With more than 800 islands in the Andaman Sean, diving in this mostly undiscovered area should be on the top of the wish list of any Scuba diver. Ngapali and Ngwe Saung, two beach destinations on the west coast of Myanmar (Bay of Bengal), offer good and easy scuba diving possibilities as well. Despite the undisputed potential of its over-2000 km tropical coastline, the scuba diving industry in Myanmar is still very much in its infancy. For decades the coastal waters were more or less prohibited for tourist divers, and a few operators from Thailand approached the ‘Burma Banks’ with 6 or 7-day live-aboard dive safaris from Phuket and Khao Lak. Slow developments have been seen in Myanmar’s scuba diving offer, despite the rapidly growing interest in Myanmar as a beach and scuba diving destination. The most beautiful dive sites in the Southern Mergui Archipelago were first only reached through Thai dive safari operators based in Ranong, a border town. In total there are now only five reliable Myanmar scuba diving operators at the time of writing, offering trips to already known dive sites in the Southern Mergui Archipelago, and to dive sites in Ngwe Saung and Ngapali. With hardly any other diving group in sight, and with still many undiscovered dive sites around, diving in Myanmar is a true adventurous experience.
The best diving of the region is in the southern part of the Mergui Archipelago, with 6 or 7-day dive safaris departing from the Thai-Burmese border town of Kawthaung. Famous dive sites like Black Rock, Little Torres Islands, High Rock, Shark Cave offer sightings of beautiful soft corals, gorgonians and massive intact table corals. Colorful creatures such as cuttlefish, ghost pipefish and frogfish are often seen here. Apart from the abundance of batfish, dogtooth tuna, and giant barracudas, these sites are especially famous for encounters with the larger pelagic species, like manta rays, leopard sharks, lemon sharks, nurse sharks and whale sharks. Experienced diving is required, since many dive sites can have sweeping currents, sometimes downwards when going deeper. Another option for good scuba diving is the Myanmar Andaman Dive Resort on Mecleod Island in the Mergui Archipelago. This eco-lodge has a PADI Dive centre that offers different dive packages and scuba diving courses.
With more and more hotels spreading along the beautiful white sand beach, Ngwe Saung offers relaxing day trips of Scuba Diving. A 1,5-hour sail off the Ngwe Saung Coast two islands offer shallow, easy and charming dives. But more dive sites are currently discovered. North Rock (Bird Island) is usually done first in a calm drift dive along the eastern side of the island. Southern Island offer similar dive sites with beautiful table coral gardens lots of bannerfish, butterfly fish, boxfish, scorpionfish, lionfish and triggerfish, and murray eels and sea snakes. The southern Island is also famous for it is rare frogfish. Further west from these islands are some interesting, yet quite unexplored pinnacles which offer deeper dives, with higher chance of seeing bigger marine species.
Ngapali offers diving around some of the islands and bays with sites that are far from fully explored. Similar diving is expected as in Ngwe Saung with coral gardens and the typical tropical marine life.
Apart from some of the more experienced dive operators that offer liveaboards in the Mergui Archipelago, the scuba diving industry is new to Myanmar. In some cases the level of professionalism and the quality of the dive gear of certrain dive centres can be lower than what international divers might expect. Nevertheless, Burmese Scuba Diving enterprises are learning fast and try hard to reach international standards.
Safe and conservative diving is recommended, when diving in Myanmar. The Myanmar healthcare facilities and infrastucture are substandard. There is supposed to be a recompression chamber in Ngapali, but unsure if it is operational and open to recreational divers in need of a treatment. Diving accidents should therefore at all cost be avoided.
Environmental awareness is a huge challenge in Myanmar. In some places dynamite fishing is still a common practice, killing every single sea creature and sterilzing the sea in an area of several nautical miles. In addition, many Burmese have no problem throwing any waste overboard. Some beaches and coastal water are sometimes polluted, mostly by plastic bags and bottles. Various initiatives are currently being undertaken to preserve reefs, but it is hard to change the Burmese mindset about sustainabilty in general. International divers and tourists could contribute hugely to a gradually increasing awarenenss of everyone’s interest of keeping the ocean, reefs and beaches clean.