Mergui

Gallery: A Breathtaking Trip Through the Mergui Archipelago by Photographer David Van Driessche

Bangkok-based photographer David Van Driessche recently visited the Mergui Archipelago and came back with these magical images of his trip to Myanmar's forgotten island paradise. Click the images to enlarge. 

Burma Boating_photo of photographer David waterfall background.jpeg

David (Dennis) Van Driessche hails from Belgium, where he combined his passion for tourism, photography and film by studying those subjects at university and started his career in the tourism industry in the early 90s. He has combined travel with photography ever since and has photographed destinations and hotels all over the world. In 2003, he made Bangkok his home, where he started a travel agency focusing on photography tours. He has photographed leading hotels and boutique resorts in Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, China and across Europe. www.davidvandriessche.com

Cat Vinton: The Life of the Moken "Sea Gypsies"

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. 

 Tat wielding his spear from the bow of his kabang

Tat wielding his spear from the bow of his kabang

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. 

  Cafwai playing in the turquoise waters

Cafwai playing in the turquoise waters

  Tat and the boys

Tat and the boys

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 burning the hull of his kabang to waterproof the boat

Tat burning the hull of his kabang to waterproof the boat

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. 

  Most Moken children can swim before they learn how to walk

Most Moken children can swim before they learn how to walk

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. 

  Cooking the family dinner

Cooking the family dinner

  Sabai and the boys

Sabai and the boys

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. 

  Au Bon Yai - the Moken village perched on the edge of the rainforest

Au Bon Yai - the Moken village perched on the edge of the rainforest

 Tat puts a new roof on his kabang

Tat puts a new roof on his kabang

Lampi Island Marine National Park

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. 

 Lampi Marine National Park General Management Plan by Istituto Oikos

Lampi Marine National Park General Management Plan by Istituto Oikos

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.

Have a look at the new website of Lampi Island Marine National Park! And if you are interested in visiting the national park and the Mergui Archipelago, just let us know.

10 Unique Animals in Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago

Watching wildlife is one of the great joys of cruising through the Mergui Archipelago. Myanmar is the most biologically diverse country in mainland Southeast Asia and our sailing area is home to countless wonderful animals, many of which are endangered.

Below are some of the most rare and unique mammal and bird species you can discover in the region.

Top 5 Most Unique Mammals in the Mergui Archipelago

1. The Dusky Langur

This little langur is also called Spectacled Leaf Monkey because of the white rings around his eyes. He lives in the archipelago’s dense forests and in groups of up to 20 animals, with mostly one dominant male and his harem and offspring.

As Leaf Monkeys are very territorial, you can sometimes hear their loud shouting when they defend their territory from other langurs or predators. They spend the largest part of the day in the canopy, where they crawl along the branches on all fours, although they can also jump well from tree to tree. They are diurnal and most active in the early mornings and the afternoon.
Conservation status: near threatened

2. The Dugong

This peaceful creature belongs to a very small family of marine mammals, which amazingly is most closely related to elephants. Dugongs stay near the coast where they like to graze the seaweed beds of wide and shallow protected bays, mangrove channels and the leeward side of islands. 

An adult usually grows to an imposing 3-4 metres and weighs around half a ton or more. By the way, the name dugong originally derives from the Malay term "duyung", which means "lady of the sea". 
Conservation status: vulnerable

3. The Sunda Pangolin

The Sunda Pangolin, also known as the Scaly Anteater, feeds only on ants and termites which it detects with its incredible sense of smell and eats with its long, sticky tongue.

This unique animal is very rare now but if you see a big hole dug into the forest ground on one of the islands, chances are it was a pangolin: it has powerful claws with which it digs into the soil hunting for ant nests or to tear into termite mounds. Pangolins eat around 200,000 ants or termites every day!

The pangolin's body is covered with thick scales. But as his belly is unprotected and soft, he rolls into a ball when he feels threatened.

Despite all the ground-digging, pangolins are great climbers and spend most of their days on trees or, more accurately, resting in tree holes.
Conservation status: critically endangered

4. The Oriental Small-clawed Otter

Of all otter species, this is the smallest and most unusual. Oriental Small-clawed Otters live in mangrove swamps but unlike other otters, this one spends most of his time on land. Fortunately, they can still be seen frequently in the Mergui Archipelago.

