Swathes of white sand beaches, undiscovered dive sites and few divers make Myanmar one of the world’s best hidden diving gems. Drift over colourful reefs hosting an array of macro treasures and shoaling pelagics, or dive wild Burma Banks’underwater mountains tops busy with mantas, whale sharks and innumerable mobula rays.
Diving in Myanmar
A fortunate and recent entrant to the diving tourism world, Myanmar offers divers the chance to see big pelagics, incredible reefs and all in astonishingly clean and clear waters. Much of the diving action in Myanmar is focussed around the beautiful Mergui Archipelago which is home to over eight hundred islands many of which have dive sites as yet undiscovered. Due to the untouched nature of the islands, the government only allows certain areas to be dived. The south is largely off-limits but the northern islands are beautiful and can be accessed by a Myanmar liveaboard. There are currently no dive centers or dive resorts on the islands of Mergui making a liveaboard, usually from Ranong in Thailand the best way to see the archipelago’s wonders.
Much of the underwater world of the archipelago is bright and healthy coral reefs, housing a wealth of macro life such as shrimp and frogfish as well as reef sharks and shoals of tuna and barracuda. The diving is fairly easy in most places, although there can be occasional downward current, sticking close to the reef is not only a good way to stay out of the current but one of the most enjoyable parts of the dives too. It is possible to spot bigger life such as whalesharks, nurse sharks and shoals of devil rays out in the blue.
Best time to dive
The diving season in Myanmar runs from early October to the end of May with the best conditions in the period from December to April and the best visibility towards the end of the season in April. Although, visibility drops around February to May due to plankton blooms. This lower visibility has the enviable trade-off of attracting large numbers of mantas and whalesharks to the islands.
Types of diving
As the best diving spots are on far-flung clusters of islands it should come as no surprise that diving in Myanmar is exclusively by diving liveaboard. In Mergui, most of the diving will be on reefs and walls around the islands with both the chance to stay close in and enjoy the macro life or gaze out into the blue looking for whale and nurse sharks. There is some current around the archipelago which means drift diving is common with divers picked up by liveaboard tender boats.
The dives at Burma Banks are all on underwater mountaintops around which currents swirl bringing in big pelagics such as mantas, nurse and whalesharks as well as scores of rays. Divers will spend their time underwater along beautiful walls and pinnacles always keeping one eye out in the blue for sharks.
What to see
Myanmar has escaped the effects of most of the coral damaging activities that have taken their toll elsewhere in the world leaving it with stunningly colourful reefs full of tiny critters, reef sharks and rays. One of the most astonishing things about the reefs in Myanmar is the sheer size of some of the individual corals, huge hard corals and great expanses of soft corals can be found all over Mergui. Big pelagic life can be found in Mergui and Burma Banks especially when plankton blooms are present around the islands with whalesharks and other plankton feeders keen to make the most of the nutrient-rich waters.
Best places to dive
Black Rock: This small isolated islet is one of the best-known dive sites in Mergui archipelago. Its position makes it a passing place for big pelagics and a home in the deep blue for a host of other smaller fish. Grey, white and silvertip reef sharks and long leopard sharks swirl around the islet feeding on the hoards of fish who have chosen to shelter here. There are ample macro shots to be found with eels, banded sea snakes and crustaceans hiding amongst enormous cup corals and gorgonians. A little out from the reef in the current mantas and even the occasional whaleshark can be spotted gliding past.
Further out, the flat underwater mountaintops of Burma Banks is the real shark territory when diving in Myanmar with nurse, whale and reef sharks found patrolling the underwater mountaintops. Mantas also glide past feeding on plankton blooms close to the flat tops at the banks. There are still coral reefs out at Burma Banks, not as colossal as those at Mergui but there are plenty of reef fish and critters to be found living on the flats and walls of the mountaintops.