In the early 1990’s, several dive operators out of Phuket, looking for new diving frontiers in the Andaman Sea, began exploring a series of underwater mountains 90 nautical miles northwest of the Similan Islands that came to be known as the Burma Banks. In a very short time, the banks became recognized as one of the best places for divers to observe sharks close-up and personal–something lacking in Thailand.
As it turns out, this was just the beginning. Even though these banks lie in international waters, by the middle of the decade the Myanmar (Burmese) authorities became aware and uneasy about the activity off of their coastline and asked the dive boats to seek official permission from the government to dive there. After three-years of negotiations, in 1997 consent was finally given to not only visit the now famous Burma Banks, but also the islands in Myanmar’s inshore waters.
This opened up a whole new range of diving possibilities in the Andaman Sea, and operators soon began promoting these new destinations offering multi-day trips. Some boats visit both Thailand and Mergui on the same itinerary, while others confine the journey to only Myanmar. The main obstacle the area has to conventional diving is the distances between dive sites. A typical seven-day circuit including Thailand and Mergui can cover over 1,000 kilometers. Obviously, day-trips are not and will never be, practical for exploring the area.