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

Meet the Crew: Evan, First Mate on SY Sunshine

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.      

Introducing SY Meltemi, Our First Catamaran

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. 

Her previous owner was a Malay princess. In 2015, Meltemi joined Burma Boating's fleet for private charters and our Luxury Sailing Adventure cruises in Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago.  

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. 

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.

Watch MY Drenec Cruising in the Seychelles on her Way to Myanmar

Our expedition yacht MY Drenec spent a few weeks in the Seychelles this summer before continuing her passage to Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago. We put together a few of our favourite images taken by the Danish photographer David Høgsholt. In October Drenec will arrive in the Mergui Archipelago, just in time for the coming season. 

Interested in a Trip on Drenec? 

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

The Best Photos of the Sailing Clinic's First Mission

It's been two months since the Sailing Clinic's first mission and we haven't shared our photos yet. We also want to take this opportunity to thank all donors, supporters and volunteers - without you this would not have been possible! 

Read more about our charity project.
You can download the full mission report here. 
Click here to donate. 
Or contact our project manager Eva Lupprian if you want to get involved. 

Hotels: Victoria Cliff Hotel & Resort, Kawthaung

The Victoria Cliff is a newly-opened, locally-managed hotel in Kawthaung and definitely the nicest option you have if you plan to spend a night in town before or after your cruise.

The hotel is located on the way to the airport, 2-3 kilometers away from the bustling center of Kawthaung. The dozen or so Asian-style bungalows come with a view of the Andaman Sea. 

The Victoria Cliff has an outdoor pool in the pleasant palm garden. There's also a small indoor pool and a spacious gym, possibly the only one in Kawthaung. 

Expect rates between USD 100-200, but please contact the management directly, as pricing frequently changes in Myanmar. 

+95 59 51 257

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.  

Introducing the Mergui Island Expedition

With the beginning of the coming season, we are introducing two completely new cruises: The Mergui Island Expeditions aboard classic exploration yacht MY Drenec. The cruises are designed for travellers with limited time and high expectations.

Drenec is the most luxurious yacht in our fleet. Her five guest cabins offer an unparalleled level of comfort. The 120-foot yacht will sail two 3-night trips per week, each with different itineraries. Both trips can be combined to a 6-night cruise. On the South Route (starting on Fridays), we explore the most southern and western parts of the Mergui Archipelago, where you will discover unforgettable beaches and gorgeous bays. The North Route (starting on Mondays) will take us all the way to famous Lampi Marine National Park, where snorkelling enthusiasts will find the most beautiful reefs. On both trips, we will visit communities of the indigenous Moken sea nomads, which has proven to be a highlight of all our cruises.

All trips depart from the city of Kawthaung, just across the border from Thailand. Rates start a EUR 1,700 per person, including all meals, all non-alcoholic drinks and activities on board. 

Drenec was built in the Netherlands as an offshore vessel. In 2012, she was completely refitted and upgraded in Malta with interiors designed by Sophie Bouakel-Kastelein. The yacht is currently under passage from Spain to her new base in Myanmar.

As all of our yachts, Drenec is also available for private charters with groups of up to 11 guests. 

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.