October

October (44)

Saturday, 19 October 2013 08:22

October 19th 2013

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Out with the old, in with the slightly older
Good news and bad news today. The good news is that full time divemaster Darren is leaving us, the bad news is that Nick has been employed to replace him. I think that's how it works.

darren-milsonDarren has been with Big Blue for almost two years, and in that time no other human being in history has had to endure as many PC plod jokes as he has. He used to be a police woman you see. That, or he was once an extra on the bill. He came to Big Blue to do his divemaster training and fully intended on going home, but like 99.99999% of all humans that come to Koh Tao, he fell in love with the place and we couldn't get rid of him. He's been a valuable asset in that time, keeping the boats running, showing fun divers the best marine life in the Gulf of Thailand, ensuring that all boats have the right amount of tanks, regulators, masks, weights etc, and generally babysitting dive instructors on a daily basis! nick-tringham-225x300He's moving on to start a new life in New Zealand. He was offered a job as a boner, but didn't take it as it required previous boning experience.. chicken and fish of course.
Always smiling and making time to chat to anyone, he will be sorely missed. We wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life as long as he promises to keep in touch and send care packages of chocolate every week.
Nick- the new Darren, is an ex banker who, legend has it once spent £4,000 on a couch.. ouch.. In spite of his preference for wearing pin-striped suites and taste for Moet Champagne, he managed an effortless transition from the high-flying life of a professional gambler to become an SSI dive professional. It's certainly paid off as we don't just employ anyone you know! He's been working as a divemaster for a while, and the competition for the job was pretty fierce, but he particularly impressed us with his knowledge, professional approach and enthusiasm for diving. 
Congratulations Nick and welcome to the team. Now, get that compressor fixed and order the lunch for the full day trip, double time man step to it!

Why is the Gulf of Thailand so renowned for diving?
gulf-of-thailandJust to make Darren even more regretful of leaving us, it's a great time to ask exactly why it is that Koh Tao is such a great place to go scuba diving. The amazing diving that we get here is partly because of our proximity to the equator, which enables warm sea temperatures, but also because of the nature of the Gulf of Thailand itself. Bordered by Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, it extends roughly from the Bay of Bangkok to an imaginary line running from the bottom tip of Vietnam to the Malaysian city of Kota Bharu, covering a total area of 320,000 square kilometres.
The Gulf is pretty shallow, with a mean depth of 45 metres- perfect for recreational scuba diving. The maximum depth is 80 metres- perfect for technical diving! Because of the shallow depth, water exchange is relatively slow. The Gulf formed as the last ice age receded, which raised sea levels. This allowed coral reefs to form, building upwards as the sea level gradually rose. Because of the shallow depths of the Gulf and warm temperatures of the ocean, coral reefs exist in abundance, especially in the waters around Koh Tao, but also to a lesser degree Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Coral reefs harbour 90% of all marine life in the oceans, so diving in koh Tao will not dissapoint. The bays around the Island are perfect for learning to dive- shallow and sandy but still with loads of marine life. For qualified fun divers the diving is even better; dives sites like Chumphon pinnacle are bursting with coral, which bring in all kinds of different species of schooling fish such as scad and fusiliers. Where there are shoals of fish, you'll also find predators, queenfish, trevally, barracuda.. amazing, but then add whalesharks into the mix and you'll never tire of diving here.

Thursday, 17 October 2013 10:25

October 18th 2013

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Whalesharks- Everywhere!

Things seem to have gone a little bit crazy in the whaleshark department- that's an expression by the way; we don't have an actual whaleshark department at Big Blue, unless you count Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation, in which case, we have a whaleshark department.

whalesharkWe've had loads of sightings of whalesharks in the last week. Yesterday alone, one appeared at Green rock. Then in the afternoon the dive boat captain's radios were all a buzz with talk of one cruising around at King Kong of all places! The day before yesterday we had one at Chumphon pinnacle all day. So they're definitely around. I'd love to know how many times one swims past a dive site and no-one thinks to look out into the blue and misses it. Probably a lot. This is of course great news all round though, our SSI and PADI open water students have been lucky enough to see one on their third ever dive, and those that had the time to stay on an extra 2 days to undertake their advanced course managed to get a second sighting, and the ones that decided to rent an underwater camera for the course will now be taking home evidence of their close encounter with the biggest fish in the ocean.
So if you're coming to Koh Tao in the next few weeks, get yourself down to Big Blue. Why you say? We have a dive boat dedicated to fun divers only, which can quickly move to any dive site around the Island as soon as there's talk of a sighting over the captain's radio- they like a good gossip you see. If you're learning to dive, the SSI open water course gives instructors some flexibility compared with PADI. So if you're heading out to do your last couple of open water dives and a whaleshark is sighted, you can still go and see it (with PADI there is no flexibility in moving skills between dives), and lets face it there aren't many things worse than kneeling in the sand having to do your skills when you know a whaleshark is circling the rest of the dive site! Probably also time to start a petition to get Koh Tao renamed from turtle Island to Whaleshark Island!

