Dive Moken, The Andaman Sea Gypsy Freediving App
by Owen James Burke
Photo: Dive Moken.
The Moken are a seminomadic seafaring people somehow maintaining a subsistence-based living in the Mergui Archipelago (off Myanmar and Thailand) in the Andaman Sea, referred to as “sea gypsies”. As modern governments, industry, technology and other societal trappings continue to threaten their way of life, one freediving app is, ironically, working to initiate awareness and help secure a sustainable future for this magnificent culture.
The Moken–for how many thousands of years it is unclear–have spent their entire lives at sea, developing and passing on a remarkable set of maritime knowledge, heritage and ingenuity, and when it comes to freediving, the Moken are said, at least by some, to be the best in the world. They are known for diving to depths of 100 feet and greater, without fins, weights, or even goggles, all on a single breath. Some can stay submerged for as long as five minutes. As children, they even learn to contract their pupils in order to see more clearly underwater, as to this day, goggles remain a luxury.
While this app won’t divulge too many of their secrets, or serve as a freediving/spearfishing training app (there are plenty of those, too), it’s educational and mesmerizing, and might help save this precious culture.
The Moken are in trouble–some estimates suggest their numbers may be as low as 1,000–but you can help preserve their way of life by downloading the Dive Moken App and visiting Project Moken, an NGO dedicated to building awareness around these incredible people and their way of life.