The Mergui Archipelago (also Myeik Archipelago or Myeik Kyunzu) is an archipelago located in southernmost part of Myanmar, comprises over 800 beautiful islands all lying in the Andaman Sea off the western shore of the Malay Peninsula near its landward (northern) end where it joins the rest of Indochina.. Occasionally the islands are referred to as the Pashu Islands because the Malay inhabitants are locally called Pashu.
The Andaman Sea eco-region is biologically rich in both diversity and abundance. The coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds, marine lakes and deep sea valleys of the region form a constellation of diverse habitats that support a spectacular variety of flora and fauna.
The only human inhabitants in this beautiful area are the ethnic Moken (Salone) “Sea Gypsies”, a nomadic seafaring race. In the Moken-Sea Gypsy village their life style is very simple, having changed little over the years. Until recently, the Moken have been the exclusive inhabitants of the Mergui Archipelago, practicing the same fishing and boat building techniques that have been in use for many generations. They live in the ocean in small boats from birth to death, living simply off the riches of the sea, a Southeast Asian people, seemingly as mythical as mermaids.
The Moken are highly skilled in swimming and diving. Their way of life and unique customs are celebrated annually during the Salone Festival, usually held during the month of February. The festival is at Majungalet Village on Bocho Island in Myeik, Tanintharyi Division. It is celebrated every year, to promote responsible tourism and acquaint visitors with Salon and Myeik Archipelago as a tourism destination for the international market. Here you can witness traditional and spiritual dances, diving competitions, and a fascinating way of life. There are also rowing competitions, folk singing and a traditional Moken feast.
The Mergui Archipelago is also home to some of the world’s best and least disturbed scuba diving! Divers can expect barracuda, dogtooth tuna, batfish, unicornfish and trevallies. Larger species such as manta rays and the awesome whale shark, and grey reef and white tip sharks may put in an appearance as well. Many of the sites are renowned for their big fish action and you hear people talk of sites such as Shark Cave and Black Rock in hushed, reverential tones.
As if that weren’t enough, it is the smaller sea life that’s beginning to win recognition as divers realize there is more to diving Myanmar than merely the big fish and seclusion. Lobster, crab and shrimp of seemingly every shape, color and size scuttle over the sea floor whilst cuttlefish, ghost pipefish, frogfish and octopus all enjoy the relatively boat-free Mergui waters.