These charming animals are very playful and live in small families of one monogamous couple and their young ones, whereby the older offspring help rear the youngest. Also unlike other otters, their paws are almost not webbed, which gives them a high degree of manual dexterity, which again makes them the only otters that catch their prey with their paws instead of with their mouth. 
Conservation status: vulnerable

5. The Lesser Mouse-deer

This is the only mammal that is endemic to the Mergui Archipelago: Tragulus kanchil lampensis (named after Lampi Island) is the world's smallest hoofed animal, with a mature size and weight of only 45 cm and 2 kg. Mouse-deer lack horns but have elongated canine teeth that project out on either side of the lower jaw of males and are used in fights. Their legs are short and thin, which helps when running through the dense foliage of the island forest.

Fortunately, the Lesser Mouse-deer is still abundant on Lampi Island but together with wild boar, civet cats and large lizards it is the most hunted animal on the islands of the Mergui Archipelago.

Odd fact: some scientists believe that mouse-deer were the ancestors of whales and dolphins. The reason is that mouse-deer have been around since the Oligocene 34 million years ago (and haven't evolved much since) and some mouse-deer species dive into the water when threatened, where they stay under the surface for up to 4 minutes.
Conservation status: least concern

Top 5 Most Unique Birds in the Mergui Archipelago

1. The Plain-pouched Hornbill

A threatened species, the plain-pouched hornbill (Rhyticeros subruficollis) luckily still thrives in Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago. We can see them there frequently flying about in beautiful, large flocks.

It is only found in forests in and along the Tenasserim Hills snaking down the Malay Peninsula and it used to be the most common hornbill in the Mergui Archipelago. 
Conservation status: vulnerable

2. Wallace's Hawk-eagle

There are bigger and more majestic eagle species in the Mergui Archipelago: the White-bellied Sea Eagle, the Grey-headed Fish Eagle or the Crested Serpent-eagle. But this one is our favourite. Wallace's Hawk-eagle is one of the smallest eagles in the world. At about 46 cm long it is just the size of a falcon. But it is a rare feat to see this elegant and beautiful bird. 
Conservation status: vulnerable

3. The Crested Partridge

We love the Crested Partridge (Rollulus rouloul) for its stunning plumage. This fellow here is a male but the female has equally beautiful, olive-green plumage, with chestnut-brown scapulars and wings. Her head is slate-grey. 

Their nest is scraped ground and hidden under a pile of leaf litter. The crested partridge is usually seen singly or in pairs as it uses its feet to probe the forest floor for fruit, seeds and invertebrates. When disturbed, it prefers to run but if necessary it can fly short distances on its rounded wings.
Conservation status: near threatened

4. The Red-throated Sunbird

Sunbirds are the hummingbirds of the Old World: brightly-coloured flying gems living on nectar and pollen. There are 132 sunbird species in total but the Red-throated Sunbird is probably the rarest of them all. We are very happy that the Mergui Archipelago is still home to these special birds.

If your are very lucky you may see one foraging in the canopy. The nest is made of matted plant fibres and is suspended 9-20 m above the ground on a cord from a tree at the edge of a clearing. Only one egg is laid each year. Other than that one knows next to nothing about this beautiful bird.
Conservation status: near threatened

5. The Brown-winged Kingfisher

The Brown-winged Kingfisher’s plumage has the most striking colour combination (somewhat reminiscent of the 70s). With 35 cm length he is pretty large. His habitat is coastal, where he prefers mangroves, tidal forest, mudflats, estuaries and brackish creeks. 

Prey are partly fish and mainly crabs, which he hunts from mangrove branches or roots by flying down low to land on the mud and rapidly seize the prey. He can be found all around the Bay of Bengal but is now considered near threatened.
Conservation status: near threatened

For the most recent survey on animals and the ecological diversity of the Mergui Archipelago, have a look at this study by Istituto Oikos

Have a look at our Pinterest page to discover Myanmar's wildlife with us.
 

10 Beautiful Ancient Maps and Charts of Myanmar

Sailing the oceans of the world used to be a dangerous adventure, as the captains often only had a rough idea where their journey would take them. Without GPS and modern navigation, they had to rely on the stars and the stories they heard to find their route. At Burma Boating, we love ancient maps as they tell the stories of the seas' early explorers and their journeys into the unknown. Here are some of our favourite maps and charts of Myanmar, formerly known as Pegu. 

