Recently opened to underwater tourism, Myanmar offers liveaboard divers a glimpse into reefs unspoilt by tourism and the chance to explore yet undiscovered territory.
Myanmar (Burma) liveaboards
Open to tourism since 1997, Myanmar is still a relatively unexplored scuba diving destination. But it already has a variety of discovered sites to please every type of diver. Most of the mapped sites are spread throughout the Mergui Archipelago, a chain of 800 islands off the southwest coast. To the west of these islands lie a series of open ocean dive sites which boast larger marine life. Because of the distance between the islands and the coast as well as the remoteness of this destination, divers who wish to explore must do so by liveaboard. Most dive safaris in the region last between 6 and 7 nights.
Diviac offers 2 liveaboards in Myanmar for online booking. Those who want to sail in the style can choose the SY Diva Andaman. This luxurious sailing vessel has a crew of 12 to serve its 14 guests. On the other hand, the Thailand Aggressor boasts the comfort and reliability of the Aggressor name. This sturdy motor yacht features a stylish sundeck and private bathrooms in the cabins.
Still relatively undiscovered, Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago offers some of the best diving in the Andaman Sea. While many of the sites close to the mainland have been overfished, liveaboard diving safaris travel further afield, reaching the far western islands and the northern half of the archipelago. Because of the new-ness of this destination, you never know what you might see. But common sightings include schools of devil rays, nurse sharks and the occasional whale shark. Healthy corals host lots of small stuff that is beginning to generate interest in the area for macro lovers. Frogfish, lobsters, crabs and colorful shrimp are a few of the creatures found in the area.
Just west of the Mergui Archipelago and its healthy reefs, far afield sites like Burma Banks offer a different picture. Here big stuff is prime time. Giant underwater mountains plunge over 1000 feet (300 meters) to the sea floor. Shark sightings are practically guaranteed at these open ocean dive sites.
Myanmar’s popularity for scuba divers and general tourism alike is steadily growing. Right now is the best time to go before the crowds arrive.
Keep in mind that some of the dive sites in Myanmar are suitable to beginners while others should only be attempted by advanced divers due to their depths and heavy currents. Most liveaboard operators only require an Open Water certification, but be sure to check certification requirements for your chosen itinerary.
BEST TIME TO GO
November to April
The best time to go diving in Myanmar is November until April. This is true for most liveaboards sailing the north Andaman Sea. During this period the water is very calm and displays a visibility of 82 to 92 feet (25 to 30 meters).
However, plankton blooms can pop up from time to time. While these may decrease visibility, they also increase your chance of seeing manta rays, whale sharks and other megafauna.
Liveaboard diving outside of November to April is rare with many of the best sites unreachable due to weather conditions.
Furthermore, whale shark season in Myanmar is between February and April when these giants can be spotted cruising past the cleaning stations. This is also the perfect time to see mantas, who follow the plankton blooms.
Most of the diving liveaboards traveling to Myanmar depart from Ranong in Thailand. Just on the Thai side of the Thailand-Myanmar border, Ranong has its own domestic airport with direct flights from either of Bangkok’s two airports. Should flights be unavailable, it’s also possible to fly into Phuket International Airport which is just an hour and half from Ranong. Many of the liveaboard companies offer free transfers from the airport or a local hotel although some may charge a minimal fee for this service.