When discussing diving in Thailand, there are many different locations which people consider to be the best. Koh Tao is incredibly sociable and inexpensive, but the actual diving is rarely anything special. Phuket has very few decent diving sites, and most day trip boats visit Raya (Racha) or Koh Phi Phi. In recent years, diving Similan Islands has been regarded as the best way to go down deep in clear turquoise waters while sharing the water with sharks, rays, seahorses, turtles and thousands of other interesting members of the marine life community. The Similan Islands are home to more than twenty of the best diving sites that Thailand has to offer. However good diving Similan Islands may be, there is a better dive site, and it’s not too far away.
Without doubt the consistently best scuba diving site in Thailand is a submerged pinnacle known as Richelieu Rock. Its name is not at all Thai, and there is a certain amount of controversy about its origin. Be it from Jacques Cousteau naming it after a French cardinal or the Thai Royal Navy naming it after their one and only foreign Commander-in Chief doesn’t make much difference to today’s visitors. Almost everyone at Richelieu Rock wants to dive Thailand, not learn its history. Richelieu Rock is a huge pinnacle which rises up from the depths to almost reach the water’s surface between The Surin Islands and a sparsely-inhabited town on the mainland. At its peak the pinnacle is horseshoe-shaped, which can help in giving protection from the common currents in open sea. Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) are common visitors during the diving season, but even without them the whole dive site is absolutely fantastic. Not only is it the best diving site in Thailand, Jacques Cousteau listed it as one of the ten best diving sites in the world. However, it is just one dive site, out in the sea. Although it can be dived two or three times in a row on the same day, those who are prepared to travel this far for scuba diving Thailand and its great diving locations will want to visit other dive sites, too.
Diving Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock on one trip is absolutely possible
Due to the geographical location of Richelieu Rock and the Similan Islands, it is absolutely possible to visit both on almost any liveaboard diving trip, but unfortunately not on the same scuba diving day trip. Anyone diving Similan Islands twenty or more great dive sites will be aware that the archipelago is about 60km west of Khao Lak on the mainland, equal to two hours in a speedboat or a night on a liveaboard diving cruise. Richelieu Rock is 90km north-northeast from the Similan Islands and about 80km from Khao Lak. The best liveaboard diving trips will usually start their cruises at The Similan Islands and the make a clockwise route ending up at Richelieu Rock. Visiting the various dive sites in this order is ideal to ‘save the best for last’ as well as allowing less experienced divers to become better accustomed to Similan Islands diving before jumping in at Richelieu Rock. It would be fair to say that to dive Similan Islands is a fair bit easier than Richelieu Rock, due to shallower water and protection from islands and underwater granite boulders. Check with your Similan Islands liveaboard booking agent if the trip you are most interested in visits the best diving sites of The Similan Islands as well as Richelieu Rock.