The indigenous people of Burma’s Mergui Archipelago are the Moken. These gentle, peaceful people are a source of complete fascination to anthropologists as they still cling to their traditional nomadic, hunter-gatherer existence despite attempts to settle them in permanent villages. Traditionally the Moken do not fish. They are hunter-gatherers mainly living off shellfish collected in the inter-tidal zone. They also free dive for shell fish and sea cucumbers, sometimes diving to amazing depths ballasted by large stones tied to their waists. The Moken also occasionally hunt wild boar and small deer in the forest with the aid of their dogs.
Each Moken family group lives on a flotilla (ban) of traditionally built wooden boats (kabang). Each member of the family also has their own personal dugout canoe that they use for foraging. When the Moken move from island to island, these dugout canoes are towed in a long chain behind their kabang.
We occasionally come across the Moken in the Mergui Archipelago. They pull into a nearby beach in their flotilla of boats. Adults, children, cats, dogs, chickens and ducks leap off each boat and rush into the jungle to forage. Suddenly, at some hidden signal, people and animals come rushing back out of the forest and jump on the boat just before it leaves for another anchorage. Their arrivals and departures seem random and follow no obvious pattern of time or tide.