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Collecting seashells on the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva and the world

Our Adventures Of Collecting Seashells in Thailand- Part 4 Phuket Shell Museum

shell museum yard art

On our trip to Thailand, we not only found seashells on the beaches, we found shells adorning the yards on the island of Phuket. We were very fortunate to be invited to the home of  international shell enthusiast Tom Rice who now lives in Phuket. As we arrived to his house, I was thrilled to see his garden lined with “yard shells”. I love to line my plant beds with old large shells too!

seashells lined yard thailand rice

Tom is from Port Gamble, Washington where he opened Of Sea And Shore which is a shell museum exhibiting some of his collection over the past 50 years during collecting trips to more than 40 countries and through exchanges with collectors and purchases from dealers around the world. If “Of Sea And Shore” sounds familiar, he used to publish a magazine by the same name. The museum is still open but Tom moved to Rawaii Beach on Phuket about 10 years ago and seems to have found a pretty good island life.

Rice home phuket

Not only does he have shells in his museum, he has shells he hasn’t even finished identifying, organizing or cataloging. This is just one cabinet of shells! LOL He has so many shells, he is now selling his precious collection. To see his list CLICK HERE.

Tom Rice seashell organizer

After having a great time talking shells and island life, Tom had a surprise for us so we hopped on the local transport- the Song Taew.

song taew phuket

It’s really just a covered bed of a pickup truck with a couple of benches but it’s the cheapest way to get around….if you have lots of time to wait for it to just “happen” by.

tom clark pam thailand song thai

Our surprise? He gave us a tour of the Phuket Seashell Museum! Tom’s friends, the Patamakanthin brothers opened this privately owned museum about 12 years ago.

phuket seashell museum shop

Both Clark and I were surprised to see that there are over 2000 species on display. That’s a heck of a collection of shells!

Thailand seashell museum tritons

Have you ever heard of a GOLDEN PEARL?

baler shell melo pearl

Neither had we until we saw this very rare MELO MELO PEARL that is not produced by an oyster but from the Melo melo or the common name BAILER SHELL. It got the common name because the native fishermen use it to bail out the water in their boats by scooping it out with this shell. They DO look like big scoops! Check them out…

Bailer shell display phuket museum

Remember Clark found a SPOTTED TUN? Well, holy smokes! Look how big some of these different TUNS can get…

thailand shell museum tun

More shells, more eye candy…

Phuket Shell Museum piddock bivalves

phuket seashell museum clams thailand

Phuket Museum Thailand scallops

 Oh you know I love my wormies!

worm shell display

Look at these gorgeous WORM SHELLS from the Philippines…

phillippine worm shells

 We can’t thank you enough Tom, for such a wonderful day! We would never have gotten to meet if it wasn’t for our good friend MurexKen for introducing us to Tom… a BIG thank you to MK for being so thoughtful. It made out trip even more enjoyable.

rawaii phuket boat

restaurant row rawaii phuket

PS-  It has been storming in Florida all weekend with Tropical storm Debby and she will be pounding us for even another couple of days. Right before the lighting show began, Clark and I scoured the Sanibel beaches but we didn’t see loads of shells yet.  Lightning storms are not the time to be on the beach shelling so when Mother Nature stops with her thunder warnings and things calm down a bit, I’ll give you another report. Until then, I’ll show you CONES and MUREXES we found on our Thailand trip on my next post. (well, unless I have a local report that can’t wait!)



  2. That is so cool that you got to meet Tom Rice and see his yard and all that! Shell people are actually a rather small community worldwide but most of them are very nice and friendly!

    By the way, you can see some more bailer shell pearls here:

  3. Oh Pam! Those photos from Thailand are amazing. They sure grow them big there! LOL How exciting to have experienced that trip. And thank you for sharing it with us. Stay safe!

  4. AWESOME post! Thailand appears to have been a true trip of a lifetime! So nice of Murex Ken to “share” his shelling friends around the world with you. The tour of the museum must have been incredible judging by the pics you shared here! Thanks, Pam!!!

