Summer is back with the feeling of wanting to touch the sea with
your body! While I was looking for a new destination in the Andaman Sea,
readme.me along with Love Andaman were giving out gift vouchers to visit a new
archipelago that has just opened up in the beginning of this year! This is why
I’ve gone on a backpack journey and wrote this review. Thank you to Love
Andaman and readme.me for help making this review happen!
Cockburn Island is a newly opened island in the Marid Archipelago which consists of more than 800 islands in the South of the Tanintatharyi region, Myanmar.You can only travel there from Ranong by contacting Love Andaman. When I first heard the island’s name, I thought that its meaning is very odd. However, it might be a way to attract tourists to visit it. This island is the newest island among hundreds of other islands in Myeik. Love Andaman is the only travel agency that is allowed to take tourists there. Before going to Cockburn Island, There are 2 ways to travel from Bangkok to Ranong. The options that take little time and will get you to the island in time are:
1. Tour bus: there are 2-3 companies and the prices are around the same rate. I chose this option by traveling with Sombat tour because their buses are new and the prices are fixed so you can go anytime you want. You can leave Bangkok after work and arrive in Ranong in the morning and visit the island as a one day trip then return to Bangkok after your visit at the island. You can sleep on the bus unless you stay in Ranong for further visits.
I reserved for a Supreme class seat so I can sleep comfortably. The journey was from 8.30PM – 5.30AM so it takes around 9 hours and costs 627 baht. You can get on the bus at 2 stops: At the Viphavadee center near the Ministry of Energy and the Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal. If you choose the former, you have to be there at 5PM. Later, the bus will pick up more passengers at the Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal until 8PM then leave for Ranong.
Supreme class buses are Mercedes-Benzes VIP with 24 seats. There is only one deck but it is longer than a normal tour bus.
Inside the bus, there are:
- Adjustable chairs (135°)
- Chairs with bedding
- Electric massage arm chairs with a USB port on the side
- Private TV with a USB port for battery charges
- Blanket and pillow
- Toilet on board
- Beverages, snacks and buffet offered at the car stop
2. Airplanes: only Nok Air offers the earliest flight. There are 3 flights per day. The morning flight leaves Don Mueng airport at 5.45 AM and arrives in Ranong at 7.10AM so you can go to the island in time. The flight for Bangkok leaves at 7PM. So you can travel during the day and go back to Bangkok right after. However, you have to check the prices to see if they are expensive or cheap in which period. Another choice is Air Asia which has just opened a Bangkok- Ranong flight in the
From the bus station, airport or an arranged meeting point, a shuttle bus prepared by Love Andaman will take you to the light house pier and customs in Ranong. After this, the Love Andaman team led by Guide Amy and the Hemetis crew will welcome you and collect your ID cards to prepare your entry into Myanmar and give out wrist bands and snacks before boarding the boat.
While waiting for other tourists from different places, don’t forget to drink some coffee and enjoy the 360° view on the lighthouse. From here, you can see Kawthaung island where we will have to submit our entry documents.
9AM – We took a 75 seat speed boat to submit our documents on Kawthaung island. The immigration process didn’t take long and some Burmese crew who work for Love Andaman found us some food to eat. On the pier, we can see Burmese people shopping in the local market. The houses by the sea are charming. Also, the Pildora pagoda can be found as place to pay respects on the mountain. If I had the chance, I would like to stay here for a couple of nights.
We arrived at Cock Burn Island or White Elephant Island in Thai. It took around two hours to get here from the Kawthaung pier. This island I said to have been closed for 200 years. It has recently, been opened in February, 2018. From the pier, I could see the beautiful turquoise sea which is like a mirror! In the sea, there is white sand and schools of small fish swimming around. The main island looks like any island but there is a giant rock which has eroded to the point that it looks like an elephant separated from the main island so there is a separated sea where you can see the pearly white sand when the tide is low. Our boat was docked around 300 meters away from the main island because they had to use the underwater rocks to tie up the boat instead of using an anchor. Then, we had to swim to the island. I spent some time taking photos of the surroundings around me and I hesitated about taking my large camera with me. But after everyone had gone to the island, I decided to take it with me by putting it in a waterproof bag to take more photos on the island. However, you have to be very careful when tying up the bag so that it’s tight enough. To be sure, put the bag in another plastic bag just in case. When you jump off the boat, try to be careful and hold the bag straight for safety.
The first impression I had when I stepped onto the island was the soft and white sand. The nature on this island is still raw and pure. It felt like I was the first human to ever visit this island.
After looking around and exploring the beach, the next highlight of this trip is climbing onto the elephant’s back. It wasn’t too high up but rather steep. For those who have knee problems or acrophobia (fear of heights), this activity isn’t recommended because the way up wasn’t too difficult to climb but the f going down from the elephant was quite scary. You should also have some climbing experience such as which spot to grab, swing or how to position your feet. A guide will help and advise you too. I forgot to mention that Love Andaman doesn’t allow shoes on this island so you will have to take them off at the pier back in Ranong. Because of this, the rocks will feel a little hot and you have to be careful as some rocks are sharp.
