Australian travel photographer Dave Tacon took some gorgeous images during his trip aboard our yacht SY Meta IV and he has kindly given us permission to share them with you. We love those pictures as they truly capture the beauty of the Mergui Archipelago and the dreamy sensation of sailing on a traditional wooden boat. Take a look for yourself!
We still have a few cabins available before this sailing season comes to an end and we're offering them at a special rate: Book last-minute and join our 5-night/6-day Mergui Sailing Adventure with a 15 percent discount if you are one who can make a fast decision.
We are soon to set sail for an exploratory trip to the Andamans and we're very excited about this! 1200 km from mainland India and 700 km from Thailand, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are one of the most remote spots on the planet. The original inhabitants are various aboriginal tribes who exist more or less secluded from the rest of the world. Some of the 600+ islands that form the archipelago are home to populations whose contact is limited to sightings from the rare passing yacht.
In India's popular consciousness, the islands are mainly known as a former penal colony during British rule where rebels and freedom fighters as well as hardened criminals were imprisoned. Most of the inhabitants of these islands are in fact migrants from the mainland, some of them descended from the prisoners.
During World War II, the Andamans were the only part of India briefly occupied by the Japanese. While notionally handed over to Subhash Chandra Bose's Free India, in practice the Japanese held the reins of power. The territory was run brutally — suspected resistance members were tortured and executed, and when food started to run out towards the end of the war, people were deported to uninhabited islands to fend for themselves as best they could.
This is the plan: We'll leave from Ranong (Thailand) on March 20 aboard our new catamaran SY Meltemi. After two and a half days of sailing and about 450 nautical miles we will reach Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. We will spend the next 6-7 days exploring the islands, snorkelling, diving and getting to know the region before we head back and reach Thailand again on April 1st.
This is an exploratory trip and our first cruise to the Andamans, so there is no fixed itinerary and not much more we can say right now - except this: We have one cabin left for this adventure! The charter rate will be about EUR 2,500 per person.
If you would like to join, please send an email to co-founder Janis Vougioukas (firstname.lastname@example.org) or fill the form below.
Many of our guests have never been on a yacht before. As a trip on a sailing yacht is very different to a stay in a hotel or on a cruise liner, we asked Myanmar's famous cartoonist Kyaw Thu Yein to help us explain.
Most sailing yachts have a strict shoes-off policy. Sand and street dirt can destroy the wooden decks and little stones are unpleasant to sit or lie on.
A yacht has to carry its fresh water supplies, which are limited. Some larger boats have water makers which turn sea water to fresh water. However this process requires a lot of energy, so we ask our guests to keep showers short.
The sea is our world and we like to keep it clean.
There is no need to be shy if you have a question, the crew members are happy to help where they can.
Paper and rubbish can easily block the toilets and wastewater tanks on a yacht. In the Mediterranean, many yacht charter companies have to ask their guests to avoid eating olives - the small stones can break the pumps (not sure why some people seem to swallow them).
It is good etiquette to save electricity and to switch off fans, lights and the air-conditioning when not needed. Yachts generate power with their engine or generator but most sailors like to avoid the extra noise.
Fires are extremely dangerous aboard a yacht. For that reason and out of respect for other guests, smoking is only permitted in certain areas on deck.
Sailing looks more difficult than it is. Try it out, your crew will be happy to explain if you ask.
... not only to protect the equipment, but solar panels can also be quite slippery.
Keep in mind that a sailing boat plays with the wind. And the wind plays games with you if you don't use enough pegs.
Salt water in closed environments can cause an unpleasant smell, so please don't wear wet swimming clothes inside the yacht.
Tipping your yacht's crew at the end of the trip is common practice if you were happy with their service. We usually recommend a tip of USD 10 per day and per guest for cabin charters.
The cartoons are published in the leaflet "Life on a Yacht" which is part of the information material our guests find in their cabins.
APEX Airlines is one of Myanmar's youngest airlines, having just received its license to operate in 2015. APEX is based in Yangon and specialises in serving Myanmar's south with daily or twice-daily flights between Yangon and Kawthaung.
