Myanmar Dive Sites
Myanmar diving offers some uncrowded dive sites with excellent marine life, both macro and pelagic, with the benefits of departing from Thailand with great international travel hubs.
There are two distinct Myanmar dive sites areas, the Burma Banks and the Mergui Archipelago.
The Burma Banks were the original dive destination for Myanmar, proving popular with the few liveaboards visiting the country. The Banks are in international waters, so initially they were the only Myanmar dive area open for exploration. They were renowned for the fantastic shark dives and frequent sightings of these creatures.
The Mergui Archipelago is now the favoured area for most liveaboard cruises, due to the relaxing of the immigration rules in Myanmar. The change is a direct result of the open water conditions of the Burma Banks.
To experience the interactions with sharks now, dive cruises no longer need to travel these vast distances. Due to the relatively shorter cruise travel distances to the islands of the Mergui Archipelago also allow for swimming with sharks.
The opening of Myanmar to diving and tourism, in general, is still relatively new. Being new to dive tourism many of the dive sites are pretty much unexplored. New dive sites and marine life discoveries are being made annually by each liveaboard.
Take a look at the Liveaboard Cruise options below.
Myanmar Dive Sites - 10 LIVEABOARDS
Thai Sea liveaboard in Myanmar is a 20m wooden-hulled vessel that accommodates 12 guests comfortably on board. Completely refurbished in 2014, they provide a personalised service on board with dive group sizes of only 4 to 1 attentive staff during the remote Myanmar cruises. Accommodation consists of twin or double share fan-cooled cabins, all located on the middle or upper decks with shared bathrooms, ideal for the budget minded traveller with a sense of adventure.Book Now
Smiling Seahorse liveaboard in Myanmar and Thailand is new for the 2018 season as a replacement for the popular Thai Sea. The 25m steel hulled vessel has powerful engines to reach furtherafield destinations. She will accommodate 16 guests comfortably on board in 8 cabins. There is a choice of standard, deluxe and master cabins on board, all with climate control and doors opening to the outside of the vessel for a sea breeze.Book Now
Bavaria Liveaboard in Myanmar and Thailand is a 28m steel vessel that can cater for up to 24 guests in her 12 cabins with both twin and double bed set up and climate control. For socialising there is an indoor saloon with full entertainment system and a large sundeck with a shaded area. Dining is alfresco with both Thai and western cuisine. The dive deck is organised and spacious with nitrox available. Dive groups are kept small with 4 to 6 guests per guide.Book Now
Myanmar diving can be split into two areas, the Burma Banks which was very popular for liveaboards initially, and the Mergui Archipelago, which is where the majority of dive cruises are scheduled to explore. Since opening to diving and tourism relatively recently the archipelago has grown in popularity due to the opportunities to dive with sharks and other marine species with significantly less travel.
Mergui Archipelago Highlights
The Mergui Archipelago is still relatively unexplored, with new dive sites regularly found in the area. As more liveaboard cruises visit the area, the amazing macro life is becoming more recognised along with the pelagic sightings it is known for.
Black Rock is often called one of the best dive sites in Myanmar and visited by all of the liveaboards cruises. A lone rock island with the nearest land 12 hours cruise away this walled island is a navigation point for a multitude of marine life. Manta and mobula rays and are often seen circumnavigating the rock along with other rays including eagle and marble.
Shark life includes sleepy leopard sharks resting on the sandy bottom, black and white tip reef sharks are seen swimming, and for lucky divers, there is a chance to view bull, silver tip and grey sharks.
Marine life includes angelfish, puffers, giant barracuda, mantis shrimp, banded sea kraits and many varieties of moray eels. Schools of rainbow runners, trevallies and batfish are common here.
There can be strong currents here, so divers are advised to stay close to the rock and walls especially at the island tips.
Hidden Lagoon which is located on Cockscomb Island is very appropriately named. To enter the lagoon divers need to swim through one of the several limestone openings in the island at around 2 m of depth, on exiting the small tunnel there is a sloping reef. Inside the swim though natural light filters through the wall of the island creating shadows from the divers being you in the line.
The lagoon is shallow, but visibility can be reduced here so good buddy contact is needed. At the lagoon walls you can see tree roots embedded in the limestone rocks.