  5. Love all your posts, but this one especially — I’ve been to Phuket and on the same trip, found my own (and most treasured) tiger nautilus on a beach in Burma.

    And — I live in Gig Harbor, Wash., near Port Gamble, and have been to the museum many, many times. In fact, a few of my Just Beachy items have been featured in the gift shop on the first floor of the Port Gamble General Store (the museum is on the second floor). It was great to learn about Tom and how that wonderful museum was founded. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Pam – those shells are delicious!!! What a wonderful opportunity you had to see that museum. We are also getting lots of wind and rain on the east coast. Thinking in a few days it might be worth the trip west to Sanibel – let us know how the beaches fared – there is a lot of erosion here.

  7. The Thai people have such an eye for beauty.

  8. Pam, glad you enjoyed meeting Tom Rice. As you now know, Tom is a friendly, kind and helpful fellow. For many years, actually decades, Tom was the publisher of a quarterly(?) travel and shell collecting magazine called “Of Sea and Shore”. Before the time of the internet (for some of you that may seem prehistoric), that magazine gave many shell collectors the opportunity to write informal articles about their shell collecting trips. It also gave the rest of us the opportunity to dream about shell collecting in exotic destinations. The 100 plus issues of “Of Sea and Shore” are available on a CD from Tom for a small price, if anyone is interested.

    As for the weather, MurexAlice and are now back in the Florida Keys. Wish that you and Clark could have joined us, but you haven’t missed much, since the weather has been relatively poor since we arrived about eight days ago. We have found a few shells, including Milk Conchs, Hawk-wing conchs, Deer Cowries and Measled Cowries. You wrote about these in your reports from last year, and For any of you who might enjoy reading about some of our Keys shelling adventures this year, you may want to look at As the weather improves, I will write additional posts. The regular posters on the Trip Advisor Key West forum seem to tolerate my shell collecting reports, but they tend to be more interested in other Key West activities. As one of my friends recently expressed it, “they are more interested in bars, restaurants, bars, lodging, bars, sightseeing, and bars than shelling”. Thanks Hot, I really enjoyed that.

    • Hi MurexKen, I am interested in the Of Sea and Shore CD, how much would it cost, and how could I go about ordering one?? Thank you!

      • HI Donna, I linked Tom’s museum Of Sea And Shore in the post where you can find the publication as well. Here it is again – .

        I’m sure you know but just to make sure you know or anybody else…. when I highlight and bold words in my posts, that means I have put more information there with an easy access link when you click on the highlighted words. I know… I should never assume y’all know that! Cause you know what happens when I assume…. ;)

        • I did know that but even though i scour your postings somehow I missed that one, sorry to make you have to repost. Thanks for that. Stay safe from your stormy weather!!

          • That was noooo problem at all Donna! I just got to thinking…. I want everybody to get the most out of each post and if they didn’t know about the bolding and highlights- this was an excellent time to make sure they did! So Thank you for asking!!!! REALLY, Miss Birthday Girl! ;)

          • Awwww, thanks!! :)

        • Pam, thanks for responding to Donna’s request. We went out snorkeling and shell collecting today. Among other shells, we found some beautiful white turrids, Splendrillia moseri, , some white lined miters, Vexillum albocinctum, and a few, beautiful Rose Murex, Vokesimurex rubidus, Since the weather continues to restict the boating here in the Keys, this was all that we could do. I understand that the “surf” is pretty rough on Sanibel right now. Hopefully, that will bring in the shells during the next week or so.

          • I sure hope you are right! My friend & her 2 girls will be there on July 2nd to the 14th!! We are a little worried about these storms. Also, where do you get shells in the Keys?! Sorry if you already said it.. Loved your information (I love all your posts always) and definitely want to buy that CD! Thanks so much! Sherri from MN

          • Sherri, many people do not realize that the Florida Keys are a rich habitat for mollusks/shells. For more information, you may want to look at this link,

          • Thank you, I will look at that! Yes, Iknew there were lots of them there, just not really on the beaches. I went snorkeling at Bahia Honda and found many beautiful live queen conch shells. But, of course I couldn’t take them, which wa torture! They were so pretty with the orange outside and pink inside! Thx for all the info! Can’t wait to check it out!