The view from the elephant’s back is amazing! The sea has layers of greenish turquoise and deep navy blue to show the deepness of the water and you can see other small islands. Actually, Cock Burn Island is an archipelago with other 5 small islands which has a range of shallow water coral reef. Love Andaman says that this is the best coral reef of all the islands in the Burmese sea that they have explored. At the top of Cock Burn Island there are a lot of white rocks so that’s why it’s called “White Elephant Island” in Thai. Personally, I really like islands that look like this one: white sand, shallow coral reefs near the beach and a high view point. The other island that has this kind of viewpoint is Lord Loughborough Island which is unfortunately closed after being open for a year.
On the way returning from the island, I had to swim against the current to the boat so it was quite tiring. The boat took us to eat lunch on another island in the archipelago. When I saw the clear water near the beach I had to say “wow” because it was so beautiful. Even though the beach wasn’t very long, there are trees near the beach where you can hide from the sun.
The lunch prepared by Love Andaman is a line buffet with at least 4-5 dishes to choose from including snacks and beverages. I really recommend the coconut cake which was very delicious. The only thing missing was the after meal coffee so I was sleepy after the meal. The employees wore a chef outfit like a professional chef.
After having lunch, it isn’t time to take a nap because the beautiful beach is waiting for us. I grabbed my camera and took some photos around the beach. There is a long white beach (around 500 meters) in front of the island and some rocks on both ends of the beach. So you can swim in the sea as much as you want. Because there aren’t many rocks, the beach looks very empty when you take a photo. So I took some photos of people having fun instead.
The main activities on the beach are swimming, kayaking and taking photos with floating beds.
The last activity of the day started when we went to the snorkeling point called “Milky Way”. This point has a kilometer-long coral reef to a pile of rocks called “Little Cock”. At this point, taking photos was quite difficult so you need to be quite pro at using the Go Pro camera to take photos underwater. These are some techniques and how to fix the situation:
1. Weather and view underwater – This is something that we can’t control or change; if there are strong currents, you can’t even go snorkeling because you can get carried by the tide and hit the rocks which is very dangerous. Also, even if you do go in the water, you won’t be able to see anything. Guides have the right to cancel snorkeling in that spot for your safety.
2. Photography equipment – Nowadays action cameras are very popular such as Go Pro. These are necessary when you are underwater. Another choice is compact waterproof cameras. These are enough to take photos underwater. However, have you ever wondered why your photos aren’t as clear as the photos in commercials or advertisements? This is because the sea water is always flowing and moving. Also, the currents cause dust and dirt to float around as well depending on how windy it is. Most photos in advertisements have been through retouch and taken by professional photographers. What we did today was snorkeling by wearing a life vest to float in the water and look down underwater. The deeper it is, the harder it is to take photos using a Go Pro (Go Pros have wide lens). So it is difficult to zoom unless you extend you selfie stick.
3. Go Pro camera techniques and photo angles
- Settings – Other than the video mode that only needs to be pressed once to capture motion, if you want to take a still photo without having to press the shutter numerous times, choose the mode time laps then set the time for how often you want the photos to be taken. I set it to 1 second then choose the photos after. However, while taking the photos try to be still so the photos won’t be too blurred out. Or if you want to take both videos and photos at the same time there is a mode called Simultaneous video & photo which will take photos and film a video at the same time. You also have to set the time. My minimum setting was every 5 seconds = 1 still photo while filming a video. However, it depends on the resolution that you choose and you have to turn off the protune mode too. For further instructions on settings, check out the manual that comes with the camera.
- Using red filter to fix the underwater color – You probably notice that most photos that we took underwater is green and blue unlike the colorful photos you can see in advertisements. That’s because of the light that shines underwater; the sea will diminish the light and the red is the color that disappears. So we need to use the red filter to fix the photo to increase its quality. Filters can cost from hundreds to thousands of baht depending on the quality.
-Angles – When you go snorkeling, the photos that you take will have a downward view which is suitable for shallow water and you can use a selfie stick for close up shots. But if it is too deep to reach by hand, what should you do? Most people who can swim and dive will take off their life vest and get a shot near the coral and fish. Most beautiful shots are taken with the same level as the person taking the shoot. For example, you can have your friend stay behind the coral and you take the photo. The photo will look more interesting this way.
-Try to stay near the guide when diving – Ask the guide where the best spot is so you won’t miss the highlights. Or you can ask the staff to take the photos for you if you can’t dive.
What I missed during this trip is that I didn’t see any clownfish. All I saw was small schools of fish near coral and the water is too deep to see clearly. Also, I wasted time with my snorkel that kept getting water inside. To avoid this, try the snorkel before using it; try to breathe through the tube- if you feel like it’s not sealed properly, get a new one that’s firmer. Also, if you are one of the first people you might find strange animals that are quite calm so you can take photos of them. Most importantly, study the instructions on how to preserve the environment here ClickMy journey isn’t finished yet! This is just the first day. There are still reviews of Nyaungoophee Island and places and restaurants to visit in Ranong after this review. You can check them out soon!
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