Detailed regional map of the region from India, Tibet and China to the Gulf of Siam and the Gulf of Bengal, showing the travels of Sir William Methold to the Diamond mines of Golconda, the first European to visit the Diamond mines. The first account of this journey appears in Samuel Purchas' His Pilgrimes, in book 5, published in 1625. It includes decorative cartouche and vignette.

The map shown here was used by Vander Aa to illustrate a Dutch translation of William Methold's travels in the region. In total, Vander Aa issued 130 translations of important 15th, 16th and 17th Century Travel Narratives to the Americas, Africa and Asia, which were issued in 28 volumes in the early part of the 18th Century. Many of the narratives are either unobtainable or extremely rare in their original formats. This is a striking, full color example of this beautifully engraved map. Source: Antique Maps

Detailed regional map of the mouth of the Ganges and neighboring regions in the Bay of Bengal, illustrating the narrative of Nino da Cunha.

Includes decorative cartouche and vignette. Vander Aa was one of the most prolific compiler's of early voyages of travel and exploration from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. His maps illustrate regions for which there were often no contemporary maps or for which only manuscript maps survived to illustrate these often very rare narratives. Gorgeous example in full color. Source: Antique Maps

Detailed pair of maps, first published by Nicolas Sanson, probably in 1657 in Paris. The map on the left shows the region bordered by the Gulf of Bengal in the West, Southern China and the Gulf of Siam. The map on the right extends from Pegu (Bago, Myanmar) and the Gulf of Siam in the north, to Singapore and the northern part of Sumatra in the south. Source: Antique Maps

A beautiful full-color example of Ortelius' map of Asia, from Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern world atlas. Includes sailing ships and other embellishments.

The map is based upon Ortelius's wall map of Asia, which in turn draws its cartographic data from Gastaldi and Albufeda. This is an example of the second edition of Ortelius's map of Asia, the first having been published between 1570 and 1573. The first edition can be distinguished by the upper case "F" in Farfana at the top right corner, east of Japan, whereas the second edition (1574-1612) has a lower case "f". Source: Antique Maps

First state of Robert Dudley's rare sea chart of India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, northwestern Sumatra, the Andaman Islands, the Nicobar Islands and a part of Pegu (Myanmar).

The chart is elegantly engraved by Antonio Francesco Lucini with a Baroque dolphin motif at the cartouche and with the place names "L'India Orientale", "Asia" and "Coromandell" at the east coast of the continent. The coast line of the continent is punctuated with numerous water courses, creating a lace-like effect.

The chart appeared in Dudley's Arcano del Mare, one of the rarest and most highly sought-after sea atlases of the 17th Century. Dudley, an Englishman, produced this equisite work while living in Florence. Dudley, who was believed to have received some of his information directly from Sir Francis Drake, laboured for decades before finally releasing the first edition of this work when he was 73 years old. Dudley's atlas is of the utmost importance, being the first sea atlas published by an Englishman and the first sea atlas to treat the entire world (not just Europe). It is also the first atlas to utilise the mercator projection on a uniform basis and included significant advances in "Great Circle" navigation (shortest circle around the Globe).  Its inclusion of winds and currents was also a monumental first. Completed in manuscript form in 1636, it is among the most important works in the history of European cartography.

Robert Dudley (1574 – 1649) was the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. In 1594, Dudley led an expedition to the West Indies, of which he wrote an account. In 1605, he tried unsuccessfully to establish his legitimacy in court. After that he left England and converted to Catholicism, taking up residence in Florence where he served the Grand Dukes of Tuscany in their efforts to rid the Mediterranean of piracy. There he worked as a noted shipbuilder and designed and published Dell'Arcano del Mare, the first maritime atlas to cover the whole world. He was also a skilled navigator, mathematician and engineer. In Italy, he styled himself Earl of Warwick and Leicester as well as Duke of Northumberland.  He was a friend of Sir Francis Drake and relative of Thomas Cavendish, both of whom corresponded with Dudley and likely supplied some of the information for his atlas. Source: Antique Maps

Scarce map of Southeast Asia and India, extending from the Gulf of Bengal to Canton province, from the Italian edition of Thomas Salmon's Modern History: or, the present state of all Nations. ... entitled Lo Stato Presente... published in Venice from 1740-1762. The maps are attributed to Tirion in Amsterdam, but were engraved in Venice by Albrizzi. Source: Antique Maps

Detailed English sea chart showing the coast of the Burman Peninsula from the Bay of Bengal to the Gulf of Martaban. Details include rhumb lines, depths, and a compass rose. It includes four insets map of the Martaban River, the Arakan River, the Sirian River and the entrance of the Perseen River.

