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Big Blue Diving Resort - Koh Tao - Thailand

October 30th 2013

T-shirt giveaway
t-shirt-giveaway-andyJust a quick post today to get you involved in our latest give-away. It's really really easy- all you have to do is take a photo of yourself or your friend wearing a Big Blue t-shirt somewhere exotic, exciting or unusual in the world, and post it onto our facebook page. The ten best photos will win their owner a free t-shirt from our new range. The more inventive, the better; we've already given two away and the bar has been set high- ex Big Blue instructor Sonia was snapped wearing what looks like a witches hat surrounded by police at this years Oktoberfest in Munich, and divemaster Andy sent us a photo of himself posing with legendary All Black scrum half Justin Marshall, who had autographed it for the Big Blue boss Jim. So no pressure, but the next eight photos need to top that! If you manage to do a base jump whilst riding a unicycle and wearing one of our t-shirts, we may even throw in a keyring.. no expense spared! 

10 things you didn't know about the blue-spotted stingray
stingray1- The latin name is Neotrygon kuhlii. Utterly useless to your everyday life but it'll make you sound clever.
2- It is preyed on by the killer whale and hammer head shark.
3- Their bright colouration serves as a warning for its venomous spines.
4- Mothers give birth to up to seven pups per litter; these pups range from 6 inches (150 mm) to 13 inches (330 mm) long at birth.
5- The venom in its barb contains serotonin, 5' nucleotidase, and phosphodiesterase, which sounds very fancy.
6- They are very popular to buy for display in household aquariums, but people don't realise how big they can grow, until they outgrow the tank. So leave it in it's natural habitat people!
7- They feed on shrimp, small bony fish, mollusks, crabs and other worms... not exactly gourmet food.
8- They kill their prey by pinning them to the bottom of the seafloor with their fins. 
9- They don't have any teeth, and instead have food-crushing plates on the sides of their mouth.
10- We get them on every dive site on Koh Tao, so if you want to see one, come to the Gulf of Thailand and come diving with Big Blue!

October 31st 2013

Halloween!
halloweenIs it really Halloween again? oh what to do.. You could stay indoors and refuse to answer the door to anyone, or embrace trick or treaters with open arms and poisoned sweets. Or you could get completely into the spirit of things and spend (in some cases) minutes, days or even weeks agonising over a suitable constume to wear at the bar. After all, it's not every day you can be a roller disco murder victim.
Halloween is one of the biggest nights of the year on Koh Tao, and considering we don't have any proper novelty shops, people have to be really inventive with their costumes. It all makes for a great night out, followed by a confusing morning wondering why you're wearing a wig and an eye patch that you're pretty sure you didn't have on when you went out. This year's party is going to be especially big. We have a celebratory send off organised for our new SSI instructors Sofia and Wolfgang, and we have a divemaster challenge for our newly qualified DMTs. All on the same night, at the same bar.. it's going to be messy! We expect most of our dive instructors, divemasters and DMTs to get dressed up, but it's always brilliant when our customers also get into the swing of things and come up with their own creations. How often can you say you've been stood in the bar, and looked over to see Batman & Robin having a chinwag with spongebob squarepants?
So if you're on Koh Tao, come down and have a look, or better still get involved and wow us with your costume, just please don't be offended if you get complimented on your outfit and then have to point out "but i'm not wearing one".. Now if you'll excuse me I have some shopping to do, I need to buy an orthopedic shoe, a monocle, and a one-piece tracksuit with yellow piping.. nothing to do with halloween, I just need a new look.

Parrotfish explorers
parrotfish300x169Researchers in Australia have been busy mapping the movements of parrotfish in order to find more about the size of their territory, and determine how far they wander throughout their lives. It turns out that they expand their range rapidly as juveniles, but this stops when they mature into adults. Researchers focussed on three species of parrotfish, and tracked 75 individual fish during the study. Generally, the diet of a species influences how rapidly its home range has to increase with its body size so that it can find enough food to meet metabolic demands. Yet with parrotfish the researchers found no evidence of a change in diet affecting the way their home range relates to their body size. So effectively, diet doesn't seem to be the driving force in them exploring new territory. The reason for the early wandering seems to stem from the need to find as much food as possible so that they grow quickly, which in turn reduces the amount of predators able to eat them- similar to reptiles.
The reason their territory stops expanding as adults is thought to be because they engage in complex social relations, and it makes sense to keep a potential mate as close as possible, something that would be much harder to achieve with a huge territory. Researchers conclude that "The fact that a fish's social environment can have such a dramatic affect on their home range size opens up endless possibilities for new research." Fascinating stuff, but clearly still a lot more research needs to be undertaken.

