“FRIENDLY AND ENTHUSIASTIC INSTRUCTOR, FAB DIVE SITES. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” Wanted to complete Open Water Diver course but wasn't sure I'd enjoy it so enquired about taster dives. Was given all info requested and informed that 50% of the course price is refunded if I wanted to quit after first day. Friendliness and helpfulness of instructor on this initial meeting made us pick Big Blue, go for the full course and I am really glad we did. The instructor Heather quickly rang their hotel which is a 5 minute walk away and organised accommodation for us. The room was basic but clean and the cost per night was halved to 750baht while we dived with them. We were a group of 6 and Heather was a fantastic instructor, couldn't fault her. Typical American - friendly, enthusiastic and has a great sense of humour. She made diving seem easy. Her experience (over 5000 dives), confidence and enthusiasm allowed her to very quickly gain my trust in the water. She was very patient with students for whom English was not their first language and took time to answer every question anyone had. Although there were 6 in the group this was not too large, the instructor was able to spend time needed with each of us. On some of the dives we were accompanied by Russ a dive master in training who i recommend just as highly as Heather. We went on 4 dives. Heather tried hard to find and point out everything people said they wanted to see. The 4th dive was amazing beyond words, she found us a turtle and surprised us with a swim over a WW2 ship wreck! I am new to diving but equipment seemed well looked after and there was plenty of it. Although it is a big and busy diving company it is well organised and has the friendly feel of a small company. I hope to return to Thailand to do my advanced open water course one day and would use Big Blue - especially if I knew I could have Heather as an instructor again :) TripAdvisor -5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 25, 2011
"Hey Heather, I know it is your job and what you are paid to do but I just wanted to thank you again for being such a fab diving instructor. I'm not the most confident person in the water and wasn't too sure I'd get on with it but you managed to make diving seem so simple and there was no time to worry! My friends and family back home were shocked I did it. I think it's going to become addictive. Diving does however need to come with the warning that it completely ruins snorkelling! A few of us from the course went the next day and man is it boring being on the surface! lol I was going to go on some fun dives but dive 4 was so amazing I wanted to end this years diving on a high. I got back today and my 2 and a half year old niece sat and watched the DVD in amazement, I caught her trying to copy the hand signals which was dead sweet. I'll send her you're way when she's old enough :) As much as I love the DVD I did have to pretend it was broken after watching it 2 times in a row! Anyway just wanted to thank you again as I didn't catch you before you left the bar that night. Keep entertaining and motivating your new students :) Carole from - Team Awesome International :) certified 14/8/11
Friday 26th August 2011-
"Hello, I stayed at Big Blue in Koh Tao at the end of June. Since I was already Open Water certified I was planning on doing only a couple fun dives, but my friend convinced me to join her in the Advanced course. I am so glad I did! Our instructor was Heather and she was absolutely amazing. Not only was she entertaining and a lot of fun, but since it had been quite a while since my open water course she totally refreshed me and pretty much taught me everything I know about diving! When I went diving later in Indonesia I felt very confident in my dive skills, even if the diving was not quite as fun without Heather and Big Blue. Thank you so much,
Morgan from Canada."
A soldier who broke his back in an Afghan bomb explosion was popping Champagne corks after setting a unique world record for crossing the English Channel. After 12 gruelling hours – and two close encounters with sea-going tankers - Peter Brooks was part of a four-man British Sub Aqua Club-backed team which used tiny sea scooters to pull them across the world’s busiest waterway. Heath Samples, dive leader from Scarborough Sub Aqua Club (BSAC), who set up the Guinness Book of World Records-recognised expedition, said after their successful crossing: “We’re chuffed to bits, it’s not sunk in yet. Pete Brooks did the final leg and landed in France. As soon as he was standing on the beach and crossed the tide line and the whistle blew, the three of us jumped off to join him and cracked open the bottles of champagne.”
“The best of a big bunch!” My wife and I did our advanced open water after she completed her open water at big blue. We spent two weeks on Ko Tao and observed most of the big dive schools while we were there. Big blue have the most professional staff, the best equipped dive boats and the calmest atmosphere. I did my open water in australia and BB are the only operation that come close to the delivering the same professionalism as far as I can see. The other big operators were very evident when we were diving and most of them at some point made us glad we were with big blue. The most obvious example was when Bans almost ran over my wife when she was doing her open water, her instructor pulling her and her buddy out of the way just in time. The classes/groups were never bigger than 6 and usually 4 which made for a very effective teaching environment. The instructors took their time and made sure every one was ok before we dived. Ros was an amazing instructor and we just loved every minute with her. She especially put my wife at ease when she was feeling nervous in the initial stages of her open water. Steve "the best dive master in Thailand" lived up to his self proclaimed title when we went to sail rock as he picked out the tiniest shrimp and the most elusive moray eel. They will go that extra mile at big blue to ensure you have an excellent time and the food at the restaurant is excellent, best pizza on the island!
Thursday 25th August 2011-
We all know that SHARKS need our help. Shark numbers are rapidly decreasing in Thailand and many divers have commented on the lack of shark sightings, even in our protected National Marine Parks. Over the last few years tourism and overfishing have all had a negative impact on our oceans around Thailand. On Koh Tao we have seen half the number of Whalesharks than last year. What we do see though, is a great many sharks in Thailand is in the restaurants and pet shops. Tanks of Black Tip Reef Sharks an be seen for sale in Pattaya & Bangkok for the pet trade and large amounts of Bamboo & Zebra Sharks for sale at restaurants.