The chart appeared in The East-India Pilot, or Oriental Navigator and is based on the 1745 French "Neptune Oriental" by Jean Baptiste Nicolas Denis d'Apres de Mannevillette. The later English editions include additions by Captain Hayter, Captain John Ritchie and Captain Charles Newland. Source: Antique Maps 

A beautifully detailed and engraved map from about 1750 of Southeast Asia. Centered on the Chao Phraya River, this map covers the region from the Kingdom of Aracan to the Gulf of Tonkin and from China to the Malay Peninsula, including the modern-day nations of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, and Malaysia. Generally speaking this map represents a considerable advancement of mapping of the interior of Southeast Asia with numerous cities, fortifications, temples, and mountain ranges noted. It identifies the cities of Siam (Ayutthaya), Bangkok, Lau Chang (Luong Prabong), and Pegu. Many of the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, including Samui and the Andaman Islands are noted as well. 

Drawn by Jacques Nicolas Bellin and published as plate no. 8 in volume 9 of the 1752 French edition of Abbe Provost's L`Histoire Generale des Voyages. Bellin was one of the most important cartographers of the 18th century. With a career spanning some 50 years, Bellin is best understood as geographe de cabinet and transitional mapmaker spanning the gap between 18th and early 19th century cartographic styles. His long career as hydrographer and Ingénieur Hydrographe at the French Dépôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine resulted in hundreds of high quality nautical charts of practically everywhere in the world. A true child of the enlightenment era, Bellin's work focuses on function and accuracy tending in the process to be less decorative than the earlier 17th and 18th century cartographic work. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bellin was always careful to cite his references and his scholarly corpus consists of over 1,400 articles on geography prepared for Diderot's Encyclopedie. Bellin, despite his extraordinary success, may not have enjoyed his work, which is described as "long, unpleasant, and hard." In addition to numerous maps and charts published during his lifetime, many of Bellin's maps were updated and published posthumously. He was succeeded as Ingénieur Hydrographe by his student, also a prolific and influential cartographer, Rigobert Bonne. Source: Geographicus Rare Antique Maps

This is a scarce 1775 nautical chart or maritime map of the coast of Burma or Pegu or Myanmar. Composed by Jean-Baptiste d'Apres de Mannevillette, this map covers the Gulf of Martaban and the coast of Myanmar from the Ayeyarwady region east as far as the city of Martaban (modern day Mottama). 

The basic cartography of this map dates to Mannevillette's voyages as pilot for the Compagnie des Indies in the early 1700s. It was originally published in Paris in 1745. This may well be the 1745 edition, but it is unclear as no major changes seem to have been made between the first and second editions. In any case it was republished in 1775 in an expanded second edition of the Neptune Oriental.

The map offers rich detail including countless depth soundings, notes on the seafloor, commentary on reefs, rhumb lines, shoals, place names and a wealth of other practical information for the mariner. This chart was drawn by Jean-Baptiste d'Apres de Mannevillette for publication in the 1775 Neptune Oriental. Source: Geographicus Rare Antique Maps

An absolutely stunning and monumental 1794 wall map of Asia by Laurie and Whittle. The map covers the entire continent of Asia, including Arabia, the Indian subcontinent, and the East Indies. Laurie and Whittle derived their basic cartography from the work of French mapmaker Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville. Throughout, countless cities, caravan routes, and geographical features such as islands, undersea shoals, oases, lakes, rivers, and mountains are identified. In Siberia and East Asia the mappings of Cook, Bering (including Behring Island, where he died) and Tschirikow are much in evidence. 

This map is exceptionally interesting for its detailed work on Central Asia - a little-known and largely unmapped region at the time. The cartographer attempts to notate various historical sites throughout. For example in the Gobi desert, he identifies, albeit speculatively, the site of Karakarian or Karakorum, the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire, 'Hereabout stood the City of Karakarin or Holin, the ancient Seat of the Monguls Empire.' In a similar vein, he also identifies the ruins of various temples and palaces in Tartary. 

Southeast Asia and the East India Islands are mapped in detail based upon old Dutch maps with only speculative commentary on the interior. Kingdoms of Pegu (Burma), Siam (Thailand), Tonkin and Chochin (Vietnam) and Camboja (Cambodia) and named. Further south, the Straits of Malacca are noted, as are the Straits of Singapore. Singapore Island, though not identified, is recognisable. 

