Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar

How a Myanmar Dive Holiday Kickstarted My Career Change

Bertrand Duong
Bertrand Duong
7 min read

For several years, I had been looking for a new project to change from Paris' intense lifestyle. The first step of my research in 2014 brought me to Southeast Asia and more specifically to Myanmar.

This country closed to foreigners for more than 50 years seemed to me full of promise and it was committing to an early democratic process, that meant opportunities for new projects. I travelled for 28 days from north to south, and visited Lashio, Mandalay, and went from Bagan to the beautiful Inle Lake. I also discovered Ngapali beaches, the serenity and nonchalance of Mawlamyine, and the endless beaches of Dawei and its surroundings.


I was captivated by the hospitality of these people but frustrated at not being able to continue to Myeik, the gate of the Mergui Islands, then very difficult to access to foreigners. The following year, I took a bike and explored Thailand, from the Golden Triangle down to Koh Lanta.

This is when I started to dive again, after a twenty years break. I had passed my first level in 1987 in Brittany, France. I was rediscovering this passion that I had put aside to do more extreme sports, such as windsurfing, kite-boarding, snow-boarding and above all, motorbike speed competition on circuit.

Since then, I have been diving in the Red Sea, the Maldives, Malaysia and the Myanmar Mergui archipelago. I dived there in 2016 for the first time, leaving from Ranong in Thailand and going all the way up to Black Rock.

And suddenly it hit me. I was travelling through an archipelago of the breathtaking Andaman Sea, with more than 800 islands of limestone and granite.

It is almost uninhabited except for the Moken, fishing people also called gypsies of the sea. These stunning islands are covered with dense jungle falling on beaches of white sand and crystalline and turquoise waters.**

Apart from a few fishing boats, you are the only boat on these dive sites of great diversity. You'll see an amazing number of soft and hard colorful corals, giant gorgonian seafans sheltering incredible macro life: ghost fish, antennas, seahorses, harlequin shrimp, mantis, crabs, lobsters, and many nudibranches. You'll also see many pelagics such as marble rays, stingrays, giant schools of trevallies and barracudas and with luck, some eagle rays, oceanic mantas at Black Rock, and some nurse sharks, leopards, bamboos and black tips... arlequin

A paradise for divers far from the tourist frenzy. This archipelago is where I wanted to put my bags and become a scuba diving cruise operator.

2017 was the year of preparation for this project. I was able to do my Divemaster training aboard the MV Thai Sea, the boat of The Smiling Seahorse, one of the best operators of the sector and thus to deepen my technique and my knowledge of the routes and dive sites, as well as the management of a cruise ship. I also met Isabelle and Michael, the founders of SeaCrush ;)

Getting to know Franck and Camille, the founders of The Smiling Seahorse, was fundamental in my decision to settle here, buying their boat to start my project. I then dived in Malaysia, did my Instructor Development Course, and got to meet many more people with the shared desire to discover and have others discover the incredible underwater life.

In 2018, I had another fantastic month on the boat to refine the business plan, start commercial negotiations and make this project viable.

It was the month of Mantas at Black Rock, another magical moment, surrounded by fellow instructors on board, friends in training or simply on vacation.


After more than 20 years as IT manager at the leader of mass retail in France, I decided to take the plunge and create Scuba Libre Adventures, operator of scuba diving cruises in Burma and Thailand. We will be based in Ranong, on the Thai and Burmese border.

The diving season starts at the end of October and ends in early May

The climate in Thailand and Burma is tropical with three different seasons: the dry and relatively temperate season that goes from November to February and the hot season from March to mid-May. Finally the rainy season (monsoon) runs from mid-May to October and during which the sea can be bad.

The air temperature is between 23° to 35°C (73° to 95°F) while the water temperature remains around 28° to 30°C (82° to 86°F) all year round. Visibility varies between 5 meters and more than 35 meters (16 to 114 feet).

In Myanmar, depending on the tidal coefficients and the lunar calendar, the current can be quite strong and dives are aimed at advanced divers or N2. However, we welcome beginners, and our team of experienced instructors will find the best sites in the best conditions of safety to make you progress from all levels. You'll get to dive in homogeneous, small groups, and therefore, progress faster than during day trips.


For all dives, you must be equipped with a personal dive computer and a surface parachute and be at least certified Open Water or N1 and follow two programs of Advanced Open Water, deep diving and night diving.

We offer four itineraries, one in Thailand of four days and 11 dives, which will take you to the best spots of the Surin and Similan Islands and the famous Richelieu Rock. And three circuits in Burma from six days to eight days, with 17 to 25 dives, in which you will dive to Black Rock.


It's still one of the few preserved places on the planet where only 3,000 tourists were allowed in 2017.

Even if dynamite fishing did do some damage, the local authorities are gradually becoming stricter and aware that the exceptional nature of this environment must be protected. A project that we, the dive operators, could support with the authorities would be the creation of a national marine park as it has been done in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. In any case, our itineraries will take you to unspoilt sites with rich marine life.

Scuba Libre Adventures is online and you will find there all the details of our cruises and planning for 2019, the information necessary to best prepare your trip and your holidays with us, as well as additional services to enhance your stay, such as booking and preparing a PADI course... Be the first to join us in mid-January, in a warm atmosphere, limited to 12 divers and an experienced team, enthusiastic and dynamic. On the program, dive, eat, relax and small paddle trips on deserted islands! Get ready for your best diving holidays!


Bertrand Duong

Bertrand, 51 years old, is a PADI instructor, founder of Scuba Libre Adventures based in Ranong, Thailand. Previously, he worked for more than twenty years as a manager in Information Systems Architecture. Bertrand dived in Brittany between 1987 and 1993. Passionate about extreme sports and motorcycle speed, he was a victim of a serious circuit accident during the championship of France Endurance in 2012. After a Long hospitalization and rehabilitation course, he decided to radically change his projects and set up his own scuba diving company in Myanmar and Thailand. He will launch its first itinerary in January 2019, and he's waiting for you to discover this little corner of paradise.

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