APEX flies the European aircraft ATR72-600 and we are happy that the airline provides another option to reach Kawthaung.
The schooner SY Sunshine is the third 'sister' built to the design drawn up by the famous naval architect William Fife Jun. in 1900. The original Sunshine (1900) - and its first sister ship "Asthore" (1902) - were built by the Fifes at their yard in Fairlie. Both vessls changed names several times, with Asthore also being called Sunshine for a long while. The original Sunshine was built for a local gentleman, Glen F. McAndrew of Largs Castle in Scotland, whose house was close by the Fairlie yard. In 1906 she was in the possession of the Portuguese Royal family, during which time she was called "Maris Stellis". These schooners were predecessors of the legendary yachts "Susanne" and "Cicely".
In 1901, Yachting World published an article about the launch of the schooner Sunshine:
"She was designed by William Fife Jun. and while intended for a cruiser, she looks, with her long overhangs, small but powerful underwater body, strong and well turned bilge, and extremely roomy deck, every inch a modern racer. While Sunshine is not exactly like any boat ever designed by Mr. Fife, in the absence of a drawing it will give a pretty fair idea of her to say that she is an enlarged and improved edition of those pretty and speedy little schooners Helen and Geisha , which were built at Fairlie a few years ago. Sunshine is a very handsome boat and cannot fail to be a speedy one."
Construction of the reborn Sunshine began in late 1999. She was launched in 2003 and then shifted to the fitting-out-berth. In October 2004, the Myanmar Shipyards officially handed her over at a gracious ceremony fit for a super tanker and away she sailed for a maiden cruise through the spectacular uninhabited islands of the Mergui Archipelago and on towards Phuket, Thailand.
Her hull is Dutch marine grade A steel, and she has been built under the strict supervision of a Lloyd's surveyor, to Lloyd's SSC plan approval. Yangon was chosen for the build as the facility at Myanmar Shipyards is highly suited to the job. In Myanmar, one can still find building and handicraft techniques that are as close as it gets to the skills originally employed in the Scotland of the early 20th century.
Although there are many survivors in the cutter category, few classic schooners still exist today, and Sunshine was built with that thought in mind. It was probably in the early 1900s when the design of sailing ships and yachts were at the height of their evolution, just before steam and diesel engines and racing rating rules began to interfere with the purity of their original function and beauty. Looking into the future, it is likely that there will be a reduction in the numbers of original vessels, due to the high and ever increasing costs of maintaining these rare remaining vessels.
Read more about Sunshine.
We're excited to announce that SY Capricorn will be joining the Burma Boating family in the coming year. The beautiful classic gulet will set sail from Thailand in the coming days. Capricorn is not yet listed as part of our fleet on our website, but here is a 3D sneak preview tour for you.
Capricorn is available for both private charters and our 5-night cabin charters in Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago.
6 days sailing round the Myeik Archipelago on this boat has been out of this world. We've been so lucky to step foot on some of the incredible protected islands seeing them in their raw natural beauty. Massive thanks to the amazing crew from @burmaboating for looking after us and making our adventure so special! #sailing #Myanmar #adventure #islandhopping #burmaboating #escape #holiday #boatlife
The Tinidee Hotel is an institution in Ranong, a large and well-established hotel with decent rooms, well-trained staff and quality service. The hotel offers a pool, a spa as well as a gym and yoga classes. Located right in the city center, it's a great base to explore Ranong and the surrounding area.
Burma Boating has a cooperation with the Tinidee Hotel. If you have to wait for flight connections before or after your trip, you can spend a few hours in the hotel, leave your luggage there and use the facilities and services at a rate especially discounted for Burma Boating's guests. Guests arriving via Ranong Airport will be brought to the hotel to freshen up and recharge. We will pick you up and bring you to the yacht just in tome for boarding.
Rooms are about THB 1,500-2,000 or about USD 40-50.
It's a common saying that we always want what we don't have; for Suchet, this was the ocean.
Along with his nine brothers and four sisters, Suchet was born and raised high up in the Thai mountains, as far from the ocean as you can imagine. He didn’t have electricity or warm water, only lanterns and cold showers.