Korea or Corea is present, if misshapen, in roughly the correct location. The sea between Japan and Korea, whose name, the 'Sea of Korea,' 'East Sea,' or the 'Sea of Japan,' is here identified in favor of Korea (Gulf of Corea). Historically, Korea has used the term 'East Sea' since 59 B.C., and many books published before the Japanese annexed Korea make references to the 'East Sea' or 'Sea of Korea.' Over time, neighbouring and western countries have identified Korea's East Sea using various different terms. The St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences referred to the East Sea as 'Koreiskoe Mope' or 'Sea of Korea' in their 1745 map of Asia. Other 17th and 18th century Russian maps alternate between 'Sea of Korea' and 'Eastern Ocean.' The 18th century Russian and French explorers Adam Johan von Krusenstern and La Perouse called it the 'Sea of Japan,' a term that became popular worldwide. Nonetheless, the last official map published by the Russians name the East Sea the 'Sea of Korea.' The name is currently still a matter of historical and nationalistic dispute between the countries. 

An elaborate allegorical title cartouche in the upper left quadrant depicts a bearded, possibly Ottoman, trader with his goods, an incense burner, and a camel beneath a palm tree. This map was printed on four sheets which were then joined by the publisher. Published by Laurie and Whittle as plate nos. 26-27 in the 1797 edition of Thomas Kitchin's General Atlas. Source: Geographicus Rare Antique Maps

Stateless At Sea

Human Rights Watch just published an interesting report about the situation of the Moken "Sea Gypsies" in Thailand and Myanmar. The organisation lists numerous discriminations and other rights abuses against the Moken, sea nomads who are among the few remaining hunter-gatherer populations in Southeast Asia. Approximately 3,000 Moken live mostly on small boats within the Mergui Archipelago along Burma’s southern coast, while another 800 have settled in Thailand.

The 25-page report, “Stateless at Sea: The Moken of Burma and Thailand,” describes in words and photographs serious violations of the rights of the Moken by state authorities – particularly the Burmese navy – including extortion, bribery, arbitrary arrest, and confiscation of property. Human Rights Watch also examines tightening immigration and maritime conservation laws that threaten their freedom of movement and traditional lifestyle. Most Moken are stateless, making them extremely vulnerable to human rights abuses and depriving them of access to medical care, education, and employment opportunities.

“These sea nomads face increasing restrictions and attacks at sea, and systematic discrimination on land,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “By effectively denying them citizenship, the Thai and Burmese governments make the Moken easy targets for exploitation and other threats to their very existence.”

The Moken are listed as one of the 135 recognised “ethnic races” of Burma under the 1982 Citizenship Act, but the issuance of national ID cards to the Moken has been inconsistent, hindering their travel within Burma. The Burmese government is required to provide national ID cards to all who are entitled; to ensure that birth registration documents are issued to all Moken children; and to provide the Moken equal access to social welfare, education, health, and any other services that are being provided to other Burmese citizens. The Moken have also suffered from violent attacks and seizure of property by the Burmese navy.

Read the full report here. You can find more information about the Moken here.  

Islands: Buda Island (Nyaung Wee Island)

Buda Island, also referred to as Nyaung Wee Island, is south of Lampi and part of the Mid Group. The island is home to a small village called Makyone Galet, which is situated on its east coast and offers some fun hikes and great views across the nearby isles.

The village head proudly estimates that the islands is the home of 500 inhabitants but walking along the beach that seems to be a very optimistic estimate.

There is a scenic little house on stilts in front of the beach where local fishing boats like to refill fresh water. Some of the local fishing families will be happy to cook meals for visiting sailors and the kids are always excited to see foreign visitors. 

Islands: Bo Cho Island with Ma Kyone Galet Village

Bo Cho Island is a lush island just opposite the southeastern tip of Lampi. In the channel between the two islands lies the Moken village Ma Kyone Galet.

Many Moken (Salone) fishermen find shelter here during the rainy season and some families have made it their permanent home. Most of the Moken houses are directly at the beach, some with their stilts in the water at high tide as the families like to keep an eye on their boats at all times. 

There are about 200 houses Ma Kyone Galet with an estimated population of 850 people, which is as urban as life in the Mergui Archipelago gets. There are also a few simple shops, a school, and a small temple with a Buddha statue overlooking the bay.

Anchoring in the channel is tricky as the current is pretty strong. But there is a beautiful long beach and a fascinating and accessible mangrove forrest just around the corner on Lampi Island. 