October 29th 2013

The end is nigh!
SSI-instructor-courseWant to know what it takes to become a dive professional? Ask Sofia and Wolfgang. For the last two weeks they've been put through the mill by Big Blue SSI instructor trainer Simon Garrity, so that in two days time they will be fully prepared for their instructor exams. If they are successful, which they will be, they'll be qualified to teach people how to dive and certify them as open water divers, teach advanced adventurer, rescue and speciality courses, and take people out on try dives. Both are already dive professionals and have been working as SSI divemasters, but they decided to take their training one step further so that they can experience how satisfying it can be to train people to become competent fun divers.
But it doesn't end in two days, oh no. They'll be able to celebrate once qualified and relax for a few days, but then it's back to work for more training.
They have both wisely decided to undertake an internship programme with Big Blue- teaching a diving course is one thing, but teaching one with high regard to professional standards, whilst ensuring students' safety at all times is Big Blue's number one priority. Sofia and Wolfgang will shadow a Big Blue instructor and learn the ins and outs of each diving course. When and only when their instructor mentor feels they are 100% ready to teach a course to our standards, then they will be signed off and set free to teach on their own. Instructor training is challenging, but also good fun; i've yet to meet anyone that decided to come to Koh Tao, change their career, become a diving instructor and then decide that it wasn't a good move. In fact everyone that has done it will tell you it was the best decision they ever made. So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with Simon and look forward to going to work for the first time in your life! Contact Simon This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Blink and you'll miss it
Anyone that's lived on Koh Tao for a while will tell you that time just seems to stand still. Hot sunny day after hot sunny day, going diving in the daytime, going out for dinner and a few drinks in the evening, you soon forget what day it is, and don't really care. But then you blink and suddenly three months have gone by.. how did that happen!? Well on a month by month basis, the Island seems the same infrastructure-wise, but then you suddenly notice that a new massage parlour has opened up in Mae Hadd, or a new restaurant is not only open for business in Sairee, but doing a roaring trade. I must have missed the memo. Big Blue is about to open up a new retail shop, and a full on, proper hospital is being built- we must have done something right in the eyes of the Thai Government.
A stones throw away, an airport is currently being built on Koh Phangan... hurrah! When completed sometime in 2014, it will make it even easier to get to Koh Tao from Bangkok. Koh Phangan is only a one hour ferry ride away from Koh Tao, so that's good for us long-term residents, but even better news for holiday makers. All we're missing now is a branston pickle factory and a 10-screen cinema!

October 27th 2013

Sairee beach never had it so good!
beach-cleanupYesterday saw another monthly beach and underwater clean up with an even bigger turnout than last month- 15kg of rubbish was cleared from the beach alone! Organised by Big Blue Conservation's own Lizzie (I've just been on holiday diving in the Similan's and all Big Blue staff hate me for it) May, people clearly care a lot about preserving the dive sites that many of them have only just been introduced to. This is great news. Generally people that have been diving for a while love being underwater, and want to do their bit to keep dive sites pristine, no matter where they go on their fun diving holiday. But to have such a great turnout of people that have just completed their open water or advanced courses with us is really encouraging. It makes us here at Big Blue really proud that we've taught a good course and instilled in our customers the importance of marine conservation, to the point where we're confident that customers will take this knowledge away with them and pass it on wherever they go. So pat yourselves on the back people, you've done us, and yourselves proud. Don't let anyone tell you that you're just underwater bin men and women.. you're turtle preservation units and no mistake. If you're interested in finding out how you can help keep the underwater world in good condition, and would like to participate in future clean ups, contact Lizzie May This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Monsoon!
So, it's that time of year again, monsoon season. We haven't really had much of a monsoon on Koh Tao in the last three years, and who knows if we'll have a proper one this year. Regardless, the intructors and divemasters all over the Island are particularly thankful for a shop on the ladyboy road in Sairee (yes, it's really called that), that is selling knock-off, i mean genuine North Face jackets that will keep us all warm and dry over the next 3-4 weeks. Now I feel I need to make one thing clear. If you live in Europe or North America, or anywhere that is used to experiencing normal seasonal weather, and the temperature of the ocean is 16 degrees centigrade in the summer and zero in the winter, then you won't really see what the fuss is about. The Gulf of Thailand will be around 27-28 degrees centigrade, and you'll still feel like you're getting into a tepid bath. It's only people that live here, who have acclimatised that will be shivering at the end of their dive, and it'll be your job to tell them to take that cup of concrete and harden up! Yes, it's going to rain a lot, and it will be windy, so maybe a good idea to have a towel or something for between dives, but you're used to rain and wind back home anyway, and one does tend to get wet when one goes diving! 
Because of the weather we may be limited to the dive sites we can go to, and the visibility won't be as good as it normally is here. But if you really want to learn how to dive, these are actually good conditions to get you used to what diving might be like in the Atlantic ocean off the East coast of the US, the West coast of Canada or anywhere in the UK- minus the currents. Doing your open water or advanced course during monsson will quite simply make you into a very competent good diver. Anyway, if last year is anything to go by, we will have lots of instructors as busy as ever, moaning that they don't have the time to spend the entire month of November spending all their wages in the bar!

