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The Phinisi

Your Guide to Diving in Myanmar

Dive the Mergui Archipelago and the Burma Banks

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...Highlights: whale sharks, manta rays, turtles, great macro life/ marine diversity, schooling fish & big pelagics, non diving activities...
...Diving environment: walls, caverns, advanced divers, off the beaten track...

In the Andaman Sea, to the north of the Thai border lie the largely undisturbed seas of Myanmar. Since the area was only opened up to tourism in 1997, visitors who choose to liveaboard dive in Burma feel a great sense of privilege at witnessing the awesome sights above and below the surface of the Mergui region (also known as Myeik) that has remained untouched for years.

Scuba diving at Shark Cave in the Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar
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Many divers board Myanmar liveaboards to explore the Similan Islands, but if you venture further north into Burma's Mergui Archipelago, what will you find? Firstly you will have the opportunity to dive and cruise far from the average tourist's beaten track. Picture yourself onboard a ship cutting through the silence on flat-calm crystal seas, past uninhabited, secluded islands without another vessel in site. Burma scuba diving safaris offer rewards beyond the excellent dive spots.

Fish sightings you can expect in the archipelago include armies of barracuda, dogtooth tuna, batfish, unicornfish and trevallies. Bigger pelagics such as manta rays and the awesome whale shark, and grey reef and white tip reef sharks may put in an appearance. Many of the Mergui dive sites are renowned for their big fish action and you hear people talk of sites such as Shark Cave and Black Rock in hushed, reverential tones.

However it is the smaller stuff which is beginning to win recognition and make divers realise there is more to diving Burma than merely the big fish and seclusion. Lobsters, crabs and shrimps of seemingly every shape, colour and size scuttle over the sea floor whilst cuttlefish, ghost pipefish, frogfish and octopus all enjoy the relatively boat-free Mergui waters.

Dive Site Descriptions

Black Rock

An 80 metre wide islet, Black Rock stands in a northwest to southeast position, with steep banks all around, and with a wall on its west and south west sides. Many divers' favourite spot in the Burma Mergui Archipelago, Black Rock will have your your heart pounding from spectacular passes of whitetips, silvertips, and black-tip sharks.

Standing alone in the Andaman Sea 100 miles north west of the Thai-Burmese border town of Kawthaung, Black Rock acts as a natural fish magnet and is just as famous for its incredible schools of mobula rays. Then there's the majestic encounters with manta rays and eagle rays soaring above and around you off the deep north western corner, and huge marble stingrays and leopard sharks on the sandy bottom.
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How to Dive Myanmar

The scuba diving here is by liveaboard safari boat only. There is no other way to take in enough of the dive sites, which are sometimes spread far and wide, than to board a cruise from Phuket, Khao Lak or Ranong in Thailand. To find a cruise that's right for you and for more information on all the travel information you might need to visit Myanmar, see our Burma liveaboard section.

There are a number of different options available here. Safaris that depart from Ranong and explore only the southern sections or northern sections of the Mergui Archipelago require at least 5 nights cruising. Boat charters that travel up the Thai coast through the Similan Islands before crossing over into Burmese waters, take at least 7 nights. If you really want to feel like you are on a complete Burma liveaboard safari then we recommend you take a dedicated Myanmar cruise to discover the whole of the archipelago. These trips require a minimum of 10 days.

The Diving Season

November to early-May sees the main Burma diving season and this is the only period of the year when the liveaboards operate. At this time of year, the seas are calm, the skies are clear and even the most remote dive sites are accessible and enjoy great conditions. For optimum diving conditions in the Mergui Archipelago we recommend you visit between the months of December and April.

February to May tend to witness the most frequent manta ray and whale shark sightings, attracted by feeding opportunities represented by the plankton blooms that occur at this time of year. As you might imagine visibility is reduced since the water is so nutrient-rich. These nutrients bring in the plankton feeders and explain why the hard corals reach such impressive sizes and there is such an array of life, both large and small, at the dive sites.

Water temperatures do not vary hugely during the season from a generally cooler 26-27°C early in the season to a balmy 30°C around the end of the season. The visibility also tends to improve a little towards the latter half of the season.

For more details on the climate of Myeik, visit the Meteoblue websiteOpens in a new window.

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Where is Burma and How Do I Get There?

Review our map below of the Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar (Burma) and its location in the world. Here, you will find information on how to get to Myanmar.

Map of the Mergui Archipelago (click to enlarge in a new window) Map of Burma (click to enlarge in a new window) Map of the world (click to enlarge in a new window)

Reef Summary

Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 5 - 40m
Currents: Can be strong
Surface conditions: Can be rough
Water temperature: 26 - 30°C
Experience level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: >50
Distance: ~280 km north of Phuket (14 hours), 60 km west of Kawthaung (3 hours)
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 10 days

Useful References

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... I would second what people are saying about sharks - don't go to Myanmar for sharks. But the diving was amazing - saw a whale shark. We saw like 7 mantas at Black Rock too ... The hard coral was what really amazed me. I had only seen Pulauan and Carribean coral before - the only word for them is microscopic, compared to Burma. Brain corals the size of a small house. (I'm not kidding). Mushroom corals (what are they really called? I have no idea) the size of houses were common ... Also don't go diving in Mergui for the viz - the reason the coral grows so well is there's lots of food in the water! But there was enough viz to keep me oohing and aahing for a total of 17 days, between the snorkeling and the diving ... -- , USA.  [More customer reviews]