Richelieu Rock – Some people um and ah about this saying may be and possibly but let’s cut this out and state categorically Richelieu Rock is the Best Dive Site in Thailand!
It is a rock that breaks the surface for about 12 hours a day, 18 kilometers from Surin Islands and about double that from the mainland and very close to the Burmese Border.
How was it found? – as with a lot of sites the fishermen knew about it long before divers did.
There are many stories as to how this site was named, some say it was named after Cardinal Richelieu as the northern side is covered in red soft corals making it look like a cardinals robe. Our favourite story is that it was named after a French catholic missionary who was in Thailand between the wars (obviously very successful as less that 1% of the population is Christian), his real reason for coming to Thailand was his love of snorkelling and fishing. Some of the locals told him about this good fishing spot, he came out in his boat, in the middle of the open ocean he suddenly hit something, jumping out to check the damage he was amazed at what he saw below. Many years later he was back in France and at a meeting of the French diving Federation he met a young man he thought would be interested – and that is why Jacques Cousteau came to Thailand and spent 3 weeks at Richelieu Rock. There are also stories that it was named after a Thai General. Whichever way it was the name was given to the site by Jacques Cousteau.
The dive site is a limestone horse shoe facing south which touches the sand at 30 metres on the outside and about 15 metres on the inside. Though this dive site is particularly famous for Whale Shark sightings that is but a tiny part of the story. Manta Rays, Guitar Sharks and Nurse Sharks are spotted here but almost every day you will she huge schoals of Pick Handleand Chevron Barracuda hovering around the ridge, Giant Morays hiding in the hard corals and Peacock Mantis Shrimp looking at you out of their holes but even this is just scratching the surface. The real beauty here is in the macro life which is just everywhere – Boxer Shrimp, Durban Dancing Shrimp (good for a manicure), Blue Line Cleaner Shrimps (teeth cleaning), Harlequin Shrimps (rare and beautiful), Tiger Tail Seahorse, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Reef Top Pipefish, Bentstick Pipefish and Pineapple Fish. All this plus the standard reef fish – Trigger Fish, Parrot Fish, Butterfly Fish, Angel Fish, Moorish Idols, Snappers Fussiliers, Admirals, Tuna and Trevallies. On top of the reef the rocks are covered with Anemones which in turn are full of Anemone Fish – there are Clown Fish, Clarks Anemone Fish, Skunk Anemone Fish and Tomato Blotch Anemone Fish.
Simply put you cannot do this dive site justice in one dive, an absolute minimum of two dives is required here.
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