October 26th 2013

Serious fun
dmt-specs300x225It's been a busy week for the boys at Big Blue Tech. Ian and James have been teaching our divemaster trainees (DMTs) their SSI deep, wreck, and nitrox specialities, and James is now teaching the TDI advanced wreck course with intern Blake. Great fun to teach, and be taught, the SSI specialities are really useful for recreational divers, and essential for anyone training to beccome a dive professional.. just like our DMTs! Being certified to dive to 40 metres will leave nowhere off-limits to you as a recreational diver. There are't many things more annoying to a fun diver than being told there's a lion fish that lives at 35m on a dive site, but you're unable to go because you are an advanced diver, certified to dive to 30m. The deep speciality provides you with knowledge and experience on diving deeper and staying safe, and goes into more detail on proper ascent practices.
Nitrox is a breathing gas that has a higher percentage of air compared with conventional air in a scuba tank. This also means that you can stay deeper for longer than on normal air, but you need to be trained how to use it safely. The wreck speciality is useful because wrecks are quite simply very cool.. do you need anything more than that!?
The SSI wreck speciality will teach you how to dive safely around a ship wreck and get the most out of any wreck dive. There's nothing like descending down the line and suddenly out of nowhere the HTMS Sattakut appears in front of you, covered in marine life, dying to be photographed!
 
advanced-wreckIf you get the bug for wreck diving, then technical diving may be the next step for you. As hinted in the name of the course, it gives you advanced techniques for navigating around and inside wrecks, and teaches you how do deal with issues you may encounter such as zero visibility, entanglement and entrapment. Pretty serious stuff. You would need to have done some prior technical dive training, but we can provide that for you too!- Intro to tech, advanced nitrox, and decompression procedures. Of all the TDI courses though, advanced wreck is the most fun. Blake, our current intern is really testing himself, but also having a lot of fun along the way. At the end of the course he'll know all the dangers involved with diving wrecks, know how to avoid or minimise them, but crutually, also know how to deal with them. For more information about recreational specialities, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information on technical dive training, including advanced wreck, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

Thailand-eshark-project300x188Shark monitoring project in Thailand
Shark Guardian is asking for help from all Thailand-based dive centres to get their staff and customers involved with a shark surveying roject. From November 2013 until 30th Aptil 2014, they are asking that people undertake the following easy steps:

Step 1: Dive, snorkel and explore the reefs of Thailand
Step 2: Report your shark observations to the eShark database, even if no sharks were observed!
Step 3: If possible, report all your past Thailand dive logs into the eShark database including your shark observations
PLEASE NOTE: No shark sightings is also very important to record!

The information will then be collated and used to raise awareness of declining shark populations in Thailand, to the general public, Thai government and the Department of Marine Coastal Resources (DMCR) of Thailand. Additionally, to help improve protected marine parks with the aim of creating shark sanctuaries. The identification of shark species and areas is also an important step in determining the best method for recovery and protection.
So it would be great if all dive resorts in Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan could get involved and make it easy for their fun divers to record what they do or don't see. For more information have a look at the Thailand eshark project's website here.

 

October 25th 2013

Good internet karma
trip-advisorLiving in the modern world can be a pretty complicated affair and travel is no different- so much choice, with reliable information being hard to come by. Whether you're planning on going away for a holiday or are travelling to multiple destinations with all your worldly goods in your backpack, it's really handy to be able to consult the internet about where to go and what to do. Although there are numerous travel review websites, people seem to consult Trip adviser way more than any other. Trip advisor can give you a really good feel for whether you think you might have a fantastic or terrible time at a restaurant, hotel, or (especially for Koh Tao) a dive resort. Here at Big Blue we are very proud of our reputation on trip adviser and more people that come to dive with us tell us that they did so because they read about us on there. We also get a lot of people coming here through word of mouth. Khao San road in Bangkok is a melting pot of travellers, and large groups of strangers getting together over a few beers seem to pass on their recommendations of having dived with us all the time.
There's also another way of finding out about us before you get here, it's a website called scubatribe and we're getting great reviews on there too. Similar to trip advisor, scubatribe contact customers and invite them to review their experience of a dive resort. It then ranks them in terms of terrible, average, good, or amazing. We're in the amazing section of course!

scubatribeThe reason for our good reputation is quite simple. We hire good people with a strong work ethic that not only care about teaching a safe and thorough diving course, but who also care that you're enjoying your time with us. Too many dive resorts treat you as a commodity and want to get you in and out ready for the next group, or cut corners in ways you wouldn't always be aware of to try and claw back money. We really like diving and want you to like it to, and teaching you properly or making sure you get the best fun diving possible is central to that. Time and time again we get reviews saying how our instructors and divemasters were happy to sit with their students and fun divers after a days diving, simply because they enjoyed teaching them and showing them cool stuff underwater. It clearly counts for a lot.
So once you've been to Big Blue and had a whale of a time, we would be really grateful if you could spend a few minutes writing a review on trip advisor or scuba tribe, or tell anyone and everyone wherever you are about us once you've left, or by going on facebook, liking us, and writing a short review about us in places.. whatever that is. Doing all four would make you a bit of a stalker, but we'd still love you- and we didn't even mention following us on twitter or adding us to google+.... oops.

Having said all that, it's still really nice when we receive old fashioned emails from customers, thanking us for the great time they had. Such as this one from Maggie:

"Hi Wibeke,
I just want to say thanks to you and to the rest of the Big Blue team (especially instructors big Ant and Tim and DMT Molly) for an amazing time in Koh Tao. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcomed me into the Big Blue community, starting with your emails before I had even arrived. The Open Water course itself was well organised and the small class size created an effective learning environment. I loved every second of my stay with you guys and I will DEFINITELY come back to Big Blue soon to dive again.
Cheers!
Maggie"

Thanks Maggie, we're glad you had a great time and hope to see you again soon!

