Thailand begins with its people, who, like the food and the lifestyle, are often described as hot and spicy. Thailand’s beauty and hidden gems need no introduction, both above and underwater. But recently I was lucky enough to have been introduced to one of her most exceptional national treasures.

Entering the dining area on the MY Panunee liveaboard, I was greeted by the owner, Jakrin, the crew, and some of Thailand’s best photographers. Everybody gathered on the vessel was a Nature lover and professional shooter, with only one goal and mission: To collect data and images for the Andaman Sea, World Heritage Park Project. We set sail, overnight, embarking on a journey of adventure, to places with the kind of underwater beauty that I could never have imagined.

At the tip of Richelieu Rock you might be surprised by the vibrant green algae and shafts of sunlight penetrating the shallow water

Coffee. Checkout dive: Anita Reef. And boy, did Anita have her jewels on show from the moment we entered the shimmering, gin-clear water of the gulf.

The reef is blessed, everywhere you look, with soft, colourful hanging corals. It’s like being in wonderland, only better. Sixty minutes of sensory overload ensued, with colours beyond the palette of any artist. Life was bursting on every corner, rock, boulder and reef; amazed, I just hovered in the blue, admiring her.

I’ve dived some of the best sites in the world, and was under the impression that the best soft corals were found in Indonesia or Papua. But we might have a challenger here: These are reefs on steroids.

Colours and life are everywhere. With the current running, it’s like a rave party at its peak – fully loaded. Smaller fish rage against the current while the bigger tuna, snappers and jacks patrol in slow motion. Schools of fusiliers build pulsating force fields around the huge boulders. It is definitely an out-of-this-world experience.

Bling Bling Avenue is an easy dive for all levels. Located between Similan Islands five and six, it has a sandy bottom and an extraordinary, colourful reef covered with healthy hard and soft corals

It is important to point out that, despite the sensory overload of colours and life on the reef, this ecosystem is constantly at risk. We must work together to protect it, and to educate the next generation about this fragile environment. Although this is a  protected area, we must go above and beyond, making every effort to safeguard these reefs, or we risk losing this extraordinary beauty.

For the rest of this article and other stories from this issue, see Asian Diver 2016 Issue 2 No 140

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