Plane wreckage to become artificial reef in Koh Samui

Koh-Samui-plane-crashYou probably never heard about the Bangkok airways plane that crashed whilst landing at Koh Samui airport in 2009. The aircraft overshot the runway on landing and crashed into an unmanned air traffic control tower. A number of passengers were injured, and one person was sadly killed. The fuselage of the wreckage has been languishing by the side of a road in Koh Samui ever since, but is about to begin its new life as an artificial reef. It has recently been painted and moved to Nathon, where it will be sunk on the 20th October in Tong Krut. Hopefully it will be anchored sufficiently enough to prevent it being swept away by any strong currents. Definitely something for our fun diver boat Porponawa to check out on the next full day trip to AngThong Marine Park.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 16:03

October 17th 2013

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Meet Neil and Luke

Unable to enjoy a beer in the Big Blue bar without someone or other harassing me about instructors Luke and Neil not having their own staff profiles on the blog, I can’t take it any more. So let me introduce you to two members of staff that will make you wonder about the future of mankind, yet thankfully make you glad you decided to learn how to dive.


neil-draycottNeil Draycott-
 The best of boast worlds, Neil is literally “the most fun you can have while diving”. Having spent a number of years battling with toblerone addition, he once drove to Dundee in his bare feet, shouting “no way” into his rear view mirror whilst cutting up anyone that dared attempt to overtake him. But he’s bounced back from all that and now sports bare feet on purpose, even though they remind him of gammon. Back in the UK, Neil used to be a roadie for some kind of band with a brass section, which apparently did pretty well as long as it didn’t interfere with his anger management sessions. But he decided his future lay elsewhere, and ended up living in Koh Tao- drawn as he was by a deep seated urge to live in a static home. He probably sets the benchmark at Big Blue on how to teach a thorough PADI or SSI open water course, and is a sought out instructor for divemaster trainees to learn from. When the course is over, he’ll happily talk about diving for hour after hour, and I would encourage anyone that sees him in the bar to approach him and do exactly that, especially if you’d like to know how to save a choking cat.

 

luke-whiteLuke White- An absolute fitness fanatic this one, when he’s not teaching people how to dive you’ll find him in the gym destroying cereal with his bare hands. Obviously a people person, Luke was born to teach diving. His infectious smile and chiselled features win over anyone. Once the open water course is over they just can’t wait to sign up for their advanced course. Before he came to Koh Tao he was a bit of a celebrity in the UK, as he used to present promotional videos on boating holidays in the Norfolk Broads, and in no way whatsoever riled the local farming community to a point where he had to leave the Country. Outside of work his main hobby is organising his forthcoming wedding. So dedicated to ensuring it's the perfect day, he can often be heard saying “I can’t go to the bar tonight, I’ve got to go home and look at catalogues on fingerless gloves”.. pretty cutting edge stuff, wedding-wise. The highlight of the wedding will be the first dance, which is almost definitely going to be Cliff Richard- “wired for Sound”. Anyone that does a diving course with Luke automatically gets an invite. The only thing missing is a bride.

 

The future of diving?

Answer me this, how many times have you been diving along, happily navigating around the dive site, and then all of a sudden you've got absolutely no idea where you are? There are no rocks that you remember, the visibility is worse that terrible, and your brain recoils in horror every time you look at your compass and realise that you have absolutely no idea where you are. Happens a lot as a divemaster trainee, and the occasional divemaster or instructor gets caught out too. Now imagine that you descend anywhere on the dive site, and all you see is blue water with no reference point anywhere to be seen. But you're not stressed out because you look at your dive computer and not only do you have a map of the dive site on your display, but you have a little icon that tells you where you are.. underwater GPS! Science fiction? Laziness? Call it what you will but maybe one day in the future it will be the standard way of diving.

Researchers at Buffalo University in the US are developing an underwater wifi system that uses sound waves rather than radio waves to send and receive data. Technology often tries to imitate nature and this is no exception. Radio waves are more readily absorbed by water compared with air, but whales have no problem communicating over large distances via sound. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) already use acoustic buoys to send data from tsunami sensors on the sea floor to buoys on the surface. But the aim is to use a standardised system so that different agencies can communicate their data with each other, hence the research. The aim is to create more reliable tsunami warning systems, but these kinds of technologies always have offshoots- did you think diving would have become so popular if you still had to wear lead shoes and don helmets with surface supplied air!? After all, the amount of people that still rely on paper maps when driving compared with people using satnav is tiny. Luddites the lot of them!

 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013 06:42

October 15th 2013

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Anatomy of an advanced course

Yesterday's blog gave a brief overview of how we run an open water course at Big Blue. Today it's the turn of the advanced course.

Big-Blue-advanced-course300x225-15-10-13If you just finished your open water course with us and signed up to do the advanced course, you'll be pleased to know that it starts at 10am, so you get a little bit of a lie in after celebrating becoming open water divers... hurrah! First off you'll meet your instructor, who'll go through the paperwork and give you the choice of dives you can do. The advanced course is five dives, and you'll need to do the deep dive and navigation dives, but then you can choose the other dives you want to do, such as a wreck dive, fish identification dive, buoyancy dive, night dive, or photography dive. Generally, weather permitting, we would recommend you choose the buoyancy, night and wreck dives to get the most out of the course. Once you've chosen, you'll be given a dive computer to be used on each dive, and a compass for the navigation dive. The instructor will show you how they both work, and then you'll spend some time walking on the beach like a zombie getting to grips with how to use different navigation techniques. If you haven't got any equipment we can get you set up with everything that you'll need, then it's lunchtime woo hoo.

