Myanmar Islands TravelBurma Islands Travel
Is Myanmar's last unspoilt Asian heaven? Swiss Post magazine
Insufficient infrastructures have saved the Myeik archipelago in the Andaman seas from the devastation of the tourist industry, but for how long? Imagine about 800 islands encircled by sandy beach and luxuriant woodland, towering out of a transparent blue ocean where fishermen' vessels and a fistful of motor vessels and fast craft are the only means of transport.
Remember that only 3,000 people spend the night each year in this archipelago in Southeast Asia, although the most southern islands are less than 200 km northern of Phuket, one of the most favourite places for a holiday on the beaches. Wellcome to Myanmar's archipelago of Myanmar, which is at the top of Myanmar's quest to promote it.
Spread like leafy beads over a 400 km long section of the Andaman seas westward of the southwest Myanmar and inhabited only by a small populace of seigypsies and colonists from the continent, the Archipel was totally taboo for international travelers until 1997. Already now a permission is necessary for those, which would like to undertake not only a daily excursion to the coastal islands.
It is a unique occasion for the Myanmar authorities and businesses looking for possible resort and hotel destinations. Until 2011, when the regime that governed the nation for nearly 40 years resigned, Myanmar saw only a small number of people. However, almost all of our guests are following a beaten track on the continent, between the big towns of Yangon and Mandalay, the sanctuaries of Bagan and Inle Lake, all much further inland.
Nearly all archipelago visitors do this either on speedboat trips from the Myeik harbour to the less appealing islands in the northern part of the archipelago or on diving safaris starting from Kawthoung, Myanmar's most southern city, and a 30-minute cruise from Ranong in Thailand.
I' ve been on a four days journey from Moby Dick Tours in Yangon, on his Sea Gypsy boot, a robust, two-storey Burmese-like junky in yellows and greens, with single but cosy booths equipped with a teakwood finish. The secluded natural surroundings of the South Islands, the true gems of the Kawthoung Islands, become visible within an hours of departure from Kawthoung.
The ocean is lined with islands, some large with many coves, some only islands, but all densely wooded lime stone rock formation are lined with unspoilt shores, some of which are anchored for snorkelling or kayaking. Aside from the white-tailed sea-agles hovering above us, our only companies are fishery ships, mostly dilapidated Kawthoung-based.
The Sea Gypsy's freezer is well filled with groceries, but sometimes the flight deck, accompanied by nosy passersby, jumps into a tender and races to a fishermen' vessel to discuss part of the day's work. Now speedboating in the northern part of the island is more dangerous for the marine life.
There is also unlawful dynamic fishery among the marine gays, known in Myanmar as Salone, who are often responsible for the blast. However, unlike the islands of Thailand, there are only a few towns and resort in the islands. There are small gypsy colonies - no longer really nomads - and immigrants from the continent on a few islands, while Myanmar's marine is stationed at a few base points, but almost all of them are left unpopulated and totally uncultivated, without housing, power, freshwater, paths and streets.
To date, the federal authorities have issued licenses for the construction of resort facilities on only 12 of the islands. However, as there are no fixed ferry services, there are currently only four working due to the difficulty and high cost of hotel construction and maintenance, including the Boulder bay eco-resort on Boulder Island. As Sea Gypsy heads into the horseshoe-shaped Boulder Island cove with its shimmering half-moon beaches, the waters are so clear that you can look down from the top and see all kinds of colorful game.
The Myeik Islands have long attracted scuba diver, but without Myanmar scuba diver all come on tour from Phuket or Ranong. After a 20 minute stroll I reach Moken Bay, on the other side of the archipelago, where some of the best corals can be found.
Fishermen chug into the small cove and throw their anchors directly onto the corals before throwing the garbage onboard. Tanintharyi and the Myeik Archipelago, like any other Myanmar area, require huge investments in all areas, meaning that no one expects the federal government or municipal authorities to make any money available for them.
There is still a long way to go before a timetable for a local timetable for the ferries to the islands, which, in addition to the need for all goods to come from the land, also has a positive impact on the environment. The Cathay Pacific operates between Hong Kong and Yangon. The Myanmar National Airlines operates between Yangon and Myeik.