RICHELIEU ROCK, THAILAND
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).