 Afternoon, day one- You'll meet up again and go out on the boat at around 12:45pm to do the buoyancy and navigation dives. You already learned how to control your buoyancy on the open water course, but you'll be give lots of tips on how to fine tune it, with the whole dive being dedicated to allowing you to practice. Once you've had plenty of time to do this, the rest of the dive is spent seeing what's on the dive site. Remember, you can use what you learned on every subsequent dive you do. After an hour on the boat sunbathing, you'll head back into the water at a different dive site to do the navigation dive. You'll already have been taught how to use your compass on the beach, but underwater is a whole different kettle of fish, you have to keep track of where you're going, think about your buoyancy, think about your buddy, keep the same depth, avoid other divers, and any other obstacles you come across! We'll also show you how to use features of the dive site to help you with navigating, so called natural navigation. It's great fun and you'll probably never want to dive without a compass again!
Evening, day one- At Big Blue we run night dives every other night, but if you have to leave the next day, we can usually fit one in for you on the first day. The night dive is the closest you will come to being in space without being a billionaire able to hitch a ride on a Russian rocket. It's amazing! Not unsurprisingly, you'll need it to be dark, so we go out at around 6pm, and you'll begin the dive as it's still getting dark, just to let you get used to it before it goes completely dark. Oh yeah, and you'll be given a torch! The fish you see in the daytime tend to hide at night, and the fish that sleep in the day come out to hunt, such as barracuda. You may also see crabs, blue-spotted stingrays, and the occassional octopus. There's always a chance of seeing a sleeping turtle too! If you've seen the Leonardo Di Capprio film the Beach, you can also see the bioluminescent plankton- unforgettable- the plankton, not the film.
Day two, morning- Early start again (so soon after dives three and four of open water!?), but well worth it, this is the deep dive. Your instructor will take you down to as close to 30 metres as you're comfortable with, and teach you deeper diving and ascent procedures. Then as you shallow up, you'll use the rest of your air to fun dive around the dive site to see what amazing marine life is around. You'll end up much more confident in your own diving abilities, and with any luck be asking if anyone else saw that "massive whaleshark"! After an hour's surface interval on the boat, you'll head over to the wreck for the fifth and final dive of the course, the wreck dive. We're very lucky on Koh Tao, we have a wreck that was purposefully sunk as an artificial reef. It's an old US Navy landing craft infantry boat, bought by the Thai Navy and donated in 2011. Called the HTMS Sattakut, it sits at between 27 and 30 metres, and has a big gun at the bow (that's the front..), and a smaller gun on the stern (the rear..). A host of marine animals have made it their home, and it's an incredible experience seeing this huge rusting metal thing underwater that you're so used to seeing on the surface. A little bit of history too, Very cool.

So that's it, you'll finish at around 12pm on the second day. If no-one is in a hurry to go home the night dive may be at 6pm that night, but generally it takes a day and a half to complete. Given your card at the end of the course, you'll be certified to dive to 30 metres and certified to dive at night. You'll feel like you're starting to really get the hang of this diving malarky and be hungry for more, and more, and more. Did you know we do fun diving as well!? For any more information on the advanced course, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

How much do you know about Koh Tao? Some facts for your eyes

1. Koh Tao means Turtle Island. Not because it looks like a turtle from above, but from the shape of the land as seen from neighbouring Koh Phangan.
2. It’s pretty small- 21 square kilometres.
3. On June 18, 1899 King Chulalongkorn visited Koh Tao and left as evidence his monogram on a huge boulder at Jor Por Ror bay next to Sairee Beach.
4. Between 1933 and 1947 it was used as a political prison.
5. In 1947 Khun Uaem and his brother Khun Oh reached Koh Tao from Koh Phangan and started farming coconuts, fishing and growing vegetables.
6. In 1980 overseas travellers began visiting the Island, and thus beginning tourism on the Island. The population grew steadily from there.
7. It’s the cheapest place in the world to learn how to scuba dive.
8. It’s an important breeding ground for Hawkesbill and Green turtles.
9. Known for being a good place to learn how to dive, it also has some of the best dive sites in the world- Chumphon pinnacle and Sail rock.
10. If you come here, you’ll really be loathe to leave, probably cancel your flight and become a dive professional.. that’s what everybody else does!

 

Monday, 14 October 2013 07:55

October 14th 2013

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Anatomy of an open water course

If you're planning on coming to Big Blue to learn how to dive, how do we teach you? What do you do on what days? Here's a brief overview of how it all works. When you arrive at Big Blue, hopefully you will have made a booking online through our website, especially when the Island is at it's busiest (after Full moon parties on Koh Panghan, or December- March and July- October).