His house was isolated, no neighbours within shouting distance, and no town within reach. His family was poor and could hardly afford primary school education for their children. Most of the time they lived off the land – even their medicine came from the land, a lesson Suchet would remember later in life.
At the young age of fifteen, he had his first taste of ocean life. As a reference from his sister's boyfriend, Suchet was given his first job working as a deckhand on a longtail fishing boat that left every morning and returned at night with the day's catch. But this didn't last too long.
Suchet was conscripted into the army. Once he had completed his service three years later, he returned to the ocean where he found work on a ferry. Little did he know that this was the beginning of a new life. One certification after another, he finally obtained his Captain's license.
At the age of twenty-seven, Suchet became the captain of a large oil tanker; a few years later he was captain of a drilling ship. At some point, an old friend appeared and introduced him to the world of leisure cruising. At that stage, Suchet was thirty-eight years old.
As life was settling down for Suchet, Thailand experienced political upheavals. While angry mobs rioted, Suchet found himself back on land, helping those sick and injured from the fighting working as a doctor with his knowledge of traditional medicine.
And then he met the crew of Meta IV. He joined us immediately as a first mate and worked his way up to finally become our flagship's Captain.
Suchet has now been with Burma Boating for two seasons. When asked what he likes most, Sushet says, “I love the ocean, I like things that are peaceful and simple. I enjoy the fresh seafood, the ease of finding food in the ocean, and more than anything, I enjoy bringing guests out onto the boat, and seeing their joy."
Suchet is a man of few words, but he has experienced much and has faced what many have not. Ultimately he has been able to achieve what he had dreamed of since he was a little boy: a life at sea.
British photographer Cat Vinton spent weeks on a kabang boat, documenting the life of a Moken family on the Andaman Sea. Here she talks about this fascinating project and shows us some of her amazing photos.
In 2009 I lived with a remote, self-sufficient nomadic people whose warmth and openness allowed me to capture a fast-disappearing way of life. Equipped with sufficient Moken to communicate, I lived with Tat and Sabai, on their Kabang with their three young boys for several weeks. I was witness to some of the last years of nomadic Moken existence, a sustainable way of life that is in complete harmony with the rhythm of the sea.
The Surin Islands, to the south of the Mergui Archipelago in the Andaman Sea are home to the last, elusive Moken, who have lived as hunter-gatherers among these isolated Islands for centuries. They’re born to live - on single-log sailboats known as kabang - and die at sea. The ocean is their home and goes beyond a means of transportation or a food bank.
The Moken can hold their breath underwater and free dive deeper than almost any other people on earth; they learn to swim before they walk; they have no notion or measure of time; they don’t know their own age; they have no concept of worry, and no word for want nor goodbye.
Tat could read the water, and wielding his spear from the bow of his kabang he rarely missed a beat. He bequeathed life skills to his sons, drafting illustrations in the sand, teaching them to dive for fish, to sail and make a roof with the rainforest plants for their kabang. The turquoise water and pristine beaches were the playground for the three young boys growing up as nomadic Moken, as generations had before. Sabai gathered shellfish from the rocks, sea cucumbers from the bed, dug for lobsters and sandworms and trepanned for wild yams in the ‘fridges’ of the rainforest. At night, the singsong of Moken voices would echo across the moonlit sea. They were truly content here on their Kabang, the life they knew.
The Moken people have always tried to hide from outsiders, disappearing from view if any stranger came near. Today, the Moken have no place to hide: over the past few years it has became more difficult for the dwindling numbers of nomadic Moken still clinging to their wandering way of life. Mass fishing and aggressive assimilation policies have firmly pointed them towards land, rendering them stateless. The flotillas are no more as authorities have compromised their freedom, culture and natural disposition, replacing it with dependency and isolation. Tat and Sabai held out the longest, as the very last of the sea nomads.
In late 2014 I returned to find them. Their way of life has changed dramatically from what I had been lucky enough to witness. The family now lives on Au Bon Yai, a village perched on the edge of the rainforest. Sabai’s sight has failed so she rarely leaves the hut, and the boys are now pursuing a more conventional island education. Baba, the eldest, excels in class but keeps the ‘old ways’ alive, leading his school friends on fishing missions in between lessons. This is what the next generation of Moken looks like, for now, but I fear the world is becoming impoverished with the loss of another unique culture.
