Racha Yai lies 10 miles to the south of Phuket, with Racha Noi a few miles further. In local dialect they are often pronounced, and often written, as ‘Raya’, so don’t be confused. (Racha means ‘king’, yai is ‘big’, and noi means ‘small’).
The Racha is a 5-star resort in the North West Bay of Racha Yai which is the first development of its kind on the island. There are also a few bungalows and restaurants on Racha Yai, concentrated near the north of the island.
Longtail day trip boats make the journey to these islands from Phuket, and beach umbrellas are set up in anticipation. Excellent diving, snorkelling, and fishing are to be found all around this group.
Bungalow Bay / Racha Yai Bay West
This is one of the real tropical paradises of the area. A fine white sand beach is framed by a bay fringed on both sides with coral. The clear waters are a vivid aquamarine tending to turquoise. Most of the shallower part of the bay now has moorings and the only anchorage opportunity is in 10-15 metres on sand and calcified coral in the outer bay. Sandy patches do exist closer in, but care must be taken to avoid damaging the reef or fouling your anchor.
The Racha Resort has installed a high season floating jetty in the southern corner where they run their boat operations from. The diving and snorkelling are excellent. The beach is frequented every day by dive boats and day trippers so, if you have crew leaving, opportunities for transportation back to Phuket are many.
The evenings are peaceful after the day-trip boats have departed, making this a delightful night anchorage, following a spectacular sunset in this west facing bay. There are several walking tracks to other beaches and across the island. Dive tanks can be filled on the beach
Racha Yai East
During the southwest monsoon, the east coast of Koh Racha Yai lends shelter for overnight stops in all but the strongest conditions. There is a deep water anchorage in 10-20 metres on a broken coral and sandy bottom. A few day dive boat moorings are available but are mostly too shallow for keelboats.
It also affords access to two small beaches with excellent snorkelling and diving, although sometimes there are strong currents. A pleasant, easy 20-minute walk takes you through coconut plantations to the north and west beaches. Ashore is the Ban Raya resort.
Racha Noi West
This is a good lunch destination from Koh Racha Yai in the northeast monsoon. Look for a deep water anchorage in 10-20 metres close to the small gap in the island; passage through this gap in a dinghy should only be attempted at high tide. There is good diving and snorkelling along the shores on a mainly rocky bottom. Fishing, trolling and bottom, are good.
Racha Noi East
This anchorage in 15-20 metres is similar to that off Koh Racha Noi West. It makes a convenient daytime lunch stop during the southwest monsoon. The swimming, diving and snorkelling are great, with the added attraction of a sandy beach connected to a small rocky islet. Please take a garbage bag if you visit the beach as much flotsam and jetsam collect here.