Exiting the lagoon is by the same tunnels after which a reef dive can be completed on the outside of the island.
High Rock is usually one of the first or last dives of your Burma Liveaboard cruise due to the close proximity to the port of Kawthaung. The quantity of fish life here is astounding, glassfish, fusiliers, barracuda are a few that can block a divers view of the actual wall of the island.
Soldier and squirrel fish hang out in the darker overhangs and crevices along with the crustaceans, moray eels and urchins found there.
The wall has tree and cup corals along with large barrel sponges on the ocean floor, look for lionfish and scorpion fish resting on these with the puffer fish. Nurse sharks can be found by searching under crevices at the base of the wall. There are some old discarded fishing nets at this site which have a coral covering, here look for the tiger tail seahorses often found hanging on them.
Night dives are also completed here with many shrimps, crabs and free swimming moray eels.
Little Torres Island
Little Torres Island is surrounded by deeper water and has a great hard coral reef. Mobula rays are often seen here as well as leopard sharks and stingrays. Schooling batfish and in the shallow area swell as the usual sightings of reef fish such as butterfly and wrasse.
North Twin Area
North Twin Island
This island often has larger pelagic life, with bull sharks and manta rays spotted here throughout the season. There's a pinnacle of the south of the site defending to 35m with lots of swim-throughs and tunnels. The boulders forming this are covered in purple soft corals, cuttlefish and turtles are regular visitors, look carefully for seahorses and ornate ghost pipefish. In the deep sandy bottom, leopard sharks are often found sleeping during the day.
North Twin Plateau
This is a border formation ridge descending to 40m covered in sea fans. Batfish and groupers are regular sightings with the nurse sharks hiding in the ledges of the overhangs. Look to the blue water for barracuda and tuna.
South Twin Island
South Twin Island is very similar to the Similan islands of Thailand with swim-throughs, passageways and overhangs. The deep boulders are covered in purple soft corals and anemones with various nudibranchs exploring them. Whitetip reef sharks patrol the deep with rainbow runners and schools of snappers while the tawny nurse sharks sleep under ledges. Look for the unusual ribbon eels in the sandy bottom between the boulders.
Northern Rocky is in the south of the Mergui archipelago and a wall dive down to 35m. Orange is the predominant colour of this dive with sea fans, sponges, cup corals, whip corals and crinoids all covering the structure. The sandy bottom is home to stingrays and bent pipefish hanging around in pairs. Marble rays and nurse sharks can be under the ledges, and reef fish include angelfish, sweetlips and scorpionfish.
Also known as Fanforest Pinnacle is a diving highlight of Myanmar. The structure is limestone covered with soft corals that rise to 5m below the surface. As the name suggests, there is a high concentration of sea fans more than other dive sites of Burma. Lionfish, sweetlips, barracuda and jacks are always found here with whitetip reef sharks and leopard sharks.
There is a small wreck of a fishing boat and an archway swim-through. On the sea fans look for ornate ghost pipefish, seahorses and crinoids. Around the reef there are many moray eels, stingrays, scorpionfish and cuttlefish.
Shark Cave does not look much from the surface with three bear rock islands, but underwater is an entirely different world. One of the best dives in Myanmar this site has a vast quantity of marine life and is named after the nurse sharks found here.
There is a cave entrance at 15m often obscured by the sweetlips, trevally and barracuda that come hunting the silversides. Inside are cup corals and sponges with many lobsters. Sometimes divers come face to face with grey reef sharks inside here along with white tip reef sharks. Divers should keep to one side to allow passing points for these magnificent creatures. There is a hole where a lower passage can be entered one diver at a time, and this is where the nurse sharks can be found, torches are needed for this part of the dive.
On exiting the cave the dive continues down the reef, here banded sea kraits, seahorses, ornate ghost pipefish and bent stick pipefish can be found.
This site also offers an exciting night dive with many crabs including decorator sponge and shrimps to be found, and cuttlefish can often be seen hunting here in pairs too.
Also called three islets, this is a wall dive with a sandy bottom with a pinnacle just to the south, strong up and down currents are often present at this site. Grey reef sharks are the main attraction here, usually found patrolling the natural bowl area that formed at the end of the channel. The rock itself has black coral, and seasons with cracks where bamboo sharks can hide. Other critters are frogfish, lobsters, seahorses, ghost pipefish and scorpionfish.
