The southern islands of the Mergui Archipelago lie only 120 miles to the north of Phuket and directly west of Ranong, Thailand's last northwest, coastal province.
There are about 800 islands opposite the Myanmar Tennasserim coast, forming one of the last remaining untouched paradises on earth.
These islands are densely forested and mountainous, with impenetrable jungle meeting white silica sand beaches. There are plenty of natural harbours providing a complete range of day and overnight anchorages for cruising yachts.
The starting point for any venture into this area is Kaw Thaung (Cow Tong), formerly Victoria Point. (Koh Song in Thai.)
Tidal movement within the southern group can range up to 4 metres, creating strong currents, especially in the shallower areas and through the narrow passages. This tidal flow also causes a short, sharp chop when wind and tide are opposing.
Diving & Wildlife
Scuba diving and snorkeling are superb, with plentiful fish life and undamaged corals in all but a few stopovers.
In general, the western shores of these islands provide the best underwater topography. Visibility improves significantly west of the 98th meridian. The condition of the reefs becomes more pristine, and sightings of large pelagic fish species more prevalent, the further west you venture.
Animal and bird life is prolific on the islands. Although impenetrable jungle prevents sightings of larger mammals, their tracks are plentiful above the high tide mark on the beaches of larger islands. Macaque (pronounced ma-cak) monkeys and large monitor lizards are seen frequently on the beaches and rocky shorelines. Monkeys visit the shoreline at low tide to feed on crabs, eating the sweet meat under the shell and discarding the rest to the sea.
The larger islands are believed to support a wide variety of mammals and reptiles within the dense forests, although no formal study has been done this century. Crocodiles have been seen, and there has even been a suggestion that the rare Asian rhinoceros might still survive on the larger islands.
There are literally hundreds of anchorages in this southern Mergui group.
Mergui Archipelago Inhabitants: the Moken
The inhabitants of the area are a mixed race of sea nomads known locally as ‘Salones' or ‘Moken'. Salones have their own language and live with extended families (dogs and cats included) on board tarred, wooden boats. They survive on a diet of fish, sea cucumber and island game.
On shore is an abundance of fresh water, wild animals and reptiles to sustain them. They are the real “Sea Gypsies” of the archipelago, preferring not to live ashore but move from island to island. The ‘Moken' are neither inquisitive nor afraid, preferring to be left alone.