Marlas Mystery – A Rarely Visited But Surprisingly Good Wreck At Racha Yai
Some times the bad weather can work to your advantage. The large swell on the ocean prevented us from going to our preferred dive sites so a group of us decided to visit the deepest wreck at Racha Yai. We were pleasantly surprised with what we found. Healthy coral and lots of fish.
Not That much of A Mystery
The wreck was sunk in 2000 by the former owner of a Phuket dive centre. He found the stripped down rusting hulk in a shipyard in Phuket Town. All of the potential environmentally dangerous parts had already been stripped off so this 34m x 7m hull was a perfect candidate for an artificial reef. Some new panels were welded on and she was gloriously resurrected above the waves only to be towed out to Racha Yai and sunk again.
The wreck was named after Mike Stark’s daughter Marla (I’m guessing you had already worked out her name). The wreck sits in 32m of water just outside bay 2 at Racha Yai. The top of the wreck is at around 26m so you won’t have a lot of bottom time.
Apart from a couple of concrete cubes it’s the only structure in the area and as a result attracts plenty of fish. The top of the wreck was blanketed with yellow and blue-lined snappers, robust, neon and rusty fusiliers were feeding on plankton above the wreck and occasionally streamed down in colourful trains to visit cleaning stations.
Unfortunately for these colourful little chaps, all of this activity has of course attracted predators who care not about dive site aesthetics and more about filling their belly. Small schools of large tuna circle above the wreck, a marauding pack of golden trevally hunt at the bow and some larger than usual brown marbled groupers hide underneath. We also occasionally get jenkins whip rays using the wreck for cover.
It’s a bit of a given with any large structure at Racha Yai that there will be a giant moray hiding somewhere. True to form a large fanged mouth was gaping out of the middle section.
Clean Water For Coral
In theory, coral growth shouldn’t be as prolific at depth as it is in shallow water. So surprising to see more coral growth on one concrete cube next to Marla’s Mystery than on the entire 300+ collection in the shallow areas of the dive site. We know water quality isn’t great close to the island. So we can only assume the water further out is cleaner and promotes healthy coral growth.
How To Dive
First and foremost you’ll need a captain who knows where it is. Otherwise you’ll get 25 minutes of looking at sand and the occasional lost looking starfish. Fortunately our captain is one such fellow and knows exactly where to drop divers. There is also a barge captain out there somewhere with the exact coordinates. We know this because he managed to drop a concrete cube smack bang in the middle of the wreck…
Although it can be done on air as the first dive of the day. We highly recommend enriched air nitrox. This will give you plenty of bottom time and enable you to swim slightly deeper for easier reference when you begin making your way back to the bay on a rough 320 degree heading. Spend about 20 minutes around the wreck and allow yourself at least 15 minutes to get back to the shallower areas. Divers with the wreck specialty will be able to swim through the very clean hull but watch out for the morays!
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