Mergui Archipelago Yacht Charter - Overview
Imagine a charter destination that has more than eight hundred tropical islands spread over fourteen thousand square miles of Indian Ocean. Imagine mountainous, jungle covered islands that teem with wildlife, spectacular waterfalls that tumble directly onto white sandy beaches fringed by pristine coral reefs. Imagine no tourists and indigenous hunter gatherer tribes with an exotic culture who live nomadic lives aboard their tiny boats. This place really does exist – it is the Mergui Archipelago off the south-west coast of Myanmar.
That the islands of the Mergui Archipelago exist in such an incredibly unspoilt state is entirely due to historical accident. For 50 years following the independence of Myanmar in 1947, isolationist policies served to keep foreigners out. Since 1997 access into the Mergui Archipelago became possible. Today a small handful of licensed operators offer luxury yacht charter and dive live aboard adventure trips into the remote wilderness of the Mergui Islands. Just a four hour drive away to the south lies the island of Phuket in Thailand, a popular mass tourism destination which is now experiencing a condominium property boom.
Of the eight hundred islands of the Mergui Archipelago only a dozen or so are permanently inhabited. Many of the islands are huge, some are larger than Singapore. Most beaches are backed by trees that tower to over 150ft tall while overhead there is the constant cacophony of birds and small animals feeding in the forest canopy.
"The beaches are covered in animal tracks – the only human footprints in sight are the ones behind you..."
Our knowledge of the Mergui Archipelago, Burma
The Mergui Archipelago is an exceptionally remote area with over 800 islands uninhabited islands spread over half a million square kilometers of ocean. It is essential, both for your enjoyment and safety that your crew really know the area. Paul Johnson, the captain and owner of SY Asia has an unrivalled knowledge of the Mergui Archipelago and writes the yacht cruising guide for this area. He has written many internationally published magazine articles on the Mergui Archipelago..
When to visit the Mergui Archipelago, Burma
|High season. Pleasant NE winds, hot and sunny, cool overnight. Great sailing. Great fishing.||Very hot - no wind. Great diving. Migratory whales.||Effectively closed with heavy rain, strong winds, rough seas and hurricanes.|
Mergui Archipelago Yacht Charter - Example Itinerary
All of our charters in the Mergui Archipelago are carefully planned specfically for you using the knowledge and experience we have gained during 12 years of operation in this unique area. Here is an example 7 day charter itinerary for the Mergui Archipelago to provide an idea: Mergui Archipelago 7 day example itinerary.
Below are some examples of the activities you can choose to do during your charter in the Mergui Archipelago.
Mergui Archipelago Sailing
Sailing in the Mergui Archipelago is superb during the height of the North East monsoon (December to mid March). Expect hot sunny conditions during the day, cooler nights and a steady 10 to 15 knots of wind.
As the breeze is offshore, the sea conditions are calm, even with a good sailing wind.
Mergui Archipelago Scuba Diving
The Mergui Archipelago has enormous variety of dive and snorkelling sites with fringing reef; mangroves with crystal clear water; boulder fields, seamounts rising from thousands of meters of water, vertical walls and offshore pinnacles.
This in turn gives rise to an incredible underwater biodiversity from large pelagics and whales to tiny but fascinating invertebrates. We frequently see many rare and unusual species diving here that have experienced divers scrabbling for their reference books!
Mergui Islands Fishing
Despite the deprivations of the Thai fishing fleet in southern parts of the archipelago, there is still reasonable fishing in the Mergui Archipelago, particulary around some of the offshore pinnacles.
In this environment is is essential to fish responsibly. We keep small numbers of fish for eating but the majority of fish we catch are returned to the ocean unharmed.
Mergui Archipelago Jungle Walks
The flora and fauna of the Mergui Archipelago has never been properly surveyed. A preliminary survey in the 1930’s by the forestry department of the British colonial government listed the following as resident in the islands: tiger, leopard, bear, elephant, rhinoceros, wild boar, sambar, barking deer, tapir, mouse deer, flying lemur, gibbons, macaque monkeys, sea otters, pythons, cobras, crocodiles, monitor lizards, leatherback turtles and hawksbill turtles. Much of this wildlife remains undisturbed to this day.
Overhead the birdlife is equally prolific and unusual. Great flocks of noisy hornbills fly past every dawn and dusk. The jungle covered islands are home to the exotic “bird of paradise”, parrots and tiny sunbirds. Around the shoreline reef egrets, sea eagles, Brahminy kites, fishing owls and nocturnal night herons catch fish for a living.