The Swim for Sharks 2011 is a statement by our small diving community to help protect sharks. We will be ditching our fins in favour of the more traditional sport of swimming! Participants will swim around Koh Nang Yuan unaided, but if you want to wear fins, that's OK too!
We would like your help to bring awareness to the plight of sharks in a publicity/media event we would like to organise called “Dive Tribes National Shark Release 2011”. So the money raised from this years "Swim For Sharks" is going towards the purchase of these sharks to release into back into the waters around Koh Tao. We don't expect the sharks to stay here, but there will be a higher chance of sightings if they are in the water in general, and are able to roam free, reproduce and visit our small island. So come along, even if you don't want to swim, learn more about sharks and conservation and help us raise the money needed to replenish our shark population.
Last year, Koh Tao's dive community raise over 17,000 baht and over 400 signatures for anti-shark finning campaign support - lets see if we can beat that this year!!
Come join us on September 4th for the big swim!
10 - 11 Meet at Big Blue Dive Resort for registration and welcome drinks
11 - 12 Shark conservation talk and petition signing
1 - 4 Swim time!! Swim 3 km around Koh Nang Yuan
7 - late Evening festivities including sponsored dares and drink deals (venue to be confirmed)
Friday 19th August 2011-
Tuesday 23rd August 2011-
" I did my OW and Advanced back in April '09 and had such a good experience. I had a panic attack under water at the start, but it was handled so well. Emily B was my instructor, with Laura Matthews as my DMT, both were wonderful. And Dan Bolton, we had such a laugh on the Advanced course! Thank you everyone and all the other wonderful people I met...Lara Roberts, Emma Mostrom-Mombelli, Dean Jenkins, Cory J Lewis, Greek Alan and all the rest of you. xx Kirsty H" Facebook
"I did my OW course with you and I had a fantastic experience! Not only was the setting beautiful and relaxed, I also want to express my gratitude to my instructor, Nick Bufton, for his excellent teaching skills. I was a little nervous starting out, but Nick did his best to ensure I felt comfortable under water. Nick maintain a relaxed atmosphere while still being very attentive, informative, and patient, and for that I am grateful. Thank you Big Blue and Nick for a great opportunity!!" - Anonymous... (but we suspect Nick Bufton!)
" Hi Jim, Juny and I just wanted to send you a quick note to say thanks to yourself and all of Big Blue for such a great DMT experience. It was a highlight month and a bit out of our travels and signing up will likely prove to be one of the great decisions of our lives. I'm sure that DMT courses come in all shapes and sizes but I reckon a couple advantages of Big Blue's offering is the diversity of knowledge available to the DM students from the mentors, instructors and DMs and the opportunity to dive with the calibre of divers that Big Blue trains and has as customers. The "dream" is now all about finding a way to live the diving life sometime in the future, hopefully back at Big Blue, but who knows. Right now we're in China and I'm contemplating booking some dives with another "Big Blue" diving outfit based in Shanghai. Although diving in 10C with 8m vis doesn't sound like the most comfortable underwater experience, seeing an ancient chinese city underwater certainly has me interested.......I have a bunch of photos from around Big Blue/Koh Tao that I'm about to post, will let you know when they're up. Cheers Mate. Steve and Juny ".
Whaleshark!!! Well a day or so ago now but still worth 3 exclamation marks! The biggest fish in the sea measuring about 5 meters here in Koh Tao, but can be as large as 18 meters off the west coast of Australia at a place called Ningaloo Reef. Just the one here where as there were recent sitings of over 300 off the coast of Mexico last month. So what if it was smaller & wasn't surrounded by 299 other bigger Whalesharks, at least I get to cross it off my bucket list! Dived with a Whaleshark- check. How many of you can say you've ever dived with a Whaleshark?
"Hi All, Just a quick note to say thank you to everyone at Big Blue who made our stay such a brilliant one last month!! In particular a big thank you to Ros and Kent who took us for our Open Water and Advanced respectively. Ros battled through despite not feeling her best and was an excellent tutor!! Kent is a Legend and a real asset to Big Blue!! The perfect mix of energy and fun but without any compromise on safety or security. Thank you guys so much!! Hope to be diving with you all real soon!! Matt (currently sat aboard a prodive liveaboard in the Great Barrier Reef practicing my new found skills)"
Big Blue Conservation helped raise funds for the construction and maintenance of Buoyancy World yesterday thanks to a great idea from Gav, a Divemaster trainee at Big Blue. Lots of Big Blue crew teamed together in one big soapy mess and made Koh Tao's scooter population squeaky clean! Utterly impressed with the effort of local residents, SCUBA Schools International (SSI) even agreed to DOUBLE what ever we raised, bringing the grand total to 2450 baht! So fancy about having 5 soapy, wet divers clean your scooter for you? Only 50 baht and it all goes to charity! Gav, you won't have to buy a round for a while, I think...
Thursday 18th August 2011-
So much going on behind the scenes at Big Blue right now & I'm sworn to secrecy by the official Chamber of Secrets Act. I was able to divulge our new boat last week, but you are still waiting on the other 2 secrets I told you I wasn't able to tell you about last month. Well this month I have another secret to not tell you about for at least another month. When will this torture end?
