Burma Dive sites - Moken, Myanmar Sea Gypsies

Burma Banks

Burma banksFor offshore of the Mergui Archipelago lies a series of submerged mountaintops collectively known as the Burma Banks. Surrounded by open sea in all directions, these remote, widely separated reefs were not accurately plotted on nautical charts until they were extensively dived in the early 1990s. After a series of exploratory trips by several Phuket-based live-aboards, five banks were located. Other boats followed almost immediately, and the Burma Banks quickly became a popular dive destination.

There are four (or) five banks at burma bank. They are ...

1.SILVERTIP BANK

Location : 01' 02' 238 N
97' 01' 217 E
Conditions : The current here can be zero, but it can be very strong. Visibility can vary from 10m to 30m (33-100ft)
Average depth : 14m (46ft)
Maximum depth : 60m (200ft)

Silvertip Bank is the most frequently visited of the banks. Covering about 1 sq km (0.4 sq miles), the bank is a flat platform with patches of dense hard corals and corals heads, as well as rock grottes and tunnels where soft corals perdominate.

The main attraction at the site, howere, is its sharks and there are plenty of them. Reef sharks here include Silvertips, Whitetips, Grey and Nurse Sharks, while oceanic visitors include Tiger Sharks and Hammerheads. Enoromous Whale Sharks are sometimes seen.

2. HARDFORD BANK

Location : 01' 21' 988 N
97' 05' 473 E
Conditions : Visibility varies from 10m to 30m (33-100ft). Current ranges from zero to very syrong. This is the largest of the banks and in stronger currents you can drift-drive.
Average depth : 18m (60ft)
Maximum depth : 30m (100ft)

The bank covers an area of almost 2 sq km (0.8 sq miles). Its plateau is the deepest of the four banks, averaging 18m (60ft), with sides sloping down to 30m (100ft), then a wall down to 300m (1000ft). The elevated section of this site is scattered with coral mounds, some rising to 12m (40ft) and being 5m (6ft) across. some are divided by impressive gullies and canyons wide enough for divers to pass through, seafans adrons their wall, and lesser star corals provide and undulating floor. Numerous sharks roam this site. Tawny Sharks are the msot common.

3.Coral Bank, Rainbow Bank:

Location: 01' 05' 940 N
97' 51' 800E
Condition : Visibility varies from 10m to 30m
Average depth : 15m (50ft)
Maximum depth : 60m (200ft)

The main reason people go to the B. Coral Bank, Rainbow Bank

Location anks is to see sharks. Altogether, at least nine species have been seen here, including rare encounters with tiger sharks and scalloped hammerheads. Others like grey reef and leopard sharks are not exactly rare, but sightings are infrequent. Reef whitetip sharks are probably the most common species at the Banks, yet they tend to be very shy, so most divers see them only from a distance. Perhaps the most approachable species are tawny nurse sharks, typically found resting under coral heads or patrolling lazily over the reeftop. Curious and unafraid, they often swim right up to divers, providing excellent photo opportunities. The real stars at the Banks, however, are silvertip sharks-.a species seldom seen elsewhere. Solid, powerfully built, yet supremely graceful, they move with the easy confidence that comes with being at the top of the food chain. Readily identified by the white edges on all their fins, these animals leave a lasting impression and are ample reason for visiting the Banks.

Diving at the Banks is nearly always exciting and rewarding, but it is not for everyone. This is open-ocean diving-no sheltered anchorages or islands to hide behind, just open sea in all directions. Most sites are quite deep, and strong, changeable currents are very common. All this should not imply that the Banks are not worth the effort. For experienced divers looking for an unusual environment, high-voltage excitement and big-animal encounters, the Burma Banks are definitely the place to be.

The majority of diveable areas at the Banks are fairly level, broad plateaus, typically about lkm in diameter. Minimum depths are 21 to 24m at most of them, making for rather short bottom times. The water surrounding all of the Banks is quite deep, averaging 250 to 300m; there are no walls within recreational diving depths.

Marine life is healthy and abundant in most areas, although the diversity of species does not compare with many inshore sites. Because of their proximity to deep water, the Banks are an excellent place to see open-water predators like rainbow runners, bonitos and husky dogtooth tuna. Occasionally, big animals like eagle rays and mantas also show up, usually cruising along the reef's deeper edges. Most of the Banks have some live coral, but you'll also see areas of dead coral and rubble, probably caused by crown-of-thorns sea star invasions. Even these areas have interesting features, as some of the many huge, ancient coral bommies are bizarrely shaped. Although hard corals are the norm, excellent soft corals grow in certain places, especially deeper portions of Silvertip Bank.