  9. Love the pictures of the shells. My thoughts are all Sanibel 3 weeks to go before we are their. Thanks for what you do read your page everytime it comes out.

    Thanks, Curt

  10. That wentletrap sculpture thing reminds me. Is there a worls record for the size of a wentletrap? Because I recently found one that is unusually larger than the others.

    • The most common (and largest) wentletrap on Sanibel is the angulate wentletrap I think. (There are six other species too, although some are quite rare!)

      I believe the World Record Size of the angulate wentletrap is 25 mm, which is an inch long. That species occurs all the way from Connecticut to Brazil.

      • Wow! I measured my wentletrap and it is exactly one inch! I found it in the surf line at Lighthouse point!

        • That’s a big one! If you manage to find one a tiny bit bigger than that then you will have a World Record Size shell. Shells are a bit hard to measure precisely, so a pair of Vernier calipers is the best way to measure them.

  11. I enjoyed your article and pictures of your visit with Tom Rice in Thailand. But Tom did not move there 20 years ago. True, he began visiting Thailand about then, but he only moved permanently to Phuket in 2004. See Issue 26, #3 for details.
    I loved his magazine, “Of Sea and Shore”, and some of my trip writeups were published there. Happy shelling, Tom!

    • Hi Cynthia, Before I posted this, Clark read it and told me I had the date wrong but then I again forgot to correct it… but now with the little help of my friends.. I’ve corrected it. Thank you for helping me out with the correct information.

    • Hi Cynthia,

      Glad to see your still into shelling and I recall the nice articles we were able to print from you. The internet and sites like Pam’s keep even us old timers
      busy thinking of past shelling trips and glad to see many others still enjoying such adventures.


      Tom Rice
      Rawai Beach, Phuket Island,
      The Kingdom of Thailand

  12. I know its off topic, but I’m excited that one of my birthday gifts was a I Love Shelling Tee shirt… Now I’m official!! :)

  13. what an interesting post. I am amazed at how large some of those shells are.

  14. What a great adventure you and Clark had. We are all so fortunate that you have shared it with us. It was a nice way to brighten up the grey and rainy day here in Sarasota.

    I am looking forward to the shells that will be washing up on shore after tropical storm Debbie moves on.

  15. Wow! How did you manage to contact Mr Tom Rice? I have seen him on someone else’s blog and his collection is insane, and so is the collection of the Patamakanthin Brother’s! Cool blog post! :)

  16. the shells in the museum—OH MY GOD!!!

  17. Lucky of you!
    I’m just arrived home from phuket..I saw the museum but because I was participating in the tour,well,i couldn’t stopped by.

    Just stopped by in some local seashell shop in tourists spots,but they weren’t good in quality.

    I stopped at one shop tough,and they had MANY of them..some cost until 25.000 THB,even 55.000 thb! just when i wanted to buy one the tour leader warned me that the bus is leaving..DARN!

    I really regret the fact that i didn’t have time to check them out,i really love walking around hunting them!

  18. For 35 years Ive wanted to go there—guess it wasnt in the cards. Used to buy many specimens from Tom in the early 80s. Im looking for ranellidae andamanense. Can anyone direct me to local dealers/fishermen etc who could help? Thanks much. Happy shelling!

  19. Pam,
    My 12 year old son and I really enjoy your shelling blogs about Sanibel and other places that you have visited for shelling. We are going to Thailand this summer and hopefully back to Sanibel in the fall. We love to scuba dive and were thinking about basing our trip in Phuket area. I noticed you mentioned that your shells came from an area called Rawai? Do you recommend any beaches near Phuket for shells or just Rawai? How hard is it to get from Phuket to Rawai? Is there a certain area in Rawai for shells? Just started looking into this vacation and I do not know much about the whole area. Any info or advice that you have would be very much appreciated. Thanks for your time!
    Aloha, Callie

  20. Hi Tom, and old friend from the past. Please contact me
    if you get this.
    George Mendenhall ([email protected])

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