Amazing Diving Trip in Mergui Archipelago
I recently spent eight days on a liveaboard in the Mergui Archipelago and it was the best diving adventure I’ve ever been on. The fact that we didn’t come across other boats at any of the dive sites made it extra special, especially for the underwater photographers amongst us.
The diving sites are incredibly beautiful, with colourful soft corals, swim-through caves, macro life and a big chance of meeting a whale shark or some giant manta rays.
The boat I chose was Dolphin Queen from Similan Diving Safaris. I totally recommend it. The price was very reasonable and the crew is amazing. The diving instructors are super friendly professionals with a high level of respect for the environment and who gave clear briefings before every dive, making you feel safe and comfortable under water.
Dolphin Queen has three decks and eight cabins, all of them with air conditioning and a sea view window that can be opened. The upper deck is the chill out area and where briefings take place before each dive. Instructors are so familiar with the diving sites that one of them has created some cool maps of the different islands, which they used to explain the diving plan before we jumped in.
The upper deck is also the eating area where you can always help yourself to coffee, tea, toast, water, electrolyte drinks, fresh fruit and, my favourite, pineapple jam biscuits. If you have ever dived in Thailand I’m sure you know the biscuits I’m taking about.
Special mention to the cook on board and her assistant – they prepared the most delicious Thai food. Lots of variety, including meat, fish and vegetable dishes every day that tasted better than in any restaurant. In the morning a European style breakfast including brown bread, pancake, omelettes, fried eggs, sausages, corn flakes, muesli, fruit, tea and coffee is served.
We did a total of 22 dives, starting the first one in the early morning before breakfast and fourth one just before sunset. We also had the opportunity to go on a night dive, which is always exciting.
There’s also plenty to do between dives, like going out on kayaks to explore deserted islands. The untouched white sand and clear water beaches made you feel like you were in paradise.
Apart from diving, kayaking and eating, my other favourite thing to do was to head to the sunbeds on the top deck to relax. This is the perfect place for reading and naps, especially after breakfast following the first dive of the morning.
Of course the highlight of the trip is the visit to Black Rock. We arrived there on the third day and nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to witness. We jumped in the water just before 7am and we were greeted straight away by our first manta. We continued to see more mantas on the second, third and forth dive… It was incredible! We were so excited that we voted to stay a second day in Black Rock. And guess what, it was as good as the first day; we saw mantas on every single dive. The same thing happened the next day, so in the end we spent three days at Black Rock.
We did a total of 12 dives and saw multiple mantas each time. On one occasion spotted six different mantas around me at the same time, everywhere I looked there were mantas. They swam so close and were huge, between four and five meters. Truly unforgettable!
After these fantastic three days, we all put our pictures together and identified fifty different individuals. How did we know they were different ones? Because manta rays have unique spot patterns on their underside and that’s how we identified them.
The manta rays were just amazing, but let’s not forget the other amazing underwater life we saw. In the Mergui Archipelago there are numerous species of soft coral on limestone rock in unbelievable colours and I particularly enjoyed looking at huge gorgonian sea fans with the colourful reef fish playing around in the background. The huge moray eels hiding in cracks were awesome and the scorpion fish and octopus camouflaged on the purple and violet algae covered rocks were really cool. I also saw my first turtle, a large stingray and a small shark.
For those with a keen eye, seahorses, ornate ghost pipefish, frogfish and stonefish are common on many sites as are the schools of barracudas, rainbow runners, tuna, trevallies and Spanish mackerels.
On top of all of this, I was also able to advance in PADI by doing the Enriched Air (Nitrox) course during my first two days.
This liveaboard dive trip leaves from Similan Diving Safaris’ shop in Khao Lak, Thailand and my itinerary was the following:
- Day 1
7:30-9:00 Check-in and equipment fitting
9:00 Departure for Ranong in air-conditioned minivan
12:30 Arrival Ranong/ lunch and Thai immigration control
14:30 Arrival in Kaw Thuang and Myanmar immigration
16:30 Dinner with overnight cruise to the dive site
- Day 2
7:00 First dive / Breakfast
11:00 Second dive
12:00 Lunch is served
15:00 Third dive / Snacks
18:30 Dusk or Night Dive / Dinner
- Day 3
4 dives, Black Rock or Burma Banks
- Day 4
4 dives, 3 Islets and some beach time
- Day 5
4 dives around Fan Forest area
- Day 6
4 dives around Western Rocky area
- Day 7
The last day diving, 2 dives.
14:30 Arrival Kaw Thaung, Myanmar Inmigration Exit stamp
15:30 Thai Inmigration and Entry stamp Ranong
17:00 Departure for Kura Buri / overnight cruise
- Day 8
7:30 Departure for Khao Lak
9:00 Arrival at our dive center in Khao Lak
10:00 Time to arrange your forward travel or hotel
The times and dives are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances and safety reasons or as it happened to me, due to a manta ray party!
Thank you Richard Whitcombe (diving photographer) for the amazing photos in this post and Pablo (off duty diving instructor) who made this fantastic video:
Honestly it was a trip I’ll never forget and will definitely try my best to repeat every year. The diving season in the Mergui Archipelago is not very long (from November to April) and not many companies organize liveaboard trips here. I highly recommend Similan Diving Safaris and the owners are offering readers of my blog a 1,000 THB discount.
If you want to know more, please send me a message. I can manage your booking or you can just contact Similan Diving Safaris and let them know that you heard about this diving trip from my blog: www.MyanmarTravelEssentials.com