, especially around areas covered in fishing nets.
Photo tip: Excellent for macro photography!