South Tip Pinnacle Racha Noi Phuket: One of Phukets best dive sites for Manta Rays. Includes Video.

June 9, 2010

Lucky diver with Manta Ray

Lucky diver with Manta Ray

South Tip Pinnacle Racha Noi Phuket is one of Phukets best dive sites for Manta Rays. It takes around two hours from Phuket by dive boat, but the awesome scuba diving we experienced when we got there made the long trip well worth it.  because of its location Racha Noi South Tip Pinnacle is subject to mercilessly strong currents. To attempt the dive around full moon would be extremely challenging for all but the most hardcore scuba divers. We dived the south tip pinnacle six days before the full moon and the currents were barely noticeable, a rare luxury for this dive.

The south tip pinnacle Racha Noi is definitely only for experienced scuba divers. The dive site is a few hundred meters from the south tip of Racha Noi, and the shallowest part of the dive site tops out at around 12 meters. A rapid descent once in the water is essential to avoid being blown away from the dive site by the currents. Once at depth, divers can find shelter from the currents and improvise a route to facilitate a relaxed dive meandering around the granite boulders and through connecting channels. It is like no other dive site I’ve dived around Phuket. It reminds me a little of Sharkfin Reef in the Similans, with a bit of Hin Daeng thrown in there for good measure.

The corals here are pristine and due to the cooler water here there were no signs of bleaching. There is a good mix of hard and soft corals. Some of the walls around the dive site are carpeted with purple and red soft corals. Gorgonian and other varieties of sea fan festoon the boulders and gently sway in the current, filtering microscopic particles from the water.

Manta markings are like fingerprints

Manta markings are like fingerprints

We did two dives at the dive site. The first dive  had some mild to medium currents but nothing too challenging or fierce. The visibility was pushing in excess of 35 meters. On the first dive only half the divers were lucky enough to have a visit from a Manta Ray. Generally, the Mantas around Thailand are the more elusive and rare Giant Mantas, not to be confused with the slightly smaller Reef Mantas. Giant Mantas can have wingspans of up to seven and a half meters. They also have more distinct and pronounced markings than reef Mantas, and have a small bump at the beginning of their tail, the remnants of their sting that has since disappeared through millions of years of evolution. It’s only recently been discovered that there are in fact two different species of Manta Ray, and this groundbreaking discovery was down to Dr Andrea Marshall, a marine biologist who works tirelessly for Manta Ray conservation and runs the Foundation for Protection of Marine Mega fauna. Last year the BBC made a documentary about her work in Mozambique. The program is called Andrea Queen of Mantas and is a must watch.

Manta gliding over the reef
Manta gliding over the reef

On the second dive at the south tip we were all lucky enough to be graced with the Giant Manta for around 30 minutes. There was almost zero current, and the Manta cruised round and round eyeing all the divers with curiosity. It’s believed that Mantas are very intelligent, and possess the largest brain of any fish relative to its size. The Manta circled repeatedly giving all the divers great photo opportunities before disappearing into the blue for the final time as we were all beginning our safety stops. It was a memorable dive. The boat buzzed all the way back to Chalong pier and all the customers and staff rated the dive as one of their best ever.

  • Best time to dive south tip: November to May.
  • Max Depth: 70 meters.
  • Visibility: 10 to 40 meters.
  • Currents: Can be very strong. Best dived a week before full moon or black moon.
  • Experience Level: Advanced open water or above
  • Things to see: Manta Rays, Barracuda, Trevally, Tuna, Snappers, Lionfish.

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