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camille

Diving in Myanmar: the ultimate guide to this off the beaten trail destination

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Posted (edited)

Written by the specialists of scuba diving cruises to the Mergui Archipelago and the Burma banks...

Diving around Burmese islands: a new dive destination in Myanmar...

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If you want the most unique Myanmar diving experience on the planet, then the Mergui Archipelago is the place for you. Myanmar's waters were closed off until 1997, which means that they are relatively unexplored and undiscovered by even some of the most seasoned divers. With gorgeous topography made of caves, soft and hard coral, incredibly rich wildlife and exclusive dive sites, it is diving like you’ve never experienced before.

Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago offers over 800 islands sprinkled throughout 12,000 square kilometers of crystalline waters just begging to be discovered. Since the Burmese seas were opened to tourism, only a few boats have begun to appear, yet the islands remain almost entirely uninhabited save for the odd Burmese sea gypsies, the mokens. 

Most divers who go to Burma seek the mysterious waters of the Mergui Archipelago. This off-the-beaten-path diving destination is made mostly from limestone (ensuring there are plenty of caves and tunnels) and a few granite pinnacles circled by a wide diversity of coral of every imaginable color.

Diving Myanmar gives you the possibility to run into species like manta rays, barracudas, frog fish, crabs of all types (spider crabs, decorative crab, sponge crab...) seahorses, and every type of shrimp including one of our favorites, the elusive harlequin shrimp. Different kinds of sharks also populate the area and often swim alongside giddy divers. The reefs in the area are also quite impressive not only because of their sheer beauty, but also because of their size: some reefs can be as large as a small house!

The best time of the year to embark on a Myanmar diving safari is between November and May, the rest of the year is when the monsoon rains roll in and can present very rough seas.

The best way to go diving in Burma: liveaboard Diving trips

In Myanmar, diving is almost entirely accessed by live-aboard boats, which offer the most effective means of exploring the outer reaches of the Mergui Archipelago.
Myanmar cruise boats depart from 
Ranong in Thailand or Kawthoung in Myanmar.
Ranong itself is home to various 

It is blessed with hot springs, unspoiled mangrove forests and gorgeous little islands. It makes a great base for a few days of relaxing and exploring before joining your liveaboard dive trip in Burma

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What can you see when diving in Myanmar?

Divers are spoiled for choice in Burma’s virgin waters
Mantas, dolphins, blotched sting rays and Leopard sharks patrol the clear, calm waters.
Little creatures enjoy equal billing to the big boys here; Lobsters, crabs (spider/sponge/porcelain), and shrimp (squat/mantis/tapestry/durban...) scurry around the sea floor providing plenty of action. Keen underwater photographers wont know where to point the camera first, with pipe fish (ghost/cleaner/spotted), frog fish, scorpion fish (stone/lions/leaf) nudibranch and seahorses all jostling for position against the coral heads and myriad colors of the untouched seabed. 

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The Burma Banks: correcting a misconception...

The Burma banks are surprisingly famous compared to the Mergui Archipelago, this is due to the fact that diving boats from Thailand where allowed to visit the Burma banks (in international waters) far earlier than they have been allowed in the rest of Mergui Archipelago. Some dive operators and magazines keep using this name in their communications to this day.
Burma banks were first visited between 1980's and 1990's and became the place to be for shark sightings. 
The Burma banks are a network of large underwater mountains about 180 kilometers North West of the Similan islands. Far from the reaching tendrils of modern society and surrounded by deep blue water, it offers true open-ocean diving.

What's good about the Burma Banks:
Those who venture into the Banks are rewarded with great visibility over giant underwater seamounts that can rise up to 15 meters below the water, all the way down to 300. It is very different from the diving you will find in Thailand and Mergui Archipelago because it is very remote and depths are much greater than in the more travelled areas. This also gives you a better chance to see some larger more evasive deep-sea species.
These factors also do present a pretty strong upside as it is the best spot in the region to dive with sharks: a lot of nurse sharks are seen here but some bigger/ rarer sharks were also spotted like the tiger shark and silvertip.

When to go for a Liveaboard in Myanmar?
Diving in Myanmar(Burma) is good from November till May with peak season from January till March. The water is at the coolest in December around 26 degree and gets to 28 degrees in April. Above the surface, the sea is usually flat from February till April with some wind and few waves at the beginning of the season and dry but warm climate in April.
We always find it hard to answer the question: when is the best time to visit, every one of the six month season has its particular merits. At the beginning of the season, you can see more cuttlefish mating for example and at the end a blossom of ghost pipefish. Whale Sharks and Mantas can be seen all season long with a bit more consistency toward the end of the season.
The rainy season is from May till October at which time the sea can be dangerous so we hang up our fins and take this time for annual maintenance and upkeep. We are reachable all year round but we do not venture out to sea in these months. 

 

Edited by camille

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