Islands: Hlaing Gu (Cavern Island)

Hlaing Gu is a long and narrow island with a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay in the south which offers protection from the wind, lovely snorkelling and a long white stretch of sand. 

Hlaing Gu is sometimes also referred to as Cavern Island. Some of the caves on the rocky south side of the isle are right at the waterline and one can even be accessed by dinghy boat. You'll be able to see bamboo ladders on the rocks: fishermen used them to collect birds nests - a delicacy in many parts of Asia.  

There's a small trail leading to the top of the island's 270 meters-high hill with its rich wildlife, small waterfalls and rivers. Local fishermen sometimes collect fresh water here to fill up their water tanks. 

Islands: Poni

Poni is a middle-sized island, a few miles away from the southeastern tip of Lampi Island. Poni is covered with thick jungle. But the west side of the island features a great beach - a beautiful anchorage with a magnificent view of the surrounding islands on the horizon.

It's not unusual for us to discover large animal tracks in the white sand here. There's also a beautiful reef off the beach - a great spot for snorkelling! Some even say the underwater life around Poni might be the most beautiful in the entire Mergui Archipelago.

Poni Island is quite close to islands 115 and Nyaung Wee, one of the areas often visited by the Moken Sea Nomads. 

Islands: Lord Loughborough

Lord Loughborough is a beautiful island covered by thick green jungle. In the northwestern bay of the island is a small fishing village populated by Moken and other fishermen. Walk along the wooden jetty and follow the path to the right. There is a little school overlooking the ocean and you will probably make dozens of new friends here as the kids are very curious and this place does not receive many visitors. 

There are a few basic village shops along the beach. Don't expect any shopping opportunities, but you can buy fish or possibly some shells or cashew nuts. Many Moken come here to work on their boats and if you show interest, they will be happy to show off their techniques. Following local tradition, most houses here are built on pillars as life is still all about the sea.

Have a look at the panorama photos below. 

Islands: Great Swinton

Great Swinton Island is also called Kyun Pila or Kyun Phi Lat in Burmese and is about 50 nautical miles from Kawthaung. The massive bay on its west-coast has one of the most gorgeous, long beaches of the whole archipelago. 

The east coast of the island has a good source of fresh water, which is why a tiny, fishing community developed here in the course of the last years on the east coast. 

One of the locals told us the following story: at some point recently, the residents got worried that the government might resettle them. So they decided to build a Buddhist temple (with one monk), which they thought would give them more legitimacy. So far, their strategy works. 

At the northern end of the village bay, there is a small floating wooden hut with a hose channeling water from a waterfall on the island. You are likely to visit with your yacht as this is one of very few places where boats can refill their tanks in the archipelago. Otherwise life on the island is quiet and the residents will be excited to welcome you ashore. There is a small hut right at the beach with a pool table. Try to win against the local kids. Or chat with the village head who will be happy to show you the treasures local free divers found in a sunken British trading ship from the past century. 

The short hike up the mountain with the pagoda on the southeast side of the island offers a great view over the bay. 

Check out the three panorama pictures below. 

Islands: Hastings

Hastings Island (or Za Det Nge Island in Burmese) offers a lovely anchorage for the night in a bay sheltered by altogether four uninhabited islands, each with long white-sand beaches. The island in the north is called Barwell Island, the other name some sailors use when referring to this anchorage. 

On many of our cruises, we spend the first night in the Hastings/Barwell Island group. Watching the sun set over the dense jungle of Hastings is spectacular. The water is clear and you can listen to the birds and monkeys chatting in the forrest. 

From Hastings it takes about three comfortable hours to sail to Kawthaung, so some local fishing boats also use this bay to spend their last night before reaching port and so Hastings is one of those spots where it's really easy to meet other boats and barter some fresh catch from the fishermen.

Have a look around on the panorama photo below or open a large version of the image in Google Maps.

Good News: Myanmar Plans to Establish a Marine Protected Area in the Mergui Archipelago

Yellowtail barracuda in the Mergui Archipelago

The Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar's far south is already home to one of Myanmar's national parks: on and around Lampi Island. So far, however, the implementation of environmental protection in the area has not received a lot of attention, to put it mildly. 