Triggerfish facts
The nemesis of many a diver, triggerfish have a reputation for being a little grumpy on Koh Tao, especially when they are nesting. But their barck is worse than their bit. Many a divemaster trainee has found themselves being "attacked by one" and gotten in a bit of a flutter, when in reality they are just defending their territory and will only headbutt your fins.

1- Unusually, they have the ability to learn from previous experiences.
2- The latin name for the Titan triggerfish is Balistoides viridescens.
3- When mating, they engage in polygyny- males will mate with more than one female, or as many that enters their nesting territory.
4- They eat slow-moving, bottom dwelling crustaceans, mollusks, sea urchins and other echinoderms, generally creatures with protective shells and spines.
5- Spawning is timed around the lunar cycle, with eggs being formed 2-6 days before a full moon, and 3-5 days before a new moon.
6- Titan triggerfish are ciguatoxic, meaning their flesh is contaminated with toxins and should not be eaten!
7- Females will blow water onto their eggs to oxygenate them- bet you can't do that!
8- Females guard their eggs after spawning and males swim above guarding the females! Green rock!
9- They have a field of vision extending up towards the surface.
10- They have a trigger dorsal fin that becomes erect when they feel threatened- hence the name!

 

October 23rd 2013

Shop staff Wednesday!
Yesterday you met the best boat captains in all of Thailand, and now you're obviously wondering "how can you possibly top that?" Well, wonder no more.. today it's the Big Blue shop girls' five minutes of infamy!

Big Blue 1 office- JessThe epicentre of Big Blue operations, this is where the divemasters and shop girls live. Headed up by Vera Duckworth sound-alike and fluent Thai speaker Jess, we also have A1 and A2, Thai staff with names so complicated we had to reduce them to map co-ordinates. Armed With big smiles (and tasers), the girls will help you settle your bill, make sure your room is ready, book your Lomprayah ferry ticket, sell you dry bags and dive accessories, and handle accommodation for online bookings.
Make no mistake, this is Jess's domain; many a time a stray instructor has wandered in off the street, asking how many advanced adventurer students they have when it's clearly written on the board. If they're still undeterred by the divemaster scolding technique (patent pending), Jess will intervene and apply her tried and tested (and fully patented) Bet Lynch thousand-yard stare, which is enough to make them run straight into the sea. Jess loves technology, and you'll never see her far from her pink ipad, updating her website about cats in bomber jackets. She once appeared on mastermind, with her specialist subject being "Frocks of Hilda Ogden" (big coronation street fan this one). She got through to the second round but was disqualified for drinking on set and offering Magnus Magnusson outside for an arm wrestle- which she won.
A1's main responsibilities include hiding her dog underneath the counter, and beating A2 at farmville. A2's main responsibilities include hiding behind the rash vests in the corner, completely undeterred by her legs being visible, beating A1 at farmville, and shouting "divemaster!!!" at 600 decibells whenever the phone rings.

Big Blue 2- GuunAltogether a more civilised area to call your workplace, we have lots of accommodation here for our diving guests, and it's where you will be taught open water academics and go into the pool to learn all the skills you need to know to be able to dive safely. The reception is manned by two lovely Thai ladies without map co-ordinates for names; Guun and Nam. They will check you in and ensure your room is ready for you, let you pay for your course in cash, and generally help out as much as they can. Their English is very good, well, better than Jess's, and they must have the patience of a saint to have to deal with all those instructors cluttering up the place.  
As far as we know, Guun and Nam have yet to discover farmville, so please don't mention it to them when you check in. They do however have an obsession with Thai soap operas on youtube. If you've never seen one they will change your life in ways you can't currently comprehend. To the point where you'll think sorcery is an everyday part of Thai life, in between domestic neighbourly disputes over garden furniture and teenage children.

So when you come here, say hi to the shop girls and give them a big smile. They do all the work and the instructors take all the credit!

Exciting dive school opportunity
A new, high end dive school is looking for a number of enthusiastic, motivated, and experienced PADI IDC Staff Instructors, MSDT’s, Specialty Instructors, and Dive Masters to form a new team for a PADI 5 star Dive Center located on a luxury resort in Shark Bay, which will be opening in December of this year. This is an ideal opportunity for long-term and short-term positions at a high-end facility to help further your dive career!
The ability to speak in English plus German, Spanish, French, or Chinese would be an asset. Experience of working with affluent customers, and having 100 certifications or 500+ dives required. Must have experience with dive sites around Koh Tao, full set own equipment, proof of valid dive insurance, and basic knowledge of iPad technology. Great incentives for both full and part time positions being offered- please send your complete CV including, photograph, and cover letter detailing additional professional/background experience and education to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

October 22nd 2013

Big Blue behind the scenes
Here's a few of the Big Blue staff that work behind the scenes to ensure you have a fantastic time whilst you're with us. You may not even see some of them during your stay here, but without them things would very quickly grind to a halt. So let’s start with some of our boat captains.

big-blue-boatsP'Dum, Captain of Big Blue- The smallest vessel in our fleet captained by the biggest man.. figure that one out. P'Dum (pronouned Dam) has been piloting vessels for Big Blue since he was 17 years old, and we think he may be somewhere between 35 and 85 years old now.. very hard to tell. In that time, he's probably only said about 12 words to anyone other than other captains over the radio and the tech boys, who are believed to have incriminating files on him locked away in a safe somewhere. P'Dum is a keen diver and will go off as often as he can, sporting his stylish skin-tight rash guard to marvel in the underwater world and get a bit of exercise to keep the back fat away. He's also the captain with the least comfy chair- lets call it a plank of wood because that's what it is! He'll sit cross-legged quite happy, whether it's all day on an exploration trip to Ang Thong marine park or just a short trip over to the HTMS Sattakut with the freedivers.

