This is it – the most famous site in Thailand. It’s cited as the best dive site in the country – for good reason!! The site is big and so filed with life that you need at least three dives to see the place. It is considered one of the best dive sites in the world, with or without whale sharks. The limestone rocks are covered with anemones, sea fans, barrel sponges and soft corals of all kinds. From Porcelain crabs, Tiger Tail Sea Horses, Pipefishes, Harlequin Shrimp, a great variety of Nudibranch, tomato anemone fish, yellow boxfish, moray eels and mantis shrimps to nurse sharks, manta rays, 1 meter Malabar groupers and Big, big barracudas, there’s always plenty of life to grab your attention on this dive. Several big schools of fish comes in to feed. And what you see on the morning dive (5.30) is different from the noon dive. So get on a liveraboard to see all of the rock. The hardest thing about diving here is what underwater camera setup you should have. Macro, supermacro or wide angel? You have everything here!
Best Time to Visit
Visibility at Richelieu can change in minutes. The lunar cycle has a large bearing on visibility here so when the tides are weak, excellent visibility can be anticipated
Richelieu Rock is located in the open ocean so is generally only safe to dive between the months of October and May. To visit Richelieu Rock during the monsoon season would be reckless. Storms can blow up out of thin air, and there is nowhere for dive boats to shelter.
Richelieu Rock was discovered as a recreational scuba dive site by diving pioneer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, with the help of local fishermen. Long known among the Moken (Sea Gypsies) as the main landmark where the Surin Islands and Mainland are visible to each other – the name originally came from Admiral Richelieu, a commander in the Royal Thai Navy (Yes, a Belgian was the first admiral of the navy!!!) as he instituted a massive mapping campaign of Thai Waters.
Since 1988 the rock has been part of the Surin Islands National Park.
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. With no safe harbors nearby, and the speed of monsoonal storms is is impossible to visit outside of the dry season.