In the blue water look for mackerel, tuna, jacks and rainbow runners along with the occasional whitetip reef shark.
Stewart Island is known for the large archway swim-through that is a delight for photographers. The steep walls of the site with the swim through offer a dramatic scenery as schooling snappers and fusiliers surround them. The strong surge and currents can often pull divers through the archway, making it seem like they have passed through a portal to another area.
The walls are covered in soft corals, seasons and sponges with crevices hiding juvenile nurse sharks, shrimp and lobster among other macro life. Black and white tip reef sharks can be seen near the sandy bottom.
Tower Rock as the name suggests is a rock that has steep walls descending to the deep water. There are boulder formations scattered underwater where parts of the rock have tumbled into the sea in the past. Manta rays are the highlight of this dive, where sometimes multiple sightings are possible with the mobula rays. There are swim-throughs here where black tip reef sharks are spotted hiding in the boulder formations. Look for smaller critters such as shrimps and lobsters in the crevices of the walls covered in sea fans and whip corals.
Western Rocky Area
This is a dive area that can be split into several dives each offering a unique environment and marine life to dives on the Myanmar liveaboard cruise. One of the most southern sites in the archipelago there are walls, pinnacles, caves, swim-throughs and caverns with marine life varying from nudibranch to whale sharks.
The island has a passageway that runs through the centre of the island which is an awe-inspiring site. To the south there is an entrance at 5m on the wall that runs to 25m, a large arch provides sunlight so divers can view the coral covered walls with sponges and clams clinging to them. Giant lobsters, shrimps and crabs are found along with lionfish in this cave environment.
In the east of the cave, a tunnel runs through the centre of the island starting at 17m, sunlight is still available for swim-through, but a torch is a good idea for this part of the dive as the length is 30m.
The tunnel narrows towards the end and then splits, the passage to the right is the more substantial exit. Nurse sharks are often encountered in this protective environment many up to 3 meters in length. After exiting the reef dive continues with glassfish covering the corals while being hunted by trevally. Morays and sea snakes are common finds here.
To the south of Western Rocky white tip reef sharks are often found close to the walls in the deeper section. Usually, night dives are done here as there are many lobsters, crabs and cowries.
Western Rocky Pinnacle
This starts at 12m and descends to 40m. It is a plateau with finger reefs that are exposed to the currents of the area.
The top of the plateau has a soft coral covering in purple with hard corals interspersed, cracks and crevices are home to many moray eels and shrimp life. On the finger reefs schools of snappers, jacks and mackerel frame the area. Safety stops are often done on the drift waiting for tuna or even a passing manta ray.
Burma Banks Highlights
Burma Banks is probably the most famous area of the Mergui Archipelago. It is an enormous flat-topped seamount rising from over 300m of depth to 15m from the surface.
Diving with sharks is almost guaranteed here, and it was one of the most shark rich waters in the world at one point.
The Burma Banks were first visited in the late 1980s when it was the only area of Burma liveaboards could explore as it was in international waters. In 1997 when the Burma authorities opened up the closer islands for dive trips trip to the banks started to decline as many shark sightings were possible here without the need for long journeys into the exposed area of the banks. This move was helped along by fishing of the shark population that decreased their numbers in the late 1990’s. Today limited liveaboards visit this area now, and it is still pretty much undived due to the very exposed environment and strong currents, a true open water diving area.
Heckford Bank is the deepest of the dive sites with the shallows point at 21m. Nurse sharks can be found underneath the many table corals while the silvertips will be circling the divers.
Roe Bank has a hard coral surface with black coral and seasons. The sharks patrol the area above this.
Silvertip Bank has schooling barracuda and giant potato cod as well as the black and white tip reef sharks.
A visit to Victoria Point and possibly to one of the beaches on the many uninhabited islands.
Marine Park and Conservation in Myanmar
There is an entry fee to dive the Myanmar waters but no specific marine park. Liveaboards will always have a staff member from Myanmar join each liveaboard to ensure diving is only conducted in appropriate areas are some islands are strictly off limits to vessels.