Open-water-courseIf you haven't, don't worry we'll do everything we can to accommodate you whilst you dive with us. Stepping off the ferry in Mae Hadd you'll find the Big Blue taxi waiting for you to give you a free lift to the resort on Sairee beach- a 5 minute drive away. One of the instructors will meet you, ply you with free orange juice, sit you down and give you a brief outline of the course. Once you've filled in a checking in form, you can wander off to your accommodation and relax until 5pm. Then you'll do a short orientation session, which involves filling out the course paperwork, getting started watching some the videos and being told more about the course- only takes about 2 hours. Then you can wander off, eat, sleep, get a massage, or whatever it is people do to relax on a tropical Island. Hopefully you'll be fresh as a daisy for the next morning.

Day one- You'll meet at 8:30am and be introduced to your instructor and the rest of the group you will be learning with. You'll be shown all the diving equipment you will be using, taught how it works and is set up, and we'll give you a little bit of dive theory. Then you'll do a pool session. This is designed to teach you the skills you need to learn to be able to dive safely, and it's all very gradual and done at your pace, designed to build up your familiarity and confidence. We start in the shallow end, then when your ready move on to the deep end. The length of day one varies but you should be finished by 5pm at the latest. Then you can relax again for the evening.
Day two- Begins by meeting your instructor at 8:30am to go through some more dive theory and get you ready to do your exam. Great, you come on holiday to do an exam... it's 50 questions multiple choice, and aimed at a 10 year old. I think you'll be fine! Once you've passed with flying colours (and you will), you break for lunch and meet your instructor at 12pm to get the equipment you'll be using. You'll then get onto one of our taxi boats at 12:30 and head out onto one of our big dive boats for your first two open water dives. We'll take you to a shallow, sheltered bay somewhere on the Island that will be flat calm and hopefully bright sunshine. You'll be given a dive briefing, get into your equipment, and be shown how to get into the water. Ready for dive one? Good, way better than the pool, you can really get to grips with your buoyancy and the feeling of being underwater in the sheltered ocean for the first time. Still reeling in disbelief about how amazing dive one was, and also annoyed at yourself for not doing this ages ago, you can stuff your face with fruit and biscuits that we provide, and chill out for a bit, hopefully minus a wetsuit tan. The boat will then move to a different dive site, ready for dive two. Dive two gives you the chance gain more confidence with your buoyancy and become more streamlined in the water as you learn to kick nice and slowly. You'll also recap on some of the skills that you practiced in the pool. When you get back to land it's important that you learn how to rinse your equipment properly- you may own your own someday, then you can sit in the restaurant with your instructor and log the dives. You'll be back on land around 5pm.
Day three- Early start... eek! We'll take you to some of the best dive sites for dives three and four. By dive three you will feel more confident and know what your doing more, so we'll take you a little bit deeper than you went on dives one and two. We'll also show you some of the incredible marine life that Koh Tao has to offer. Again you'll have an hour on the boat and then get straight back in the water at a different dive site for your fourth and final dive of the course. After recapping another couple of skills from the pool, you can spend the rest of your dive practising what you learnt on the course and enjoying what you see down there. When you get back to the surface- congratulations, you're an open water diver; qualified to dive to a depth of 18 metres for the rest of your life! Back on land at around 11am, After washing your equipment and logging your dives, your instructor will debrief you on the course, give you your certification card, and tell you what comes next if you want to gain any additional diving qualifications. Now you can relax and celebrate!

After the open water course, the advanced course is the next natural step. No theory, just five dives with a different theme to each one, run over one and a half days. It introduces you to things like underwater navigation, how to dive at night, tips for fine-tuning your buoyancy, and depth experience. You'll end up being certified to dive to 30 metres, which opens up a lot more dive sites around the world to you, and be a much more confident and competent diver. It also gives you another chance to celebrate in the bar! So, what are you waiting for?

Things that kill more people than sharks every year:

Vending machines- Topple over onto 13 stupid, I mean unlucky people every year.
Falling out of bed- 450 per year in the US alone. Ban bunk beds?
Electrocution by toaster- 791 bright sparks per year.. see what I did there? Probably not a good idea to put a knife inside to get the toast out.
Having a bath- 340 people per year- though it's unclear how- presumably drowning, or slipping. Don't think eating the enamel would be too good for you either.
Mosquitos- kill 655,000 people per year!
Obesity- Figures range from 30,000 to 100,000 people per year- put the cake down!
Deer- 130 people meet one of these up close and personal on the bonnet/hood of their car each year!

Sharks kill 5 people per year on average, with most events believed to be a case of mistaken identity. Our perceptions of sharks are changing fast. Previously thought of as mindless killers, they are actually now known to be curious but cautious of humans, and pretty tolerant of us when in their domain. Key point there, it's their domain, not ours. It's always good to have a healthy respect for sharks, but there are videos on youtube of people freediving with great white sharks, which debunks a few myths about them! The more we understand about sharks, the more we realise that we are far more of a threat to them than the other way round, through shark finning, longline fishing and our previous attitudes towards them. If you want to get involved in shark conservation and do your bit to help preserve these beautiful animals, talk to Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation. You can contact her This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Saturday, 12 October 2013 14:30

October 13th 2013

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Smiling face all round- can only mean another amazing full day trip

