Richelieu Rock and the Surin Islands
Liveaboards from Phuket will usually dive both the Similan Islands and the dive sites to the North of the Similans. For simplicity, this area is referred to by the name Surin, though the dives include the isolated islands of Koh Bon and Koh Tachai, as well as the famous Richelieu Rock. These sites are often good for large pelagics, especially Manta Rays, and also (if you’re lucky) whale sharks. There are actually very few dives made at the Surin Islands themselves, since the islands are not so well known, and most liveaboards just don’t have time, but some boats will include some dives on longer 5 – 6 day trips in the area.
Some 50 nautical miles North of the Similan Islands you find one of the best known dive sites in Asia. Just breaking the surface at low tide, Richelieu Rock is probably your best chance to have the whale shark experience. Some years ago, this site was regarded as a “whale shark magnet”, and while this is somewhat of an exaggeration, they still visit regularly. Other large pelagics such as eagle and manta rays are common visitors. The site is huge and most live-aboards will schedule more than one dive here. Huge schools of trevallies and barracudas cruise the currents, and many tiny critters such as frogfish, ghost pipefish and seahorses are hiding in cracks and crevices. It’s all here – the big and the small, and this great variety of marine life confirms Richelieu Rock as one of the best dive sites in Thailand.
Due to the amazing diversity of small and large creatures, Richelieu Rock is a paradise for underwater photographers. The only difficulty is choosing the right lens … macro or wide angle? Richelieu is a place you’ll want to dive again and again!
Koh Tachai Pinnacle
The island of Koh Tachai lies about 20 nautical miles south of Richelieu Rock and can be another great spot for Manta Rays. The dive site is a submerged sea mount with depths from 14-35 meters and currents can be quite strong. The top of the reef is a beautiful mixture of hard corals, while deeper regions consist of scattered boulders and sea fans. Leopard sharks are commonly found resting on the bottom, while schools of barracuda and friendly batfish cruise around the reef. More information : Koh Tachai Pinnacle.
Koh Bon Ridge
Koh Bon Island is only a short cruise North of the Similan Islands and is without doubt the best site for Manta Rays. The dive site follows a ridge, covered in pastel shaded soft corals, which drops to depths of 35-40m. Mantas are often spotted over the ridge or in the deep water to the South. Leopard sharks are also common in the deeper water and this is a good location to find the elusive purple fire goby.
Koh Bon Pinnacle
To the North of the ridge at Koh Bon, just a hundred metres or so from the rock and coral reef that encircles the island, is a deep pinnacle with it’s top at 18m, but dropping to over 50m. It is a deep dive and best left to experienced divers. The pinnacle can be a very good spot for mantas and sharks. From the deep drop off on the North side of the pinnacle, there a long swim at 28 – 30m depth to reach the reef. A couple of years ago we found a cave full of nurse sharks here.
Koh Torinla is part of the Surin Islands, a small island just South of Koh Surin Tai. The eastern Reef has some of the best hard coral anywhere in Thailand with staghorn and other varieties gently sloping from the beach down to about 15m. Fish life is abundant including the huge bumphead parrotfish, blacktip sharks, batfish and Jenkins whip rays. Hawksbill turtles are also very common here, especially in the shallow areas.