Richelieu Rock. Thailand, February 2011.
Richelieu Rock. Thailand, February 2011.

Underwater at Similan

  Cambodia and Thailand - February 2011

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

Hop! To the water! We're going back below the surface. On the program: a short cruise to the Similan Islands, with Richelieu Rock, Koh Bon and Koh Tachaï on the course. These are the most famous dive sites in Thailand...

Sea of Fantasy

Sea of Fantasy. February 2011. Similan dive cruise, Thailand.

When I embark, in February, on the Sea of Fantasy from Eden Divers, I know more or less what to expect: it's with this boat that I had already dived in 2009 (see → The cruise makes bubbles and other links at the end of this post).

Update : The story you read here goes back several years... So don't try to book the same cruise at Eden Divers today, the company doesn't exist anymore! It went bankrupt, in the hands of a German who was prosecuted in Austria for fraud, and who was arrested in Thailand in May 2014, according to the articles I read on Thai websites. ThePhuketNews and ChiangRaiTimes.

In the crazy Thai armada that embarks daily divers on the Andaman Sea, this is one of the few boats to offer individual cabins, which suits me well (I do not like paying the exorbitant supplements singlenor sacrifice my sleep for snoring or snoring in a shared cabin).

Three years ago, I really enjoyed the comfort and the supervision, the Nitrox free, international atmosphere with divers of all ages and all walks of life ... so I decided to go back home.

Similan dive cruise. Sea of Fantasy. February 2011, Thailand.

Luckily, for this cruise, we are only 5 customers on the boat, made to accommodate 13 of them. Enough to spread out without rushing! I'm delighted.

The Thai crew is very caring, as always. Dinner is ready when you arrive, just step on the table.

The program is simple: eat, sleep, dive. Eat, sleep, dive.

My four diving companions are all German. Thirties, open and nice. We will have a good time during these three days. The staff who supervises this cruise is German too. Essen, Schlaffen, Tauchen

Good atmosphere, again, but... more Germanic than international this time! 😛

Sea of Fantasy. February 2011. Similan dive cruise, Thailand.

Bad luck: engine failure at the start. And since a spare diaphragm for the compressor is also missing... NitroxSo you'll have to dive "normally", in the air.

Good. All this is not too serious, it will not affect the cruise, fortunately. We will leave after all the other boats, much later, at night. Two Thai mechanics will spend long hours trimming and sweating, in the suffocating atmosphere of the hold, to repair the engine.


I wondered, before diving, what state would be the coral, which suffered the bleaching due to water heating. And now that I've seen for myself, it's hard for me to judge, actually.

It was my 3rd dive cruise at the Similan, but with three years between each. My memories are not so precise and I do not know the sites by heart.

I believe that it is near the surface, where there were real "coral gardens", that the damage is the greatest. But frankly, deeper, on all the sites where we dived, I enjoyed myself.

The highlight of the show being (as on previous occasions), in the Surin archipelago, the sumptuous Richelieu Rock, teeming with life, covered with a profusion of purplish soft corals, undulating under the current. Magnificent!

Life abounds above the corals ... Richelieu Rock. Thailand, February 2011.
Life abounds above the corals ... Richelieu Rock. Thailand, February 2011.
Richelieu Rock. Thailand, February 2011.
Richelieu Rock. Thailand, February 2011.

We often hear that it was Cousteau (him again!) who gave his name to Richelieu Rock, the color of the soft corals lining the reef having evoked the purple of Cardinal Richelieu's robe...

In fact, this version would be a beautiful legend (more). Charlie, from the diving center Seafarer Phuket, explains to me that it's not possible:

That's wrong, Cousteau's "Calypso" was never at Richelieu Rock, because I was the dive guide for this expedition during the shooting of the film "The Convicts of the Sea".

In 1988, no dive center had dipped in Richelieu Rock and nobody in the area knew this superb site.

The English probably gave this name because Cardinal Richelieu had made them drool in the seventeenth century with his navy, and as this rock is treacherous to navigation, they could compare it ... the cardinal from Richelieu.

