Opened to the outside world as recently as the 1990’s, the Mergui Archipelago lies just off the southern coast of Myanmar; and with as few as a couple dozen visitors a month, it has remained largely untainted by the modern world. The 800 deserted islands of the archipelago are littered with white sand beaches, palm trees and untamed jungles. Adventurous guests of these islands will find an abundance of reef fish, corals and island wildlife to enjoy in nearly complete privacy.
But lest one thinks that seclusion and luxury cannot go hand in hand, the archipelago is not only home to both the exclusive 5-star resort Awei Pila and it’s newly opened PADI Dive Training Center, but also Burma Boating’s newly acquired solar powered catamaran—available for charter to explore the archipelago to it’s fullest!
Awei Pila’s Dive Training Center
Opened December 2018, Awei Pila sprawls across a remote, nearly deserted island 50 miles from the mainland. Owned by Yangon-based Memories Group, Awei Pila is the only resort on the island of Pila, and travel to the island involves a 2.5-hour speedboat ride from the port of Kawthaung. The island boasts 40 mostly deserted beaches, three sources of freshwater, and one Moken “Sea Gypsy” settlement. The ultimate getaway!
Guests can choose from 24 air-conditioned tented villas and enjoy the resort spa and 24-hour restaurant when not indulging in the unparalleled privacy of the beautiful beaches. General Manager, Steffen Kroehl, describes the resort as “barefoot luxury”, while reiterating Memories’ goal of creating “minimum impact on a pristine environment.”
An Underwater Wonderland
Among these five-star amenities, the resort is also home to a brand new PADI scuba diving center, offering guests a unique underwater look at the unspoiled treasures of the Mergui Archipelago.
The dive center offers all levels of scuba training from the Discover Scuba Diving Program for beginners all the way up to the Dive Master Program, for those hoping to make diving a career. Certification classes can easily be started online before arriving to the resort for maximum expediency, or taught upon arrival in three to four days. And, as an international dive organization, PADI courses can be taught in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German or Italian.
“We have night dives upon demand, where you’ll see squid, lobsters, turtles and an array of open corals,” says Awei Pila’s resident marine biologist and SCUBA instructor Marcelo Guimaraes. “Divers can swim among schools of barracudas, yellow snappers and fusiliers, and will be able to get up close and personal with nudibranches, sea horses and scorpion fish. And at certain times of the year, we come across Manta rays and whale sharks.”
Once certified, divers will be able to explore 12 different dive sites with depths ranging from 40 to 100 feet, including some that are quickly becoming world-famous dive sites. The Mergui Archipelago has become known for its aquatic diversity and quantity of marine life over the last few years, and divers can even expect to see schools of fish so massive that they might not be able to see their buddy just a few feet away.
Awei Pila Dive Center employs a 27-foot RIB dive boat with capacity for six divers plus instructors. Brand new equipment at the facility includes Aqua Lung regulators & BCDs and Bauer air compressors.
Guimaraes said that his team aims to provide a “sustainable tourism experience” and will include a complimentary course in Coral Conservation to all advanced divers as part of their Green Fins initiative, a UN-backed program to encourage environmentally astute policies among divers and dive centers.
Diving at Awei Pila for beginners starts at $120 for The Discover Scuba Diving experience or $620 for the Open Water Course, which includes four open water dives, training materials, equipment and a globally recognized certification card.
An all-inclusive stay at Awei Pila, including three gourmet meals per day, starts at just $750 per night (double occupancy).
Burma Boating’s S55 Catamaran
For those looking to adventure further into the pristine waters of the Mergui Archipelago, Burma Boating’s new offering, the S55 catamaran may fit the bill. Able to accommodate up to six guests and three crew members, the S55 catamaran offers a luxury sailing experience in a destination unlike any other. And with stops at Awei Pila on the itinerary, it truly is the best of both worlds.
“The benefits of sailing with solar power cannot be overstated,” says Burma Boating’s General Manager Eric Poepper. “The S55 will leave a minimal environmental footprint, but offer travelers unprecedented sailing comfort. She sails as silently over the waves as any sailboat, but without depending on the winds. When anchored, even the usual generator noises will vanish and become a memory of the past, letting the passengers focus entirely on the magnificence of the Mergui islands, landscapes and sunsets.”
The S55 has three distinct levels for guests to enjoy: a flybridge with panoramic views, an air-conditioned salon for lounging, and four guest cabins with en-suite bathrooms – including one suite. Built in 2018 by Silent-Yachts, this ultra-modern catamaran has also become the first 100% solar-run boat to sail in Asia. The S55’s 30 mounted solar panels create enough power for her to travel an unlimited distance on an average sunny day for maximum exploration (though she also maintains a fuel-based back-up engine).
Burma Boating caters to private tailor-made cruises on the S55 for up to six persons, starting at US$3,200, per day. It also offers a choice of 4-day or 6-day cabin charters leaving from the port of Kawthaung, southern Myanmar, each Saturday between the months of November and May.