Where is Richelieu Rock?
Two hundred kilometres northwest of Phuket, a tiny rocky outcrop pokes its head above the waterline at low tide, seemingly insignificant and unappealing to the untrained eye. From the surface, Richelieu Rock is not much more than a navigational hazard and a resting perch for seabirds, however beneath the waves lies the best dive sites in Thailand.
This horseshoe-shaped reef, made up of several limestone pinnacles, was allegedly discovered by Jacques Cousteau when he visited the region in 1989. It lies at the far eastern tip of the Surin Islands, in themselves a lesser-known but equally special relation of the famous Similan Islands. Only accessible by boat, Richelieu Rock is a highlight on the itinerary of many Surin and Similan Island liveaboards, and for very good reason!
What is there to see?
The entire rock is teeming with marine life, big and small. Rocky crevices and ledges provide the perfect anchor for a multi-coloured blanket of sea anemones and vibrant soft corals, which in turn provide shelter for all manor of crustaceans, nudibranchs, urchins, and other invertebrates. Octopus and lobster can be spotted wedged into small holes and beneath coral heads, while cuttlefish are often seen mating and laying eggs.
The small and medium reef fish life here is exceptional, species of every imaginable size, shape, and colour creating an overwhelming kaleidoscope along the reef. Butterflyfish, damselfish, wrasse, and many types of eel, ray, and scorpionfish to name a few, as well as schooling fusiliers, snappers, and rainbow runners. And that's just on the reef!
Because of its remote location and steep, deep walls, Richelieu Rock is a magnet for open ocean predators such as barracuda, mackerel, and huge schools of bigeye jack. But the cream of the crop has to be the manta rays and whale sharks, many of which pause on their migratory journey to feed on plankton blooms from February until May.
How do I get there?
As previously mentioned, Richelieu Rock can only be dived from a liveaboard boat. There are numerous boats that service the Similan Islands, the Surin Islands, or combination trips visiting both, and trips will often include several dives at Richelieu Rock. The dive season runs from mid-October through to mid-May, in accordance with National Park open season, and boats tend to depart from Khao Lak on the Thai mainland. Khao Lak is a 90-minute drive from Phuket.
How can Bluewater Travel help?
Bluewater Travel has access to the best liveaboard boats the world, including Similan Islands and Surin Islands trips. We can help you book your trip, including flights, transfers, and extensions, and all at the lowest pricing, taking the hassle out of your travel.
Check out our Bluewater Photostore for great prices and advice on all your underwater photography needs.