“Perfect for relaxation” I stayed here after my daughter's wedding for 2weeks. It was the perfect place to relax after all the hustle and bustle of the wedding.The little bungalows are lovely and clean and the proprietors Jim and Andrea could not do enough to help us. They know the area well so have lots of good advice and are very willing to order food to be delivered from local reputable restaurants if you don't fancy the short walk to Sairee beach where there is lots to do and a multitude of eating establishments.If diving is what you want that can be arranged for you too at the very reputable Big Blue diving center.Free transfers to and from the ferry are included.The little pool is lovely to cool off in after a few hours sunbathing on the comfortable sun loungers with towels provided. I would not hesitate to visit here again and recommend Baan Sawainaam to anyone wanting a little luxury, peace and quiet on a lovely island. Room Tip: There are 2 bungalows suitable for 2 people sharing and 1 larger bungalow which has a kitchen attached. All have bathrooms and air con. Stayed August 2011, traveled with family.
Travellers planning a trip to the Cayman Islands can try a new type of beer that has been launched to boost awareness of shark conservation. The island nation's environment department and Marine Conservation International have teamed up with local beer company Caybrew to produce White Tip. Each can of the new beverage features a barcode that can be scanned with a smartphone to access a website providing information on efforts to protect the often misunderstood white-tip shark. Donations of $1.20 (74p) for each case and five cents for each can bought will go towards the conservation project. Shark populations have been declining around the world as a result of overfishing and shrinking reef habitats.It is hoped that the White Tip lager will appeal to visiting divers, who could be visiting the Cayman Islands for its famous wall diving, underwater wrecks and Stingray City, which National Geographic recently named the world's best shallow dive. I'll drink to that!
Wednesday 17th August 2011-
“Big dive school facilities, small dive school feel” . Big Blue Diving has the facilities of a big dive school (3 boats, loads of instructors and dive guides, instructor training, large resort, etc.), but it has the personal touch of smaller schools - unlike the *really* big schools, they don't make you feel like a number, you feel part of the team. The resort is basic but if your tastes are more luxurious they will help you find accommodation elsewhere AND subsidise it for every day you dive with them. But be sure to hang around for sunset as the view from the Big Blue's beach-side bar and restaurant can't be beaten. Say hello to "Ugly Dog", the dive school's mascot, and have yourself a great time." Trip Advisor 4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 15, 2011 Al Stew, Phuket, Thailand.
PADI, the world's largest diver training organization, today announced its "Countdown to 20 Million" campaign, which will award a fantastic trip to Australia's Great Barrier Reef to the diver who receives the 20 millionth PADI scuba certification. PADI has been tracking certifications and will announce the winner after this goal has been reached. "The diver to receive PADI's 20 millionth certification will win an all-expenses paid trip for two to explore natural wonder of the world, the Great Barrier Reef, and other local attractions such as the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest, courtesy of Tourism Queensland. Dive excursions out to the Great Barrier Reef will be provided by MV Spirit of Freedom, which includes a three-day, three-night liveaboard adventure to iconic dive sites such as Cod Hole and the stunning Ribbon Reefs. In addition, the PADI Instructor to issue the 20 millionth diver certification and the affiliated dive center or resort will each receive a trip to Australia. A "Countdown to 20 Million Certifications" counter has launched on the PADI website that provides daily updates as the organization approaches this achievement, which they expect to reach by late September. The promotion applies to both new and experienced divers who obtain any level of scuba certification at one of the more than 6,000 PADI Dive Centers or Resorts worldwide. Visit www.padi.com for the most up-to-date countdown number and to find the nearest PADI dive location.
Monday 15th August 2011-
Well we're ready for you! Its the biggest week of the year! The week after the August Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan. We got our touts on the ferries, our drivers at the piers, our housekeepers preparing rooms, our Divemasters scheduling trips, our Instructors ready to teach, our boats ready to take you to the best scuba diving around Koh Tao Koh Phangan & Koh Samui, our shop girls ready to meet you, sign you in & take your payments. Meanwhile our waiters are also ready to serve you, our bar tenders ready to refresh you, our DJ's ready to entertain you, our videographers ready to film you & we've even had the Manager inflate the giant Whaleshark "just in case". Ready as we'll ever be. One- Two- Thr...
"Dear Jim, There’s a lot more to a can of tuna than the friendly looking label might suggest. Behind every happy bumble bee and smiling mermaid there’s an ocean of destruction. That’s why Greenpeace is launching a new campaign to get the canned tuna industry to clean up its act and end its destructive ways. And to kick things off we’ve teamed up with Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Mark Fiore on a brand new video to expose the industry’s dirty little secret. Our goal is to reach 25,000 views in the first 48 hours. If we do that, we have a great chance of giving the video the momentum it needs to really get the tuna industry’s attention. In the meantime, check out the video and pass it along on Facebook and Twitter. The more we spread the word the faster we expose the tuna industry’s dirty little secret and save the oceans. Sincerely, Casson Trenor, Senior Markets Campaigner, Greenpeace.
Saturday 13th August 2011-
Thanks to Helen Sabin (ex Big Blue Instructor) from Think-Work-Play for this one.
A new exhibition by Austrian artist Andreas Franke, ‘Vandenberg: Life Below the Surface’ off Key West, Florida, gives budding art fanatics and deep-sea divers a unique opportunity to swim alongside work that is displayed on the side of a shipwrecked boat. Possibly the world’s deepest installation to date, corals, tropical fish and rare sea life will be a mere second thought to Franke’s imagery. A keen diver himself, photographer Andreas Franke took to the seas and explored the Vandenberg last year himself to see what the shores of Key West had to offer. “Even though there is so much life, marine life, all over and around it, the shipwreck itself, to me, is a dead thing,” Franke said. “But I thought that if I put people on it, then there would again be life on that ship.” And so, with this stroke of genius, Franke got creative and daring and proposed to put his photographs in the deep blue. Franke decided to layer the prints with human life to portray the feeling of existence and being. Images include that of a couple waltzing inside the ship, a a young girl chasing fish with a butterfly net on deck, and a group of teenagers waiting outside a cinema. Makes a change to the usual shipwreck under the sea, and a definite competitor to the Great Barrier Reef.
