By Maung Tha (Archaeology)
We made a trip to Aungba Village, north of Kawthoung in Taninthayi Region by car. From Aungba junction, 50 miles from Kawthoung, we turned left and then arrived at Aungba Village, located on the beach of Taninthayi coast. Aungmyanmar Village is south of Aungba Village, northeast to Makyongalet Island and southeast to Nyaungwi Island. Both islands are habitat of Salon ethnic people in the Bay of Bengal.
Kawthoung Township is constituted with 93 islands, 20 of which are residences for local people. Among them, Yadana Island, Thuway Island, Zadetgyi Island, Jalan Island, Salon Island and Mwetaw Island are attracting travellers.
We took about two hours to visit Makyongalet Island via Aungba Village by boat in the blue sea. The motorboat can be driven from Pachan River of Kawthoung to Makyongalet Island within four hours.
Makyongalet is residence of Salon ethnic people. Based on the statistics issued in September 2018, a total of 859 Salon people resided in Kawthoung Township. On my way, I saw Salon children playing on the beach of Makyongalet Island. Makyongalet Village was formed with more than 170 houses, 40 per cent of which were residences of Salon ethnic people. Now, there remain about 20 per cent of Salon houses. A total of 250 people of some 6,000 are Salon ethnic people, and 20 per cent of local people speak Salon language.
A rural health branch of the Ministry of Health and Sports is opened in Makyongalet. Salon ethnic people went to spirit masters for treating their illness. Now, they have wider knowledge to receive health care services at the government’s rural health branch. As a specific point, a cemetery for Salon ethnics is designated in the village cemetery of Makyongalet. Salon ethnics do not bury bodies among that of other people but placed bodies in their separate cemetery.
Salon people staying aboard boats wondered in the sea in the past. Now, most of Salon people settle on islands. In consequences, Salon youths have lesser skills of diving.
A Salon cultural festival took place in Makyongalet in 2013. Makyongalet Island is included in Lampi National Marine Archipelagos.
Lampi Marine National Park
While flying over Myeik Archipelagos on my way from Yangon to Kawthoung, I could not notice a curved island in shape of a sea-horse in the sea because of viewing beautiful forms of Myeik Archipelagos through the window of airplane. In fact, such a curved shape was Lampi National Marine Park.
The government announced 20 natural areas where globetrotters can pay visit for improvement of ecotourism service in Myanmar in April 2014, comprising Lampi Marine National Park, Hukaung Valley, Kyaikhtiyoe, Panlaung and Pyadalin Cave wildlife sanctuaries, Lawkananda, Wetthekan and Thameehla sanctuaries.
As tourism industry of Myanmar is achieving development year by year, extension of ecotourism sites will increase destinations for international tourists in Myanmar. As a result, no smoke industry will earn income from tourism services.
Lampi Marine National Park takes a position in Bokpyin Township of Taninthayi Region, 60 nautical miles northwest to Kawthoung and 40 nautical miles southeast to Bokpyin. The park, 12 miles to Taninthayi coast, is located between north latitude 10° 32’ and 11° 02’ and east longitude 97° 59’ and 98° 23’ in the sea. It is a single national marine park of the country formed with more than 200 islands including the main island and five small islands.
The park is 30 miles long from the south to the north and seven miles wide from the east to the west on 50,617 acres of land. The white sand beach is more than one mile long and over 300 feet wide. The area has about 200 inches of rainfall per year.
The 22 per cent of the island is covered by ever green forest, two per cent by mangrove forest and one per cent by sandbank forest. The island is teeming with more than 1,500 feet high hills together with least damage of natural environment.
International tourists were banned to visit the park in the past because of security measures. Now, both local and international travellers are allowed to tour the park as the region has restored stability.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation declared Lampi and small islands in its surrounding areas as the Marine National Park on 28 February 1996 with the aim of ensuring long term existence of natural forests, biodiversity species, coral reefs and cultural heritages of Salon ethnic, observing botanical, zoological and geological subjects on the island, operating ecotourism services and protecting them by Forest Department. In 2013, the park was recognized as ASEAN Heritage Park.
Makyongalet, Yay, Palawkat, Kophaw, LeikU, Khugyi and Galet islands are located in the area of Lampi Marine National Park. Salon ethnics reside on Jalan, Makyongalet, Nyaungwi and Kyonme Islands.
Salon ethnic people can dive underwater for a long time without any equipment for breathing. They can be called Mawkin people who can dive underwater without oxygen supporting.
Lampi Island is located east to Wah Island, west to Wahle and Makyongalet and Kyunme islands and south to the island of edible bird’s nest where local people produce edible bird’s nests. Makyongalet Village establishes a monastic education school. The island is filled with sandbank forest, casuarinas forest, mud forest and mangrove forest.
A total of 201 plant species including six species of mangrove plants and four unidentified plants are thriving in Lampi Marine National Park in addition to 122 species of birds including white head falcon, white bellied sea eagle, osprey, seagull, red-whiskered bulbul, greater coucal and crow. The statistics collected in 2011 showed that there were 1,395 numbers of birds in the park including two species of bird species endangered to be extinct within 50 years and 10 species within 100 years if they are not under conservation.
Moreover, the park is home to 21 species of mammals including dolphin, muntjac, wild boar, pangolin, monkey, squirrel, rat and bat, 18 fish and prawn species and 189 invertebrate species in addition to various species of monitor lizard, python, boa constrictor, bamboo pit-viper, star turtle, green sea turtle, Myanmar black turtle and cow-nosed ray turtle.
Moreover, 54 species of seaweeds and algae and 10 species of sea grass can be seen in the park in addition to 26 species of coral reefs most of which are of stony coral.
Lampi Island among those of Myeik Archipelagos is the most attractive to globetrotters. Local people said it needs to take about three days to wonder around Lampi Island. Mangrove forest and natural marsh protect water erosion to the coast of Lampi Island. Roots of mangrove plants hamper wind speeds. The southern part of the island is good site for travellers to enjoy fishing.
Lampi Marine National Park, the single marine park of Myanmar, is full of biodiversity species and other observatories. Hence, a warden office is opened on Makyongalet Island to maintain and conserve Lampi Park and conduct research.
Arrangements are being made to build small bungalows for stay of travellers on Lampi Island. Local authorities do not allow construction of large hotels on the island. Whatever it maybe, as Myanmar has many sites of good ecosystem, it needs to expose these sites as tourism areas so as to improve Myanmar’s tourism industry. (Translated by Than Tun Aung)