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Racha Yai Islands diving – Everything you need to know

1. Scuba Diving at Racha Yai – Siam Bay

Racha Yai is a beautiful island that allows all-year-round diving opportunities. Racha Yai Siam Bay lies North of the island and offers somewhat idyllic diving conditions. With its crystal clear waters and colorful coral formations, the sandy seabed gently slopes to depths of twenty to twenty-five meters. The bay’s protection from easterly and western winds adds to the ideal diving conditions, making it a popular location for all diving abilities, particularly those new to diving. 

The bay is made up of rocky edges and scattered hard coral patches with a sandy seabed in the middle of the bay. This site was made more popular in 2006 when statues were dropped to the seabed to act as artificial reefs and encourage rich marine life. They included two elephants and a large temple gate guarded by a mythical protector known in Thai as Yak. They were dropped at around eighteen to twenty meters but should be relatively easy to find as a mooring marks the spot. Many dives start here as multiple permanent moorings allow divers an excellent visual starting point before they descend approximately six meters to the sandy seabed. There is then a sloping descent down to about twenty meters. Divers usually continue to explore the coral formations around the bay and are often witness to majestic sights. Table Coral and Staghorn make up the reef, where Flute Fish and Trumpet Fish swim above it.  

Take time to explore the beautiful seabed, which can hold many treasures. It is an ideal place to find Blue Spotted Stingray and Peacock Flounder as they hide in the sand. Also, look for black Spotted Garden eels and Bent Stick PipeFish which are about 10 cm long and quite rare. Watch White Eyed Moray Eels, who take up residency in the elephant’s ears when exploring the elephant statues. It is also common to see Parrotfish, Barracuda, Butterfly Fish, and Triggerfish. If you are fortunate, you may encounter Cuttlefish, Turtles, and Octopus, all adding to an unforgettable experience. Large Stonefish have also been seen here, but it is rare, unlike their Scorpion Fish cousins, which are abundant. 

The current here is usually mild, sometimes allowing for a gentle drift dive, and the temperature is about 29°C/84°F. The clear waters will enable visibility of up to twenty-five meters allowing you to have a superb diving experience.

2. Racha Yai – Homerun Reef Diving

Racha Yai Homerun Reef is about a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride from Chalong and is located in the smallest of the two bays along the East side of Racha Yai Island. As its name suggests, it is often used as the last dive site of the day since it runs north along the island’s east side and takes you back in the direction of Chalong. 

As fitting with the area, the Homerun Reef is an idyllic dive location and an ideal mooring spot to catch some sunshine whilst having lunch. The clear and often calm waters are perfect conditions to build your confidence as a diver, attracting beginners and those who have not dived for some time. The bay offers swimming pool-like features as a gradual descending reef drops to a depth of twenty to twenty-five meters onto a white sandy seabed. There is also plenty to attract the more experienced diver, as this is an excellent site for drift diving. You will also discover the wreck of the Andaman Explorer at a depth of around twenty-four meters towards the south, which is covered in marine life, attracting many scuba divers. 

You will find some soft corals at Homerun reef, but it is mainly hard corals that you will find, such as Branch, Staghorn and Pore coral. Along with the corals, a vast array of marine life awaits to be discovered. Some, however, do not make it easy to be seen, such as Garden Eels, who bury themselves in the sandy seabed with only their heads sticking out in the hope of catching ZooPlankton or Crustaceans as they go past. You may witness small schools of Yellow Snapper, TwoSpot Snapper and Goatfish around the wreck, Jens Cleaner Pipefish, and Durban Dancing Shrimp. Trumpet Fish, who like to ride on the back of large Groupers whilst hiding from their predators, and Cornet Fish are interesting sightings too. If you are fortunate, you may see Giant Rays, Leopard Sharks, and, if very lucky, Blacktip Reef Sharks. Scorpion Fish are masters at keeping themselves camouflaged, so look carefully, and you may see them. 

Scuba divers return to this site time after time as they appreciate the idyllic conditions it has to offer all year round to all diving abilities. The current of the waters here runs south to North, so it can be moderate to strong, which can sometimes lend itself to fantastic drift diving opportunities. Along with visibility ranging from ten to thirty meters and depths of at least twenty meters, Homerun Reef is a divers paradise.

3. Racha Yai Bungalow Bay Scuba Diving

Bungalow Bay is located on the west side of Racha Yai Island and lies in a horseshoe formation which gives some protection from the weather coming in from the east. Bungalow Bay is a beach typical of the west coast of Thailand, in the sense that it is long with white sands, representing most people’s idea of paradise. It lies a ninety-minute boat ride from Chalong Bay and is enjoyed by many.

Bungalow Bay is a popular dive site for all diving abilities, including beginners, as there are many shallow sandy spots. Due to the size, the bay is split into two sides, the North Wall and South Wall, as you can dive on both sides. Each is home to palm trees, white beaches and striking blue waters, a genuinely idyllic scene. 

