RICHELIEU ROCK, THAI­LAND

Sport Diver - - 100 Dives to do before you die -

You’ll find Richelieu Rock 17km to the east of the three Surin is­lands, which are part of the Thai na­tional park scheme. This large pin­na­cle rises up from 30m and can at­tract man­tas and whale­sharks, although leop­ard sharks are much more com­mon. It could be called Anemone Rock for the sheer num­ber of anemones and their at­ten­dant clown­fish, which smother the tops of the pin­na­cle, putting sites in the Red Sea to shame. Along­side this spec­ta­cle you have lots of scor­pi­onfish, as well as mas­sive shoals of snap­per, fusiliers, jack and the odd co­bia. Take your time and you’ll spot or­nate ghost pipefish and tiger-tail sea­horses, which cling to the un­der­sides of rocky over­hangs. While the larger species will grab many divers’ at­ten­tion, it’s the smaller res­i­dents which make this site so spe­cial. New Cale­do­nia, Pa­cific Ocean New Cale­do­nia is not a name which will read­ily be fa­mil­iar to a lot of divers, but this is­land – the third-largest in the Pa­cific re­gion af­ter Pa­pua New Guinea and New Zealand – de­serves to be on your ‘must-dive’ list. Mea­sur­ing 500km long and 50km wide, New Cale­do­nia is sur­rounded by a 1,600km-long coral reef and has the world’s largest la­goon. The reef can be as close as a few kilo­me­tres from the coast in some places and as far as 65km in oth­ers, with an av­er­age depth of 40m, mak­ing it per­fect for divers. Iso­lated as it is, the flora and fauna has evolved along its own path, and there are some 6,500 species of ma­rine in­ver­te­brates and 1,000 species of fish – and all this is bathed in glorious 50-me­tre vis­i­bil­ity. As well as this mas­sive coral reef and huge num­bers of ma­rine life, New Cale­do­nia is also home to some great wreck dives, in­clud­ing the French naval ves­sel Diep­poise, which is a haven for grouper and trevally, and you can even en­counter mi­grat­ing hump­back whales dur­ing the mat­ing sea­son (July to Septem­ber).

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