Scuba diving in the Mergui Archipelago
Scuba diving in the Mergui Archipelago
Scuba diving in the Mergui Archipelago, you will be located in the southerly Tanintharyi Region of Myanmar. Mergui Archipelago scuba diving entails more than 800 islands in the Andaman Sea, all along the western shores of the Malay Peninsula.
Diving in the Mergui Archipelago, you will find mostly limestone and granite formations. The islands have remained isolated from any form of human influence, including scuba diving, and provide some of the best dive sites in Myanmar.
Marine life in the Mergui Archipelago
Much of the Mergui Archipelago has yet to be explored, allowing for some scope to be surprised in terms of what there is to see. What we do know is that whale sharks and manta rays visit quite frequently to these islands, especially during the months of February and May. However, in addition, orcas and the infamous bull sharks have also been spotted patrolling the Mergui Archipelago. Bull sharks are one of the most aggressive species of shark, with a bite more powerful than that of a great white shark. Even so, they are totally uninterested in scuba divers, but that certainly doesnít stop the adrenaline pumping when you see one!
Further adding to the incredible species diversity of the Mergui islands, you are quite likely to see oceanic whitetip sharks, nurse sharks, heaps of squirrelfish and schools of snapper while scuba diving. Giant trevally are not an uncommon sighting and beautifully mottled titan triggerfish are fairly prevalent as well. The isolation of these islands has attracted and persevered a great number of species, creating an ideal scuba diving location.
Best dive sites in the Mergui Archipelago
Black Rock is a very narrow island. The steep walls on either side lend themselves to be fantastic drift dives. Whitetip, blacktip, grey, silvertip and leopard sharks are all present here, including mobula rays. To the south you will find enormous granite boulders lining the slopes, encrusted with anemones and purple soft corals. Delicate feather stars and spanning gorgonian sea fans are also widespread. To the east, where there is greater exposure to currents, you will see a change in scenery and species. The depth is shallower, and while scuba diving here you are more likely to find critters, such as mantis shrimp and hermit crabs.
Roughly 25 km from Kawthaung on the southernmost region of Myanmar is High Rock. To the north and east of this site you will be scuba diving on steep walls, and to the south and west, a rocky reef. Fish density here is high, with countless schools of trevally, fusiliers, glassfish and snapper. Large shoals of barracuda are also common, while it is possible to see several species of moray eel, including the white-eyed and giant eels. Old fishing nets have clung to parts of this dive site and are now entwined with coral growth. Very often you will find seahorses on this net, although please note that it may also pose a hazard to divers.
Best time to dive in the Mergui Archipelago
Scuba diving is possible from October until May, but the best season to go diving in the Mergui Archipelago is from December until April when seas are at their calmest and skies clearest. Large pelagic species like the whale shark and manta rays are at their highest frequency during February and May, when the warmer sea temperatures trigger plankton blooms. The sea temperatures are at their warmest, a toasty 86°Fahrenheit (30°C), towards April and May, and are still pretty toasty at their lowest of 81 Fahrenheit (27°C), in October.
Experience level for diving the Mergui Archipelago
Many of these sites are subject to very strong currents, and occasionally the seas can be rough. However, the currents are not only strong, but they are known to shift rapidly and occasionally pull downwards. It is highly recommended to dive close to the walls, and not venture far beyond drop-offs. Therefore, most liveaboards that sail here will require some form evidence to suggest you are at least an intermediate diver (usually 50 or more logged dives, or certifications requiring a certain number of dives).
How do I get to the Mergui Archipelago
If choosing a Myanmar liveaboard to venture to the Mergui Archipelago, they will usually depart from Khao Lak, Ranong or Phuket. These days, they are relatively straight forward to reach. A growing number of direct international flights are now available to Phuket International Airport, although some long-haul flights will require a connection. Most connections will be via Bangkok, but may also be made through Hong Kong, Moscow, Singapore, United Arab Emirates or Sydney.
For liveaboards departing from Khao Lak, a further 100 km drive will be needed having first landed in Phuket. Liveaboards often arrange transportation on your behalf directly from the airport, and it is also possible to rent a car, or catch a bus, depending on your requirements. The journey is usually less than 2 hours, and follows a scenic coastal road along Highway 402, merging into Highway 4.