Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar, March 2016

The final stage of my travels in Myanmar this past week has been a journey under the sea, scuba diving around the Mergui Archipelago of islands in the Andaman Sea off the southern coast. The teak live-aboard dive boat I joined cruises from a base in Thailand – the nascent tourist scene in Myanmar not yet capitalising on its own leisure-packed highlights!
I’ll confess that I’m increasingly fussy about where I scuba dive – warm water & jewels under the sea are definite prerequisites now before I’ll dip a toe. Luckily the Mergui Archipelago is all that – unspoiled, ‘under fished’, tropical waters. Accompanied by a good Thai cook it was a demanding schedule of ‘dive, eat, relax on deck and repeat’ four times a day as we cruised around numerous islands and off-shore rock pinnacles for 6 days.
The various dive sites seemed almost formulaically landscaped with large sea fans and different hard corals along with gardens of purple soft coral. Wafting anemones and brazen clownfish dotted the seascape and a tapestry of colourful reef fish flitted about the coral. There were some rare moments on the trip to add to the diver’s almanac. We watched a 4 metre span Manta ray leap from the surface of the water in a shallow bay & later had the privilege of meeting it during a dive as it circled above us returning again & again to glide above and below our curious little bubble-blowing group.
Dive aficionados will also know the joy of finding a tiny seahorse in a crevice, watching delicate harlequin shrimps dance or chancing upon a secretive octopus.
It’s been a wonderful trip around Myanmar at a time which heralds great change and hope for a nation with a heart of gold.

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