The Northern side is a sloping reef made up of hard corals such as Staghorn and granite boulders going to depths of approximately twenty-two metres, reaching down to sandy surfaces. The south dive spot is similar, but the waters are shallower. Both sides of the bay will show you all the beautiful sights the Andaman Sea offers. 

Many start their dive in the shallow waters of five to eight meters in the middle of the bay, where a small artificial reef was introduced using hollow concrete cubes in 2006. They are now home to an incredible variety of marine life. Use this opportunity to spot possible Stingrays, such as Blue Spotted Rays and some unusual Nudibranchs, along with Batfish, Puffer Fish and Moray Eels, who have made this reef their home. There may even be Ribbon Eels hiding in the sand. You can then progress into the deeper waters, where the underwater scenery changes from sand to incredible hard coral formations. Heading North, you will arrive at the Northern Wall, a gently sloping wall of a granite boulder and an abundance of Staghorn Coral reaching around twenty-two meters in depth down to a sandy seabed. Here you may spot Kuh’s Stingrays, Octopus, Flounder and cuttlefish amongst the sand. 

There is a vibrant mix of marine life here, such as Goatfish, Snappers, Lionfish, Barracuda, Surgeonfish and Scorpionfish. You may also have the opportunity to see Ornate and Seagrass Ghost Pipefish and nudibranchs that are uncommon anywhere else in the area. Explore amongst the boulders, and you will be overwhelmed by the abundance of LionFish, Raggy and Bearded ScorpionFish, who all love it here as they feast on the many juvenile fish. Remember to look out to the deep blue, as you might be graced by Manta Rays or Whale Sharks who occasionally visit.

The South Wall is very similar. It has shallow reefs all along the wall, progressing to boulder formations reaching around twenty meters offering a similar wall dive to that of the North Wall and again, hard and soft Coral can be found. The marine life is much the same as at the North wall, as you would expect, with schools of Barracuda, Moray Eels, and Khules Stingrays camouflaging themselves in the sand. Among the boulder formations, stay focused to spot Hawksbill Turtles and Clown Fish in the anemones. The Hawksbill Turtle has been a regular here for many years and is comfortable rummaging through the coral for food. Titan Triggerfish, Picasso Triggerfish and Red Tooth Triggers are all among the marine life at home at Bungalow Bay.

The diving conditions at Bungalow Bay are inviting all year round, with the water temperature at around 29°C / 84°F and visibility good from fifteen to thirty meters. The current is usually mild and lends itself to scuba divers of all ability levels and is an excellent location to complete PADI open water and advanced courses. An added appeal is that there are shallow dive opportunities which, of course, progress  deeper, ranging approximately from four to thirty meters. The shallow spots allow you to perfect your dive skills, such as clearing your mask, regulating checks, etc. Bungalow Bay is a popular destination for scuba diving. The vibrant reef life and the picturesque scenery above and below the water are breathtaking and offer outstanding scuba diving experiences. 

4. Diving at Racha Yai – Bay 1 and 2

On the northeast coast of Racha Yai lies Bays 1 and 2, naturally formed bays popular with scuba divers and snorkelers. Being only a ninety-minute boat ride from Chalong to bay 1, it is an ideal diving spot for many. Many divers of all abilities choose here due to the variety of reef fish you can spot in shallow waters above a sandy seabed which gradually slopes from around five meters to twenty-five meters. Visibility is good here, and it is also a perfect place to start your PADI Open Water Courses. Another major attraction for many scuba divers is that these bays offer you the opportunity to go Wreck diving. With numerous wrecks and artificial reefs to discover, you will have thrilling, insightful dives that will create memories never to be forgotten. 

The shallow, sandy spots which host beautiful hard coral gardens in just three to five meters are ideal locations for Try diving and diving courses. If you venture out a little further to around ten to fifteen meters, you will find artificial reefs in the form of metal cubes and a sunken moped, making for a unique photo opportunity. Marine life adorns these reefs; you will no doubt see large schools of Barracuda, Longfin batfish and endless numbers of Gobies that live harmoniously with the crabs on the sandy seabed. Spotted Garden Eels and Kuhl’s Stingray also occupy the sandy patches providing spectacular photo opportunities. 

You can start your wreck diving adventure North of Bay 1, where the wreck of an old sailboat lies at around twenty-one meters. Its decomposing skeleton provides a home to wonderful reef life, such as big schools of Glassfish and Snapper gliding effortlessly around or Giant Moray Eels actually on the wreck. If you are very fortunate, you may discover Ornate Ghost Pipefish or use your torch to find an abundance of Shrimp. Explore under the wreck; you may sometimes discover Jenkins’ Rays lying low. Remember to look up, as Great barracudas could be looking down on you. There is so much to explore; you will be amazed at the vast offer of marine life. 

