For a long time, a chain of over 800 islands in the Andaman Sea was off-limits, named Mergui archipelago. Since 1998, the government of Myanmar (formerly Burma) has allowed this amazing diving paradise to be experienced by divers and explorers.
Immerse yourself on this paradise
Mergui archipelago offers sheltered anchorages, sand beaches, untouched reefs and Indo-Pacific marine creatures great and small.
Enormous schools of jacks, trevallies and tunas can be seen everywhere. Mantas and a host of other rays really catch the divers’ attention. Angelfish and batfish weave through the hard corals, lionfish flutter, and clown anemonefish aggressively guard their territories. For those who think really small, there are frogfishes, ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp, razorfish and a plethora of nudibranchs.
Diving the Mergui Archipelago
Because the island chain spreads out over more than 10,000 square miles, it is not surprising to find a vast variety of underwater
landscapes, including submerged pinnacles and seamounts, caves, sheer and sloping rock walls, and sand bottoms. The vibrant corals and diverse, healthy fish populations make it nearly impossible to turn down any of the four daily dives the liveaboards typically offer.
Top Burmese Dive sites
The variety of dive sites is endless, but I have placed below my favorites:
Western Rocky – As one of the southernmost dive sites in Burmese waters. On one side, a sloping wall descends to a sandy bottom at 30 metres that is filled with colorful soft corals and large sea fans. The other sides feature classic wall diving. Western Rocky’s most stunning element is a large tunnel that runs through the island and is populated by dozens of lobsters.
Black Rock – This stark, rock with no vegetation sticking out of the water is the best spot to encounter manta rays. One side has a steep drop to 30 metres, the other a series of ledges and boulder fields. Leopard sharks cruise gracefully around Black Rock while clouds of baitfish stack up so thick a diver can get lost inside. Schools of jacks, tuna and mackerel are just everywhere. The macro picture is also plentiful, with scorpionfish, many species of morays, tiny crabs, harlequin shrimp and frogfish.
Three Islets – Amazing arch / cave where you can swim through and encounter large school of barracudas, jacks and cave sweepers. Swimming through the cave you will notice the highly decorated floor (yellow sponges) and ceiling (marigold cup corals). Despite of the amazing topography, the devil is in the detail here with Durban dancing shrimps, lobsters, moray eels, cowries, sea slugs and more all adding to the entertainment.
Water temperatures average 28 degrees Celsius. A skin or light wetsuit is recommended, both because of the daily three- to four-dive schedule, and to guard against jellyfish stings. Visibility ranges from as low as 10 metres near the mainland to more than 30 metres around the islands farther offshore. Currents vary from nonexistent to quite strong, leaving the choice of whether to conduct drift dives or anchored dives to the divemaster’s discretion.
The climate in Burma is typically monsoonal, with rainy, hot and humid summers and milder, drier winters, with temperatures averaging in the high 28 degrees Celsius. Most dive operators book during the dry season, from November through May, when winds tend to be light and sea is calm.
There is a hyperbaric chamber in Phuket. It can, however, be a long haul from Burmese waters. Divemasters preach safety–and rightly so.