"Thanks to Ash, Canada, Ian & Matt at BBT for making my BSAC Dive Leader course happen and putting up with my crap jokes; had a great time with you all and learned a lot. Ian, don't worry mate, you can keep the 100Bt, use it to buy yourself some dry cigarettes and then, (if you can find one), donate the rest to a the Koh Tao Retirement Home for Incontinent Dogs." Richard Mason. - Cheers Richard. BTW Ian Jordan is not an incontinent dog.. we said incompetent ;)
The decision by Britain's top-ranked female beach volleyball team to advertise on their bikini bottoms has been criticised by a feminist. Bath-based Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin teamed up with a bookmaker to trial barcodes on the backs of their swimsuit bottoms in a sponsorship deal. When the matrix barcodes are photographed with a smartphone, the user is taken to the company's website. Sian Norris said there was still a lack of seriousness around women's sports.
"There is huge interest in beach volleyball and we want to ensure that our advertising campaign is seen and remembered by as many sports fans as possible. But Ms Norris, from Bristol Feminist Network, said: "I think what is really shows is that there's still a lack of seriousness taken when it comes to women's sports. "There's the assumption that men are the spectators rather than women for a start. "But also do we want these women to be seen as athletes or are they walking advertising billboards?" Or are they just good looking chicks in bikinis?
Friday 12th August 2011-
Richard Branson teamed up with WildAid and swam with about three hundred sharks off of Cancun, Mexico to raise awareness about the horrors of the shark finning industry. Three hundred may sound like a big scary number, but Branson wasn’t exactly swimming with Jaws. He took a dip with the whale shark, a species that can grow to be over forty feet long and is considered to be a gentle giant. Branson said in a video about the issue, “Believe it or not, some people cut the fin off these beautiful, beautiful creatures to eat and throw the rest of the whale shark back into the water to die. It’s too sad for words.” It’s estimated that over seventy million sharks are killed in this manner each year for their fins. Many species are facing extinction due to overfishing. Currently the whale shark is listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Watch the video at: http://www.ecorazzi.com/2011/08/10/w...shark-finning/
I did my OW course with you and I had a fantastic experience! Not only was the setting beautiful and relaxed, I also want to express my gratitude to my instructor, Nick Bufton, for his excellent teaching skills. I was a little nervous starting out, but Nick did his best to ensure I felt comfortable under water. Nick maintain a relaxed atmosphere while still being very attentive, informative, and patient, and for that I am grateful. Thank you Big Blue and Nick for a great opportunity!! & Btw Nick It's true. You do look like Sid the Sloth!
Thursday 11th August 2011-
A big Koh Tao, Thailand thank you to scuba diving Travis our PADI Divemaster sorry DMT, who crossed over from SSI & BSAC to become a scuba diving professional at Big Blue Diving Resort having completed his Open Water, Advanced Course, Rescue Course & Emergency First Response, has taught me how to get ahead on the search engines. Scuba Diving in Thailand Travis reckons all you have to do is mention diving or similar keywords like dive course Koh Tao as many times as possible on your websites Home page & the search engines will boost you up on the rankings! How scuba diving open water course koh tao thailand tastic is that!
Word on the street is that the people who recently came & picked up & moved the Sattakut wreck that was so beautifully botched up while sinking last month have done an awesome job & placed her in a perfect position standing up, tall & proud & right next to Hin Pee Wee. In fact they appear to have done such an amazing job they haven't even disturbed the visibility by stirring up all the sand & silt & that you can see the wreck in awesome conditions. Divers are crowding round our signing in board & are demanding to dive the wreck! We have so much demand for it right now we dived it this morning, we'll dive it tomorrow morning & tomorrow afternoon aswell! Its a bloody good job none of our customers are from England right now or we'd have a riot on our hands! & they's possibly end up nicking it!
Well we aren't exactly sinking. In fact far from it! But I can't help feeling we still have alot of staff jumping or about to jump ship! Mr & Mrs Dan & Kymmie Bolton met, fell in love, got married & are now bugging off in a couple of days back to England. Tech Instructor Ash & Mrs Ash, Aka Kelli have actually left already & are on their way to the USA! Erik & his Missus are presently residing in the Bahamas shark feeding! Then we got Helen who is also off to find work in the Caribbean. Then Sonia who is off shortly to work for a Liveaboard Company in the Similans & then the Komodo Islands. Jodie who went on holiday to the Uk & didn't come back as she got a job in telly. Instructor Emily is quitting the diving Industry to be a Teacher at Koh Tao's first primary school for ex pat kids. Susi is off back to Germany & today Canada has just told me he is off to work Sea Security on the cargo vessels in & out of the Straits of Somalia! Right. I think that's the lot. Now would everyone please stop leaving! I'm feeling rather lonely!
Wednesday 10th August 2011-
BREAKING NEWS! Colonel Gadaffi has announced he recognizes the London Rioters as the legitimate UK government, and is asking David Cameron and Nick Clegg to stand aside…. The UN Security council is also expected to pass a resolution to enforce a no-fly zone over London and start supplying the insurgent estates of Hackney, Brixton , Clapham, Croyden , Moss Side and Handsworth with arms and tactical support. Meanwhile we are waiting on a press release from the White House- 'the US will not stand by and watch the people of the UK be over run by Al-Qaeda extremists, we will seek a UN Resolution to this outbreak and we cannot rule out military engagement in the UK'...... Innit ...
