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Published: February 10th 2017
Here it is, I'm finally diving the Mergui Archipelago in Burma. This place has got higher on my list over the last few years. I was booked on a trip twelve months ago, but it was cancelled just 10 days before it, due to a group cancelling and not reaching the minimum number of divers. I was booked on A-One-Diving...and they were truly honest by re-imbursing fast not only my deposit, but also my flight ticket from Bangkok to Ranong.
So on this trip, I only took my ticket last minute and put down the deposit once I was certain the trip was going on. We ended being 8 guests....and a liveaboard that can take easily twenty guests...so we had all the space to enjoy the boat to ourselves.
So the plan is first to fly to Ranong, the border city with Burma. Short one hour flight...and an airport that runs only two flights per day, both of them on Nok Air. Made it in town by 8am, paid my balance for the trip at the dive center and went to explore. I have to admit, Ranong doesn't have much to offer. You find few
tourists around as this is the boarding port to Koh Payam, the new "chilled backpacker" island, but where visibility is so bad underwater that diving is really not a great idea!
We met at 1pm...direction the port and the boat...40 minutes is just what it takes to the liveaboard, the MV Sea World, to ride to the port city of Kawthang. There, we picked up two more divers and cleared immigration who took us just short of an hour. Nice to think that all of this is just done by handing your passport...while at the dive center...so they took care of everything.
The guests are a mix of British, Canadian, American, French and myself. The lead DM is a South Floridian, what a character! He runs his operation nearly smoothly! We had also a Thai DM to which group I was assigned. Love to see Thai DM... it's always nice to see the locals empowered. The first day went nicely...and on the second morning, he took out his big camera...for every single dive. I had enough of it fast...since when should I guide a dive, spot what there is to spot...and the DM is
following me. No way, on day third, I was diving with a cool couple, great divers...he is actually not only a Tech diver but an Instructor too...and she is a DM...who need a local guide? Well, we do, but when they don't really know where to spot the local macro...we can do it ourselves too!
The diving....we had 18 dives in 5 days! That's 4 per day, an two the last morning. We had average visibility on 3 days, and two days with amazing visibility. As a general point of view, the dive sites go from good architecture...to amazing one. Way better architecture underwater than most I've seen south in Thailand.
The macro was pretty nice...healthy, and all over the place! Not the level you will find in Lembeh, but still truly fun to explore all the cracks in those on walls. Just have a look at the pictures....all those eels, nudibranches, shrimps, crabs and octopus on nearly every dive...plus few tiger tail seahorses on our last day. So, so far, so good....yes but there is one issue!
If it's not for macro, you barely see fishes. Some of those sites
should have huge number of pelagics. Schools of trevallis or barracudas. We had none of those. We spot a single giant barracuda in 5 days...a single hiding nurse shark...and one group saw a single turtle. This is it for anything big....plus we spotted few small blue spotted stingrays! Any big fishes or school of pelagic are gone!
We saw only two liveaboard in 5 days...and dived next to one of the only resort in the Archipelago, the Myanmar Andaman Resort. So not many divers around...and we had some pristine and healthy corals all around! But we had at least two to three local fishermen subsistence boat on each dive sites.
Let's be honest...40 years of a near closed country...a population to feed...and a very large poor population....who cares about conservation and if you do over-fishing. There is no proper diving industry in the area...who likes in Indonesia and places like Komodo or Raja Ampat...could bring an alternative to the local population...and a way to get some conservation initiative around. Sad....but a reality...fishes are gone, and they are not coming back soon!
One more fun experience on one day...ended up doing a
single night dive...the American DM, another diver and me..and after 3 minutes, we were 3 of us on a single torch...because they were not properly checked before the night dive. The other diver had only few night dives behind him, so I took some charge...and we still did a 35 minutes night dive...on one torch. Actually a pretty fun experience!
The boat itself was wonderful for only 8 divers! Truly roomy...own cabin, nice hot showers. The best must have been the local staff....took amazing great care of us, and feed us like kings! So it's not because you have one DM who has no clue about his job, that I would not recommend them!
We were back late afternoon in Ranong. Landing back you sail pass hundred of fishing boats. You may have heard the last scandals about the Thai fishing fleet keeping slaves onboard. Sadly, this is one of the three ports where this is a reality. No words for it...and not really sure it is going anywhere anytime soon. Hope they would clean their act...human traffic does exist in the fishing industry, and it should not!
I spent my
last night in Ranong. Nothing to do around here. 500 baht for a little bungalow...a nice pizza because there is nothing much else on the international menu...and early morning, I'm back on the Nok Air flight...back to Tanya in Bangkok!
Next entry...coming not so soon...just a week off from diving with Tiffany in South Africa...it's Tiger shark period...and next...two weeks in Congo! So next entry, will be about our new home, once we are properly settled!
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