Sharks and burning scorpions in the lost islands of Myanmar

BY MARK HUME originally appeared in The Globe and Mail

MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO – The silhouette of the shark is black against a patch of dazzling white sand, then with a tail thrash it vanishes against a dark backdrop.

“Can’t anchor here without breaking coral … but you can go in,” the yacht’s skipper calls from the wheel as he starts to back away from a shallow reef on a remote island off the coast of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The cruise has taken us into a remarkable place where we have encountered sea gypsies, giant hornbills and burning scorpions. And that’s above the surface. What lies beneath is what really drew us halfway around the world to visit a mythic country that is striving, with promises of political reform, to open itself to outside tourism.

Balanced on the transom, I look for the shark’s shadow in the vivid blue Andaman Sea, then step over as the catamaran, Ruby, a charter vessel out of Phuket, Thailand, moves away. You never know what you will see when you go into the water wearing a snorkel and mask, but here in the Mergui Archipelago, a collection of 800 isolated islands near the southern tip of Burma, we have come to expect the incredible. Continue reading →