But in fact, the real explanation would be the following (thanks to Ludovic to put me on the track, via an article from Bangkok Post(see the blog of Wicked Diving): Richelieu Rock wouldn't take its name from any reference to the famous Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), but of a certain Andreas Plessis de Richelieu (1852-1932), which marked the history of Thailand.

This Dane, as his name does not indicate, was sent to Siam where he distinguished himself in several naval battles at the end of the nineteenth century. He was the first foreign commander to join the Siamese navy, which promoted him to the rank of vice-admiral in 1902.

Photos under the water

Contrary to predictions of doomed birds, I managed not to drown my 7D ! 🙃

I know it makes many people shudder at the thought of taking a camera like this underwater... I'm not too worried about it myself. I always prepare my camera case very carefully, preferably the day before, with no rush. In any case, I can't imagine diving without my camera anymore!

But I still need several dives to get back on my feet and to be able to make the pictures I want. Small disappointment, during these three days of cruise: the weather was rather grey, which did not help me much for the underwater ambiance pictures...

And my main dilemma, from one dive site to another: the choice of the objective. Macro or wide angle? Small beasts or big beasts?

Yes, I know. I'm in big trouble in life... 😛.

Grouper and cleaner shrimp. February 2011, Similan cruise, Thailand.
Nudibranch. February 2011, Similan cruise, Thailand.
Moray. February 2011, Similan cruise, Thailand.
Gorgon. February 2011, Similan cruise, Thailand.
Hippocampus. February 2011, Similan cruise, Thailand.
Harlequin shrimp. February 2011, Similan cruise, Thailand.
Coral. February 2011, Similan cruise, Thailand.

Where the hell are the mantas?

At Koh Bon, obviously, no dilemma for choosing the goal. Wide angle, necessarily. This is the site of the mantas rays.

Alas, we did not cross them. It's not for lack of insistence. We plunged and returned to Koh Bon, even attempting an incursion into the blue, away from the reef. In vain. However, they should not be far ... (But I'll have a little luck a few days later, after this cruise, returning diving to Koh Bon the day, from Khao Lak ...)

Finally, in the "big beast" category, we were also hoping to cross paths with a whale shark. No, we didn't. Not the tail of one. It just wasn't our day. Not that day or any other day.

I can see how lucky I was five years ago: several manta rays, and one whale shark for my very first Similan dive cruise!

All right, then. No mantas, no whale shark this time. But there was some "big" one, though. Lots of very impressive schools of jacks and similar fish. Our tour-leader, Karin, saw two swordfish, I saw an eagle ray, the Germans saw a blacktip shark.

Having said that, the obsession with the "big one" would almost make you forget the rest: the "usual tropical fauna", as I now write in my logbook to go fast. Flying scorpion fish, moray eels, groupers, blue-spotted rays, clown fish, butterfly fish, parrot fish, angelfish, balloon fish, trumpet fish, scorpion fish...

Them, they're still here!

Red Lionfish. Similan dive boat. February 2011, Thailand.
Fish-flute. Similan dive boat. February 2011, Thailand.
Angelfish. Similan dive boat. February 2011, Thailand.
Clown fish. Similan dive boat. February 2011, Thailand.

My previous cruises

I put here links to posts and photos that I posted online, after my previous cruises-dives at Similan.

My stay of 2006

It was with the dive center Sea Dragonbased in Khao Lak, on the southwest coast of Thailand. I liked the atmosphere at the time, rather young and backpackers, very good option for small budgets. I hadn't launched this blog yet, but I had posted pictures on the very first sites I had created at the time, Carnets d'Asie du Sud-Est (South-East Asian Diaries) and Diving in South East Asia :

My stay of 2009

In 2009, I had discovered the Sea of Fantasy of Eden Divers (with whom I chose to leave for this Similan cruise in 2011). Good comfort, one of the few boats offering individual cabins, free nitrox and German-style square organization, but relaxed all the same...

Update : The story you read here goes back several years... So don't try to book the same cruise at Eden Divers today, the company doesn't exist anymore! It went bankrupt, in the hands of a German who was prosecuted in Austria for fraud, and who was arrested in Thailand in May 2014, according to the articles I read on Thai websites. ThePhuketNews and ChiangRaiTimes.

Similan dive cruise. February 2011, Thailand.