P'Choy, Captain of Waverunner- Very little is known about this man apart from the fact that he looks like a pirate. But as far as we can tell he's never been to Somalia so big sighs of relief all round! Sporting his bandana and "I love Thailand" singlet, he'll chat to you all day long. Unfortunately for you it will only be in Thai! He probably has the most challenging job out of all our captains as Waverunner is not what you would call a small boat. It takes some skill to moor it up on a dive site without any wing mirrors. Personally I think he speaks perfect English but just enjoys baffling people as a hobby!

P'Piak, Captain of Banzai- You can't miss this one. Though he isn't, nor never has been a pirate, he does only have one leg. Like P'Dum he also likes to go diving, but in his own unique way. With a tank under his arm and one fin on, you'll probably get quite a shock if you see him underwater. He only tends to go when there's a whaleshark about nowadays. For the rest of the time you'll find him at the back of the boat, gently encouraging you to take your fins off and get up the ladder. Sometimes smiley, sometimes grumpy, definitely a unique character.
captain-nittipongNittiPong, Captain of Ao Muang- As soon as you climb aboard Ao Muang, you'll recognise him instantly as, apart from being the person driving the thing, he'll be the smiliest person on board. He's only 26 years old, which shows how smart he is to become a captain at such a young age. In Thai society, boat captains are very well respected, in which case you'd expected there to be a few heirs and graces when in their company. Not Nittpong though, he's a dude, chatty, friendly, helpful and very capable. I think we struck gold with that one. If you get the chance, ask him how he came to spend a few days in the UK. I'll leave it at that! We've been trying to pursuade him to let one of our instructors teach him how to dive, but considering he spends most of his time on the water, he has absolutely no interest in going beneath it! The only captain that might let you sit in his cabin and move the steering wheel as if you know what you're doing, he's quite simply a legend- except for this taste in music. If you've ever seen or heard Thai Kareoke you'll know exactly what I mean by that. If you have knowledge of how to disable stero systems on boats, please contact us urgently!

Captain of Porponawa- I think he used to be a spy as no-one seems to know his real name! A fun captain for the fun diver boat. This man single handedly brought stay-press action slacks back into fashion, and is far too relaxed to be driving the fastest dive boat probably the world has ever seen. He navigates the Gulf of Thailand far and wide, as Porponawa is the only boat on Koh Tao that is fast enough to allow us to run full day trips to Chumphon Marine park. Be warned though, if you need to borrow a cigarette lighter, don't ask him- he'll happily give you one then laugh his head off as you get a mild electric shock.. charming!

Quick tips on how to get the most out of your time on Koh Tao
1- When travelling down from Bangkok or anywhere else, relax! Trains and buses are often late and there's nothing you can do about it. Blowing your top contradicts the very reason you went on holiday in the first place!
2- English is widely spoken on Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, and the travel companies will make things easy for you, so don't panic that you haven't become fluent in Thai in the last few days before your holiday!
3- Travel light. Do you really need the hair dryer, curling tongs and 8 pairs of tights for a tropical country, especially as you are a man!?
4- In busy season it's highly recommended that you book ahead, but in low season you'll have no problems finding accommodation here.
5- Eat the local food! Why did you come to Thailand to eat McDonalds? Koh Tao has incredible local food everywhere, and don't be afraid to try the street food, it's amazing.
6- Ice is made in factories from filtered water, but don't drink tap water.. ever.
7- Banana pancakes and vodka redbull buckets are not really part of a balanced diet. The latter also really does not go well with diving.
8- Laughing gas baloons are actually illegal here, and even if that doesn't stop you, it's a really really really bad idea to do it after diving.
9- Be respectful of Thai culture. You're a visitor remember, so please take off your shoes in shops, and cover up when asked to. Speedos are not considered acceptable in Europe, so why Asia!?
10- Don't bother renting a motorbike. Even taking pictures of it before renting is no guarantee that they won't try and charge you silly money for damage you didn't do, and there's nothing like a good bike crash to completely ruin your holiday. Everything is walkable, and if you do want to explore other parts of the Island, take a taxi or hire a kayak.
11- Go diving! Why else are you here!? Learning to dive is amazingly satisfying and fun. If you don't have the time, do a try-dive. If you're already qualified, you can see the best dive sites we have such as Chumphon pinnacle and sail rock.

