Overview of Ranong / Kawthoung / Mergui Archipelago
Ranong " your departure point in Thailand"
Ranong your departure point in Thailand (not to be mistaken for Rangoon which is the capital of Myanmar ) is about 4 hrs by road from Phuket. Ranong has the most rainfall in Thailand - up to seven months rain, five months dry sunny weather. Rain gives the province its distinctive emerald green hills, deep valleys, fast flowing streams and spectacular waterfalls that spill over crags and mountain crevices. Ranong town, located at the mouth of the Pak Chan estuary, facing Victoria Point in Myanmar , is a former tin mining town settled by Chinese traders. Today, its economy is based on commerce with neighbouring Myanmar , its fishing fleet and a brisk timber business.
Before a new 145-kilometre highway was cut between Surat Thani and Takua Pa , just north of Phuket, Ranong served as the halfway house for dinner, or an overnight stop on the journey from Bangkok , leaving approximately 300 kilometres to cover the following day to reach Phuket Island .
Just one kilometre east of the port town, travelers could soak in soothing remedial hot spring waters in the secluded garden pools of Tapotram Temple . Or they could enjoy the same benefits at a nearby hotel, Jamsom Thara, which opened a spa and pumped hot spring water into a giant Jacuzzis. On an island in Burmese waters a sprawling resort and casino complex with its own 18-hole golf course, and a duty-free shop, is just a 20-minute boat transfer from Ranong's port.
Additionally, the province boasts more than its fair share of beaches, many protected under national park laws. Laem Som Marine National Park , covering a sixty-two kilometre stretch of coastline south of Ranong town is one of the longest stretches of protected coast in Thailand , including 20 offshore islands bordering Burmese waters.
Kawthoung ( Victoria Point ) "Where your trip begins"
Kawthoung is our port of departure and arrival for our Burma trips. Victoria Point is bustling little harbour town with a unique atmosphere. Visit the market, try the Burmese beers, snacks and cigars. A beautiful pagoda temple and monastery on the hill can be visited just outside town.
Guests can fly into Ranong from Bangkok for collection by minibus for transfer to the town's harbour. From there you will cross the river aboard a traditional Thai Longtail boat to Kawthoung. The town of Kawthoung certainly has atmosphere. You will find it to be a mixture of a British Colonial- and the Wild West. There will be plenty of time for sightseeing and shopping and exploring.
Your yacht will anchor for the night at a quiet island some distance from Kawthoung. However charming Kawthoung might be, quiet it is not. After your trip you will be ferried back to Ranong where an air-conditioned van will be waiting to bring you back to Ranong airport or Phuket.
Mergui Archipelago and its Islands
The Mergui Archipelago or Myek to the Burmese has over nine hundred islands. Very few are inhabited. The area has been closed off to foreigners until only some five years ago. It now is opened to a limited number of yachts. Nature is breathtaking and so far we have probably only scratched the surface of what this part of the world has to offer.
Western Rocky island
A small towering rock with several scattered pinnacles. The main rock has a
tunnel right through the island with an entry at 28m (85 ft) exit at 16m (50ft). The tunnel is literally covered in crayfish and there are usually some large nurse sharks piled on top of each other. The pinnacles surrounding the main rock offer good reef diving with a good chance of seeing sharks.
Marine live thrives here, with dense growths of orange cup coral covering many of the deeper rocks and vertical walls. Below 21 metres huge green Tubastrea coral and large black-coral bushes dominate the seascape, complemented by red harp gorgonians, pastel-green rope sponges and feather stars of most every colour. High Rock also offers a chance to encounter camouflage experts like harlequin ghost pipefish and frogfish and sea horses. An impressive, gorgeous anchorage with a small beach surrounded by towering rocks and scattered rocky pinnacles. Good snorkeling. On shore there are caves, you will probably see (and hear) crab-eating monkey, hunting their prey around sunset and sunrise.
North Twin and South Twin Islands
These islands are granite rocks rather than limestone, like most other islands. The resemblance continues under water, here we also find the big boulders, lots of Stag Horn coral, rich soft coral as well and the fish life consisting mainly of reef fish. The
abundance of fish is quite staggering.
