Great weekend at Racha Yai (Raya) Island
We've been waiting to do this for a while! Racha Yai island, also called Raya or Raja island is about 20km south of Phuket and I've been there probably 100 times for diving, as it's a popular dive spot, with clear water and easy diving, great for first time divers (for diving, contact Sunrise Divers!) But this weekend was not about diving, it was a family weekend with friends who run a travel company (Easy Day Thailand) - they book these Racha Yai trips, either day trips or overnight (or longer) stays - Contact Them, and we'd been planning a trip for months, but other things kept getting in the way like sick kids, other plans, work, and of course the weather!
Finally we fixed a date at the end of September and crossed our fingers for sunshine. We all met at Chalong Bay to get a speedboat over to Racha Yai, about 30 minutes away. We were all booked in at Ban Raya Resort, one of just a few accommodation options on the island - the hotel provides transfers. We left Chalong about 9:30am and were at the clear blue waters of Raya island just after 10am...
(above) The landing pier at Racha Yai island
The water really is this colour. This is on the east side of the island which is nice and sheltered at this time of year with winds from the west. Unless there has been a week of rain and bad weather, you're going to get beautiful blue water on the east coast of Racha Yai. We were lucky. We did pass through a 5 minute rain shower on the way, but for the whole weekend at Racha we had blue skies and hot weather. We heard from people on the mainland that Phuket was pretty wet that Saturday. I often say this to divers - never mind a bit of rain in Phuket, if you go 20km south you'll probably get sun!
At the temporary floating jetty we were met by Ban Raya transport. The resort is less than 1km away and the transport of choice for guests is .... tractors! Well, trailers pulled by tractors anyway. Not much in the way of paved roads on the island. On a wet day, a tractor would be your only hope!
Ban Raya Resort is mid price, rooms from about 1800 Baht in low season. We'd all booked in the standard rooms and mostly all wished we'd booked the nicer deluxe rooms! Actually it was pretty decent and cool in the night time so aircon was not essential. The resort is spread over a huge area with lots of coconut palms providing shade. We were quick to have a look around as soon as we checked in.
What a great pool! The kids were off to play there before we could blink. We all gathered a bit later in the restaurant for a set buffet lunch, which I think would be very tasty for tourists but if you are used to "real" Thai food, it was somewhat lacking. The beer was nice and cold though, but beer on the island is not so cheap - remember that everything has to come by boat.
And then, off for some snorkeling! Below the pool is a small bay which they call Kon Kare Bay. We divers just call it Bay 3! Dive boats and snorkel tour speedboats stop offshore. At the resort there are some sunloungers and you can walk in from the beach. We went in with our kids and at one point followed a swimming moray eel for about 5 minutes. Our son had 'leaky mask' problems, I think the mask I bought for him was just a tiny bit too big, but he enjoyed his time in the water. I am a diver but can happily snorkel for hours especially in clear shallow waters like those at Racha Yai. There is a small dive shop at the resort too, so a dive can be arranged.
In the late afternoon we all took a walk to the west side of the island. At a bay which we divers call Bungalow Bay (also called Batok Bay or Patok Bay) you find The Racha Resort which is a more luxurious hotel, but the beach is public. Being on the west coast, with a west wind blowing in the low season, we could not snorkel there, but the kids could still jump!
The sand on this beach is really nice. I'd like to come back. Anyone from The Racha reading? I took a walk down the beach photographing footprints. Always trying to find the perfect footprint....
On the same beach as The Racha, some broken down but rather photogenic shacks ...
On the way back to Ban Raya, we found another side of Racha Yai. There have been claims in the local news this year of over-development and we did see building going on, and a couple of cleared areas, but a lot of the island is very rural. This buffalo was enjoying a bath...
I like early mornings when I'm traveling. I skipped the late night drinks at the restaurant after dinner and after a good sleep I awoke not long after sunrise. Always a good time of day to have a place to yourself. Since the resort is on the east coast, I figured that sunrise would be pretty. It was.
There was a big buffet breakfast after which we had more time for snorkeling and playing in the pool. I should point out .. you are not alone at Ban Raya. The resort has some local residents. Monitor lizards. Here's one we found after lunch before we headed back to Phuket, and this was not the biggest one we saw...
A great little family weekend break, I think we might do this again. Or maybe just a day trip. Racha Yai trips of any length can be booked with Easy Day Thailand who can also arrange plenty of other tours. Racha Yai island is just a short speedboat ride away from Phuket, but for sure the water is clearer, a great place to snorkel and to relax. Here's another view from the pool at Ban Raya Resort ...
• Contact Easy Day Thailand for Racha Yai island trips!
Hotels on Racha Yai Island
• Ban Raya Resort
• The Racha
• Racha Yai Hotels - Full List