Spotlight on Richelieu Rock diving
The main draw at Richelieu Rock is the mighty whale shark. Sightings of whale sharks are far from guaranteed.
When is Richelieu Rock whale shark season? Sightings are possible any time from November to April but they are most common from February to April. Some years have far more sightings than others, (for example 2000 was bad, 2001 was good, 2012 was good, 2013 was bad, 2014 was good).
Luckily even without whale sharks it’s an excellent dive site, arguably Thailand’s best. Schools of barracuda are usually in residence along with hunting trevalies and schools of rainbow runners. The reef walls are full of critters. Seahorses and ornate ghost pipefish are seen on most dives, good divemasters can find you a couple of harlequin shrimps.
35m is plenty deep enough on this dive site and the pinnacle rises up to the surface making for a nice multi level dive profile. Currents when they are not to strong, allow a full circumnavigation of the rock but when currents pick up it may be necessary to confine the dive to the sheltered side of the rock. Visibility can vary greatly at Richelieu, slack high tide is the ideal time to dive. Richelieu Rock is a dive site that warrants multiple dives and many liveaboards focus multiple days here now.
Two dive day trips to Richelieu Rock by speed boat are possible from Khao Lak but liveaboard trips are a better way to go if you have the time available.
Other whale shark dive sites:
Occasional whale shark sightings can happen any where but are not as common as at Richelieu Rock. They can be seen at Koh Tachai and some of the northern Similan dive sites. Phi Phi Islands (Bida Nok and Bida Nai) get the occasional whale shark passing by and hanging out for a few days. Some lucky divers see whale sharks in the summer months at Phuket Shark Point, Koh Doc Mai and the King Cruiser Wreck. In the gulf of Thailand Chumphon pinnacle is the best dive site for whale shark diving.