😎 👌 🐠

  Cambodia and Thailand - February 2011

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  1. @ Wet & Sea / Ludovic: Yes, I too was reassured to see that there was still fun at the Similan. Am very happy with my grouper photo: it was one of my first successful photos, during the first day of ploufs ...

    For Mimpi Indah, you are not the first to claim a CR, I stick to it in the days to come, promised.

    As for the rest, I see you're just doing your own thing... 😆

  2. Even though it has been confirmed that the beautiful East of Eden is as bleached as James Dean's remains, it's reassuring to know that there is still valid diving in the area 🙂

    And by the way, your picture of the grouper at the dentist is beautiful! 8) ...and frankly, why would your 7D want to swim? 😯

    If you had the good taste to write a little article about Mimpi Indah, we could better wait for your next CR on the dragon side, you know... 😉

    By the way, I crossed Wakatobi off my summer list, the exorbitant cost of the flights will have got the better of me, and I'm going to Murex Bangka, this just after Weh (but on the other beach... what tempted me for Weh was also the itinerary that allowed me to spend a night in Penang at the superb Eastern & Oriental, what I earn on the Wakatobi ticket, I spend in a decadent palace in Penang 😆 ) and before a week in Bali (...that I dread a bit in August).... Finally only stuff you know in the end....

  3. @Anne Marie: But you're welcome, that's what this blog is all about 🙂

    @Thomas: Thank you so much ! But you know, I have this SLR only for a year and even with a compact, it is possible to make very correct photos. My 2009 sub photos at SimilanFor example, I put the link at the end of this post, were made with several compacts (mine, the Powershot A95 which had finally given up the ghost, and a Powershot S30 that I had been lent). 🙄

  4. Corinne, your pictures are always so beautiful ! I did a lot of underwater photos in Mauritius in snorkel last March with my Canon Powershot D10, but I measure there, by seeing yours, the interest to have an SLR 🙄
    And your stories always give you the desire to travel ... Bravo!

  5. @Ludo: Did you go to Weh? The other beach is not that of Lumba Lumba, I guess ???

    I'm waiting for your CR to both : Bangka and the other town 😉

  6. Well, it's been a while since I want to pass the patent nitrox, you confirm, it's worth it?

    By the way, did you dive elsewhere than in Asia? Apart from Brittany :-)

  7. Me anyway I confirm. outside the limitation to 40metres, less fatigue and more security.

  8. @Hallboy: Ludovic, aka Wet & Sea, plans to go to Pulau Weh. As he is accompanied by non-divers, I think he will opt for Iboih beach, rather than Gapang beach (Lumba Lumba beach, which for my part, I preferred, for the atmosphere more local and more authentic).

    @Thib: From you, knowing your impressive photographic work, I must say that this compliment touches me a lot !!! Thank you, Thib '.

    @Fabrice: Yes, the nitrox certification is really worth it, in my humble opinion, for those who practice recreational diving like me, generally without deco, most often in the 30 meter zone. Nitrox is simply air, enriched with oxygen, which makes it possible to push the limits of non-decompression, hence several advantages in diving:
    1 - First, safety, especially for diving cruises, where you often inquire 3 or 4 dives in succession during the day. With nitrox, you charge less nitrogen than if you plunge in the air.
    2 - as you push the limits of no decompression, you can stay a little longer without decompression on a wreck not too deep, to make the picture, for example, compared to a diver in the air.
    3 - finally, some divers will tell you that they are less tired by breathing this super oxygenated air. I do not see any difference. But psychologically, it "secures" me to know that I have more margin compared to the decor, and suddenly, I feel like diving more cool, more relaxed ...
    Finally, for places where I dive: Brittany (aglaglagla), some ploufs in the Dominican Republic a long time ago (not spectacular), Mediterranean (Greece), Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia) ...

  9. @Corinne: I was at Lumbalumba/Gapang too, and when we pass in front of Iboh by boat, it makes me really want to 😉

    @Ludo: do you dive qd mm with Lumbalumba?