Big Blue Diving sail rock trip

A fantastic day out was had by all yesterday on the full day trip to sail rock. Fun divers did two dives at sail rock, and then decided to head out to Chumphon pinnacle for the third dive of the day. That's a pretty significant statement to make, so let me explain a little further. If you were to go on a trip to sail rock with any other dive shop on Koh Tao, it would take at least two hours to get there, so you'd only get two dives in before having to head home. At Big Blue, we have the fastest boat on the Island, Porponawa- a boat used only for our fun divers. This means that we get to sail rock in only one hour- half the time! Because all the other dive schools in and around Koh Tao are so ridiculously slow, they only have time to fit in two dives at Sail rock before having to head home, or one dive at Sail rock, and a second dive at another dive site on the way back, usually Shark Island, which is very close to Koh Tao. Chumphon pinnacle would be way out of range to them. Not for us, because we have the super boat Porponawa, it's easy. So in one day you get to dive the two best dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand, both of which are world class! Our divemasters came back from this trip buzzing that the atmosphere on board was amazing; hardly surprising considering where they went, and the fact that they were taken diving by the best divemasters in the business, AND they got breakfast and lunch on board, along with as many soft drinks as they could handle! We run regular full day trips, to sail rock, Ang Thong Marine Park, and Chumphon Marine Park- the only dive resort that goes there. If you want to get on the next one, or want to find out more, pop into the office on Sairee beach if you're already here, or email us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“Great diving and awesome DMs!”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 9 October 2013-I just returned from a two weeks vacation on Koh Tao, where I was diving with Big Blue. I didn't do any certifications but had 20+ fun dives with them. I had so much fun and awesome dives that I'm definitively coming back one day. The dive masters knew exactly what they were doing, showed us lots of great stuff and were awesome while doing it. I was never in a group of more than 4 divers, and we were matched by air consumption to get good and long dives... Two thumbs up!

Turtle Release!

We'd like to point your attention to a very beautiful and timely short animation documenting the miraculous journey of juvenile sea turtles, as they hatch from eggs on the beach, then make their initial dash to the sea, and basically spend the first few months of their lives trying not to be eaten by a host of predators in the ocean. It seems that flotsam is key, providing shelter until they become too large to be on the menu of most fish and seabirds. It's a remarkable story of survival against the odds, and is even more incredible when you include threats coming from humans, such as poaching, logline fishing, rubbish and noxious chemicals dumped into the ocean, and oil spills. This story is timely because as a dive Island, Koh Tao really wants people to be able to come here and see turtles now and for years to come. So yesterday Marine Conservation Koh Tao- a coalition of Thai Businesses, the Thai Government and local dive schools, released a number of turtles into the ocean to try and give them a fighting chance to keep their numbers up. Big Blue Conservation was involved as well and so far we have had a 100% survival rate... hurrah! You can watch the animation here.

Friday, 11 October 2013 03:27

October 11th 2013

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SSI Instructor Training Course starts 15th October

 SSI ITC

For those of you in colder climes, it's another beautiful hot day here on Koh Tao. Perfect for our SSI instructor training candidates to begin their journey to become dive professionals, which will allow them to live and work here all year round. The instructor training course starts on the 15th October, and it's not too late to get on board, there are limited spaces still available but you'll need to be quick. For those of you that think it would be a brilliant idea to part exchange your drab, dreary lives for that of a professional scuba diver, all you need to do is get on a plane and come here! We can teach you how to dive from scratch, make you into an advanced and rescue diver, and then mentor you through your divemaster training programme. Then you'll be ready to become an SSI instructor, with the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand as your office. You know it makes sense, so go on, I dare you, do it. For information on instructor training, contact Simon This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For information on our divemaster training programme, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wednesday, 09 October 2013 09:43

October 10th 2013

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Big Blue DMT mentor team

Yesterday you were introduced to the Big Blue Tech team. Today it's the turn of Big Blue's team of mentors!  These guys are some of the best scuba diving instructors in the world, which is exactly why they are charged with turning people into dive professionals through Big Blue's Divemaster training (DMT) programme. In no particular order, meet:

Guy Bannister

Guy Bannister
PADI and SSI instructor, Guy comes from somewhere in Yorkshire, which is similar to Mordor, but with more rain. If we at Big Blue were to get our heads together to give him an appropriate nickname, it would have to be yoda- a little unfair on his ears but the weird robes and wise advice are spot on. Guy is one of our most experienced instructors, and the only person I’ve ever met that is able to incorporate Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle into his open water academics. During work hours, when not turning people into competent divers or providing useful advice to DMTs, you'll find him in the classroom talking about diving physiology or physics, out loud- to himself. Total geek and walking Wikipedia, he's a sci-fi and film buff to the extreme, and even reads books on finance for fun- weirdo. His favourite films are flashdance, showgirls, and Justin Beiber: never say never.

 

Iain Goodfellow

Iain Goodfellow- Iain with an I, 47, has the distinction of being our only Scottish instructor. So all the women swoon whenever they hear his accent, even though they've absolutely no idea what he just said. An SSI and PADI instructor, Iain is the professional's professional. Very relaxed and laid back when he's teaching, he even puts the fish at ease. In between teaching you'll find him coaching someone about dive theory, even though all they asked was whether he needed a straw with his purchased drink. He previously lived and worked in Japan- no-one knows what he did there but we suspect he was employed to scout for potential vending machine locations. This position was probably unpaid- he just really likes vending machines.

