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Ko Racha Yai

These beautiful islands lie due south of Puket and can be reached by boat in just over an hour. Ko Racha Yai is suitable for scuba divers at all levels; Ko Racha Noi is best for experienced divers. Highlights include beautiful island scenery, some idyllic beaches and the opportunity to see manta rays and schools of barracuda. Accommodation on Racha Yai island is limited to mid-range resorts and a luxury boutique hotel.

Koi Racha Yai is an ideal year-round destination at which to learn scuba diving. On the north end of the island are two beautiful bays featuring deep, clear water and colorful coral formations. Both drop gradually to a depth of 13 meters onto a sandy seabed, providing wonderful opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Ko Racha Yai's best diving is off the east coast where the current allows for a gentle drift dive along a sloping rocky face that attracts large schools of tropical fish. Especially prominent are moray eels, octopus, cuttlefish, titan triggerfish and giant pufferfish. There are often large schools of false barracudas, twinspot snapper, pufferfish and parrotfish hovering over the reef. Trumpetfish hunt among the corals for food, and cornetfish are everywhere. There are a few anemones scattered throughout the hard corals, along with their resident clownfish.

In the sandy area at the edge of the reef, look out for bluespotted stingrays half-buried in the sand. You can also spot garden eels in this area – their bodies sticking out from their holes and swaying in the current. Look out for bent stick pipefish, as well as large reef stonefish on the sand at the edge of the reef.

On the southwest coast of the island, two dive boats were deliberately sunk a few years ago to benefit the local marine life and diving industry. The first is a small wooden dive boat which lies on its side at a depth of 27 meters. It has deteriorated considerably over the last few years, but attracts lots of reef fish such as Moorish idols and damselfish. The second boat lies perfectly upright at a depth of 26m with the top reaching up to 15 meters. Not much grows on the wreck yet, but it attracts large amounts of reef fish. Look out for schools of yellowtail barracuda cruising past.

Ko Racha Noi

Koi Racha Noi is a popular destination for experienced divers. Local operators can arrange either a one day excursion or a two day liveaboard. The island is surrounded by hard coral reef, with huge underwater granite boulders in formations very similar to the Similan Islands. Visibility is generally excellent and the scenery spectacular.

Off the southern point of the island you can experience an interesting drift dive. Reef Sharks, bluespotted stingrays and schools of tuna are common; manta rays can also be spotted. At the north point are some of the healthiest coral formations in Thailand. The shallower areas feature elegant green sheet corals, porites and bottlebrush corals. There are numerous octopuses here, too.

Banana Bay on the island's east coast is suitable for beginners. It boasts a small white sandy beach and shallow turquoise water. With its interesting staghorn reefs, this is an excellent spot for those learning to dive in Phuket.