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Thailand: Snorkeling the Asian Aquarium

National Geographic Adventure picks the 25 best new outfitted trips.
Text by Bonnie Tsui  


Japan  |  Myanmar  |  Tajikistan and Afghanistan  |  Thailand  |  Tibet

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Go Green
The Mergui Archipelago, a 200-island barrier reef system in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar, was closed to travelers until 1997. Next March the ecology experts at World Wildlife Fund Travel enter the fray with a tour of one of its least visited sites: the dazzling Tenasserim coastal rain forest. Guests join top marine conservationists aboard the 15-passenger Mermaid 1 for an insider's look at one of WWF's Global 200, a ranking of conservation priorities around the globe. "The sea life is dense and imperiled," says Debra Eliezer, director of WWF Travel. "Guests will be among the few to ever see it." On the first day of snorkeling off Great Swinton Island, travelers tour underwater gardens blooming with massive table and basket corals, home to grouper, saddleback clownfish, and cuttlefish; lunch is accompanied by a presentation on coral biology. Other shallow-water habitats host colorful anemone clownfish, cardinalfish, and hawksbill turtles. On larger islands hikers trek empty beaches and forests in the company of monitor lizards and long-tailed macaques. The entire exploration of these Southeast Asian waters—a mosh pit for the flora and fauna of the Indian and Pacific Oceans—is done in comfort: Mermaid 1's cabins are air-conditioned and equipped with DVD players and private bathrooms. Sightings of the traditional Moken people, sea gypsies who live in small boats the majority of the year, are an above-water complement to the undersea bonanza.

Vitals

Outfitter: WWF Travel (www.worldwildlife.org/travel)

Price:
$6,800

Length:
15 days

Departs:
March

Japan  |  Myanmar  |  Tajikistan and Afghanistan  |  Thailand  |  Tibet

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