That's why we were excited to hear that key stakeholders decided to establish a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Mergui Archipelago at a workshop in Myeik. Over two days the workshop discussed the biodiversity values of the archipelago for Myanmar and the Andaman Sea, new research data from ongoing scientific assessments, key sites for marine conservation, and threats facing the ecosystems and fishing industry and how MPAs, as a management tool can offer a way for sustaining fisheries resources.

The workshop was co-hosted by the Union Deputy Minister of Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development, Minister of the Ministry of Forest and Mining (Tanintharyi Region) and conservation NGOs Fauna & Flora International and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Situated in the north-eastern Andaman Sea the Myeik archipelago comprises over 800 islands of white sandy beaches and coral reefs teeming with a diverse array of marine life. Over the past two years scientific surveys have been conducted by Fauna & Flora International in collaboration with the Myanmar authorities. 

This included Myanmar’s first scuba dive marine research team, trained in underwater survey techniques and accompanied by international researchers. The teams identified 287 species of coral and 365 reef fish species as well as reefs rich in echinoderms, crustaceans, molluscs and sponges.

These corals reefs, along with sea grass areas and mangrove forests, which provide a crucial nursery habitat for many of the species of marine life which the fishing industry depends, are however under serious threat. Such threats include overfishing, destructive fishing methods, sediment run off and global warming. 

However, the researchers noted that “a few key sites were found to have rich and intact coral communities with coral cover up to 92%, a figure which even amazed international experts, while some other reefs still have the potential to recover if well managed”.

Such management interventions include MPAs as well as Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) a type of MPA system in which local communities manage their own nearby coral reef, much like community forests have been developed in Myanmar. 

According to Fauna and Flora International, the bringing together of policy makers, managers, commercial operators and conservationists at the workshop enabled participants to agree on important next steps to achieve these goals:

•    Mapping resource uses across Mergui archipelago; fisheries, energy exploration, future tourism etc;
•    Engage private sector in dialogues about the sustainability of commercial fisheries;
•    Piloting and establishing MPAs and LMMAs in key sites, with the workshop recommending La Ngann Island Group as the first site to be established;
•    Building trans-boundary relationships with Thailand and other Andaman sea countries; and
•    Identify technological solutions for collecting and analyzing large data sets to understand and improve commercial fisheries.

Frank Momberg, FFI Myanmar Program Director says: “Myanmar’s fisheries resources have declined dramatically over the last decade. However, establishing a marine protected area network in Myanmar will protect important nursery grounds for fish such as coral reef and mangrove areas, critical to maintaining the livelihood of coastal fishing communities and the fishing industry”.

Good on Fauna & Flora International for organising the workshop and achieving these important results. Now let's hope that the plans will get implemented!

National Geographic Recommends Burma Boating as one of the "Best Trips of 2015"

We're excited and a little proud to announce that National Geographic Traveler recommends the Mergui Archipelago and Burma Boating on its list "Best Trips of 2015". Here is what they write: 

“Forbidden Islands” sounds like something from a fairy tale, and stories about Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago do seem like a fantasy: hundreds of undiscovered white-sand beaches, dense unexplored jungles, and clans of the mysterious Moken sea gypsies. Klaus Reisinger, who co-directed a documentary titled Burma's Forbidden Islands about the island chain, calls the area “one of the last paradises left on earth.”

The Burmese government kept the area off-limits to foreigners until 1997. Since opened to a handful of tour operators, the 800 islands scattered off the southern coast of Myanmar, in the Andaman Sea, are so seldom visited that many of them are known only as numbers on navigation charts.

Wildlife sightings include monitor lizards, sea eagles, and long-tailed macaques. Despite years of unregulated dynamite fishing, snorkeling and dive spots still reveal an aquatic festival of life, with swarms of eagle rays, schools of sharks, and the occasional whale shark. The nomadic Moken people, now largely forced into settlements, maintain their fishing traditions as they have for countless generations. As an epic of the Moken goes, “The Moken are born, live, and die on their boats, and the umbilical cords of their children plunge into the sea.”
(...)
Currently, foreign visitors to the archipelago must be part of a guided boat tour. Tours depart from Kawthaung pier at the southernmost tip of Myanmar near the Thailand border. For a small group (two to eight people) charter or private yacht cruise including airport transfers, lodging, and meals, sign on with Burma Boating. Tours can be customized to fit specific themes, such as a photography and video safari. They also accept credit cards, rare among archipelago boat tour operators.