Of the eight hundred islands of the Mergui Archipelago only a dozen or so are permanently inhabited. Many of the islands are huge, some are larger than Singapore. A ban on logging in the Mergui has prevented the widespread deforestation that is common elsewhere in Asia. As a result, all of the islands are covered in thick jungle with majestic stands of Burmese Teak, Mahogany, Pandak, strangler figs and other indigenous vegetation. Most beaches are backed by trees that tower to over 150ft tall while overhead there is the constant cacophony of birds and small animals feeding in the forest canopy. The beaches are covered in animal tracks – the only human footprints in sight are the ones behind you. Jungle walks in this area, while demanding, are also very rewarding with glimpses of the elusive wildlife and superb views through the forest of the deep blue ocean beyond.
Mergui Archipelago - The Moken Sea Gypsies
The indigenous people of the Mergui Archipelago are the Moken. These gentle, peaceful people are a source of complete fascination to anthropologists as they still cling to their traditional nomadic, hunter-gatherer existence despite attempts to settle them in permanent villages. Traditionally the Moken do not fish. They are hunter-gatherers mainly living off shellfish collected in the inter-tidal zone. They also free dive for shell fish and sea cucumbers, sometimes diving to amazing depths ballasted by large stones tied to their waists. The Moken also occasionally hunt wild boar and small deer in the forest with the aid of their dogs.
Each Moken family group lives on a flotilla (ban) of traditionally built wooden boats (kabang). Each member of the family also has their own personal dugout canoe that they use for foraging. When the Moken move from island to island, these dugout canoes are towed in a long chain behind their kabang.
We occasionally come across the Moken in the Mergui Archipelago. They pull into a nearby beach in their flotilla of boats. Adults, children, cats, dogs, chickens and ducks leap off each boat and rush into the jungle to forage. Suddenly, at some hidden signal, people and animals come rushing back out of the forest and jump on the boat just before it leaves for another anchorage. Their arrivals and departures seem random and follow no obvious pattern of time or tide.
How to get to the Mergui Archipelago
Our yacht charters in the Mergui Archipelago usually start from the town of Kawthung which on the Thai-Burmese border. The town on the Thai side of the border is called Ranong - not to be confused with Rangoon (Yangon) which is the largest city in Burma.
Because air and car transport is so much more reliable in Thailand than in Burma, we recommend that our guests arrange to travel to Ranong. On completion of immigration formalities in Ranong (departing Thailand) we then use a "longtail" boat to transfer our guests across the Pak Chan River from Ranong to Kawthaung were yacht Asia will be moored.
There are no scheduled flights into Ranong airport which is effectively closed. Private charter flights are permitted to use the runway at Ranong airport.
There is also the option of starting your charter from Mergui in Myanmar but this adds considerable expense to your charter and for this reason is not recommended.
Many of our guests choose to combine a sailing charter in the Mergui Archipelago with a stay in one of Phuket's premier hotels.
For those guests who wish to escape to a remote jungle clad island as quickly as possible we can arrange a private charter flight from Bangkok direct to Ranong. There are many options on this route ranging from small single engine aircraft, helicopters of various sizes or luxurious executive jets. From your international flight into Bangkok you will be met and provided with a VIP transfer service directly to your private flight to Ranong.
Flying time from Bangkok to Ranong depends on aircraft type but is typically around 1 hour.
From Yangon there are flight connections to Kawthaung (at the southern end of the Mergui Archiepelago) and Mergui (at the northern end of the Mergui Archipelago). However, domestic flights within Myanmar are frequently cancelled or delayed. For this reason we advise our guests to travel to Kawthaung through Thailand.
The following airlines fly from Yangon to Kawthaung or Mergui:
Mergui Archipelago Yacht Charter - Additional Information
As part of our yacht charter permit for Burma (Myanmar), all of our guests are issued with a visa on arrival in Kawthaung. This visa is valid for up to 30 days and is only valid for cruises in the Mergui Archipelago. Each visa costs US$20.
Those guests who may wish to combine their yacht charter with travel elsewhere in Burma (Myanmar) should apply for a visa in advance to their nearest consulate or embassy.
Mergui National Park Fees
National Park and Port Clearance fees are not included in your charter rates. These fees are as follows:
The above fees must be paid direct to the Myanmar authorities in cash US dollars prior to the start of your charter. These cash notes must be in "as new" condition. Any US dollars notes with writing, marks, folds or tears will not be accepted by the Myanmar authorities.
Local currency is the Myanmar Kyat (pronounced chat). Approximate exchange rates are:
1 Euro = Kyat 1100
1 US Dollar = Kyat 900
Note that these actual exchange rates are very different from the official exhange rates which are 1 Euro = 8 kyat and 1 USD = 6 kyat. We strongly advise you to keep your money in hard currency as any kyat you have left at the end of your holiday will be worthless.
©Boat Yacht Charters 2016