The untouched and remote Myeik Archipelago is a beautiful coastal and island area of over 36,000 square km that stretches all along the Andaman sea at the southern tip of Myanmar. The Tanitharyi coast is best known for the isolated Mergui Islands that offer some of the most impressive diving in South East Asia. The Archipelago is accessible only from Yangon via a flight to Kawthaung or through the Thailand border region of Ranong. From Ranong it is possible to get a longtail boat to Kawthaung. Kawthaung, or Victoria Point is a relatively uninteresting border town that's primary attraction is the casino at the Andaman Club Resort. Many Thai and foreign visitors to Kawthaung will make the 10min trip from Kawthaung to the resort without exploring the region further. For those who do make the effort to explore, they will be greeted by an unspoilt paradise.
Unspoilt by tourism, visitors can experience incredible underwater topography, diverse animal, bird, plant and marine life and visit an area that is undeveloped and unique. Over 800 islands are reported to be in the Archipelago that are predominantly uninhabited. The region is characterized by craggy limestone outcrops, dense tropical rainforests, pristine white sands and clear, turquoise waters. The major limitation that tourists face when visiting the region is the lack of accommodation, as well as independent travel and transport options. The majority of visitors will travel around Myeik Archipelago on a package tour that arranges hotels, dive boats, transport and meals. Some tourists may choose to stay in one of the two resorts that operate in the area, but these are expensive and benefits may not reach locals. There are some independently owned guesthouses and hotels in the major towns like Kawthung, Myeik town and Ranong, the border town in Thailand.
One of the most interesting encounters in the region are with the ethnic Salon people who inhabit the area, better known as sea gypsies. These nomadic sea faring people live the majority of the year on their boats and only live on land during the wet season, during which time they repair their boats. The Salon people are a wonderful example of an ethnic group that still practices traditional boat building and fishing without the influence of modern conveniences. Sadly, the impact of modern-day fishing is a concern in this area with significant environmental damage being caused by trawling, long line and dynamite fishing. This damage can be seen on the sensitive coral reefs and is impacting on fish numbers.