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Diving in the Mergui Archipelago

Just as above water, the Mergui Archipelago’s underwater world is uncharted territory. Few divers have explored the Mergui Archipelago and its diving potential, and even fewer dive companies are offering trips into Myanmar’s marine deep south. The Mergui Archipelago is still a true diving frontier.

But great dive sites abound throughout the region, particularly along the western edge of this vast island world. Some of the best diving spots are Black Rock, High Rock, Shark Cave, Fan Forest Pinnacle, Twin Cheeks, Eagles Nest Western Rocky, and a range of other places with similarly colourful names.

Burma Boating offers the option to book private dive charters in the Mergui Archipelago. Guests can choose to combine a sailing cruise on a classic yacht with a diving adventure. SY Raja Laut has her own dive master and equipment if requested. For cruises on our other yachts, we have partnered up with the region’s most experienced dive experts who are happy to equip and guide our guests on their dive charters.

Have a look at some of the pictures taken on trips in the Mergui Archipelago with our dive partners. 

There is huge variation of underwater topography ranging from reefs to boulders, to hard coral gardens and rock pinnacles, with a general visibility of 10-40 meters. The region boasts a host of marine wildlife and divers in the Mergui Archipelago are likely to encounter some of the following indigenous species:

Whale sharks, Manta rays and many other rays such as Blotched fantail rays, Kuhl's stingrays, Mangrove whiprays, Porcupine rays, Mobular rays, Jenkin's stingrays and Eagle rays, Black-tip reef sharks, Bowmouth guitar sharks, Leopard sharks, Grey reef sharks, White-tip reef sharks, Tawny nurse sharks, octopus, squid and cuttlefish, Giant and Clown frogfish, Ghost pipefish, Rainbow runners, Neon fusiliers, tuna, scorpionfish, Moray eels, Seahorses, Snappers, schools of big-eye trevally, fusiliers and barracuda, Thorny boxfish, Harlequin and Peacock mantis shrimp, Wentil wrap snail and nudibranches. Just to name a few.

Do let us know if you have any questions regarding your dive charter options with Burma Boating.

Our Favourite Pictures from Last Season

We love it when our guests share photos of their sailing holidays with us! It's a wonderful way of experiencing our cruises through their eyes. We received many beautiful images but here are our favourite pictures taken in the last season. With its beaches and jungle-covered islands, its villages and Moken settlements, the Mergui Archipelago is a truly mesmerising world. Have a look and click yourself through the images!

Burma Boating Featured in The Sunday Telegraph

We're thrilled to be covered in the Sunday Telegraph's travel section! This is what Nigel Richardson writes:  

"It was a dreamy voyage that took us beyond internet connectivity, from green coastal waters to the kind of blue inked in by 100ft depths, past piratical-looking fishing boats and islands with the outlines of rusty blades. Scampering macaques foraged for crabs on the islands’ rocky shores, white-bellied sea eagles wheeled."

 

Click here to read more of our press clippings. 

Explaining the Moken "Sea Gypsies'" Clear Underwater Vision

The Moken, sometimes called sea gypsies, have been living as free divers and sailors in the Mergui Archipelago for thousands of years. Over the generations, they have adapted to their environment and developed incredible skills useful for a life partly taking place under water, where they collect clams and sea cucumbers.

Moken divers often go deeper than 20 meters without oxygen tanks and they can stay there for minutes. And they can see the clearly under water where everything appears blurred to the rest of us.  

"Studies of Moken children have shown them to have incredible underwater vision—twice as good as that of European children of the same age", writes the National Geographic in this interesting article.  

Here's one explanation: "The Mokens' pupils also adapt, constricting to a mere 0.08 inch (1.96 millimeters). The European children's pupils constricted to only a tenth of an inch (2.5 millimeters)."

Watch this BBC video for more.

10 Reasons to Visit Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago

1 - Be alone...

mergui myanmar burma travel islands beaches holiday

2 - ... on untouched beaches like this

3 - Meet the local "Sea Gypsies"

Moken_Kids_Boat_beach.jpg

4 - See more stars than you've ever seen before

5 - We'll play with the wind...

6 - ...and in the water

myanmar diving snorkelling burma mergui

7 - See all the beauty nature has to offer 

Mangrove Wildlife Myanmar Mergui Archipelago

8 - ...and catch our own dinner

fishing snorkelling active travel myanmar mergui cruises

9 - The food is amazing...

10 -... and you'll enjoy all this aboard a beautiful classic sailing yacht

Click here to watch our video and see what sailing aboard Meta IV looks and feels like