Silvertip Bank is one of the closest banks to Kawthaung and is also the shallowest, making it by far the most popular. As at the other Banks, most of the dive able area here is an expansive, coralcovered plateau. Unlike the others, however, it is as shallow as 15m in some places, allowing for a longer dive.

Location: 170km (92 nautical miles) west-northwest of Kawthaung
Depth Range : 15- 40 m (49 -130ft+)
Access : Live-aboard
Expertise Rating : Advanced

Silvertip's sloping drop-offs are another feature not seen at the other Banks. Two areas, one on the eastern edge of the plateau and the other on the western edge, feature steeply sloping terrain that drops from about 18m to beyond 40m. These areas tend to attract more marine life than other portions of the reef, so it is definitely worth having a look around here.

Both drop-offs make good choices for morning dives, since the best marine life tends to be fairly deep. Start your dive by descending to at least 36m, where you'll find the nicest soft corals and gorgonians, as well as large barrel sponges, especially on the west side. Impressive colonies of cabbage coral intermingle with fields of staghorn and occasional boulder corals on these deeper slopes. The east drop-off usually has more fish action than the west, with large schools of pyramid butterflyfish, fusiliers and redtooth triggerfish hovering above many areas. As you work your way up the slope, soft corals become less common, with a higher prevalence of hard corals. Save some time to explore the plateau, where you'll see plenty of interesting coral formations and a variety of fish.It is a good idea to keep an eye on the open water, since predators like rainbow runners, dogtooth tuna and jacks make regular patrols along the drop-offs. Sharks (particularly reef whitetips) are often seen resting on the sandy bottom. Silvertip sharks also make an appearance on nearly every dive, mostly around the deeper slopes, but also on the reeftop. Reaching lengths of nearly 205m, these sleek predators command instant respect, yet pose little threat to sightseeing divers.

Currents can be very strong here, especially along the drop-offs. However, they frequently run parallel to the slope, creating ideal conditions for an effortless drift dive. Down-currents occur from time to time, yet seldom last more than a few minutes; normally it is best just to stay put and wait it out by digging your hands into the sand or ducking behind a coral head.

As the name suggests, Big Bank is significantly larger than the others are, measuring nearly 2km in diameter. While much of the reef offers decent diving, two areas are particularly interesting. One of these is along the western edge of the bank, which gently slopes from about 24 to 39m. While certainly not a spectacular drop-off, you'll find a somewhat higher density of fish and corals here than at other parts of this bank. The western edge is also the only place in the Andaman Sea where the rare Strickland's trigger fish has been reported; previously this species was thought to be only in the Mascarenes (an island group off the coast of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean). Big Bank's other noteworthy area is several hundred meters east of the western edge, where you'll find an especially high concentration of huge, strangely shaped coral bommies. Several tawny nurse sharks also seem to favor this habitat; they are sometimes seen swimming single file, nose to tail across the reef.Similar in many ways to the other Banks, Rainbow Reef is another large, coral-covered plateau. The one feature that sets it apart is an unusual predominance of table corals, actually a flattened version of Acropora staghorn. Some of these colonies have grown to tremendous proportions, reaching Sm or more in diameter. Unfortunately, an outbreak of crown-of-thorns sea stars consumed many of these corals in the mid-1990s, but there are still plenty of live colonies.

Roe Bank is the most distant bank from Kawthaung and is also fairly deep, so it is not frequently dived these days. Like most of the Banks, the plateau is fairly large, roughly lkm in diameter. Much of this area is quite barren, but somewhere near the center is an extensive area of healthy reef, with fields of staghorn coral stretching beyond the limit of visibility. Nearby, massive fossil coral bommies dot the seascape. One looks very much like an old castle, complete with ramparts and windows. Reef fish include schools of surgeonfish, batfish and fusiliers, along with occasional guineafowl pufferfish. As at most of the Banks, you've got a good chance of seeing mid-water predators like rainbow runners, bonito and dogtooth tuna. Reef whitetip, tawny nurse and silvertip sharks also reside in the area.

Located well northeast of the other Banks, Heckford is quite deep; most areas are at or below 24m. Its location and depth, along with the absence of large coral formations, probably account for the lack of interest in this site; it is seldom dived. Nonetheless, for boats that happen to be in the vicinity, it is certainly worth a quick dive just to have a look. You'll find a large living reef that includes many varieties of hard coral, plus lots of leathery soft coral. Most coral growth is fairly low profile, and the huge, ancient bommies found at the other Banks are noticeably lacking. While the scenery is less than spectacular, fish life is plentiful, with a good representation of most reef species.

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The Islands in the Mergui Archipelago

There are so many islands lying between North Lat 98.38' E to 11N in Kawthaung district. Among them, some islands have the beautiful sandbanks, clean water, sea creatures and animals that c