Snorkeling in Myanmar (Burma)
Snorkeling in Myanmar (Burma)
Snorkeling in Myanmar is still a relatively new phenomenon with the country only becoming a holiday destination in recent years. This is great news for anyone who wants to go snorkeling in Myanmar, as the low volume of traffic means the reefs are still in pristine condition with plenty of life even in shallow waters. The islets in areas such as Mergui Archipelago, where some of the best reefs can be found are simply beautiful. Sweeping white sand beaches lined with tropical rainforest are the perfect setting for anyone who comes to Myanmar snorkeling.
Some of the best snorkel sites in Myanmar are located in the south archipelago of Mergui and the nearby Burma Banks. These islands were opened to tourists in the 1990's after the civil war was over. The archipelago is still very remote and off the beaten track, the perfect place if you don't want to share the water with too many other snorkelers. If you are lucky you might even, see some of the local Moken people at some snorkel spots. These fascinating people live most of the year on the sea, earning themselves the nickname of 'sea gypsies'.
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Marine Life in Myanmar
The reefs on the islands in Myanmar are rock and sand with fantastic hard and soft corals all over them. There are plenty of sea fans and sponges as well as coral bommies and anemones on the reefs and plateaus. Giant clams can be found all over as well, their colourful lips make them easy to spot and they make a great photography subject too. A snorkel trip to Myanmar offers the chance to tick a lot of reef fish off your list as well.
Lionfish can be spotted hiding between rocks or in small arches in the reef as well as shoals of damselfish and snappers. Colourful angelfish are a beautiful sight working away grazing on the coral reefs and you will find the anemone are home to lots of clownfish. It is easy to spend a while just watching clownfish darting in and out of their anemone homes protecting it from other fish.
In many of the snorkel spots there is also a chance you will see some bigger creatures as well. Lucky snorkelers might spot an eagle ray and even reef sharks. Lobsters and moray eels can also be spotted in a few meters of water, poking out from holes in the reef. Those with a keen eye might catch a glimpse of an octopus or cuttlefish too. These cephalopods can be seen moving across the corals changing their colouring to disguise themselves. Pelagic animals like mantas and whalesharks are rarer sights while snorkeling but it is not unheard of, especially in the Burma Banks area.
Best Snorkel Sites in Myanmar
A snorkel trip to Myanmar will normally take in the Mergui Islands, where some of the best snorkel spots are just steps from the beach. Island 115, which is much more inspiring than its name, offers snorkelers the chance to step off the white sand beach and onto a beautiful coral reef. You will see lots of anemones swaying in the gentle surge and keep an eye out for territorial clownfish defending their beloved anemone houses. Island 115 is also well known for the large shoals of damselfish, bluestripped snapper and colourful angelfish. You might also spot the occasional lionfish hanging out amongst rocks in the reef.
One of the best snorkel sites in Myanmar is however not accessible from the beach, but only from a boat. The island of Cocks Comb offers a unique experience for snorkelers. In the middle of the rocky island there is a beautiful heart shaped salt water lake. Snorkel trips drop you off at the coast and you can swim through one of the archways into the lake, mind your head! The water is beautifully clear and only a few meters deep in places. Close to the larger archway there is a huge coral plateau full of anemone with their resident clownfish, Spanish dancers and plenty of sea fans and hard corals.
Burma Banks, which is close to the Mergui archipelago, is another top spot to visit on a snorkel trip to Myanmar. The area is a set of underwater banks of various depths and it is very famous for the variety of marine life you can find here. In addition to plenty of reef fish there are larger creatures such as reef sharks, mobula rays and big barracudas for snorkelers to spot over the reefs.
Best Time to Snorkel in Myanmar
The best time to take a snorkel trip to Myanmar is from October until May in the dry season. The best time for mantas and whalesharks is in the Spring in April and May so head to Mergui and Burma Banks then to increase your chances.
How do I get to Myanmar
The Mergui archipelago and Burma Banks is still fairly restricted to foreigners. A permit is required to visit the area if you arrive by bus to Beik, the main port town. There are a few basic guest houses in the port but it is not possible to stay on the islands that have the best snorkel sites. One of the easiest and most comfortable options is to take a liveaboard boat from Thailand that visits the archipelago. Most of these will depart from Khao Lak near Phuket and spend several days travelling to Myanmar via the Similian islands.