Adventure Cruises in Myanmar
Still largely unexplored and preserved, Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago offers sparkling seas and tropical islands to enjoy by cruise.
Myanmar (Burma) cruises take you around the stunning Mergui Archipelago, located in the country’s deep south in the Tanintharyi Region. Also known as the Myeik Archipelago, there are around 800 islands and islets, many of which are uninhabited by humans, scattered through the sparkling waters of the Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean. The country itself was pretty much closed to tourism until recent years, and this particular area retains strict conditions for visitors.
It is not possible for independent travellers to explore the area; the only way to enjoy the remote and unspoilt beauty is on an organised cruise in Myanmar (Burma). The stringent conditions do mean, however, that those who make the trip will be treated to amazing views and experiences of a place that few outsiders have seen and that has not, as yet, been subjected to heavy development.
The Mergui Archipelago is one of the rare places on earth that could rightfully be referred to as an unspoilt paradise. The local people follow time-long traditions and have their own unique culture, the waters and islands are home to an abundance of fascinating creatures, some of which are threatened or endangered and some that are endemic, and the striking landscapes leave many visitors in awe. Glorious beaches meet lush rainforests, all surrounded by the sparkling waters of the sea. Creatures, big and small, roam freely as nature intended, and there are plentiful activities to make your vacation one to never forget. A Myanmar (Burma) cruise really does offer something completely different.
Best Myanmar (Burma) cruises and areas to visit
Small ship cruising around Myanmar (Burma) is the ideal way to enjoy glorious areas that would otherwise be out of bounds. Combining wildlife encounters, cultural interactions, relaxation, and diverse activities, here are some of the top things you can expect whilst sailing in Myanmar (Burma):
Mergui Archipelago - Oozing major appeal for fans of heavenly white beaches with barely another soul in sight, wildlife spotting enthusiasts, keen photographers, and travellers who love underwater explorations and adventures, a cruise around the Mergui Archipelago lets you sail in the wake of adventurers from yesteryear and discover places that have seen relatively little outside influences.
Different ethnic groups call the area home, though the major group is one that is slowly disappearing: the Moken. Also commonly referred to as sea gypsies, this enterprising group relies on the sea for its survival and sustenance. They are known for their incredible free-diving skills, and their ability to dive to deep depths and remain underwater for long periods without breathing apparatus has led to them often being referred to as semi aquatic people.
The islands and waters are rich with wildlife, with creatures of all shapes and sizes having been left to live relatively peaceful and undisturbed lives here.
A Myanmar (Burma) sailing trip around the splendid Mergui / Myeik Archipelago lets you enjoy the scenic vistas of rainforest-clad islands that are fringed with white sand beaches, stretching in front of your vessel and studding the azure waters.
Hop off your cruise vessel and explore rugged islands, take to the waters for snorkeling and diving, relax on deck as you soak up the magical beauty, chill out and unwind on pristine beaches, perhaps having a dip in the cooling sea, board smaller vessels to explore the ancient mangroves, meet the people who have lived here for many years, dine on freshly caught seafood, and get the blood pumping with varied activities.
Great Swinton Island - A commonly visited island for those on a Myanmar (Burma) boat cruise is Great Swinton Island. Also known as Kyun Pila and Kyun Phi Lat, it boasts one of the longest beaches of all the archipelago’s islands. Home to a small fishing community, locals are ready to greet you with a friendly smile. You can see treasures recovered by the free divers from a sunken ship and climb the mountain for panoramic views. Another interesting feature of Great Swinton Island is its small Buddhist temple. Don’t miss seeing the captivating shimmering and shining of the bioluminescent plankton at night time.
Nyaung Wee Island - Also known as Buda Island, Nyaung Wee Island is part of the group known as the Mid Group. A great place for hiking, you can see the traditional wooden homes built on stilts and meet the local fishing community.
Jar Lann Kyun - Also known as Lord Loughborough, Jar Lann Kyun dazzles visitors with its scenic bay and deep fjord. A terrific place to snap picturesque surroundings, you can take a journey through the dense mangrove forest and look for the unusual hornbills.
Lagoon Bay - The idyllic lagoon bay offers plenty of treats both by day and by night. Offering even more lovely beaches and clear blue waters, it’s a great place to cast your gaze skywards after nightfall and see the plethora of twinkling stars.
Boulder Island - Boulder Island is known for its excellent hiking opportunities. Discover the native wildlife and soak up the views from Eagle Rock. The surrounding waters also offer great activities for water lovers; swim in the refreshing sea, explore by kayak, or admire an array of aquatic life with some snorkeling. Alternatively, you may choose to soak up the sun and unwind on one of the island’s blissful beaches.
Shark Island - Named after its shape, there’s no fear of encountering actual sharks whilst visiting Shark Island on your Myanmar (Burma) cruise! It’s a top spot for snorkeling in the clear waters and cooling off with a swim.
Ohway Island - Perfect if you want to enjoy diverse activities when on a Mergui Archipelago cruise, Ohway Island is one of the best places for snorkeling. Be amazed as you feast your eyes on the colourful reef that is teeming with marine life. Numerous vibrant tropical fish dart amongst the corals, and you’re sure to be enchanted as they swim right in front of your face. Fishing enthusiasts will also be pleased here.