October 21st 2013

Great diving deals for British forces personell and dependents
british-army-300x169Here's an amazing deal for you, If you are currently in the British armed forces, have previously served, or you are a dependent of someone currently serving, then Big Blue are offering a 10% discount on our courses and fun diving! Even better than that, if you are arranging a group trip for military personell and their families to come diving with us, send us an email with your requirements and we'll offer an even greater discount to the person organising it.
Maybe you are about to leave the armed forces and get back into civvy street, but haven't yet decided on what you want to do once you've left. We can help you to start a new career as a dive professional. We offer PADI, SSI and BSAC divemaster courses, and can train you all the way to become a SSI and BSAC diving instructor. We can offer discounts on this too! One of our instructors recently left the RAF after years of service, and is now happily working as a dive instructor. That could be you, waking up to sea views, having a 5 minute commute to work, and having tropical coral reefs as your new office. Lets face it, after years of having your meals cooked and washing done, why change the habit of a lifetime? On Koh Tao it's no different, just without being shouted at! You eat out all the time as it's so cheap, and laundry costs 40 Thai Baht per kilo! You won't need to polish your shoes either, as no one here would notice your shiny flip flops. For more information on any of the above, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dive site Mooring line installations
buoy-linesOver the last few weeks a number of dive sites on Koh Tao have had new mooring lines installed. Organised by the Save Koh Tao Marine Branch in conjunction with the Thai Government, these lines are attached to concrete blocks on adjacent sand instead of being tied directly to rocks on the dive site. This has a number of benefits for preserving these beautiful diving spots; When boats are tied up and under strain from currents, they won't impact on any marine life that has attached itself to rocks where the rope is tied through abrasive moevement of the rope. Additionally, divers that descend from the surface down towards the dive site will not be able to accidentally kick any anemone or coral when they get to the bottom. This has previously been an issue when people undertake try dives or on dives one and two of their open water course, where they are still getting to grips with buoyancy control.
Sites were the concrete blocks are been deployed so far include Twins, Buyoancy world, No Name, Ao Leuk, and the wreck (HTMS Sattakut). Although there has been initial confusion from divers descending down some of these lines as to where the dive site is, they are just teething problems. It's great news for Koh Tao and will really help tp keep these pristine dive sites in healthy condition, so that divers can experience the incredible marine life that the Gulf of Thailand has to offer, now and in the future.

 

 

October 19th 2013

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.

October 18th 2013

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.

October 17th 2013

 


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!

 

October 15th 2013

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!

 

October 14th 2013

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.

October 13th 2013

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.

October 11th 2013


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.

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October 10th 2013

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.

 

October 9th 2013

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!

October 8th 2013

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.

 

October 7th 2013

Staff Profiles

What better time is there to introduce you to the best dive instructors, divemasters and land-based staff the dive industry has to offer than now I hear you ask, there isn't, obviously! So over the next few weeks i'll be humiliating, I mean highlighting our best asset; the people that work here. Maybe one, two or three per day, on top of any other news that pops up- I just love making work for myself, but get used to it, it's happening- I was talking directly to my colleagues there.

Alphabetically from the top, meet Ami Bignell, (pictured in the red t-shirt), she's from Bristol, or Brissle as they like to say. SSI instructor, consummate professional during work hours, Judo killer on high alert at all other times, she used to compete at a high level in her youth apparently- mention Austin Powers "Judo chop" and she'll hate you forever, mention Tai Otoshi- a deadly leg sweep and she'll love you forever, but be prepared to be bored to death by endless tales of how she "could have been a contender" as an expert in the "gentle way"- just make sure you yawn with your mouth closed, it'll make your nostrils flair, but no-one will ever admit to staring at another person's nostrils. Trained as a divemaster and instructor at Big Blue, Ami got all uppity and worked briefly for a different dive school. Luckily for us we realised that was a bad move and bribed, blackmailed, or threatened her to come back and work for us (depending on which version you hear). Wise decision, she's cool as a cucumber underwater, knows her stuff and is not afraid to use it to produce competent divers every time. Just don't ever mention why there are never any cats or dogs around whenever she talks, she has the highest pitch voice ever known by science, estimated to be 200 octaves above middle C. So much so that she moonlights for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), in order to be able to communicate with any space dolphins that may be roaming the solar system, should they decide to attempt to make contact.

Ami

Ant Edgely, 44 (pictured holding scissors), did his SSI divemaster at Big Blue with Ami, his instructor course at Big Blue with Ami, and the Judas that he is, defected to another dive school with Ami, before being equally bribed into coming back to work for us full time- with Ami. He now admits that he never really understood or learned from his previous restraining orders... Regardless, we know a good thing when we see it- that may have seemed like an endorsement of stalking, it wasn't really, if you follow.. In a previous life, Ant was the scourge of all carpenters, electricians and plumbers, as he was an architect, designing beautiful buildings that were impossible to build outside of legoland. He's one of the few dive professionals that really enjoyed what he was doing before he decided to become a dive instructor, and has never been able to justify to anyone what the hell he's doing here on Koh Tao! Regardless, he quickly became a top class SSI instructor, in spite of having the unenviable task of being nicknamed "Mini Ant", even though he's not particularly small. He's occasionally also called plimsoll for top secret reasons, and Ant 2- just because we already have an Ant 1. Well liked by anyone he teaches, his laid back approach to teaching is the perfect demeanour for students to feel at ease whilst they get to grips with diving. He's been recently recruited to re-design the interior of Big Blue's latest naval acquisition- Waverunner. I can't wait until it returns from it's refurbishment with massage chairs, Playstation 3s in each seat, and a hot tub. We had to save space by having no compressors, but that's a small price (for Ant) to pay!