Today, more and more people are keeping stingrays as pets. Unfortunately, keeping a ray as a pet is a lot of hard work. They need a lot of attention. Also, by encasing the stingray in a tank (which can sometime be up to 2 meters long) you can greatly reduce their lifespan. Many pet owners agree that they've experienced what they call "Sudden Ray Death." The stingray seems to die for no reason. Even if you think it would be a great conversation piece to own a stingray as a pet, they are high maintenance, expensive, and difficult to take care of. Hammerhead Sharks are stingrays' most frequent predators. A stingray's number one defense against an animal that is so large in comparison to their own size is their stinging barb. Hammerheads have been found with as many as twenty stingray barbs embedded in their throats! & you'd look pretty stupid with a 2 meter long aquarium with a dead hammerhead in it!
Awesome dive at our new wreck HTMS Sattakut which showed herself to be on her very best this morning; great visibility so that everyone could see her glory. Want to dive Sattakut?? Get on it. We're starting a Wreck Specialty tomorrow with our Swedish PADI & SSI Scuba Instructor Ludo. Only 7800 Bt. Unless you are a Swedish topless bikini model in which case we'll pay you!
Underwater Clean Up by Volunteer Divers in the
Tsunami-Ravaged Iwate Prefecture of Northeastern
This is a report of the relief activities from former Big Blue Diving Instructor and photographer Tetsuya Kusu, with English translation by Chisa Hidaka of Dolphin Dance Project. We hope to raise awareness and support for the disaster relief efforts in this region.
A once-in-a-thousand-year earthquake hits Japan’s northeast Tohoku region...the massive tsunami that accompanied it swallowed into the sea thousands of lives and memories. In the aftermath of this unprecedented disaster, the survivors are moving forward towards recovery, one step at a time. In the face of a natural event born of our oceans, divers have rushed in to support the relief efforts.
Immediately, they thought "What can we do as divers?" With the cooperation of the local fishermen the divers have begun a full-scale underwater clean up.
The Once Beautiful Coast of Sanriku, Transformed
I first visited Iwate prefecture four years ago, in the rainy season. Despite having traveled widely abroad, I had not seen much of Japan outside the familiar Kansai region where I live. This was the first time I visited the northeast Tohoku region of Japan. Although a part of Honshu Island (the main island of Japan), Iwate prefecture is about 500 km from Tokyo and 1000 km north of the Kansai region.
Even in the rainy season (June) there was still a spring-like air. The water temperature had warmed up to 15 degrees Celsius...but that was still quite chilly for a tropical-water diver like me.
Diving in the waters of Ryori harbor near Sanriku village seemed, at first, unspectacular. But then, as I looked a little more carefully, I spied a huge fringed blenny with shiny eyes. I watched a school of Japanese bitterling shimmer as they danced in the light. I fell in love with the ocean of Iwate.
Visits to Iwate became a yearly event, and I soon befriended Hiroshi Sato, aka “Kuma,” owner of the local dive shop “Michinoku Diving (Rias)”. He guided me through the deep riches of Iwate's nature and sumptuous food from the mountains and ocean Being a life long city-dweller I cherished these visits for the precious opportunity they offered to discover the natural wonders of rural Japan.
He even introduced me to something I had wanted to do for quite awhile...the “Salmon Swim”. As the name suggest, in the “Salmon Swim” we swim with the salmon. Wearing a mask and snorkel, we entered the mouth of the river toobserve the salmon return and run upstream after 4 year’s migration through the open ocean. In Japan, most of the salmon and their runs are controlled and managed by Fishery Unions. Fishing by individuals is, of course, forbidden, and entering the water with the salmon would normally attract immediate police attention.
But Kuma had patiently negotiated our visits with the local fishermen. Through a bit of trial and error, he had found a way to approach the salmon so that divers could come to witness the mysterious salmon run - the salmon sacrificing of their lives to lay their eggs - while making as little impact on the behavior and environment as possible. The “Salmon Swim” was one of the highlights of visiting this area.
But now, these once-beautiful oceans and rivers.... Three weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, as the roads started to become passable, I travelled to Iwate to document and report on the recovery efforts.
Local Diver Kuma’s Relief Activities
March 11, 2011 will forever be a memorable day, not just for divers, but for people around the world. Having received Nature’s blessings, we also experienced her immense destructive power.
March is off-season for diving in Iwate; so Kuma was working as a dive guide for Big Blue Diving in Kao Lak, Thailand. As soon as he heard the news of the earthquake and tsunami, he rushed back to his family and “home field” of diving. In the confusion and destruction following the disaster, roads were practically unpassable; but on March 15 he finally arrived. Having confirmed that his family was safe, he proceeded directly to the areas hardest hit by the disaster.
What he saw there...it was the utter destruction about which we are now all too well aware. Everything had washed away. With so many people without any protection, even from their own fears, it was not a moment for Kuma to think about helping...he simply stepped in and started working. Making his way through the scattered debris, he spent days distributing the donated goods that had arrived from Bangkok and Akita. Soon, support from his fellow divers began to flow in. They rallied to raise funds for Kuma’s relief efforts. A divers network began to form as transportation improved and more donated goods began to arrive.