Simon Garrity

Simon Garrity- Simmo, 24, is a SSI and PADI instructor, and in between helping to run the DMT programme, he's also Big Blue's SSI instructor trainer, meaning he turns normal humans into enhanced human SSI instructors. He's been doing this a long time and is very very good at it. He's also an accomplished taxidermist, and spends his days off work scouring Koh Tao for geckos and frogs to stuff and hang on his walls. As you can imagine his house is a very weird place. Another thing Simmo excels at is compering. When the DMTs have finished their internship, they usually have a challenge night at the bar, which involves a heady mix of light-hearted humiliation via a series of games co-ordinated by Simmo on the microphone, all for the pleasure of the baying crowd. Think of it as a lie detector test gone in front of a live studio audience- gone horribly wrong. He was possibly born for this role more than David Icke was born to see Lizard people. His sharp wit (Simmo, not David Icke) has everyone in stitches, and the DMT victims always seem to want more- all good fun and a nice little send off to the newly graduated dive professionals. Despite being the instructor's instructor, he still likes to keep his hand in and regularly teaches open water and advanced courses. He always gets glowing reviews from his students, possibly because he threatens to introduce them to his "dead friends" until they promise to like him.

Irish-G

Germaine Maguire- Probably has the fewest nicknames of anyone at Big Blue, known as G, Irish G, or mama G, though even she gets in a muddle sometimes as she often signs her name as Irish G, just in case we confuse her with all the other Gs at Big Blue- that's none by the way! G has been on Koh Tao since sea levels dropped and the magma was cool enough to stand on, and probably worked as a warden in the political prison that was here in the 1930s.. I'm not saying she's old, she's just been here longer than most, arriving at age 18 in a raft made entirely from betting slips. She's a PADI and SSI instructor, and sees it as her mission in life to ensure that DMTs end up being the best dive professionals they can. With years of experience teaching open water students and dive professionals alike, she's also often the first point of call when new instructors need advice and guidance. How she finds the time only she knows, as she also runs one of the Island's grooviest bars; Moov in Mae Hadd.

Nick Bufton

Nick Bufton- Whilst previously working for another dive school on Koh Tao, we head hunted him to come and work at Big Blue. Though if you've ever seen his head you'll realise what a terrible mistake that was. He's a PADI and SSI instructor, and possesses an uncanny ability to make his students love him on every single course he teaches. He's also very popular as a DMT mentor, and is quite famous on the Island as a champion swimmer. Regularly competing in the annual Swim for Sharks charity event, in which around 70 masochists swim around Nang Yuan Island- all 3.4 kilometres of it! He won it last year and ever since has vowed to "end this inhumane treatment of swimmers". I think he was also a DJ in a past life, kind of in the Tony Blackburn style. But I may have misheard him, and he actually just once owned a dinner jacket. Professional, fun, knowledgeable and not bad at diving, we’re glad we poached his weird head.

“It's the dopest”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 7 October 2013- What an amazing place to learn how to dive or enhance your diving abilities. The staff is awesome and the whole vibe of the establishment suits its location. If you require assistance of any kind, Daisy is a beautiful mermaid who will teach you everything. Diving was a huge fear of mine and she made forget that I was even scared of what I was getting myself into.

Koh Tao dive site- Red Rock

The final installment in the cornetto trilogy of dive sites (though technically it's a quadrilogy if you include Blue Rock), Red Rock is a lovely little dive site. Located just off the coast of Nang Yuan Island a little further North from Japanese gardens, it's perfect for fun diving, and often used for the navigation dive on advanced courses. The rock begins at 2m depth and goes all the way down to 22m. Divers can circle red rock at the beginning of the descent to peer into all the little cracks and crevices to see white-eyed moray eels and banded boxer shrimps, and a variety of different corals. Then at the deepest point take a heading West back to the coast of Nang Yuan, where there are a whole load of swim throughs for people to not go through. Along with the usual inhabitants of Koh Tao; rabbit fish, longfin bannerfish, butterfly fish, trevally, fusiliers, scads, and blue-ringed angelfish, you're also likely to see polka-dot nudibranchs, the occassional sea snake, adult boxfish and of course the grumpy little titan triggerfish- sociopath od the seas. As we approach monsoon on Koh Tao the location of red rock comes in really handy, sheltered from winds and devoid of all but mild currents, it's perfect to dive at any time.

 

Wednesday, 09 October 2013 05:19

October 9th 2013

Written by

Meet the tech boys

As part of an ongoing character assassination thinly disguised as a way of introducing Big Blue staff to you, today it's the turn of the Big Blue Tech team. Enjoy!

