When diving Phuket there are many choices of trip and locations to dive. Do you dive the east side in the gulf of Thailand or the west side in the Andaman ocean? What will follow will be a guide to let you know the best dive sites, the most popular dive sites, when is the best time to dive them to help you get the most out of the scuba diving Phuket has to offer. It does not matter if you have never tried it before or are an experienced diver diving in Thailand will will impress you.
The best islands in Thailand are located off the north west coast of Phuket and these are the similan islands. However when many people go on a similan liveaboard they actually more often go to the similans for a day or two and then head north to first Koh Bon which is in the Similan island marine park but is not part of the similans themselves. From there many similan islands liveaboards head north to first Koh Tachai and then into the Surin islands national park and the highlight of the trip is a day diving richelieu Rock.
Richelieu Rock is one of the worlds top dive sites. Rated in the top ten by National Geographic and also in Jaques Cousteau's to ten too. He should know as he spent his life diving all over the world so he should know. Although its actually in the Surin islands national park and a good distance further north most people class it as the similans as they are better known and the trip they went on went on went to the similan islands.
Ok on to Richelieu Rock or Hin Plo Naam. This is one of the best know dive sites in Thailand and the world come to that. Its situated to the east of the Surin islands and is visible at low tide as the tip of the pinnacle just breaks the surface and vanishes at high tide. Richelieu rock is really a series of pinnacles together that form a horseshoe shape. They drop steeply to a depth of 35 meters with the south side slopes more gently to the sandy sea floor which then falls away in the the deep blue.
Most of the rock is totally covered in soft corals, sea fans, hard corals and anemones all fighting for position makes for a spectacular sight. This is Similan islands diving at its best. The currents here are not too bad either. yes if you arrive at the wrong time of day then they can be moderate to strong but a quick look at the tide tables should solve that problem. Again most liveaboard similan islands especially will be well aware of when to arrive at a place and when to dive. But as this is such a big dive site and many people need two or three dives here then you will for sure have some current at some point.
Now due to the diversity of like here you could write a whole book here on all the different creatures. Richelieu is a paradise for all underwater photographers no matter what it is you are looking for. From the small stuff like Ghost pipefish, Harliquin shrimps, frog fish, sea horses, Jans pipe fish to name but a few of the smaller ones. What you will see here is what you will imagine when you hear other talking about the similan islands diving. This site will blow your mind.
From Phuket the options for a liveaboard similan islands is large and there are many to choose from. To get to Richelieu Rock and back again you need a minimum of a three day trip. One day to get there (diving as you go) one day there and one back again, diving all the way. Any good dive shop phuket will have a good selection of boats and trip lengths to suit all dates and budgets. The better phuket dive center will be able to answer any questions well in advance as this dive trip does get booked up in advance during the high season which is where a good dive center Phuket will have a live chat on the website to answer all questions in real time so you can be sure to get the best trip for your money.
When you hear about people talking about the amazing diving they have done on a Thailand liveaboard then its almost certain they ended up at Richelieu rock as diving anywhere in the world does not get much better.