The numbers of supporters increased as friends, relatives and colleagues joined the effort. Public donations arrived but were delivered slowly. Even goods received the local government were accumulating elsewhere, awaiting distribution. Limited as they were, Kuma’s network was able to reach the neediest victims directly...and their efforts were rewarded by increasing support from around the country and the world.
It all began as a personal effort; but Kuma has reached the hearts of many and his relief efforts are expanding into a full-scale movement.
SCUBA-Assisted Relief Efforts
Being divers, Kuma and the others were concerned from the beginning, not only about the destruction that had been wrecked on land, but the huge amount of debris that had been dragged into the ocean. Wreckage was strewn all over the oceans they once dived and enjoyed. Rubble littered the rivers where the salmon ran upstream. But the waters were dangerous and not immediately accessible, especially not on their own. Besides, the needs of the people who had suffered damages and loss were more urgent priorities.
Then, about one month into the efforts, on April 8, Mr. Koichi Ryori, a fisherman and relative of Kuma living in Ofunato city, Sanriku village, suggested that they might try pulling some of the debris out of the water.
Many fishermen had lost their boats, which had been anchored in the harbor. Now with all the sunken rubble, even those who still had boats could barely make their way about. There was much wreckage to pull out of the water; and perhaps some of the sunken fishing gear could be salvaged. So Kuma and his crew literally dove in. With divers and fishermen working together, an underwater clean up effort was begun.
First the biggest pieces, visible from the surface, were pulled out using land-based cranes. With Kuma in the water, and the fishermen on land, the team tied ropes around sunken objects to pull them out of the water. A light truck was pulled out. A pot for boiling freshly collected seaweed was retrieved.
Cheers rose from the fishermen as, one after another, pieces of fishing gear were recovered, relatively intact. The more valuable the item, the greater were the cheers. Things that could not be pulled out using a land-based crane were marked with buoys for recovery using ship-board cranes. They also repaired the buoys marking the mooring lines for large ships in the bay.
At times divers were called upon to perform risky maneuvers, like cutting free debris that was caught in the ropes. Sometimes they had to cut away ropes that were too tangled. After all the large pieces had been retrieved, divers picked up the smaller ones hand. An iron griddle, some building materials...these items were handed them one by one to fishermen eagerly waiting on small boats or even on shore.
Kuma and the divers have already received tremendous appreciation from the fishermen and their community for the recovery and relief efforts; but much more work and much more man power is still needed. The work is dangerous, and can only be accomplished by experienced divers. Even so, a flood of inquiries followed his recent call for volunteers. Once transportation and gasoline supply became available people from outside the prefecture arrived to contribute their time and effort.
With the arrival of Golden Week (a week in early May when many Japanese people take vacation) an effort involving many more volunteers became possible. Twenty five volunteers arrived to Iwate from Kanto, Nagano, Nagoya and even as far away as Hiroshima. Eleven of them used SCUBA to help with the clean up efforts. There were two underwater clean up teams, and everyone on land also helped out, each person assigned to the tasks for which they were most suited.
Fishery Union Report: The Oceans of Sanriku Are Alive!
In the middle of Golden Week a request came from the Fishery Union for help with an evaluation of the state of the local fisheries. Unable to fish since the tsunami, the fishermen were understandably anxious about the state of the fisheries. Their houses, boats and fishing gear all washed away, the fishermen wondered whether, even when fishing once again became feasible, there would be anything left to catch.
The Ryori fishing harbor once yielded regular harvests of many different kinds of seafood. But the farming structures for wakame seaweed, scallops and sea squirt were badly damaged. Many were concerned that the abalone that naturally grew on the seaside ledges may have been destroyed under the rubble. With so much of the shore having been washed into the bay, no one could imaging how the underwater seascape have changed. Amid much anxious speculation, the divers were asked to investigate the underwater state of the fishery.
Carrying with them the worries of the fishermen, the divers entered water in which they are usually forbidden to dive. At 5-10 meters, some rubble was visible; but what really impressed us was the lush growth of wakame and other seaweed, swaying in the waves. Healthy sea urchin and sea squirts abounded. Many live abalone appeared to thrive amid the wealth of seaweed on which they feed. From the depths of Sanriku’s ocean, considered one of the world’s three largest fisheries, the divers excitedly brought back photos and video depicting underwater scenes of unexpected abundance.
Obviously relieved, the fishermen seemed that they were finally able to feel a glimmer of hope for the future of their livelihoods. Similar underwater fishery research was conducted in three locations during Golden Week. The video must now undergo official analysis by the Fishery Union to assess future prospects for continued aquaculture and other fishing activities.
Clean Up and Shelter
Golden Week involved much more than underwater clean up and fishery surveys. We cleaned the mouth of the salmon river and the sea cucumber farms in the fishing harbor, ran a soup kitchen near the harbor, delivered donated goods to the emergency shelters and held a tea ceremony there, too.
We responded not only to the explicit needs of the fishermen and other community members, but offered our own ideas like the soup kitchen and tea ceremony. It was satisfying to feel that we could offer not only some assistance, but a chance for a little peace to ease the fears of those who had suffered so much from the disaster. We relaxed and drank tea, enjoying our new friendship. Tears even flowed as we neared “good bye.”
Many volunteers expressed their desire to return for a second round. Just offering an empathetic ear seemed to lessen the anxieties of the people who have suffered so much loss and devastation. With time and as relief progresses, the needs of the community will no doubt change. Our plan is for future activities that respond to those changing needs.
