What to do in Myanmar's Myeik archipelago
There are over 800 islands in Myanmar's Myeik Archipelago, and you couldn't possibly visit them all in a single trip.
Most tourist boats stop off at the same islands, with each a different drawcard.
If you're planning a trip to Myanmar, here's what you should know about its most popular islands:
ZAT DET NGE ISLAND doesn't have much in the way of activities but it's the place you're most likely to barter with local fishermen or sea gypsies for their catch. They won't take money as it's no good to them at sea, but will happily trade a packet of rice or pasta, or a couple of cold soft drinks for enough freshly caught squid or crab to feed an army.
PONI ISLAND is a great place to snorkel but this may change with a private resort currently under construction.
115 ISLAND hasn't been named yet but it's likely to be the first glimpse of paradise you'll get. There's good swimming on the eastern side and a walking track through the forest to the western side, where a deserted white powder sand beach with hundreds of hermit crab residents awaits.
BO CHO ISLAND is the site of one of the largest Moken sea gypsy villages, Ma Kyone Galet. It's baking hot and apart from strolling the main drag, which is littered with rubbish, there's not much to do. Over-excited Moken children will follow you everywhere and jump in front of your camera at any opportunity to try to see themselves on the screen.
KYUN TANN SHEY or Lampi Island is a large, mountainous national park and a great place to kayak and explore the mangroves. A creek on the western side goes a long way inland and you can see fish, snakes (most non-venomous) and large tree lizards. There's also apparently a small herd of elephants, left over from a logging operation, wandering Lampi's forests.
KYUN PHI LAR or Swinton Island is completely deserted and a great place for snorkelling, paddleboarding or a beach bonfire. It would be a good idea to get there within the next year though because it's been bought by a resort developer.
KHO YIN KHWA KYUNN or MacLeod Island has some of the best snorkelling and sheltered swimming in the whole archipelago so bring your camera. It also has an small eco-resort, where you can have a shower and try the resort bar's house cocktail - the MacLeod Island Spicy Gin, basically a gin and tonic with fresh green chilli.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Until recently the only way to get to Myanmar's Myeik Archipelago was through a government-run tour. However, Intrepid Travel currently offers five-day tours on a sailing catamaran with all meals and accommodation included for $A1895 (NZ$2041.71) per person.
STAYING THERE: The catamaran has cosy cabins with hatches leading onto the main deck. The bed is two single mattresses pushed together, with a curtain dividing them. So unless you travel with a partner or friend you may have to share a large double bed with a stranger, but most time is spent on deck anyway.
PLAYING THERE: Intrepid provides snorkels, fishing rods, kayaks and paddleboards. The crew also sell glasses of wine for $3 or cans of beer for $1.62. All you'll need to bring is your clothes, a towel and a pair of walking shoes.
The writer was a guest of Intrepid Travel.