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The Burma Banks consists out of a few very steep pinnacles that rise to within the surface surrounded with hordes of predators.
|Name Dive Site:||Burma Banks|
|Inserted/Added by: ||burma_liveaboards|
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Located about 90 nautical miles west of Kawthaung, the Burma Banks are far from shore and exposed to wind and waves. Getting to the banks is a time consuming and diesel guzzling operation that was once worth the effort for the large quantity of very big sharks that could be seen here. Unfortunately the Burma Banks, like many other Mergui archipelago dive sites have been overfished in the early years of this century and are not as impressive as they once were. Many dive liveaboard safari operators in Burma prefer not to visit the Burma Banks these days.
The Burma banks consist of a series of submerged sea mounts with flat plateaus around 15-25m below the surface and drop offs over the sides down beyond 300m. They were discovered by exploratory Thailand based dive boat operators and were sensational dive sites in the late 1990’s when divers could be guaranteed to see several species of shark most notably large silvertips. Also present were white tip reef sharks, large tawny nurse sharks, leopard sharks plus occasional sightings of scalloped hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks. This was high adrenaline diving for divers that did not mind rough seas and occasional strong currents. A dive often consisted of nothing more than descending the anchor line to the coral plateau and sheltering under a coral bommie until no deco time or air ran low. The sharks circled the plateaus (they were fed by dive boats for a time) and were a fine example of natures power and grace. Descending over the drop off and drifting along the wall sometimes produced sightings of hammerheads and tiger sharks. Manta rays and eagle rays could also be seen here. Other pelagic species such as tuna, bonito and rainbow runners can still be seen.
These days the nurse sharks remain but the silvertips are seen much less frequently, victims of the fishermen. Other pelagic species such as tuna, bonito and rainbow runners can still be seen. Coral life is healthy, particularly on the deeper sections of the walls.
Silvertip bank is closest to Kawthaung and most frequently dived by Burma liveaboards. It is the shallowest seamount at 15m below the surface. The plateau area is about 1km in diameter. Big bank is bigger, about 2km across and still has some large nurse sharks in residence. Rainbow reef is another large bank that has impressive large table corals on the top of the plateau. Roe bank and Heckford bank are the furthest from Kawthaung and also the deepest so are dived less frequently by liveaboard dive boats. Potato grouper and great barracuda can be found here.
While the truth about these dive sites certainly puts some divers off taking a liveaboard cruise to Burma we feel that knowing the truth before you go is better than being disappointed on the boat. Burma diving still has a huge amount to offer besides the Burma banks dive sites. Liveaboard customers often suspect that dive boat operators don’t want to go to the banks because of the expense of getting there. This is not the case, it’s just that there are many better dive sites in the Mergui archipelago for a diver to discover.
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There are no islands here, the Burma Banks, located about 80 nautical miles west of Kawthaung, are a series of seamounts that rise up from over 300-meters to just below the surface. Depths average 15-22 meters on the flat areas on top, dropping off slowly on the edges. Some banks have a more dramatic drop off than others, but nowhere will you find a vertical wall. Diving here requires careful planning, as the currents are often strong and unpredictable. Guided drift dives are the norm, usually starting on the edge of the bank in 35-meters of water where divers stare out in the blue looking for large silvertip sharks. Commonly growing to just over two-meters in length, these sharks are full-bodied, fascinating animals easily identified by the white trailing edges on their pectoral fins and caudal, or tail fins. Normally quite curious, but not aggressive, these sharks will closely approach the diver making for incredible photo opportunities. The nurse sharks, black tips and gray reef sharks are usually found. If the sharks are not currently around, the dogtooth tuna, Spanish mackerel and jack fish that patrol the reef edges will delight you. The coral is in very good shape in many places, but this varies from year to year depending on storm activity and other environmental factors.
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