Moving the Volunteer Base to Yokota in Rikuzentakata
The house where Kuma's grand mother in law used to live - now owned by Kuma is in Yokota in Rikuzentakata; and it was turned into the volunteers’ home base—a warm inviting place where we stayed, feeling as if we were family friends. The house is very conveniently located, in close proximity to the disaster area. It is only about 10 km from the Kesengawa River, a point to which the tsunami had risen.
Even with up to 20 of us there during Golden Week, the house allowed us all to stay in comfort without the need to camp in tents or be otherwise inconvenienced. The friendly company and relaxing accommodations very much made us all enthusiastic about returning. Near the house there is a center where they can assign volunteers to different activities so they can also introduce the volunteers to the center.
At the moment the house is most useful as a base for relief volunteers; but in the future it will no doubt be loved as a wonderful place for divers visiting Sanriku, or tourists to Iwate to stay for rest and relaxation.
Thanks to the efforts of the Sanriku volunteer divers described in this report, underwater clean up has proceeded much more quickly here than in other tsunami-affected areas. Building on our experience in Sanriku we hope to expand our efforts to other devastated areas in the north east Tohoku area of Japan, with cooperation from local Fishery Unions and the local governments.
Unfortunately, unlike the fishermen who are receiving disaster compensation from the national government, the divers are receiving nothing, yet continue these efforts through support from private donors and by simply volunteering their own time and resources. In order for us to continue and expand our efforts, additional donor funding is now critical.
In Minami-Sanriku village in Miyagi prefecture, several local divers who suffered from the effects of the tsunami and earthquake are working towards recovering their futures by soliciting funds to build a new air station (to fill SCUBA tanks). Little by little, the divers there are struggling to reclaim their livelihoods.
To support the relief efforts, through which we are working to restore the beauty of the oceans of the north east Tohoku area of Japan, we appeal to divers, not only in Japan, but around the world.
We would be very grateful to receive support from fellow divers everywhere who also love the ocean.
We are saying goodbye..again..to our dear friend Lara aka Lala today, she's going back to her boyfriend in NZ, She still got the top 1 email to Big Blue diving, after asking quetions about her dive course etc, she also asked "will I make friends at Big Blue?" Eeehh....really!?!?!?? Now she's saying goodbye to ALL her friends and can't belive she ever asked that question. So if you wonder the same thing, don't worry, we're plenty of friendly friends here, as long as you're nice, hot and funny, we will be your friend!!
One returning question you get here is: so, how long have you been here? When you tell them how long, they say...wow, yeah, I can see why it's hard to leave this place. We have lots of long term locals here, from around 15 years till less. And we all kind of have the same story, we just didn't leave Koh Tao. It all starts the same way, you sit there and plan your travels and check out internet, ask friends who's been out there all ready, Where did they go? What did they do?
So maybe you start your journey in Bangkok and spend some time there before you head to Chiang Mai. If your timing is right you might attend Koh Phangan's full moon party and after that you make your way to Koh Tao, where you've heard that scuba diving is the best place to learn in Thailand, and right you are.
So you either check out the website www.bigbluediving.com and book your course there or you go in to the shop and sign up for your Open Water course (OW).
You start the course, have lots of fun and in the evening, you might get to see one of our Dm't challange (where the person who has passed his/hers divemaster course gets to do their final exam, in the bar) or after day No.4 when you have finished your course, you sit in the bar and watch your open water video with all your new friends.
Then you think, maybe I should do this Advanced open water course (AOW) that my instructor has been talking so much about, sounds really cool to go down to 30 meters and everything else that is included in the course, YEAH, lets do that!!! So there you go, you stay a bit longer...after this, some people leave, and some stay, 5 years later when you ask them, wen did you get here? -eh, 5 years ago, I just couldn't leave, I fell in love with diving and Koh Tao. You end up doing your ERF, rescue, dive master and instructor course. Then you start to work as a dm or instructor and just basically have the best life style in the world, working with what you love, can it get better??? I think not!!
Monday 8th August 2011-
Separated at Birth! Nick Bufton the PADI & SSI Scuba Instructor for Big Blue Diving in Koh Tao Thailand. And Sid, a clumsy sloth from the Walt Disney character in the Ice Age Movies. Or is that Nick the Ess Ess I Insstructor, a Clumsy character from Big Blue Diving in the Ice Age! " I don't know about you guys but he's got the weirdest head I've ever seen!"
Sharkskin is a revolutionary technical water sports garment suitable for many different active water sports from scuba diving, kayaking, jet skiing, to water skiing and surfing. Sharkskin garments come in a large range of both sizes and styles providing the equivalent warmth of a 2.5 – 3mm neoprene wetsuit. Even on a warm day wind chill can quickly cool you down. Unlike conventional wetsuits, the windproof membrane in Sharkskin acts not only to keep the wind out, but also breathes to reduce overheating. The inner layer maintains warmth and also wicks away moisture for added comfort. Sharkskin’s 4-way stretch material combined with a carefully designed multi-panel cut for both men and women provides a superior body hugging, comfortable, non-restrictive fit along with easy donning and doffing. Sharkskin is also odour and itch resistant, non chaffing, has outstanding sun protection (UPF 30+), is abrasion resistant, mildew resistant, lightweight and dries much faster than neoprene. I'll have 2 please!
Big Blue is venturing out to two of our islands artificial reefs tomorrow. Divers will first visit the HTMS Sattakut, an old navy ship recently sunk off Sairee, followed by a dive to our very own electric reef; BioRock. Big Blue played a big part in the deployment of these reefs which help alleviate some of the dive pressure on our natural reefs. And how often do you get to dive a ship that was involved in World War II, and then a reef where coral grows 5 times faster than any other reefs due to the electrolysis property, all in one morning? Now imagine what could happen if we electrolysed the wreck? Next year’s big Eco project for Big Blue, I think.
