Located 19 kilometers south of Phuket, the islands of Koh Racha Yai (also known as Raya Yai) and Koh Racha Noi (Raya Noi) offer visitors to Phuket an interesting day trip by boat. It's possible to organize an overnight stay, while the islands are also becoming increasingly popular destinations among divers.

Plenty of options

Longtail boats carrying a maximum of eight passengers can be chartered from Rawai Beach on the southern side of Phuket for about 2,000 baht (US$60). This is a return fare to Koh Racha Yai and includes plenty of time for snorkeling. The boat ride to the island takes about one-and-a-half hours in itself. If you're not part of a group, you may still find that you can join with a smaller group of people seeking to reduce their costs.

It's also possible to head for the smaller island of Koh Hai (Coral Island) on a half-day snorkeling trip from Rawai. A return fare costs 800 baht, but it should be noted that the boat trip is much shorter if you are simply looking to enjoy the cruise by boat.

A similar one-day snorkeling trip to Koh Hai departs Ao Chalong (Chalong Bay), just north of Rawai, and costs 1,500 baht. From November through April, you can also get to Koh Racha by speedboat. It departs at 9 am, returning from the island at about 3 pm. At 500 baht each way, this offers good value given the shorter journey time (about 45 minutes each way).

Most boat trips can be booked through travel agents located at popular resorts on Phuket.

An 'alternative' haven for divers

Divers visiting Phuket have got plenty of choices when it comes to seeking interesting dive sites thanks to the numerous smaller island located nearby.

While the nine islands making up the Similan archipelago are probably the best-known and most popular destinations among divers, it takes at least three to four hours to reach them.

A visit to Koh Racha therefore offers a 'best of both worlds' alternative – you still get to enjoy a few hours at sea, along with the opportunity to visit some interesting and beautiful sites. We recommend taking a day trip since accommodation options on the island itself are limited.

While the diversity of the marine life may not quite match those in the Similan archipelago, it is still mightily impressive. Indeed, the site is ideal for underwater photographers or videographers since the ocean floor is flat here and offers great views of hard and soft coral.

Among the colorful, tropical species of fish spotted off the islands are: Titan trigger; Moray eels; Puffer fish; Stingrays; Octopuses; as well as Cuttlefish.

Keeping it clean and 'green'

A visit to such impressive locations can sometimes spur the conscience of visitors. When diving out in the ocean, you get to see some exquisite examples of pristine coral. In order to help maintain these sites, try to promote the use of pre-determined mooring points by operators. Those operators willing to anchor wherever they are directed are contributing to the destruction of coral sites, so try to educate other passengers or the boat operator whenever you experience this kind of practice.

The case of Koh Phi Phi is a living 'bad example' of what can happen when the aggressive expansion of tourism prevails over every other aspect, including the environment. A lack of strict law enforcement has been a contributory factor in the case of Koh Phi Phi, while it is essential that operators understand that they have no right to destroy nature, the very thing that guarantees their businesses' well being. When traveling to such pristine locations, always remember to take your garbage home with you, or otherwise consider yourself 'part of the problem'.

reference : thaiasiatoday.com

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