Located approximately 27 km from Phuket Racha Noi is the least dived and yet most impressive diving spot around the Phuket area. It is often referred to as a "mini-Similans" due to its varying topography and the chance to encounter larger pelagic marine life such as manta rays.
This is not just one site either but a number of dive sites. On the eastern side of the island are the tropical bays with pure white sand and visibility of often 40 metres. The reefs are sloping hard coral reefs with some small boulder areas extending to depths in excess of 30 metres. On the western side expect dramatic boulder landscapes, great visibility and mixtures of hard corals, soft corals and sea fans. Depths on this side extend even beyond 70 metres although diving is generally limited to 30 metres maximum.
Undoubtedly the one thing that makes this island so special is the chance of seeing manta rays. These beautiful creatures cruise around the whole of the island's surrounding waters although undoubtedly the most likely place to see them is on the southern tip. Leopard sharks are also frequent visitors and permanent fixtures include schools of barracuda, milk fish, batfish and trevallies. Octopi, stingrays, lionfish and nudibranches are also amongst the local residents.
There are many different dive sites to be visited around Racha Noi. Below is a brief outline of each in the order of how we like them together with experience level suitability.
Situated approximately 150 metres off the southern end of the island this is undoubtedly the best of the bunch. This is a massive rock formation starting at a depth of 12 metres dropping to 70 metres plus. It is covered in soft corals and sea fans and a great variety of life. Known for it's bigger fishes regular visitors include a large school of black fin barracuda, napoleon wrasse and, of course, manta rays. Renowned for its currents, sometimes very strong, this site is recommended for experienced divers only.
A small bay on the western side is the location point for the start of this dive. Coming out of the bay is a large "Sydney Opera House" shaped set of rocks reaching to depths of 25 metres with interesting swim throughs. Once out of the bay the reef slopes steeply from the edge of the island to the sand. Hard corals are the order of the day with marine life including snappers, trevallies, nudibranches and even an occasional manta ray or leopard shark. Suitable for all level of divers.
The southern most tip of the island is a dive site in itself. this one is all about landscapes with interesting boulder formations twisting and turning and forming large rock faces underwater. Marine life can be very interesting with mantas and leopard sharks regular visitors. Look out also for a school of giant trevallies hanging on the southern most tip. Suitable for all levels of certified divers.
The northern most tip of the island actually forms two possible dive sites. Starting on a bay on the north west side you can either head south or north. Both sites consist of large boulder formations drooping to depths of 30 metres plus. Each have similar marine life with the possibility of leopard sharks, milk fish, large schools of fusiliers and barracuda. Mantas and white tip reef sharks have also been seen, generally at depth. Recommended for advanced divers if you intend to venture outside of the bay due to the possibility of strong currents and sometimes going downwards too. The bay is suitable for divers of all levels.
On the south east end of the island is a beautiful sloping hard coral reef starting at depths of less than two metres and dropping as deep as 30 metres plus. Either side are sandy bay areas giving a true feeling of tropical diving. With generally crystal clear water and sparkling white sand this is a great place for shallow water photography. Banded sea snakes, octopi, cuttlefish and moray eels are all regulars with the possibility of leopard sharks and exquisite nudibranches. Suitable for all level of divers.
Half way beneath the north and south tips is a large sheltered bay shaped like a banana (hence the name). Starting at a depth of 5 metres this hard coral reef slopes at a 45 degree angle down to a sandy bottom at 25 metres and deeper. The main coral type here is staghorn with a large array of reef fishes living in and around. All the usual suspects can be found (parrotfish, lionfish, trumpetfish etc.) plus with a chance of leopard sharks and, on a rare occasion, manta rays too. Suitable for all levels of divers.
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