Diving at Richelieu Rock

Diving at Richelieu Rock

Having lived in Thailand for 8 years, a scuba diving trip to Richelieu Rock was long overdue and so I did some research into the best time to go and booked with a diving company based out of Koh Phra Tong, a quiet and relatively unknown island 40 minutes boat ride from Kuraburi in Ranong. As time was limited I did not have time for a liveaboard which is the standard way of diving off Richelieu but Blue Guru are unique as they offered a 2 day/1 night trip with a stay on Koh Surin which is a couple of km from Richelieu Rock.

February is generally considered as the best time to see whale sharks in the area, however as the dive operator explained this is not quite true in more recent times, but despite this I took advantage of the long weekend and booked my trip. Getting to Kuraburi is a bit of an arduous task, a flight to Phuket followed by a 4 hour bus trip North of Phuket, through Khao Lak and to Ranong province. Blue Guru recommended accommodation for the first night for when I arrived called Boon Piya which was basic but clean and comfortable as well as reasonably priced and once settled I arranged to meet Chris to size me up for the diving trip the next day.

I woke at 6am to be picked up and taken to the pier, and then we went to pick up a few more divers at Koh Phra Tong where Blue Guru have a small resort. The group consisted of just 5 divers which was perfect as often in Thailand there are 20+divers per boat. We left Koh Phra Tong for the long trip to Richelieu for the first dive.

My expectations were mixed, it seems most dive sites in Thailand claim they are among the best in the world but from personal experience I don’t find Thailand that great for scuba diving as over fishing, pollution and coral damage from tour operators anchoring on the reefs have taken their toll over the years. Richelieu Rock was another spot with a reputation for being in the top 5 dive sites in the world and for once it didn’t disappoint. The visibility was around 30+m and as soon as we jumped in there were schools of fish all around us. We descended down the line to around 17m and began to take in the amazing corals and fish before a further descent to 30m where we encountered a pretty large octopus and a small school of barracuda as well as a school of travelly. Other highlights were giant groupers, giant morays, triggerfish and tuna. The number of species we saw is too many for this blog but suffice to say it was an incredible experience.

After the dive we had lunch on the boat, Blue Guru served up a good selection of Thai food plus soft drinks, coffee, tea and we had a rest before our 2nd dive of the day. Richelieu Rock is quite a small area so you can cover most of it in one dive but regardless of the size there is so much to see it felt like a new dive site. Every inch of the rock is covered in hard and soft corals, each outcrop supporting its own eco-system with the larger fish buzzing around the outside looking for their next meal. All the time we were looking out into the blue for a whale shark but alas they eluded us for that day.

Onto Surin island for our 3rd and final dive, we arrived at the Southern tip of this island and geared up. This was my 2nd trip to Surin, the first being 3 years ago and I was glad to be back. The island is perhaps the most pristine island I have visited in Thailand and exceptionally taken care of by the national park. This was my first ever dive off Koh Surin though so I was keen to get in and again, was not disappointed, the highlight of the dive being a couple of green turtles swimming by. Other highlights include sweetlips, batfish, dozens of scorpionfish and lionfish.