September

September (44)

Saturday, 29 September 2018 09:36

Sunset City on Koh Tao

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Sunsets on Koh Tao are absolutely spectacular. This is the best time of year for it as the sun continues to shine brightly every day now. There's not a breath of wind & the ocean is mill pond flat! The visibility has increased enormously of late & because the Fishing boats haven't been out for a while there seems to be heaps of fish of all varieties frolicking around! And bright red sunsets every night, Frisbee at dusk, & one large Chang to wash it all down with. Aaaah... It’s a diver’s life!

Friday, 28 September 2018 10:30

Top 5 Coolest Sharks

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Goblin Shark

The ugliest shark on this list, the goblin shark is found in the deep, deep waters where looks don’t get you far but having an evil pointy snout and weird extendable jaw makes you the King of the oceans.  Found off the Australian coast (I presume it looks more handsome when surrounded by all those awful Aussie bogans) this shark looks like it could eat an apple through a letter box with its very English teeth, which are literally like regular teeth after a hand grenade went off in your mouth.

Said to eat other bloody sharks, it has translucent skin so the about-to-be-eaten sharks can see exactly where they’re going as they get devoured by this deep-dwelling monster.

Megamouth Shark

A very well-named shark pays homage to this creatures’ unique feature – it’s terrifyingly massive mouth that puts even my ex-wife to shame. It’s also a wearer of a particularly weird expression, which always reminds me of someone who’s just farted a real stinker and is now waiting for everyone else to notice. Again, memories of the ex-wife…

Despite having a mouth you could park a car in, this planktivorous filter feeder (like the whale sharks we have around Koh Tao) eats mostly plankton, which doesn’t seem to have any bearing on its size – they reach 4-5 metres in length and weigh around 1200 kg!

They were discovered around 40 years ago by and since then there’s been less than 100 sightings, making it one of the most mysterious sharks out there.

 

 Hammerhead Shark

Diving with hammerhead sharks is a dream for every single scuba diver out there, I’d wager. One of the more well-known sharks out there, I spent a lot of my childhood dreaming of these bizarre looking creatures, and wondering just why they had such a ridiculously shaped-head (called a cephalofoil) that seemed to defy all rules of what a shark looks like. Now it’s widely believed that the shape improves the vision of the shark, making them capable of seeing both what’s above and below them at the same time, giving them what is essentially 360-degree vision! Unfortunately, that advantage comes at a cost: since their eyes are so far apart, hammerheads suffer from a large blindspot right at the tip of their snouts.

 Cookiecutter Shark

The cookiecutter shark has a name that doesn’t exactly fill you with fear, and as they reach a size of just 50 cm it’s one that I initially thought I could defeat easily in an arm-wrestle…however with a little research I’ve now decided that this shark is one vicious little predator you would not want to mess with!

This nasty piece of work preys on just about every large and medium-sized creature it can find, and is known to eat whales, sharks, dolphins, seals, rays, dugongs and more, yet still won’t even entertain the notion of eating a durian. It eats by latching onto its prey with its upper teeth, which anchor into place and then the lower teeth start munching away, cutting out a round cookie-shaped chunk of flesh – hence the name!

Though rarely encountered by humans, a handful of attacks were reportedly caused by cookiecutter sharks, as well as significant damage to many US Navy submarines. Like I said, not to be messed with! Luckily, they spend most of their time in the very deep parts of the oceans (thought to be 1000s of metres down) and then vertically migrate at night to feed. Night dive anyone?

Bull Shark

They may not get all the headlines (we can thank the ‘Jaws’ movies for that) but the bull shark is THE most dangerous shark in all of the oceans in the world, with more recorded attacks on humans than any other shark known to man. Known to swim in both salt and fresh water, one was even recorded 1100 km from the sea up the Mississippi river - there’s just no escaping these hungry monsters!

Of the thousands of dives I’ve been lucky enough to experience, the ones that I remember more than any other are no doubt those we had with the bull sharks at Chumphon Pinnacle and Sail Rock (close to Koh Tao/Koh Phangan) a few years ago…and hopefully again soon! Being surrounded by 20-30 sharks almost three-metres long, with each weighing around 100kg is certainly not a dive you’ll forget anytime soon. Luckily for all of us here on Koh Tao there was never a single recorded incident when sharing our dives with these sharks – it’s thought the amount of delicious fish available for them to eat meant they were never hungry enough to mess with us divers!