James Foleher- Easily the man with the most unpronounceable surname in the world, James, Jim, Jimbo, beaker, tech James.. He’ll answer to any of these names and even a few unmentionable ones. A Yorkshire lad, James, 64, manages Big Blue Tech, and teaches all our TDI and BSAC technical diving courses and rebreather courses. He's also a BSAC instructor trainer, and a PADI, SSI and SDI instructor, though his instructor cards say "if lost, please return to Khao San road" on the back of them. Everyone likes James, well, everyone who needs their regulators or dive computers servicing likes him. Even captain Pi Dam on the Big Blue Tech boat likes him! When he's not teaching people how to tech dive, training new BSAC instructors, organising cave diving trips to Khao Sok national park & tech liveaboards to the wrecks on the South China Seas, or fixing compressors and servicing equipment, he likes to relax with a good pop up book. A good person to sit down and have a pint with, he has all the time in the world for anyone- until the first pint kicks in and he starts swaying with eyes glazed. He's an encyclopaedia of knowledge on all aspects of technical diving. Well respected at Big Blue, he knows exactly when the time is to be serious, and when to have a laugh whilst teaching a course. You'd be a fool not to want to be taught technical diving by him.   

Tech James

Ian Jordan- Tech James's right-hand man, "big Ian", 73, is universally known as the worst dancer in Asia, which is why he's Big Ant's dance wingman. He also teaches TDI and BSAC tech diving courses, and is a SSI, PADI and SDI instructor and cave diver. Ian (In the picture below with blonde hair) recently had a Morris dancing pole erected outside his house so he can give his dance repertoire a more rustic feel.. The good news for everyone else is they'll hear him coming with all those bells attached to his legs. Aside from teaching, Ian mans the tech shack to service dive computers and regulators, and is a bit of a blending wizard, filling nitrox for anyone that wants it. He's a very happy go lucky chap, which is amazing considering that when the tech shack closes for the day James chains him up in the dark with specific orders ""not to scratch the doors again". This may explain why he seems so happy in the mornings. Knowledgeable, patient, fun, and endlessly encouraging, He always gets rave reviews from every course he teaches.

Tech Ian

“Fun, relaxed diving!”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 6 October 2013- This is a great low-key dive resort. Accommodations are rustic but cheap. It's a fun place to hang out between dives and in the evening. We already had our open water certification so we just did fun dives at Big Blue. Our divemaster was wonderful and all the staff was attentive and enthusiastic. They keep groups to a max of 4 people per divemaster. Dive with Big Blue!  

Koh Tao dive site- Green Rock

One of the three dive sites randomly named after the colours of the Italian flag, this is a fantastic dive site. It has those swim through things that you're not supposed to go through as a recreational diver, more trigger pits than the rest of the Gulf of Thailand combined, and a huge range of marine life that even whalesharks come to see. Situated to the West of Nang Yuan Island, it's a big dollop of rock sitting at depths between 5m and 30m, and it caters perfectly for fun diving. There are occasionally strong currents, but they are not usually too bad and can be used to ferry you around the dive site. One of the best things to do is just watch the shoals of yellowtail and chevron barracuda as they ride the current. On calmer days, if you stay still you may get a huge shoal of barracuda to circle you. Having hundreds of eyes all looking at you is an amazing experience, unless you suffer from Ommetaphobia- fear of eyes, in which case it'll probably be the single most horrific experience of your life. Other marine life to be seen include blue spotted Stingrays, groupers, Hawksbill and Green Turtles, Banded Sea Snakes, and baby yellow box fish- the smart car of the ocean. It's not that big a dive site compared with White Rock for instance, but the rock formations are varied enough to make you think you've never seen any of it before, even on your third lap round. We go to Green Rock fairly regularly on our fun diving boat Porponawa, so put it on your to do list if you're heading out to dive with us- there's always a chance of seeing a whaleshark too!

Tuesday, 08 October 2013 04:06

October 8th 2013

Written by

Choosing a Dive Agency

SSI

Here at Big Blue, we teach people how to dive and certify them through a number of different diving agencies- The British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI), Scuba Schools International (SSI), Scuba Diving International (SDI) and Technical Diving International (TDI). For someone who has never dived before and is not familiar with the dive industry, it can all be a little confusing. So how do you choose which agency to do your open water course with for example? There are over 50 different agencies that are able to certify someone to dive as a recreational diver. They create and comply with strict professional standards laid out by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC), and their certifications are recognized worldwide. Each agency establishes its own agenda for diver training and issues certifications for all levels of scuba diving, from beginner to instructor. Courses vary slightly in their teaching methods for the beginner's level, but they all cover the same essential knowledge and practical skills development as set by the WRSTC.

The reason you have heard of some dive agencies and not others is mainly due to how well that company has marketed itself to the general public. PADI for instance has been around since 1966 and has spent a lot of time and money marketing itself. SSI has been around since 1970, but was more of a slow burner in terms of public recognition. This has changed a lot in recent years; Today, SSI is a Global company with more than 3700 Dive Centres, 31 Regional Offices around the world and materials in more than 27 languages, and in Australia more people are certified every year by SSI than PADI.

At Big Blue, most of the open water courses we teach are SSI. We are just as happy to teach PADI, but most people choose SSI after weighing up the differences, the main one being flexibility in how dive skills are taught that can make the course less stressful for the student.  SSI is also cheaper than PADI. Another reason is very Koh Tao specific- SSI has a Regional office here, and we are able to give students their certification cards at the end of the course, for PADI it has to be sent to Australia for processing, and can take over 90 days before the card is posted to the student’s home address- if you lose your temporary card during that period there is a danger you will not be allowed to go diving. Certifications by different agencies are recognised as valid licenses to dive no matter where you dive. You could do your SSI open water, PADI advanced, SSI rescue and divemaster and PADI instructor- they are all interchangeable. As a PADI open water diver you are qualified to dive to 18m. As an SSI open water diver you are qualified to dive to 18m. Each agency recognises the level of certification you have previously achieved, regardless of the agency you did it with.