Sunday 7th August 2011-
So a little while ago I mentioned that I had some news to let out! Actually 3 bits of news! So lets start with the first very exciting piece of news. We have a new boat! & she's a beauty! Very quick too. We should be able to get to Sail Rock now in about an hour, which is almost half the time it would take us on any of our other boats! & because it is sooo speedy we are actually going to be sending this boat on weekly trips to the legendary Angthong Marine Park once a week &... wait for it... we are also going to start operating special trips to the best dive sites in the Chumphon Marine Park! How's that for staying ahead of the rest! We will be the only Koh Tao operator diving Angthong & Chumphon Marine Park. You want the best diving in the Gulf of Thailand? Better dive with Big Blue then! "Koh Tao's number 1 Dive operator".
Things That Kill More People Than Sharks- Obesity kills 30000 People annually. Lightening kills 10000 people annually. Texting kills 6000 people annually.Hippos kill 2900 people annually. Airplanes kill 1200 people annually. Volcanoes kill 845 people annually.Autoerotic asphyxiation kills 600 people annually. Shopping on Black Friday kills 550 people annually. Falling out of bed kills 450 people annually. Bathtubs kill 340 people annually. Hot digs kill 70 children annually. Tornadoes kill 60 people annually. Jellyfish kill 40 people annually. Dogs kill 30 people annually in the United States. Anys kill 30 people annually. High School Football kills 20 people annually. Vending machines kill 13 people annually. Roller Coasters kill 6 people annually. Sharks kill 5 people annually.
Friday 5th August 2011-
Another Full Day Trip to the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand today- Sail Rock! 2 dives there, where last week we saw a Whaleshark! Its another busy boat, so busy in fact we had to turn people away last night as the trip was already full. Not the only thing full right now either. Koh Tao is really busy. Rooms are full. Scuba Instructors are busy. Dive Boats are chocka. We're renting extra kit, extra tanks in fact its sooo crazy we've even sent one of our staff out to Chumphon to buy another boat! Its only going to get busier too as it is the Black Moon Party on Koh Phangan this week & then next week its the Full Moon Party there as well. So if you are on your way here to Koh Tao & you haven't yet booked yourself somewhere to stay then you really need to pull your finger out & book something pretty darn quick or you'll be spelling more curse words than a Harry Potter movie!
Well, with over 30,000 visitors to our 21 square km island last month, our island ecosystem is taking a bit of a battering. Particularly after the Full Moon festivities when there is all that neon paint to wash off, the increased waste water run-off is worse than ever! So in pure Big Blue style, Jen and her Eco minions constructed a floating wetland, which will help to clean the water before it flows out to sea. The waste river, affectionately known as 'The Poonama Canal', runs straight through the entrance to Big Blue's Resort. We don't actually contribute to it, it comes from resorts it hits before us who have concreted over their section of the Klong, but unlike them we've left it open so we can make a beautiful floating oasis in it! Either that or we can turn it into Big Blue's new mud spa... anyone want first dibs?!
"Hey Jim and Andrea! How are you guys? Thanks again for the wonderful stay at Baan Sawainam! We loved it! My parents had some nice quiet time at the pool while my brother and I were down under watching whale sharks and turtles! My brother is planning on coming back to Thailand next year and getting his Open Water. I think he's infected with the diving virus as well ;) Thanks again for all your help and loving care! It was much appreciated! Love, Anniek"
Thursday 4th August 2011-
Well we've wiped away the tears from our eyes, shaken off the hangovers, & we partied like it was Mr & Mrs Dan & Kymmie Boltons wedding! What an awesome weekend we all just had in Samui. Started well with a stag night consisting of 20 fully grown men charging round the beaches streets & clubs of Samui in our Morph suits, then had the most amazing wedding at the most amazing location with the most amazing people wearing the most amazing clothes on such a very special occasion. Kymmie looked unbelievable! Dan looked very dapper! Just goes to show that even Diving Instructors can scrub up nicely when needs must! Thank you so much Dan & Kymmie for inviting all of us to your very special weekend. Big sigh. .... Right fun's over... everyone back to work!
Well blow me gently & call me Ruby! I am absolutely astounded at the response we have just received since I put a new page on our website called Hot Deals! We are getting between 10-20 inquiries & bookings for these deals alone! Not really surprised as the savings you can make rival that of the January Sales. Free Accommodation. Free T-shirts. Discounted Course prices. Discounted Fundives. There are savings of upto 5000 Bt to be had & its peak season as well! Makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to be giving such great deals away like this but hey! What the hell! The boss is in Sweden. & you know what they say... "Its not Christmas, but I want stuffing!"
SSImon is back! Thank god. We've only been waiting the best part of 2 months for him to get back as we have a queue as long as your arm of Instructors looking to 'use the force' & turn to the Dark Side & crossover from PADI & join the Rebel Alliance otherwise known as SSI! Wise folk. So first up on our list of Jedi wannabe's are 3 of our new Instructors Laura, Neil & Luke & joining them are 2 legends of Koh Tao, none other than the 'Aren't you a little short for a StormTrooper' Mr Vibe Bar & Lounge himself Massive Dave! & alongside him the Islands thinnest man & the Manager of the legendary Choppers Sports Bar & Pub Grub Mr Tosh Tanner! Only the best caliber Diving Professionals at SSImons Instructor Crossovers. Oh yeah & Tosh & Dave! ;-)