Friday, 28 September 2018 01:40

Praise be to Simon.

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Simon is living the life of a high society celebrity right now. He has been summoned by the head honchos at SSI to a conference in Croatia where Simo will be probably displayed on a podium in a bullet proof glass encasing, as the demonstrative model of what true SSI perfection really looks like. Coming on for 20 years as a Scuba Diving professional, and more than a 1000 recreational certifications under his belt, and nearing half that many again certified by Simon as either a Divemaster, an Instructor in some capacity or other, or even Instructor Trainers, and Instructor Examiners, Simon is THE most experienced SSI Trainer in the world. So in retrospect maybe it’s not really a conference but more of a call to worship Simon. The SSI equivalent to the Muslims annual pilgrimage to Mecca!

Thursday, 27 September 2018 01:19

The Equipment Room Spring Clean

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Well it’s our quarterly staff equipment room clean out! Not much fun but always necessary as these rooms do tend to fill up with what we call in the business- ' a load of crap'. So the troops piled in & took everything they owned out! Then we were left with an assortment of neoprene rags, silicon skirts, & unusable rubber slippers! We dumped all this mish mash of varied flavors into a nice big Tupperware container & have given ourselves a week to claim whatever you wish to claim as your own! If anything is left then we'll be donating it to Big Blue Conservation! Should be able to raise at least enough money for 1 electrically charged polyp out of all that pulp!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018 04:20

Don't take up diving to get a good suntan!

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If you are new to the world of Scuba Diving then please adhere to these basic rules:
* Don't take up diving to get a suntan.
* People who look good with a mask on are usually ugly without one.
* Inverse Law of Patches: A diver's ability is inversely proportional to the number of patches they wear
* Diving unprotected with a stranger is like having unprotected sex with a stranger.
* Never clear a snorkel on a Mexican Federale'
* Anyone who says they have never been afraid while diving hasn't been diving or is a bad liar.
* Never use a sun intensifier lotion within 30 miles of the Equator.
* People say the funniest things when you shut their air off.
* Never have sex underwater above a coral reef.
* Dry Suits and Beers do not mix
* Buddies are never where you need them to be.
* You WILL run out of film before the Whale Shark Swims By
* 60 minute camcorder batteries aren't!

Tuesday, 25 September 2018 03:18

Sharks are Coming!

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Awesome conditions here in Koh Tao right now. Beautiful hot sunny tropical days. Crystal clear, great visibility, warm water at 30 degrees, calm surface conditions & more fish than can you shake a stick at! There's an awesome 40 meter long wall of Barracuda, a twisting typhoon of Big Eyed Jacks & a massive school of Batfish on one of the descent lines at Chumphon Pinnacle, & we got turtles all over the place as well as so many rays and eels you can almost smell them! Sharks! Keep your eyes out folks. I think we're about to be inundated with Whalesharks, Bulls, Blacktips & Grey Reefs soon! The conditions are just perfect for the plethora of sharks we often get at this time of year! Watch this space!

Monday, 24 September 2018 08:59

Divesite of the Week

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Our Dive site of the Week this week is... Southwest Pinnacle! A deep divesite reaching 30 meters at its deepest & comes up to about 6 meters below the surface. This collection of awe inspiring rock patterns is home to an abundance of scorpionfish, Koh Tao's biggest & ugliest Mallabar Grouper, a mammoth school of fusilliers, blue spotted sting rays, cleaner shrimp, white eyed moray eels, trevelly, angel fish, bannerfish & is also a popular hangout with our visiting Whale sharks. & guess where we are going tomorrow? Southwest & Koh Tao's second best Dive site of the week... Shark Island!

Monday, 24 September 2018 08:23

Meet your Instructor

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Out of a complete lack of anything to write about today I thought we could discuss SJ.