This site is arguably the most spectacular dive site in the Archipelago. 16 miles from
the nearest land in deep water it is an ocean site. There is an abundance of life with BIG pelagics being the order of the day. Grey reef and silvertip sharks are almost guaranteed, blacktips, hammerheads and bull sharks by no means exceptional. We have seen stingrays the size of barn doors, manta's, devil rays and also whale sharks. Additionally the reef life is excellent as well with beautiful soft corals, gorgonian fans and plenty of reef fish. Weather permitting we will anchor overnight at this site. Night dives here are spectacular to say the least and not for the faint hearted!
A lovely jungle-clad island with a spectacular anchorage. Towering cliffs and numerous caves are there to be explored with Colona Rocks tiny islet being one of three. The main dive is a small cove with a tunnel that exits on the other side of the island. The cove itself is usually crammed with snappers, groupers, jacks, and trevallies. Silvertip sharks often join the fun.
Great Swinton Island
Great Swinton is an idyllic anchorage with a sparkling white beach with plush rainforest in the background. Some rocky pinnacles a quarter of a mile off provide good snorkeling and diving. You will find soft corals, reef fish, gorgonian fans and the odd pelagic. We have seen iguana's here so large we first thought they were alligators. North side of the island has a large beach with a fresh water stream flowing in the sea. We often stop here for lunch.
Peacock Island boasts yet another beautiful beach along with a heavily forested interior. The southern tip provides a good dive site along a 12metre ridge. The continuous slight current encourages the growth of soft corals that are abundant. Many reef fish, notably snappers, jacks and also smaller stuff. Good snorkeling as well.
One of the few inhabited islands. There is a small monastery with one monk.
When we visit we pay our respects. Nearby is a Sea Gypsy village with about 100 huts. This we can visit as well, it is certainly no touristy place. At low tide the people wade for shellfish, sea cucumber, prawns which they trade or use for food.
Northern Rocky Island
Rocky Island true to its name is a bare limestone pinnacle. One side has a wall to 45 metres with an abundance of soft coral along with prolific reef life if not in size than certainly in quantity. The western side is shallower, but has large gorgonian fans. Good snorkeling here as well. Here we find Freddy's pass a spectacular 3-mile passage with a very narrow channel separating two islands zigzagging between towering cliffs covered in rainforest. You are sure to see and certainly hear a lot of wildlife.
North Sentinel Island
North Sentinel is a small island mostly barren and surrounded by some rocky
islets. Large boulders are scattered on the seabed. Good for soft corals and reef life.
This island consists of a 200m long ridge that lays north to south, rising to about 30m
(100ft) above the surface. One huge arch cuts right through the island above the surface with several smaller caves doing the same below water. The best diving is between 12-20m with prolific reef life, soft corals, sea whips and many small sharks.
On the West side is a very large pristine beach that is cut in two by a
spectacular towering cliff. As Horsburgh lies on the western edge of the
archipelago you can watch Hollywood-like sunsets. If you look hard enough you may even see the "Green Flash"
A picturesque anchorage in a horseshoe shaped bay. A short walk through the rainforest brings you to the West side of the island to a perfect beach. Watch the perfect sunset. But after that you'll have to walk back to the yacht through the forest in the dark!
A high island covered in rainforest with an idyllic anchorage and a good beach. Here a
short walk inland brings you to a freshwater stream cascading over the rocks and plunging into a pool that you can bathe in.
A pleasant anchorage a short distance from Kawthoung. This is the first anchorage visited after departing from Kawthoung.
Cavern boasts spectacular scenery topside with a nice dive consisting of five pinnacles on the SW side consisting of gigantic rocks piled on top of each other. At 10-15 m depth there is a large anemone garden.
A fabulous critter dive, lots of small reef life, nudibranchs . Diving is on a plateau at 18 m with a sandy bottom at 30 m. Perfect for leopard shark spotting.
An overnight anchorage between dive sites in a large well protected bay. Good for watching sunsets.