Dive site descriptions of Richelieu Rock, Thailand

Whale shark, Richelieu Rock

Richelieu Rock

Richelieu rock is often sited as the best dive site in Thailand and one of the best in the world. Once you've dived it you'll understand why it has such a deserved reputation. It's not just the whale shark sightings most often made between January and April that gives it this reputation but the amazing general diversity of marine life. From big to small plus an amazing array of colours it really is a diver's paradise.

Richelieu Rock lies a long way north of the Similan Islands and close to the Surin Islands. Due to weather conditions it can only be visited between November and April and, even during those periods waves can make visits impossible. All you can see of it from the surface is a small rock just protruding above the water, and only then at low tide. At high tide the rock is often completely hidden. The name itself alledgedly comes from the captain of a warship in the second world war who accidentally crashed into the rock whilst on a mission. If true, then thank goodness because trying to find this site without GPS coordinates would be like finding a needle in a hay stack!

Richelieu Rock

Colour Mad

Richelieu Rock consists of a series of underwater limestone formations of which the main pinnacle can be seen breaking the surface at low tide. The rocks themselves are covered in the most beautifully coloured soft corals, sea anemones, sponges and fans that it is possible to imagine. When the sun is shining and the sea is blue the colours are breathtaking especially with the profusion of tiny colourful reef fish in the shallows with light reflecting off of their scales.

Something For Everyone

Besides the colour, no matter what you are interested in, big or small, you will almost certainly leave more than satisfied. For the lovers of large species you have large groupers, nurse sharks, turtles and leopard sharks. A few metres away from the main pinnacle and about five metres deep are schools of large black fin barracuda circling around. On a good day a manta ray may pass by often gliding by close to the main pinnacle itself as it filters plankton out of the water.

Harlequin Shrimp, Richelieu Rock

Macro Heaven

For macro lovers this is heaven. This dive site is a mass cleaning station so expect to see a large variety of shrimps possibly including the very rare and beautiful harlequin shrimps. A few different pairs have been resident there for a number of seasons now. Pipefish are abundant from the stunning ornate ghost pipefish to banded and cleaner pipefish. Frog fish are definitely present including the giant frog fish. You just have to find them superbly camouflaged in some crack or crevice. And then there are the resident seahorses!

Whale Sharks

So far we have hardly even mentioned the thing that Richelieu Rock is most famous for, whale sharks. From January to April these gentle giants of the ocean can sometimes be seen cruising by close to the main pinnacle. With their gigantic mouths open as they sift plankton out of the water they are truly a majestic sight to behold. It's just a case of being in the right place at the right time, as simple as that!

Tigertail seahorse, Richelieu Rock


The list of possibles and probables can go on and on. One thing is certain. If you don't like this dive site then it's time to go see your doctor. Probably the best dive site you will ever experience!

N.B. All photos were taken at Richelieu Rock by the Sharkey team.


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Whale shark

Manta ray

PADI student