A recent addition as a Full time member of our Scuba Diving SSI Instructor Team, SJ has been on Koh Tao about 3 years. Actually his nose arrived about a year before him so I guess he’s been here 4 years already! He’s the only man I’ve ever met who can smoke a cigarette in the rain with his hands in his pockets and has to get planning permission every time he picks it! Born in Holland, Schpeeks Englisch & Dutch, SJ has been welcomed, abused and insulted by the rest of us for many things including the size of his hooter since the day we met him. He’s a great guy, great sense of humour, excellent Instructor but do be careful when you meet him, and just make sure you duck, when he turns round!
Can anyone help us with any SJ stories? We're looking for more to add to his Tinder profile!

Monday, 24 September 2018 07:32

All quiet on Koh Tao

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What with all the Fake News coverage Koh Tao has been splattered with, & the awesome weather this summer in Europe, plus the World Cup people just decided to stay home this year. Many were effected by Brexit and the effect that had on the Pound compared to the Thai Baht. So there are a few reasons which could account for why Koh Tao is so quiet right now. You can almost find your own bay or stretch of beach here it’s that quiet. Accommodation prices are at their lowest in years, Scuba Diving prices are still the cheapest in the world, and you will be more than enticed out to all the restaurants and bars because of the nightly specials practically on offer everywhere. The lack of tourism has really opened up our island visitors to some awesome experiences at real bargain prices. Make sure you get your piece of the action!

Saturday, 22 September 2018 11:45

The Top 10 Dive Sites in the World

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Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia

This unbelievable dive site in Malaysian Borneo was brought to the world’s attention by Jacques Cousteau over 50 years ago, who described it as ‘an untouched piece of art’. Often considered as the top diving destination in the world, it’s home to over 3000 species of fish and hundreds of different types of coral. It’s common to see turtles, white-tip sharks, eagle-rays and Napoleon fish beautifully framed by huge schools of pelagic predators that cruise these waters, with massive swirling vortex of barracuda and jackfish sharing their home with crowds of batfish, humphead parrotfish and too many nudibranchs for a mere mortal to handle. A bucket-list site for every scuba diver out there!

 

Chumphon Pinnacle, Koh Tao, Thailand

By far the most visually impressive site close to the diving mecca of Koh Tao, this pinnacle is easily the best chance to see the whalesharks close to Koh Tao. Once home to bull sharks and reef sharks that locals swear will be back any day now, it's a fully submerged granite pinnacle 14 metres at its shallowest point and reaching as deep as 47 metres off the northern tip towards a secret pinnacle nicknamed 'The Castle'. It's surrounded by schools of chevron, yellowtail and pickhandle barracuda, teira batfish, large Malabar and brown marbled grouper towards the ocean floor and beautiful schools of fusiliers being hunted by passing king mackerel, trevally, queenfish and rainbow runners - an excellent place to watch the ocean at work, with a lot of interaction between the different types of fish that live there! It's also a great place to find some of our most beautiful nudibranch when you head towards the bottom, where old discarded fishing nets provide vital food for these sea slugs.

 

The Yongala, Townsville, Australia

SS Yongala was a steel passenger and freight steamer built in Newcastle upon Tyne, England and operated on the passenger route linking the gold fields of Western Australia with the eastern ports of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. It is now a world-class shipwreck off the coast of Queensland absolutely teeming with life - you may see manta rays, sea snakes, octopus, turtles, bull sharks, tiger sharks, huge schooling barracuda and of course spectacular corals. 

The Yongala sank during a cyclone in 1911 killing 122 people, a racehorse called 'Moonshine' and a red Lincolnshire bull. It was believed that the hull of the ship had been ripped open by a submerged rock, and the wreck was not found until 1958. The ship is 109 meters long, and reaches depths of 30 metres, with the upper sections of the wreck just 16 metres below the surface.

 

Blue Hole, Belize

Housed in the Mesoamerican Reef System — the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere — and located 70 km off the coast of Belize this site was chosen by Jacques Cousteau in his own personal ‘Top Ten’, no doubt due to its incredible natural features: this vertical cave 125 metres deep still contains remnants from its days above water, with perfectly preserved stalactites on show. It is also home to different types of sharks, large grouper, tuna and other pelagics plunging into its depths.