Perhaps the biggest difference between PADI and SSI is that PADI instructors are able to operate independently, whereas SSI instructors must be affiliated with an SSI dive school to be able to teach. This means that standards and quality of teaching can be monitored regularly and directly on-site to ensure that the student is being taught correctly and safely at all times. Ultimately though, any course is only ever going to be as good as the instructor that is teaching it, and at Big Blue we take great pride in teaching new instructors how to do things properly, and only employ people who are able to demonstrate a professional attitude to teaching at all times. If you don't believe us, have a look at our trip adviser reviews.

Big Blue staff profiles

Ant Silwood- Wales... birthplace of the internationally renowned and critically acclaimed soap opera Pobol y Cwm. If you've never heard of it, then you need to stay in more, speak Welsh and live in Wales. If you're unable to do so, the spirit of Pobol Y Cwm has made its way to Koh Tao in the form of Ant Silwood, 53, the man with a million nicknames- Ant 1, big Ant, the other Ant, definitely not Ant 2, and, this isn't the Ant I was looking for.. A PADI and SSI instructor and TDI technical diver, Ant was trained at Big Blue and worked as one of our full time divemasters before taking the plunge to instructing. He's pretty good at both so our loss was our gain, hurrah! With some kind of background in IT or computers or sales, or possibly something completely different, he decided to leave the Sun-draped valleys one day and hot foot his way around the world, and only stopped by in Thailand to spread the word of a brilliant new soap opera he'd heard of. Very amiable, universally liked by his colleagues and students, Ant knows how to get the best out of anyone. His dancing on the other hand is a complete disgrace to all men his age. The only way he keeps his dignity is to do it with a wry smile on his face, and only ever to dance next to tech Ian when he's "making shapes". If you are lucky enough to be taught how to dive by him, treat him as a Mogwai from the film gremlins- instead of not getting him wet, just don't allow music to reach his ears at any point.

Ant-silwood

Carly Marsh- Smaller than Frodo Baggins, and sporting hairier toes, Carly, 64, is one of our full time divemasters. Her strengths are her obsession and ability to find anything and everything that moves underwater for her customers, her frankly suspicious strength when lugging tanks around, and her unceasing friendliness in spite of her hailing from South Africa. Her weaknesses are her unhealthy interest in necromancy and voodoo, and her inability to see over the counter in the Big Blue shop. Not something you can work on at her age- and no-one will lend her a stool due to the aforementioned hairy toes. Nicknamed prawn because of her uncanny likeness to the bad or good guys (Can't remember which) in the film district 9. If you ever want to know how Gulliver must have felt, come to Big Blue and seek out the prawn to take you diving, just don't pull off the head and throw away the shell until after your fun dive!

Carly

“Loved it!”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 5 October 2013- I chose Big Blue as my diving school because of the reviews on trip advisor. After signing up I could start the same day with my open water course. At first I was struggling with the breathing under water (lets be honest, breathing under water, that's just weird), but due to the patience and professionalism of our instructor Daisy I soon found the confidence to really enjoy the diving. I enjoyed the diving and the atmosphere at Big Blue after diving so much I also booked my advanced course and some fun dives after that. I highly recommended Big Blue to anyone who is eager to go diving. Either beginner or advanced. The staff are really good, they know what they are doing and are just fun to be around. The diving school and bar are great to hang out after diving which made my stay at Koh Tao the best part of my trip around Thailand. I will certainly come back on another holiday!

Koh Tao dive sites: Japanese Gardens

The Two Islands of Koh Nang Yuan are joined by a thin stretch of beach. On the seaward side lies the dive site Twins, and on the other, between Nang Yuan and Koh Tao lies Japanese Gardens. This is a perfect dive site for teaching beginner divers on their first open water dives, or for anyone undertaking a try dive. It’s named after a cargo ship carrying bonsai tree seeds sank there, which allowed the coral to grow. No wait, that’s that blurred line between fiction and reality that everyone’s talking about. It was actually named because of the ornate arrangement of coral covering most of the dive site. The reason it’s perfect for open water dives is because it is pretty shallow, and there are large areas of sand breaking up the coral, it’s also well sheltered from bigger waves and stronger currents. The shallowest point is zero metres on the beach- you look silly wearing scuba gear and the tan lines are not very attractive. Heading out East towards Koh Tao will get you 12-14 metres before you’re off the dive site.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s only good for novice divers though, the wide range of different types of coral is reason enough to go fun diving there, and you can head North or South parallel with Nang Yuan for a nice little coast dive, and there’s loads of marine life to see. Nudibranchs galore, fusiliers, rabbit fish, a shoals of yellow tails barracuda, the occasional sea snake and porcupine fish, and triggerfish. There’s even lionfish and juvenile harlequin sweetlips to be sought out. You can certainly get your money’s worth there because your air will last longer as you don’t need to dive deep to see all the cool stuff. Definitely worth seeing.

 

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