Sunday, July 24, 2016

Diving in The Surin Islands and Richelieu Rock

Diving the Surin Islands and Richelieu Rock

The Surin Islands archipelago is situated in the picturesque Thai province of Phang Nga. They are about 60km away from the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman ocean and north of the Similan Islands. The busy tourist destination of Phuket is 160 km south. The boundary of the Surin marine park lies just south of the Burmese (Myanmar) border. Koh Surin embarkation point - Khuraburi or as many people get their on their Similan islands  liveaboards from the Phuket Thailand and then head north into the Surin islands from there. However if you want to go direct ly to the Surin islands then the closest town is Khuraburi - a traditional coastal location with a busy port, a great market and a laid back attitude. Khuraburi is only just beginning its journey as a tourist destination with only a few small resorts and scruffy travel agencies. This only adds to its charm.

By bus: The government buses run from both Krabi and Phuket to Khuraburi from the respective government bus stations. There are two direct buses a day from Krabi. These are the 8 am and 12 pm services to Ranong. The journey takes 4 hours and the price is around 250 Bt. It is also possible to leave at other times of the day but this will require a change of bus at Phang Nga. These busses are not currently available to book in advance. There are many more services from Thailand Phuket and as Khuraburi is on the main route from Phuket to Bangkok. As such, you can turn up at Phuket government bus station at any time before 6pm to find a bus leaving within the hour. The journey time is 3 hours and the ticket price around 200 Bt. These busses are not currently available to book in advance. But the best way to get there is on a Similan liveaboard.

The Surin islands again are a mecca for all Phuket scuba diving as like the similan islands offer crystal clear waters and amazing underwater life. The Surin islands are known for the dive site known as Richelieu Rock. This is a massive collection of pinnacles arranged in a horseshoe formation. This was discovered (or introduced to the diving world) by Jaques Cousteau who listed it in his top dive locations on the globe. This alone with National Geographic putting this area in its top ten as well makes this one of the top unspoiled locations in the world. This is Phuket diving at its best.  Richelieu Rock gets its name from ( so the story goes) that the purple coral that covers the pinnacles reminded Jaques Cousteau or Cardinal Richelieu's cape. Either way its a stunning location.

Why the Surin Islands are such an exclusive diving location. Due to its remote location, the Surin Islands National Park has remained free of the pressures of tourist development from the mainland. Since the creation of the park in the 80's, the Surin Islands have been protected from overfishing and mass tourism promoting a rich marine diversity and an excellent reef conditions. The tsunami has had limited impacts on the ecosystem, healthy reefs have recovered and most of the sites exhibit few hundred years old coral colonies. The best way to get to dive here is on the Similan island live aboard dive boats. The Surin islands are normally combined with the Similan islands which lie to the south. These are normally four or five days as a couple are spent in the Similans and one whole day diving Richelieu Rock. It is possible to do a three day trip to the big fish hot spots of Koh Bon, Richelieu Rock and the Surin islands with out the Similan islands for those divers who are looking for the " Big Stuff" for which this part of the ocean is known for.

Pelagic species in the Surin Islands. These idealistic conditions make the Surin a haven of peace large schools of reef fish and for ocean giants such as whale sharks and manta rays or napoleon which can be observed flying majestically in the blue. Koh Surin is also frequented by sea turtles which are often spotted and come to lay down their eggs on the white sandy beaches framing the islands. There are many interesting snorkeling spots around the Surin Islands. The eastern coast exhibits the best corals within the archipelago. Protected from the main winds and currents, dotted with shallow and sheltered bays, it is the perfect location to explore safely the beauty of Surin.

These trips take you on an adventure that takes you diving not only in the similan islands but also Koh Bon and a whole day of awesome diving Richelieu Rock. Richelieu Rock is a collection of pinnacles that form a crescent just north of the Surin islands. This site is worth several dives as its far to big to be done in one or even 2 dives. Stunning corals, unlimited macro and of course the giant Oceanic Manta Ray and the largest fish in the sea, the Whale Shark are both common sights here. These trips are the best diving in Thailand.  These trip are what dreams are made of.