USAT Liberty Wreck, Bali, Indonesia

This incredible wreck dive site is a 130m long armed cargo ship which was hit by a Japanese torpedo during World War II, then pushed back into the water in 1963 by the eruption of Mount Agung which caused the vessel to slip off the beach! It now lies on a sand slope from about 9 metres to around 30 metres of water, making it possible to snorkel and amazing to dive. This wreck dive will certainly keep you busy, as the ship itself is smothered in marine life that has transformed the ship’s remains into an underwater haven. Here, you will find a variety of hard and soft corals, sea fans, nudibranchs, gorgonians, hydroids, anemones, and much more.

 

Sail Rock, Koh Tao/Koh Phangan, Thailand

With no other dive site for miles around, Sail Rock is renowned for being the undisputed number one dive site in the whole of the Gulf of Thailand. The only site for miles around (and a full 2 hour cruise from Koh Tao) all of the larger species in the area are attracted towards it which inevitably makes it the best place to see whalesharks in Thailand – in 2017 there were at least 102 whalesharks sightings here, the most ever seen in the recorded history of Koh Tao/Koh Phangan diving!

Once home to bullsharks (come back soon please!) it's covered in pelagics - schools of chevron and pickhandle barracuda, along with big-eye trevally, batfish, queenfish and tonnes of fusiliers! The edges of the site are usually home to prowling King Mackerel over a metre long and huge, fat Malabar and brown marbled grouper lurking at depth, looking to feed on the smaller fish that blanket the dive site.

 

Fujikawa Maru, Truk Lagoon, Micronesia                         

It’s hard to pick the ‘best’ wreck in Truk lagoon, but if I have to pick just one it has to be the Fujikawa Maru. It was a cargo ship, built in 1938 by Mitsubishi and requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II to be used as an armed aircraft ferry. The conversion included a compliment of six-inch guns cannibalised from old cruisers which had last seen action during the Russian/Japanese war. Fujikawa Maru arrived in Truk in 1944, and off-loaded thirty B5N2 bombers onto Eten Airfield. Since these aircraft had been disassembled for shipment, they were unable to help defend Truk in the military operation against the Japanese and were destroyed on the ground, plus the Fujikawa Maru was sunk- leaving us with possibly the world's best wreck diving site.

It's now a picture-perfect shipwreck, covered with coral and sea life. Each of the five holds also offer incredible marine life, however the highlight is maybe the massive engine room which occupies the midships area, taking up 3 floors. She also features a cargo of Zero fighter planes in one of her holds!

 

Aborek Jetty, Raja Ampat

 Probably one of the most photographed jetties in the world, this is truly a great place to go and remember to take your camera with you, fully charged! With literally thousands of fish blanketing the areas under the jetty (with the type of fish there changing quite regularly too!) making it feel almost like a night dive, there’s probably if anything too many fish here – it can become a little disconcerting for those not experienced in diving with surrounded by so much marine life. As well as the swirling schools of fish this is an excellent site for those with an eye for the macro, with nudibranch aplenty, all sorts of weird and wonderful crustaceans and adorable frogfish lurking where you least expect them.

 

Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos

 Whalesharks. Eagle rays. Sea lions. Turtles. Dolphins. Schooling hammerheads, plus Galapagos and tiger sharks.  Schooling barracuda, thousands of jackfish, and tuna hurtling through the waters. ALL ON ONE DIVE.

 

Must I say more?

 

Blue Corner Wall, Palau, Micronesia

The most requested dive in all of Palau for a very good reason. Despite strong and unpredictable currents (making it a difficult dive for beginners) grey and white-tip sharks are attracted to this ridge, and with the upswelling currents come plankton and algae-rich waters caught up in the currents’ grasp and declaring ‘dinnertime!’ for the pelagics and their friends in the area – it’s common to see dogtooth tuna, king mackerel, large schools of barracuda, snapper and jackfish, Napoleon wrasse, eagle rays, hawksbill and green turtles plus plenty of macro.

If that isn’t enough some of the more rare visitors to the Blue Corner also include hammerheads, marlin, sailfish, bull sharks, manta rays and whalesharks – keep your eyes peeled!

 

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