What To Expect When You Island Hop in Myanmar By Amrita Kundu Are you ready to head to Southeast Asia for an island hopping experience? Here’s a tip: Ditch the over-touristy countries and head to the untouched islands of Myanmar that will give you an unique opportunity to enjoy nature in its virgin state. Myanmar is blessed with an archipelago named Myeik that consists of 800 islands, both big and small, plush with marble-white sand and crystal waters at the south of the country. Situated on the Andaman Sea, these exclusive islands are blessed with extensive varieties of wildlife, birds, aquatic animals and aboriginal ethnic groups. A visit to these islands also helps tourists observe the local industries that have been keeping the sea’s core activities such as fishing, pearl farming and coconut production. Where To Start The starting point is Kawthaung, the biggest town in southern Myanmar. Kawthaung is well-connected with the rest of the country as you can take a direct flight from Yangon or Mandalay to Kawthaung. The town itself is vibrant with busy roads and bustling waterfront markets winding through the township. There are several places to see in Kawthaung such as the Shway Pyi Thar Pagoda, Ngar Thone Lone Hill and Bayint Naung Point. Several operators run island hopping tours that last for 5 to 8 days. However, it is not essential to opt for an operator controlled trip as you can simply hire a private boat and design your own itinerary. An impromptu trip could be more fun! Notable Islands To Visit As mentioned earlier, Myeik Archipelago has 800 islands of different sizes, most of which are out of reach of tourists. However, some islands are more accessible and more popular than others. Below are a few that are worth a visit. Mc Leod Island: Enjoy a true ‘Robinson Crusoe’ experience and take a time away from the rest of the world as you visit Mc Leod Island. Relax on the pristine beach and feel the soft white sand under your toes before you take a dip in the sea. The turquoise waters are so clear that you will spend the rest of the day just marvelling at this prime beauty of nature. The beautiful corals around are of all kinds of colours and shapes , making the island an ideal spot for snorkelling and diving. Dive in to witness the rich biodiversity and swim with schools of fish. On land, the island is dense with jungles of rare animals, birds and plants. If you are a hiker, you will love trekking through the jungle to the island’s highest peak, which is about 200 meters above sea level. The food joints on this island also serve delicious seafood. Lampi Island: This island has the only Marine National Park of Myanmar which is also grounds to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Lampi Marine National Park protects more than 1,000 rare species that are globally recognised as endangered. Some of them include the plain-pouched hornbill, hawk eagle, loggerhead and green sea turtles, the sunda pangolin and the dugong. So if you love photographing these uncommon animals lounging peacefully in their wild habitat, you cannot give this island a miss. The island has a rocky coastline with beautiful beaches, bays, inlets ideal for kayaking around in the mangrove creeks. If you are lucky, you will be able to spot animals in the jungle. Cock’s Comb Island: You can visit the heart of nature in Cock’s Comb Island, literally. The island is characterised by a heart-shaped lagoon that can only be reached by trekking through the jungle and crawling between the caves. Although it might sound like a lot of effort, the view, in the end, will be worth it. Take a look below! Kyu Phi Lar Island: Also known as Pilar, this island has long white beaches which stretches for several kilometres. You will find more monkeys than people on the beaches since the island is not frequented by many people. If you really need a getaway with complete silence, you will find it here—with hardly a soul around, you are free to have the beach all to yourself. Lesser humans mean less litter on the beach too! The waters around have colourful coral reefs which makes snorkelling a real joy. These are the most famous islands in the archipelago. Of course, there are many more that lie in wait. If you want to head to the ones that are less travelled, speak to the local boatmen. They will be more than happy to suggest a few good ones for you to visit. Once you are done exploring, you can fly back from Kawthaung. As the country’s cultural capital Yangon itself has its own attractions. From the glistening Shwedagon Pagoda to well-maintained colonial buildings that were built centuries ago, Yangon has plenty of versatility to keep you hooked!