Wildlife in the Mergui Archipelago - If you’re hoping to see an assortment of wildlife on your cruise in Myanmar (Burma), you’ll certainly be in for a treat when you sail around the Mergui Archipelago. The islands and the waters are home to a diverse selection of flora and fauna.
Creatures that live on the islands include the cute-looking dusky leaf monkeys, also known as spectacled leaf monkeys and dusky langurs, the adorably tiny mouse deer, wild pigs, barking deer, flying foxes, and otters. You may spot elephants, though these are not wild, and are instead owned by locals. There are even rumours of Sumatran rhinos on one island, but, as this is widely thought to be untrue, definitely don’t get your hope up!
Look out for huge pythons and smaller snakes, the unusual sunda pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater, and various types of lizards and insects.
Water-dwelling creatures include turtles, schools of tropical fish, manta rays, the rare dugong, the ferocious-looking but harmless whale sharks, black tip reef sharks, nurse sharks, lobsters, oysters, crabs, starfish, prawns, seahorses, and more. Bird lovers should keep their eyes peeled for hornbills, herons, kingfishers, egrets, partridges, sunbirds, and different species of the majestic eagle.
Best time to cruise in Myanmar (Burma)
The best time to visit Myanmar (Burma) is during the dry season, which is typically between November and.May. As a largely tropical country, the weather is hot almost all year round. The hottest months, however, are generally from February to May, and many people choose to visit Myanmar (Burma) in the earlier, cooler months (December to February). Do be aware that Myanmar (Burma) cruises do not operate in the wet season.
The best time for diving and snorkeling in Myanmar (Burma) is in the months of March and April, when the waters are clearer. The calm weather and clear skies also makes this an ideal time to fully appreciate the stunning scenery. February to May in the Mergui Archipelago is the prime time for seeing manta rays and whale sharks.
How to get to Myanmar (Burma)
Myanmar (Burma) has two main international airports that are used by tourists, one in the former capital of Yangon (RDL) and the other in Mandalay (MDL). (There are also an international airport in the remote capital of Naypyidaw (NYT).) There are a number of domestic airports, including in Kawthaung (KAW) and Myeik (MGZ). Whilst overland journeys are possible to reach the Tanintharyi Region (home to the Mergui Archipelago) from Yangon and Mandalay, it is much easier and time effective to take an internal flight.
Because of the location of the Mergui Archipelago in the country’s deep south, and the comparative infrastructures, some visitors find it easier to fly into Thailand before beginning their Myanmar (Burma) cruise adventure. The main international airport in Thailand is in the capital of Bangkok (BKK), though Phuket (HKT) is perhaps a more viable option for those visiting the Mergui Archipelago.
Where do Myanmar (Burma) cruises depart from?
Cruises in Myanmar (Burma) typically depart from either Kawthaung or Ranong (formerly known as Victoria Point), in the neighbouring Thailand. Kawthaung has a domestic airport, ideal for people flying internationally to Myanmar (Burma). It is also possible to fly into Thailand and cross the land border between Ranong and Kawthaung. If your cruise departs from Ranong, you will need to fly into Thailand. Thailand has a good public bus network, or you can take an internal flight on to Ranong Airport (UNN).
Myanmar (Burma) Cruise Tips
- Plan ahead to ensure you can book all connecting flights and other transfers for the dates that you need.
- Aim to arrive at the cruise departure point with at least a couple of days to spare before the cruise is scheduled to leave. This gives you time to work around any possible delays.
- If you plan on going snorkeling you may wish to take your own gear. Whilst it is provided, having your own equipment often ensures a better bit and is more comfortable.
- The Mergui Archipelago is known for its fascinating wildlife. A high-powered zoom lens will help you to photograph distant creatures. With the abundance of creatures that live under the water, an underwater camera or GoPro can be great if you ill be enjoying snorkeling or diving.
- Avid bird spotters will benefit from taking binoculars on their Myanmar (Burma) cruise.
- With different cruise itineraries offering a range of activities, with some focusing more on wildlife and nature and others including more cultural interactions, make sure that you research your options and choose the trip that best matches with your interests and expectations.
- Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit, sunglasses, sun cream, insect repellent, a cap, and clothes that are suitable for a hot climate. You should also ensure that you have at least one warm set of clothing, especially for evenings during the cool season. Long pants and sleeves can be a blessing if the mosquitoes are being particularly irksome.
- Planning to spend a lot of time exploring the islands and trekking? Remember to take your hiking boots / shoes!
- It can be difficult to find ATMs outside of the main cities in Myanmar (Burma), and the rates for exchanging currency can be high (and, that’s if you can find a money changer). The easiest currency to change is USD, though do be aware that notes should be in pristine condition and that some serial numbers are not accepted. Ensure that you change plenty of funds into the local currency as soon as you arrive. The currency in Myanmar (Burma)is called the kyat (MMK). A highly regulated currency, it cannot be bought outside of the country. Travellers’ cheques are almost unheard of in the country.
- Discuss vaccination recommendations and make appointments in plenty of time before your trip.
- Don’t leave sorting your visa for Myanmar (Burma) until the last minute. If you work in the journalism field, or other related areas, and note this on your application form, visas can be more difficult to obtain. Make sure that you also arrange your visiting permits for the Mergui Archipelago in plenty of time.
Call our reservations team to book your next adventure cruise to Myanmar.