The Mergui Archipelago and the Burma Banks are a collection of more than 800 individual islands located in the Andaman Sea, belonging to Myanmar. Most of the islands and surrounding areas are completely uninhabited and remote. The nearest port of call for liveaboards operating to these islands is from Ranong, a small city situated just at the very southern tip of Myanmar boarding Thailand. All guests must reach Ranong by crossing the border from Thailand only, as it’s not from directly within Myanmar.
The extra travel is well worth it though, as the archipelago is teeming with beautiful reefs full of marine life and plenty of yet unexplored white sand beaches. The area is virtually isolated from most of mankind’s influence on the natural environment which has given the islands and the surrounding waters of the Andaman Sea a great diversity of flora and fauna. Divers see everything from whale sharks and rays to reef sharks and many smaller animals like colourful nudibranches and unique species of shrimps and crabs.
Owing to the archipelago’s remoteness, liveaboard cruises are the only way for visitors to go diving in area. There is a plethora of reef and dive site types to see; some islands have huge boulders covered with soft corals and sea fans, while others offer wall diving, caverns, tunnels and big drop-offs. Dive sites such as Shark Cave feature grey reef, nurse shark and marbled sting rays. Black Rock has manta rays and schools of mobula (devil) rays. Photographers are attracted by frogfish, ghost pipefish, ribbon eels and cowries as well as many crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, and shrimps. The best diving conditions are similar to neighbouring Thailand, from December to April, with whale sharks and manta rays typically visiting more regularly from February to May. Some liveaboard trips focus purely on Burma but many boats also include the best Thailand dive sites of Richelieu Rock and Koh Bon in their itineraries.