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Thailand and Burma
 
North, South and West of the popular resort island of Phuket, Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, the Similan Islands, the neighbouring islands of Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and world-famous Richelieu Rock offer some of the most varied marine environments to be found in south-east Asia aand some of the most exciting diving in the world.

To the South of Phuket lie Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, rock pinnacles that rest in deep, clear water. Here grey reef sharks cruise the deep drop-off, and the upper reaches of these magnificent coral pinnacles are bejewelled with millions of anemones, and lionfish bustle to and fro. These lionfish are some of the most photogenic in the world, turing gracefully to boradside in an effort to show their best side for the camera! A popular denizen of the area is Oscar, a juvenile whale shark of perhaps 18ft in length. he is often seen cruising along the egde of the pinnalces or basking in the sun on the surface. Cuttlefish are another common resident, and during their mating ritual they are often seen twining their tentacles together in a loving embrace, rapidly chaging colour in an amorous fashion!

Head North, and the nine islands that make up the Similans are a mass of disordered granite boulders that tumble into the sea to form a series of tunnels and swim-throughs, caves and canyons. The islands are capped with verdant forest and lined by beaches of the softest white sand. Lizards can be seen scurrying along the shore line and sea eagles soar and glide across the turquoise waters, diving to capture unsuspecting fish. Below the surface soft corals and sea fans of every form and colour adorn the rocks, while schools of four-line snapper, surgeonfish and jacks feed along the fringing reefs that have developed on the sheltered, eastern side of the islands. Lionfish and morays lurk in the many holes in the rocks, and eagle rays and schools of barracuda feed in the deep water on the drop-offs. A massive shovel-nosed ray inhabits the northern point of Koh Miang.

Your introductory dive at Breakfast Bend is one not to be forgotten - a fringing reef that sweeps around a low-lying headland, this dive is a wonderful sloping wall of hard coral formations from which burgeon massive fan corals that act as protection from prevailing currents for endless schools of glassfish. As the light filters through the water and hits their silvery flanks, and as they twist and turn in reaction to passing predators, these schools make for a magical fairyland of gleaming lights. East of Eden is wonderful macro dive, a bommie rising from the reef slope that looks like a mountain as depicted in ancient Chinese art - but here the clouds are made of swirling schools of glassfish! A "nursery", many fish species come here to lay eggs and tend to their hatchlings, so it is not uncommon to find baby moray eels, lionfish and coral trout of minuscule proportions! Nudibranchs, beautiful sea slugs of breathtaking colour and shape are very prevalent here, perched on algal growths or trundling across the coral. The stunning bi-coloured clownfish of shocking orange and white can be seen on the sand and coral slope that rises to the shore, darting out from its protective anemone in search of a tasty morsel. Porcelain crabs and anemone shrimps nestled in the velvety folds of the anemone.

To the North of the Similans lie the islands of Koh Bon and Koh Tachai, where limestone cliffs drop into the sea to great depths. Sea snakes and leopard sharks are frequently sighted, and a blow hole in the cliff at Koh Bon is one of the most stunning natural underwater sights in the world. During the months of March, April and May manta rays and whale sharks come close to these rocks to feed on the abundant plankton that drifts on the ocean swell. North from Koh Tachai are the Surin Islands, close to the Burmese border, and home to nomadic sea gypsies. Off the eastern side of Surin can be found Richelieu Rock, where whale sharks are sighted on such a regular basis that people are almost beginning to feel off-hand about them! This tumbling mass of limestone rock is carpeted in sea anemones, sea fans and soft corals, home to a wealth of macro invertebrates. Richelieu Rock is perhaps the finest location in the world to view whale sharks, as the water around the rock tends to be clear, and if the whale sharks are not obliging, then there are plenty of other things to see!

 

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