With his distinctive English accent, many people think Evan is from the UK. In fact, he was born in a small village in the Irrawaddy delta, close to Yangon, which at that time was still Myanmar's capital. The village had about 200 houses and his parents were rice farmers, just as everyone else in the area. Evan was a bright kid and managed to find his way to high-school in Yangon.
He was 18 and looking for a job, when his roommate introduced him to Peter. Evan had seen foreigners before: His village was Christian, and once a group of Jehovah's Witnesses passed through. He had never spoken to foreigners. But that day the doorbell rang and Peter stood outside. Peter had started building his yacht Sunshine in Yangon a few months earlier. It was the time of constant power cuts, Myanmar was almost completely disconnected from the rest of the world, but a bit of the old colonial charm was still alive. Peter remembers his first encounter with Evan like this: "I went to his home and his roommate Joshua opened the door. There was a tiny and shy boy hiding behind Joshua. He didn't speak a word, but Joshua convinced me to hire him."
A few days later, Evan started his work in the shipyard. At that time, the generals didn't allow foreigners the use of walkie-talkies. The project's office was a 10-minute walk away from the workshop, so Evan's first job was to run from the office to the boat and back to report what was going on. He stayed until Sunshine was launched in 2003.
"I had no idea what to expect, so I expected nothing", Evan says. "I had never been to the beach, never seen the sea, never seen a sailing boat - Sunshine was the first boat I ever stepped onto." But that day was his introduction to sailing.
A few months later Sunshine went on her first big voyage to France. After three months at sea, the yacht and the crew arrived in the French port of Cannes. The city was just hosting its annual film festival, the port and the surrounding waters were full of huge super yachts. "We had never seen any boats like that and we asked, what kind of strange-looking fishing boats they were."
Evan has been on Sunshine ever since. "Sailing is now so much a part of me, I couldn't even imagine to stop", he says. On board, he's the first mate, in charge of navigation and steering.
Click here to read more about Sunshine and her history.
Meltemi is named after a wind in the Mediterranean Sea. She is our first catamaran: a French-built Lagoon 500, one of the most successful yachts ever designed for high-end charter.
Meltemi is easy to sail, all winches are electric and can be fully controlled from the large flybridge. She's a great yacht for groups of friends or families and there is lots of space to play or lounge. When under sail, most guests just love to lie in the nets at the bow with the water splashing below.
There is one marine national park in Myanmar and it’s right in the centre of our sailing area.
With over 200 sq km in size, Lampi is the largest island in the southern part of the Mergui Archipelago. It rises almost 500 meters above sea level and is home to more than a thousand species of animals, plants and marine life, many of which are rare and protected.
Because of its important biodiversity, the national park was declared an ASEAN Heritage Park. Lampi Island is covered by tropical lowland wet evergreen forest in the interior, mangrove forest along rivers and fresh-water sources, and beach and dune forest along the coast. Other major habitat types are coral reefs, seagrass, freshwater streams and swamps. The main island of Lampi has two major perennial rivers and many small seasonal streams. Fresh-water resources are abundant. The variety of habitats supports a high diversity of both terrestrial and marine resources.
The nature conservation society Oikos has published a study on Myanmar’s national parks, which contains an in-depth survey of Lampi Island Marine National Park and its ecology with detailed lists of its wildlife and overviews of threatened animals in the park. This survey is the most valuable resource available on the Mergui Archipelago’s ecology.
Oikos is the the major conservation organisation involved with the Mergui Archipelago and, together with Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, has long been working on a plan to implement regulations to protect the region and to manage the national park.
At Burma Boating, we are proud to be partners of Oikos in their effort to find the best solutions to protect the Mergui Archipelago and its unique national park.
We were sailing along the coast of Sumatra and were joined by a group of at least eight large dolphins. They had lots of fun playing in our bow wave -- and we loved their company.
We're on our way, right now, bringing another new yacht to join our little fleet in Burma: it's a surprise! More news in the coming days!