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Words: Nat Sumanatemeya<br />

Photos: V<strong>in</strong>id Rangpueng and Nat Sumanatemeya<br />

Divers easily encounter the neon livel<strong>in</strong>ess <strong>of</strong> coral<br />

beds and the sublime sight<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>of</strong> sea creatures<br />

go<strong>in</strong>g about their bus<strong>in</strong>ess <strong>in</strong> the beautiful and rich<br />

mar<strong>in</strong>e life <strong>of</strong> the Andaman Sea.<br />

A gentle giant, the manta ray (Manta birostris)<br />

greets a diver at H<strong>in</strong> Daeng <strong>in</strong> Krabi, while<br />

surround<strong>in</strong>g wrasse fishes start clean<strong>in</strong>g its body.<br />

Giant manta rays eat plankton and a fully-grown<br />

one can reach 5 metres <strong>in</strong> width.<br />

The liv<strong>in</strong>g seas <strong>of</strong> Thailand rema<strong>in</strong> an awe-<strong>in</strong>spir<strong>in</strong>g place to explore<br />

among scuba divers. The Gulf <strong>of</strong> Thailand and the Andaman Sea hosts<br />

some <strong>of</strong> the largest variety <strong>of</strong> the world’s most fasc<strong>in</strong>at<strong>in</strong>g fishes.<br />

Enormous yet docile ones like the whale shark or small fishes like the ghost<br />

pipefish <strong>in</strong>habit clear waters with the backdrop <strong>of</strong> s<strong>of</strong>t-coral reefs. The best<br />

way to see the great and diversified mar<strong>in</strong>e life is to don a mask and oxygen<br />

tank. In Thailand’s scuba div<strong>in</strong>g history, the open<strong>in</strong>g chance to develop<br />

<strong>in</strong>to one <strong>of</strong> the world’s best div<strong>in</strong>g dest<strong>in</strong>ations arrived with the clos<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> a<br />

military base.<br />

Before scuba div<strong>in</strong>g’s reputation as a recreational activity, it was first<br />

<strong>in</strong>troduced as a sport <strong>in</strong> the 1960s by the United States Air Force when they<br />

established their military base <strong>in</strong> U-tapao, near Pattaya. Soon after the<br />

Vietnam War and the departure <strong>of</strong> the United States’ military force from<br />

Thailand, several American soldiers left the force and started their scuba div<strong>in</strong>g<br />

bus<strong>in</strong>esses. Certified scuba div<strong>in</strong>g courses then became available throughout<br />

the area and Pattaya became the first scuba div<strong>in</strong>g centre <strong>in</strong> Thailand.<br />

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