Ant2

“Best experience ever”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 3 October 2013- Just finished my advanced open water at big blue, easily in the top ten life experiences! The people are awesome, the diving is fantastic, basically never wanted to leave! Donny our instructer is the man. Heading back next year for DMT training. Can't wait!

Koh Tao dive sites: White Rock
So named because many moons ago an Italian diver discovered three dive sites around Koh Tao and named them after the Italian flag, White Rock is a stunner of a dive site. Close to the Island of Nuang Yuan and Sairee Beach off the West coast of Koh Tao, it's larger than its sometimes given credit for, or smaller, depending on how far away from it you are, and whether you have any kind of underwater spatial awareness. It contains a stunnning diversity of marine life, and that's stunnning with 3 Ns. Split into two main pinnacles running North to South and separated by a patch of sand full of goby fish and prawns, it's a very popular site for open water dives 3 and 4, advanced courses, and fun diving. It ranges from 6 metres in the middle of the North, to just over 20 metres on the far South. You will see on any dive the usual suspects of butterfly fish, longfin bannerfish, rabbit fish, triggerfish and squirrelfish. But it's also home to a number of scribbled filefish, nudibranchs, porcupine fish, and chevron and yellowtail barracuda, along living in and amongst a wide variety of different corals.

white rock map

It’s the dive site of choice for night dives as it seems to be a school canteen for great barracuda, and diver’s torch lights appear to fulfil the role of dinner lady. I've briefed my SSI advanced adventurer and PADI advanced open water students about how they should keep an eye out for great barracuda as I hadn't seen them for a few dives preceding, only to look down and see one about half a metre below me matching my every turn like some kind of surrogate remora, or mini Ant in his pre-restraining order days- they're very intelligent and use diver's torch light to help them hunt, but they won't share their catch with you. You'll also see lots of blue spotted ribbon tail rays and blue spotted stingrays out on the hunt at night, which are always mesmerising. There's always a chance of seeing a turtle in the daytime on the Southern pinnacle or, somewhere on the NE portion of the Northern pinnacle. But at night there is a turtle that likes to sleep in a small cavern on the Northern Pinnacle, just be very careful not to shine your torch into its eyes so you don't wake it up and force it to head to the surface for air- what are you, some kind of heartless monster? Remember to wave your hand around like a maniac with your torch on your chest too, the bioluminescent plankton is amazing. But also be mindful that it only works at night, no-one is impressed by air traffic control signals in the middle of a dive.

Big Blue goes to White Rock regularly, and each divemaster has their own particular way of finding resident marine life. You can pop into the shop at Big Blue 1 or Big Blue 2 reception to sign up for fun dives, no later than 11am for the afternoon boat, and no later than 5:30pm the night before any morning boat.

October 6th 2013

Marine Conservation course- 8th October

Whether you're just beginning your new hobby as a scuba diver, or you've been fun diving for a long time, how do you fancy learning more about the underwater realm that you love exploring? Big Blue Conservation is about to begin another BSAC marine conservation course on the 8th October. This amazing 3 day course educates divers in marine biology and ecology, and provides an excellent background to the dangers currently facing coral reefs, such as the effects of overfishing, shark finning, climate change and bad diving techniques. You'll understand how individual processes such as ocean chemistry and plate tectonics interact to shape the oceans and enable life to thrive. You'll gain practical experience on how to improve your buoyancy and air consumption (read Big Blue Instructor training's blog from yesterday to read why this is important), and learn practical conservation skills so that you can contribute to reef conservation projects. The course only costs 7,000 Thai Baht (4,000 for divemaster trainees). Sign up in the Big Blue shop, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at Big Blue Conservation to secure your place.

BSAC marine conservation

“Made my holiday!”

4 of 5 stars Reviewed 29 September 2013- After doing ALOT of shopping around I went with big blue dive school. First day instructor G made us all feel very welcome and excited! First day of course I meet my instructor Thelma. She instantly made us all feel relaxed. To sum it all up these 3 days were just amazing. The element of fun these guys bring into the dives and the amount of passion they have for the sport shines through so bright. Thelma even took time to have dinner and beers with us a couple of times after dives which as a traveler on my own was so lovely. So thanks Big Blue and thanks so much Thelma for MAKING my holiday x

Koh Tao dive sites: Twins

Partially inspired by reading other dive resort's woeful descriptions of Koh Tao's amazing dive sites, Big Blue's middle name is "If we can't do it better than anyone else, why bother even trying".. absolute nightmare introducing yourself at dinner parties.. So lets have a go at describing all the dive sites that we regularly visit that go a little beyond an ordnance survey audiobook. Twins quite simply has everything. It's perfect for any kind of diving, shallow and tame enough for try dives and open water dives one and two, but also interesting enough to keep even the most attentive and obsessive fun diver very happy.

