Do you love sailing in unexplored waters that are rich with life? Do you want to protect the natural wonders of a coral reef environment? You can have the opportunity to join us for a rewarding experience and help us in the conservation of one of the last remaining unspoiled paradises on Earth: Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar, Burma.
Mergui Archipelago is composed by 800 islands almost untouched by the tourism industry. Due to the political situation of Burma, the entire area has remained inaccessible to foreign visitors over the past 50 years. This resulted in preservation of the islands and they are still covered by primary tropical forests and surrounded by healthy coral reef.
The region is uninhabited except for a few groups of Moken Sea Gypsies who depend directly upon the primary resources of the archipelago. Previous explorations and pioneering surveys have proven the potential richness of biodiversity and the pressing need to promote the conservation of the site through research and awareness programs. Rare species of fauna and flora could be found there: plain-pouched hornbills, dugongs & dolphins, undisturbed macaques, wild boars and otters, flying foxes, intact reef eco-systems, dypterocarp forests and enormous ficus trees… there have even been reports of the thought-to-be-extinct Gurney’s pitta – a colourful little forest bird on many a birdwatcher’s list.
This wildlife hotspot is unfortunately not as pristine as we may think… Threats to biodiversity have been observed and reported several times. Luca Schueli, a passionate seaman who started sailing in this area already 15 years ago inviting international and local biologists on his boat, can state the alarming negative pressures on the ecosystem: the resource use in the sea and on the islands is increasing rapidly and the number of fishing boats coming from mainland Myanmar and the subsequent creation of new human settlements is also growing at an alarming rate. Destructive practices like blast (dynamite) fishing, forest encroachment and logging, charcoal production from mangrove wood and uncontrolled hunting are present.
At the moment, the only existing development on the island is a dive resort but new tourist infrastructure projects are planned. One worrying question comes in mind: what will happen following the forthcoming opening of Myanmar to international investors?
Explore and preserve!
When the Myanmar ministry of tourism delivered a few navigation permits to foreigners in 1997, Luca Schueli, president and founder of the nature conservation NGO ECoSwiss, decided to dedicate himself to the protection of the archipelago, inviting scientists and volunteers onboard his sailing catamaran SeaNomad to explore and study its biodiversity. These expeditions collected the first data on the biological composition of the area and also had the positive effect to raise awareness not only to the foreigner public but also to the locals. These research expeditions have been consolidated to give birth to a long-term program called Mergui Archipelago Biodiversity Research aiming a major international effort on conservation. When Myanmar Forestry Department joined one of the expeditions on SeaNomad and decided to take effective protection measures in the area starting from Lampi Island Marine National Park, the first phase of MABR was achieved. Several organisations and departments collaborate now with MABR to extend the research to other areas in the archipelago.
Sail with us and help protecting the archipelago!
Eco-volunteering plays a big role in our operation, providing a vital support role to the biologists as well as a small but essential financial contribution which keeps the project running.
You can join us on:
- Expeditions: help our biologists in the research activities such as coral reef surveys, shore and inland mapping, data collection on fauna and flora, etc. This work is vital to the science which drives our conservation efforts. You’ll also participate in the tasks related to the overall running of the catamaran and be part of the crew.
- Awareness cruises: live a wonderful relaxing adventure by sailing through the islands and learn about their history, eco-system and threats. Spot dolphins and dugongs, snorkel on pristine reef teeming with marine life and then relax on deck with a cocktail and watch the sun go down in paradise.
- Charter the boat: when the catamaran is not busy, you can charter SeaNomad and build with us your own bespoke itinerary and sail wherever your dreams take you.
The SeaNomad – a bespoke vessel
SeaNomad is a one-of-a-kind purpose built catamaran designed to be a research platform for biologists. She has a very shallow draft enabling us to sail very close to the shoreline or even up rivers. With her 12×7 meters size, she’s very stable in the water, providing a fantastic platform for scientists to work from, which allows the use of microscopes and other scientific equipment normally unsuitable for boats. And, of course, she’s a sailing boat!
In addition to the scientific advantages, life aboard the SeaNomad is very pleasant indeed. What more pleasurable way to conduct biodiversity research than quietly sailing a yacht among pristine tropical islands?
ECoSwiss is a non-profit organisation and not a business. 100% of contributions collected from expeditions, cruises and charters are used to fund the research and conservation efforts of MABR.
For further info, please visit: www.ecoswiss.org