Sailing Myanmar’s Mergui archipelago
Home to the elusive Moken sea-nomads, teeming with wildlife, and only just opening up to visitors, the Mergui Archipelago is one of the most beautiful and unusual places to visit in South-East Asia right now. Way, way ahead of the tourist crowd and sailing traditional Moken waters, you’ll cruise between rarely visited islands fringed with white sand and capped with monkey-filled jungle, swim in the Andaman sea, snorkel its coral reefs, and visit Moken villages to witness one of the most singular ancient cultures in existence.
What to expect on board...
You’ll head across the Thai/Myanmar border by land, or fly south from Yangon to Kawthaung, and either join a shared yacht for a set six day cruise with a variable itinerary that will thoroughly explore the archipelago, or charter your own for exclusive privacy.
The yachts are stunning - a small fleet of sleek ketches and magnificent schooners, all elegantly finished in gleaming white and polished wood, and crewed by experts (including the personal chefs and cocktail ‘mixologists’!). None are very large - they measure between 80 and 103 feet, with between three to six cabins, ensuring a personal - if not exclusively private - cruise.
Each voyage departs from Kawthaung and weaves through Mergui’s 800 or so islands, which lie off the coast of Myanmar’s southernmost tip where it tapers off against the Thai border. For centuries, the islands and surrounding waters have been ‘home’ to the nomadic seafaring Moken tribe, known for their free diving skills, intimate understanding of the ocean, oral history, and a language that occupies the present moment and has few words for past and future.
For part of the year these nomads are at sea, but they also build stilt villages on the coast, which you can visit to meet the Moken - and probably buy their fish for your supper.
Watch Burma Boating's video, which showcases the yachts and Mergui scenery:
Many of the islands are covered in thick jungle and rainforest, home to monkeys, hornbills, wild pigs, while underwater, coral reefs swarm with colourful and impressive fish - pipefish, manta rays, mobula and various sharks, amongst many others.
If you’re a serious dive enthusiast you may be interested in tailoring a specific dive live-aboard into your holiday - this cruise is more about snorkelling the reefs, maybe a spot of tuna fishing, fresh seafood barbecues on empty pristine beaches, wandering the jungle looking for wildlife, and soaking up the incredible scenery with the wind in your hair and your feet dangling over the gunwale.
Location: southernmost Myanmar
Duration: typically six days
Accommodation: yacht or schooner
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'This is probably the most exciting and unique trip in Myanmar at the moment, perhaps all of South-East Asia - it's the only way I know of see the Mergui and meet the Moken tribe...'
Good to know...
The yachts’ owners also run the Sailing Clinic - a charity set up to sail qualified medical workers out to the remote Mergui islands, where medical care is far from comprehensive, providing supplies and advice to the resident nurses. The project is still in the early stages, but your cruise (and any donations) will support the ongoing development of a worthy cause.