Is Richelieu Rock the best dive site in the Andaman Sea and Thailand?

Richelieu Rock is a world-famous dive site located in the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of Thailand. This horseshoe-shaped reef is widely regarded as one of the best dive sites in Thailand and is known for its vibrant marine life and stunning underwater topography. Richelieu Rock is known for its manta ray and whale shark encounters. But even without seeing these majestic animals, this dive site is truly amazing.

whale shark richelieu rock

Richelieu Rock dive site brief

  • Access: From boat
  • Maximum depth: 115 feet/ 35 meters
  • Visibility: 33 – 100 feet / 10 – 30 meters
  • Dive time: 45 minutes 
  • Certification level: Advanced Open Water
  • Current: medium to strong
  • Type: rock

About Richelieu Rock dive site

Richelieu Rock is home to a wide variety of marine life, including barracuda, trevally, and colorful reef fish. The site is also known for its vibrant soft corals, which create a stunning backdrop for divers. Two of the highlights of diving at Richelieu Rock are the chance to see whale sharks and manta rays, which are often spotted in the area during the months of November and April.

The reef at Richelieu Rock is a mix of hard and soft corals, with numerous ledges and overhangs providing shelter for small marine creatures. The site also features several large pinnacles and boulders, which create a unique underwater topography.

Lastly, the dive site is also known for its macro life, including nudibranchs, shrimp, and crabs.

manta ray at richelieu rock

The dive plan for Richelieu Rock

The Richelieu Rock dive site is too large for one dive. Most times, liveaboards conduct 2 to 3 dives here.

The current can be strong, but divers can be sheltered by the rocks and especially within the horseshoe. On the outer wall side, expect current changes.

Within the horseshoe formation, you can find a nice channel between the rocks at a depth of approximately 46 to 66 feet (14 – 20 meters). Divers can swim through narrow channels and explore the nooks and crannies of the reef, discovering hidden corners and encountering fascinating marine life along the way.

In shallower areas, you will find carpets of sea anemones. Something that reminds of the Anemone Reef dive site in Phuket.

The maximum depth at Richelieu Rock is 115 feet (35 meters). However, on average, divers stay between 66 and 92 feet (20 – 28 meters).

Diving Conditions

Richelieu Rock is suitable for divers of all levels, although some experience with drift diving is recommended due to the strong currents in the area. The depth ranges from 5 meters at the shallowest point to around 115 feet/35 meters at the deepest point.

Visibility at Richelieu Rock can vary, but is typically between 33 and 100 feet (10 – 30 meters). Water temperature is warm year-round, ranging from 80 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (27 – 30 Celsius).

school of jacks at richelieu rock

Where is Richelieu Rock?

Richelieu Rock is located about 11 miles (18 kilometers) east of the Surin Islands and can only be accessed by boat. The dive site is about a three-hour boat ride from the popular diving destination of Khao Lak. The dive site is 124 miles (200 km) northwest of Phuket. Therefore, controversy to some beliefs, it’s only reachable by Liveaboards from Phuket.

When is the best time to dive at Richelieu Rock?

Richelieu Rock is located in the Surin National Marine Park which is closed from May 15 until October 15 each year. The best chance to see mantas and whale sharks is between November and April. 

reef at richelieu rock

Is Sail Rock or Richelieu Rock the best dive site in Thailand?

When asking about the best dive sites in Thailand, Richelieu Rock and Sail Rock in Koh Tao are almost guaranteed to be mentioned. The main differences are that Richelieu Rock is located in the open Andaman Sea, whereas Sail Rock is situated in the Gulf of Thailand. Additionally, Sail Rock doesn’t have any manta rays. On the other site, Sail Rock has an amazing chimney divers can swim through. Both are amazing and should be dived.

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