Looking for an unspoilt yacht destination this season? Ask Claudia about Myanmar

Scuba diving in Myanmar

Never one to pass on the opportunity to discover a new dive location, particularly one that promised indigenous people that are masters of free-diving – apparently it is their ability to hold their breath far longer than most humans can; Dive Butler was asked to organize a wonderful trip of discovery to the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar. Travelling on an amazing super yacht, Alexis and I embarked on this remarkable exploration, barely containing our excitement.

Myanmar or Burma, as it was known in the past, is still off the beaten track. The Mergui Archipelago, in particular, lying just of the coast of Southern Myanmar in the Andaman Sea, is one of those rare gems that is unspoilt and undiscovered. The more than 800 islands have managed to preserve their natural beauty, and as soon as the yacht left Thailand behind we found ourselves in a magical spot. As we sailed through the islands, the landscape changed every day, white sand beaches, mangrove labyrinths, deserted islands – big and small, and virtually nobody around, perfect.

It would be hard to imagine a better way to explore these islands than by yacht. The weather was ideal and the sea was flat, perfect for any water activities and we did it all, from kayaking and paddle boarding, to water-skiing and scuba diving. Diving was obviously our favourite. The incredible reefs are growing fast showcasing mind blowing soft corals and attracting an abundance of fish life. However, what took our breath away was the landscape, both above and below the surface, such an intriguing configuration with bountiful nature all around to explore and enjoy; with trails to hike, birds to watch, and dolphins to spot.

There are so many huge, protected bays that make cruising through the Mergui Archipelago a superb experience. White sand beaches perfect for a BBQ, calm waters to swim, stargazing at its best – no light pollution, we couldn’t have asked for more.


This is paradise for ocean lovers. Swimming through a tunnel we emerged to find ourselves at the heart of an island. Viewed from above, a drone had captured an image of the island, we saw that we had swum into a heart shaped lagoon of pristine turquoise water.

Swimming through those waters was almost a mystical experience, from the darkness of the tunnel to the light and silence of the lagoon. As we returned, through the tunnel, we felt as if we were flying underwater towards the drop off, quite impressive, and the number of fish that all of a sudden surrounded us was spectacular.

We were on-board to curate amazing scuba diving experiences and we did a lot of diving; if we had to pick one, probably our favourite dive site was Shark Cave.  A rocky pinnacle that ascends from around 40-metres deep all the way up and beyond the water’s surface level. This dive site has some of the greatest marine life of the Archipelago; myriads of tropical fish swimming in big schools surrounding you from the beginning till the very end of the dive. At depth there is a canyon that is suitable for experienced divers only; the canyon leads to a cave that is often patrolled by grey reef sharks that swim very close to divers.  In order to dive this site you need perfect conditions – avoid the canyon if the current and swell are too strong.

If Shark cave was the highlight of diving, coming close to the Moken people or sea gypsy was by far the highlight of the human experience.  Our local guide Tu, (local regulation require any yacht cruising through Myanmar waters has a local guide on-board), was the first to spot the “canoe flotilla” enthralling us with stories about the lifestyle of this incredible ethnic group. For centuries the Moken people have sailed across the Andaman Sea, spending their entire life on a boat.  We often read about the sea gypsy life where the narrative says that they are born, live and die on their boats.

As Tu told us, the Moken people move around the Archipelago, fishing with their goggles either by hand or by using wooden hand made harpoons, they remain in one area for a day or two, fish the amount they need and then sail on. They fish to sustain them, and trade shells and oysters for the necessities that nature can’t provide. An entire family lives on a tiny boat and moves around their entire life.  We slowly approached them and discovered that they are not shy, on the contrary, they are very eager to come closer, with Tu’s help, we started a conversation and were immediately welcomed into their world with genuine warmth. We shared big smiles; we giggled and splashed around in the water enjoying the laughter of the kids. As we waved good bye, to continue our exploration of the islands, we couldn’t stop thinking about a life-time spent on a tiny boat; everybody hoped to meet more Moken people during the journey, we had been touched, Myanmar and its people were conquering our hearts.


As the journey continued we learnt more about Sea Gypsy’s. Tu told us that the Moken people are more and more often “asked” to settle and now there are a few villages where several groups live. Visiting the village, we witnessed a special ceremony; we bought vegetables, fruit and sweets for the kids and families and wondered if they were happier now with a wooden home on land rather than on a tiny boat.

On another day we were lucky enough to see some more Sea Gypsy’s on the water, we decided to go and meet them and what a celebration we had.

Gathering together on one of the beautiful islands we brought a football, some soft drinks, and snorkelling masks. As the sun prepared to set we played football on the beach with the boys, we smiled and giggled with the women; some of us sat with the chief of the Moken group and smoked a local leafy hand wrapped bidi, and some of us tried their smoked dried squids. We sat on the beach watching the sunset with a sense of fulfilment. From very little these people gave us so much, and in Moken tradition each one of us received a little present, these people truly touched our hearts.

Slowly it was time to wrap up the day, hop on the tender and return to the yacht, everybody was relaxing with the silent beauty of the perfect journey, a journey that had taken us beyond our personal horizon. You never know, may be next time we can go free diving together.