  10. @Corinne and Hallboy: Nah, nah, nah, I misspoke 😕 you have to understand the OTHER beach, even more the other one than the other one, neither Gapang, nor Iboih: Sumur Tiga, what. 8)

    I think I will go with Rubiah Tirta which is the other dive center 😉

    @Fabrice: But what's the point of diving out of Asia, hmmh... 🙄 ... 😀 ... 😆

  11. @Hallboy: Ben, I went for a walk several times on the side of Iboih, (it's a few minutes to scooter Gapang), it's certainly pretty, but frankly, issue atmosphere, I was very happy to return to Gapang ... 8)

    @ Ludovic / Wet & Sea: Ah, well yes, obviously, the other beach is definitely the other beach... 😆

  12. Well, ludo and Corinne: CR detailed and mandatory for Weh and the aure thing you were talking about;)

  13. As usual, the photos are beautiful!
    I'll have to go to Thailand....... 💡 unless it's Bali the next trip......... cruel dilemma 😕
    I came back from the visayas and I finally saw lots of ghostpipe fish ❗
    My compact (canon ixus960) begins to flounder, difficulty to focus ... but to switch to reflex is a bit too much for me, I'll look at the G12 I think.
    See you at the next post!

  14. Beautiful photos ... it gives me even more desire to pass my level 1!
    But I must admit that I do not know if I could dive with my 5D Mark II ... I would be too scared to drown it! Congratulations to you for these beautiful pictures!

  15. @Alien: Thank you ! As you start, you will probably not be very comfortable if you go underwater with a camera, and a precious 5D even less. However, when you have a little experience, I'm sure that the desire to make the underwater photo will eventually itch you ...

    @NowMadNow: Thank you so much. Yes, you'll see: the picture under the water adds a lot to the pleasure of diving ... I can not do without it now!

  16. @Alimata: Well, well, it's been a long time... 😀 It's a pity, on the last picture, you framed the fish badly, and instead we see a kind of white spot, in the background...

  17. Yes, I know, I've been unfaithful to you, but what do you want Borneo and Maldives are pretty mistresses 🙄
    For the last photo, it's the fault of Mr. Fisheye, it's hard to stay on the small ...

  18. Wow! Wow! Wow!
    I did not know we could take such beautiful underwater photos.
    I guess you don't take this kind of picture with an iPhone 😉
    Wonderful in any case!

  19. Hello Corinne,

    it's always a pleasure to read you and follow your adventures. Tell me, have you always planned an article on your box 7D because it interests me. Thanks in advance.

    When I leave for Sipadan for August and I can not wait.


  20. Thank you Corinne for these beautiful photos and your very detailed comments. A question: can a non-diver accompany a cruise to the similans? I look forward to reading you

    1. @Frank: yes, of course, he can. As long as he pays for his place, nothing forbids it ... But he is likely to bother a little, on the boat, while the others are diving ...

  21. Hello,
    have you returned to simulan since?
    and what do you think of snorkeling down today?
    I can not get real info on simulan
    similan, surin or kho tao?
    thank you for your repose

    1. @Fred: No, I have not returned to the Similan since. In general, Surin is part of the journey in the "Similan" cruises. As for Koh Tao, it's not at the same place, it's on the other side, in the Gulf of Thailand.

      I would still recommend a Similan cruise. As for snorkeling, I do not really realize what's worth it, because I do not do it or not ...

  22. I'm reading your 2011 article again - we're going to Thailand in 2 weeks and we're going to try for the first time the cruise ship experience - 4 nights to discover the Similan Islands, with West Coast Divers. We will see what happens to the corals there, the atmosphere on the boat etc... Hope to see a nice whale shark there too! Thanks for these nice pictures, as always 🙂

  23. Hello Corinne,

    We leave at the beginning of January in Khao Lak and we would like to know a dive group not too expensive for diving around Similan. Do you know a nice club (francophone) and not too expensive please?

    Thank you in advance for your return.

    1. @Jim: I haven't been back to dive in Thailand or on the Khao Lak side for ages... The trip I'm talking about above was in February 2011 😉 So I don't have any fresh info and I don't know at all the French speaking dive centers that are currently operating in Khao Lak nor their rates. I would have to do a Google search or go in the Asia forum of, to try to get some information from traveling divers who have been there recently. Good preparations and good bubbles 🙂