Mergui Archipelago (Myiek)
The gorgeous and remote Myeik (or Mergui) Archipelago lies in the Andaman Sea off the coast of southern Myanmar. To visit these extraordinary islands who will need to join a guided tour and they remain largely undiscovered by tourists, which is a big part of their appeal – indeed many of them are inhabitated only by colourful wildlife.
Made up of more than 800 islands which vary in size from smaller ones with just a few palm trees to larger islands of several hundred square kilometres, the archipelago offers great opportunities for exploration and diving amongst spectacular marine life and untouched coral reefs, with yachts and cruise boats designed for that purpose.
The islands of the Myeik Archipelago offer a wide variety of sights and adventurous activities, from hiking through tropical valleys to kayaking through mangroves and up rivers; the opportunities for exploration are almost limitless. And if you are after a more laid back time, you can simply jump in the water from your boat or wander along any of the hundreds of deserted white sand beaches.
A hugely diverse range of wildlife can be found on the islands, including monitor lizards, pythons, civets, chevrotains, gibbons and crab-eating macaques. Up in the air, the colourful diversity is perhaps even greater: you can see hornbills, white-bellied sea eagles, while kites, kingfishers, eastern reef herons, emerald doves, to name but a few of the species that circle the islands. There are far too many islands in the archipelago to describe here (and many have never been set foot on by foreigners), but here are some of the highlights:
Lampi Island. Established in 1995 as Myanmar’s first marine national park, Lampi is one of the most popular islands for visitors to the archipelago, rich as it is in biodiversity, mangroves and coral reefs. Lampi River offers a great chance for kayaking – and to witness some of the area’s exotic flora and fauna. Lampi is also known sometimes known as Sullivan Island or Kyun Tan Shey (‘kyun’ means island in Burmese).
115 Island. Also known as Frost Island, this has a white sandy beach with crystal clear waters that are rich in hard coral and have thousands of sea urchins and small colourful tropical fish darting around. 115 Island offers opportunities for snorkelling, kayaking – and jungle trekking on the island itself.
Nyaung Wee Island (also known as Buda island). Host to a number of Moken villages, visiting this beautiful area gives you the opportunity to talk to the locals and find out about their unique culture – and about their changing way of life. Sadly, they are increasingly living in villages rather than on the water (sometimes having even having been forcibly moved to the mainland), as the government prohibited the traditional fashioning of their wooden boats from trees.
Phi Lar island. Otherwise known as Great Swinton, this island has a number of totally uninhabited, white sand, palm-fringed beaches – and some particularly colourful coral reefs that are perfect for snorkeling. Myauk Ni Island provides another opportunity to chat with the islanders about their daily lives. They see very few tourists, mainly just the fishermen who come to buy what they need, and maybe have a drink. No trinkets or hard sell in this part of the world!