It is my family tradition to explore new destinations around Myanmar once a year. This year, we planned to visit the southernmost part of Myanmar, where seafood is abundant and the beaches are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The highlight of our vacation was undoubtedly a day trip to the Mergui Archipelago which lies off the coast of Myanmar in the Andaman Sea and is made up of over 800 islands.
It was day 2 of our holiday and after having a really nice breakfast at our hotel in Kawthaung, Victoria Cliff Hotel & Resort, our local guide picked us up around 8am and we set off for the jetty. By the time we arrived at the jetty, the boat was getting ready for today’s adventure. The jetty was alive with fellow day trippers coming from Myanmar like us, but also from Ranong in Thailand, just a stone’s throw away from Kawthaung. There are two options for your day trip, either you can rent the whole boat or take part in a group tour with fellow travelers. We chose the latter option.
The day's plan was to explore 4 of the main islands in the archipelago; Horse Shoe Island, Pan Kyun Island, Zadetkyi Island and a heart-shaped island named Cock’s Comb Island.
We set off at around 9 am from Kawthaung and made our way to Horse Shoe Island which took about an hour. I would recommend bringing some seasickness tablets just in case as the sea can be quite bumpy. Even though the journey was long, the beauty of Andaman Sea entertained me no end. Each island you pass is a different shape and size. The curved cliff faces reminded me of the Great Wall of China, impregnable, while other islands looked like mushrooms, and almost all of them are rooted with trees. The closer we get to our destination, the bluer and clearer the water gets.
Just as it seemed that we would never get there, an island with a big curve in the middle came into view. It was Horse Shoe Island! The locals call it Myin Khwar Island, and it is a perfect spot to go snorkeling and check out what is under the water, rather than on top.
Our guides gave all the passengers a quick snorkeling lesson and before long we were off exploring the joys of underwater. It is a completely different world under the sea and it is easy to get swept away watching clown fish and trigger fish diving in and amongst the coral.
Just a short ride on the speedboat and we ended up at Pan Island, where once again you will find beautiful underwater creatures. With crystal blue water and fine sand, the island is just perfect! There is a bamboo swing set at the end of the beach which makes for a great photo taking spot.
At this point our guides lowered some kayaks into the water and my brother and I eagerly clambered into one of them. Paddling together we were able to see and explore much more of the island which is bigger than you’d expect. The kayaks were see through which meant we could check out all of the fish life below us at the same time. Very cool.
Returning back to our speedboat, we strapped on some snorkeling equipment and again dived below the water’s surface. The further I swam, the more diverse the corals below became. With colourful fishes, sharp sea urchins, and waving coral reefs, the underwater life is so lively and yet peaceful. I soon found myself singing to myself the theme song from The Little Mermaid - “Under the Sea”.
With stomachs rumbling after all the exercise, it was a nice surprise to see the guides had prepared for us a buffet lunch on the beach. A mixture of Thai and Burmese cuisine had never smelt or looked so good. I cannot tell you how good it tasted, having fresh seafood barbecued on a remote island with different salads to accompany. Perfect!
After lunch, we let our food digest on the boat as we made our way towards Zadetkyi Island. Once again we had the opportunity to snorkel but I was still pretty full from lunch so took the opportunity to do a little bit of sunbathing on the beach. Just before we were about to leave for our final stop, I quickly managed to fit in a 5 minute snorkeling session and was once again amazed by the amount of life underwater. Reluctantly I returned to the boat when time was up.
I cannot tell you how excited I was when I heard about the next island we were going to. Cock’s Comb Island is famous for being in the shape of a heart, which you can see from above.
Here it is possible to swim underneath the island, in little caves and caverns that have been created from years of sea erosion. To reach inside the heart shaped island, we swam into a hollow cave underneath the island. This is only possible when the tide is low.
Our guides linked up some big ropes from the boat to the inside of the caves, which helped lead us into the caverns. It was important we stayed afloat as there were sea urchins underneath (very painful if one of their spines touches you!) and so our life jackets were very welcome. Once inside, we had our last snorkeling session of the day. A very special location.
From here, our last stop of the day, we got back into the speedboat and headed back to Kawthaung after an incredibly enjoyable day, arriving at around 5pm.
At the end of the day we were tired from all of the swimming, and yet thrilled to have seen one of Myanmar’s great paradises. After exploring the four islands, we headed back to Victoria Cliff Hotel & Resort to relax and take stock of just how lucky we were. A highly recommended day trip for you to do while in Myanmar.
Pwint Oo Khin is currently an intern at Thahara.