Between Bays 1 and 2 lies the wreck of The Harruby Liveaboard. In much better condition than the previous, it lies upright, with the bottom at about twenty meters and the top at around fourteen meters. Known to be the best wreck in this location to penetrate, it is accessible for all levels of certified divers. Chevron Barracuda, who are shy, may be hiding, and multiple photogenic Batfish, Bannerfish and Scorpionfish have all made The Harruby Liveaboard their home. Also, watch Snake Eels pop their heads out of the sand close to the wreck. 

Head east of Harruby as you will discover an old Thai wooden fishing boat, of which the top lies at around twenty-four meters. It is deteriorating fast but is still home to much of the usual reef life and worth visiting.

Artificial reefs have also been introduced, and Marla’s Mystery is a barge wreck that was sunk on purpose. It lies approximately a hundred and fifty meters east of the center of the Bays at around thirty-four meters. Unfortunately, the barge drifted on the descent, making it a little challenging to locate. Such reefs had to be introduced after there was damage done to the shallow corals through coral bleaching in 2008. With the introduction of artificial reefs, the corals regenerated almost immediately, and the marine life soured. 

July 2015 saw the latest shipwreck added. Named Sinaran Andaman, a container cargo ship hit the rocks off Koh Hei and began taking on water. The Coast Guard transported the sixty-five-meter-long vessel to Racha Yai, where much of the wreck was salvaged, but the entire bow section was dropped to a depth of twenty-four meters and introduced as another reef for Racha Yai. It is located north of Harruby.

Thanks to the introduction of artificial reefs, this part of the Andaman sea is now rich in minerals and hosts an exceptional variety of marine life. There have been sightings of rare Cockatoo Leaf Fish, pairs of Ghost Pipefish, Pyramid Boxfish and the lethal Stonefish. Psychedelic Nudibranchs, Seahorses and giant Morays lazying around make for an outstanding dive experience and breathtaking photos. Visibility is excellent here, ranging from fifteen meters to forty meters. With a mild to moderate current, you can scuba dive here all year round, with average water temperatures at 29°C / 84°F. You will soon understand why divers return here multiple times. 

5. Scuba Diving at Racha Yai Bay 3, 4 and 5

Racha Yai Bays 3, 4, and 5 are also located along the east coast of the island and as with the previous bays, the currents are usually gentle within the bays, allowing drift dives to take place but can be stronger when between bays. The dive coordinator will no doubt consider the current direction when deciding which bay to start at.

As with Bays 1 and 2, bay 3 is a popular dive site and is another good site for beginners or those new to diving. There are no wrecks here, but an artificial reef of concrete cubes was introduced at around twenty meters onto the sandy seabed. This artificial reef is now home to an assortment of reef fish, Batfish, Lionfish and Moray Eels. Boxer Shrimp and Dancing Shrimp can be found in nooks, crannies, and even inside Pore Corals. You may also find Ghost Pipefish hiding too. Bay 3 has a sandy seabed with a sprinkling of Pore Corals and Coral heads. It is only when you explore further that the topography changes. If you head south, you will enter what is known as Lucy’s Reef, which is made up of mainly hard corals. The further south you explore, you will find rock formations replacing the corals. As you would expect from the same island as Bays 1 and 2, there is a variety of reef fish you can expect to find, such as Parrot Fish, Butterfly Fish, Angel Fish, along with Cornet Fish which are at times spotted. 

Bays 4 and 5 are located at the southeast end of Racha Yai island, both of which allow divers to start in shallow waters, but both bays have rock formations that have vast drops, more so than Bay 3 and host a wider variety of corals. This area has not seen much human activity and has only recently gained popularity. The rock formations are proving popular as they run deep, dropping to around thirty meters and beyond, giving divers something other than a sandy seabed to explore. Waterfall Wall is considered the steepest wall, dropping to about thirty meters. Waterfall Wall is said to be a mini version of Staghorn Reef but with a wider variety of corals, one being Anemones. Take care when diving here as the current at this spot can be complex and switch direction.

Visibility can be incredible here, allowing you to make fascinating discoveries. As well as all the reef fish you would expect to find, such as Parrot Fish, Snapper, Angelfish and Grouper, you may spot Manta Rays and Eagle Rays that have been in these waters before. You can sometimes watch Reef Sharks gliding effortlessly through the waters or large schools of Big Eyed Trevally in the shallow water near the reef. You may also observe schools of Yellowtail Butterfly fish away from the reef.  

How to visit Racha Islands?

Here at Thailands Divers, we visit Racha Yai regularly. You can join us on MV Mermaid on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when we leave Chalong at 7.30 am. Our highly qualified and professional team will greet and look after you. Breakfast and lunch will be served on board, and a return hotel transfer will be organized for your day to finish in style. 

Thailand Divers have high safety regulations, so we ask for certified divers only and a maximum group of four. Such measures allow us to ensure you can have our undivided attention at all times, and we can help maintain the natural environment of the Andaman sea. 

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