The geology of the dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand can be summed up in one word; granite. For any non-geologists that's a felsic igneous rock comprised of quartz, mica and feldspar. I apologise for the last sentence, it's been 11 years since my last geological confession. Bizarrley if you google "granite coral reef" you get a lot of hits on kitchen worktops. Ok, back to Twins... the dive site runs from East to West, with the shallow pinnacle nearest the beach at Nang Yuang Island ranging from 6 metres to around 11 metres in depth. A lovely but small slab of.. yes, granite, seperates the shallow and middle pinnacles at about 12 metres, and is worth mentioning as there may be the occassional scorpion fish residing on it. Heading westward 20 odd metres from the shallow pinnacle, the middle pinnacle is the largest part of the dive site, and ranges from 8 to 13-ish metres depending on whether you're diving around the edge of the westward side, or hovering above the middle bit. Just off this pinnacle to the Southeast is the nemo circle. Basically it's an area where anenome fish live, not surprisingly on some anemome, and divers have been kind enough to put a load of stones in a circle around it to ward off evil divers. Always worth a quick look, but also the closest you'll probably come to anthropomorphising a fish just because you've seen finding nemo.

A small pinnacle on the far West 10-15 metres further is the third pinnacle, known as the "deep" pinnacle; it sits at around 14-16 metres... Head West beyond this point and you are heading out into the blue, and a long swim back to the boat. You can find all sorts of marine life over the entire dive site, from the typical butterfly and banner fish, to the less common crocodile fish. There does seem to be a lot more batfish here than on most other dive sites, which is never a bad thing. You may be lucky enough to see puffer fish, moray eels, blue-spotted stingrays, 6 banded angel fish, pipe fish, scribbled filefish, nudibranchs, sea snakes, the odd turtle, and even the occassional whaleshark passing through.

One thing I love about twins is that just 20 metres to the north of it, lots of weird and wonderful items have been sunk with the intention of either aiding divers buoyancy, or providing artificial reefs for marine life to grow on. It's probably going to blow your mind to learn that this is known as buoyancy world. We have a concrete lizard, octopus and shark, a weird gallion ship like structure, and a forest-like area of poles for coral to grow onto, all sunk in 2010 as a Save Koh Tai project. Ask instructor Richard Todd about the concrete shark, he had an open water student burst into tears before a dive as they could see the shark from the surface because the visibility was so good. I think his name was butch and he was a shipyard welder from Glasgow, but that's another story. Buoyancy world is also perfect for teaching open water courses and advanced courses as there's no coral to accidentally bang into, it's all just sand. Of all the dive sites on Koh Tao I think it's fair to say that most Big Blue instructors and divemasters rate twins as being one of their favourites. I could go on but i'm pooped after all that, must be the virtual silent bubbles. One final but important point though- the Sergeant Major fish on the picture below are not to scale...

maps

Picture courtesy of Koh Tao Dive guide

October 5th 2013

The boss is back... eeek!
Big Blue staff are running around like maniacs today trying to get the place back into some semblence of order after trashing the joint whilst the boss Jim was away. He's been gone for a month visiting family in Europe, wherever that is. So, like teenagers that decide to have a house party when the parents are away, it's time to cover up the cigarette burns on the carpet, erase the moustaches drawn on the expensive paintings, and buy some new goldfish for the tank as the previous ones weren't fed and had to be flushed down the loo, i mean placed in the bin so the toilet doesn't block. At this rate, the place will be spick and span before the Sun sets and he'll suspect nothing, unless he reads this blog of course, but i'll just say we've been hacked by the NSA as part of their covert anti-scuba campaign (think they spelt Cuba wrong and just went with it). Time on Koh Tao does seem to move at a different pace compared with the normal world though, and it's actually quite difficult to think of what has actually happened in the last month! One of the Big Blue taxi boats has had a makeover and returned to service looking mighty fine, Flavia has become an SSI freediving instructor trainer, we've had a new influx of really enthusiastic and friendly divemaster trainees, we had another 100% pass rate for September's SSI instructor training course, Big Blue Tech is still supplying the rest of the Island with Nitrox and turning recreational divers into technical divers, Tosh has abandoned us, Steven just gets weirder, Rick's broken knee has gotten slightly better and his limp has gone from "leg definitely not working" to "leg almost working- when can I stop teaching EFRs". Emergency First Response courses have gone from strength to strength, ahem.  The new website is looking good, we're now on G+ and twitter, and Big Blue facebook is being more "liked" than ever. I think Jim can rest easy, good choice leaving Big Blue in Guy's capable hands (and HAL-like brain). We're still the most fun, friendly, professional dive resort in the Gulf of Thailand, and no goldfish were harmed during the making of this blog. Welcome back Jim!

Big Blue diving warning sign

“Thoroughly recommended”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 3 October 2013- I came to Koh Tao to see what all the fuss was about, and to do my open water diving course with Big Blue. I Ioved it so much that I stayed on four more days to do the Advanced course and then some more fun dives! The island is gorgeous, and the atmosphere at Big Blue is very welcoming and friendly. Dave was a great instructor and teacher. He made us feel very safe underwater and gave us confidence. Our group of 4 had not dived before and some were very nervous, but once we were out in the ocean we were absolutely fine. There is a lot of emphasis on teaching safety and the proper way to dive, so I now feel confident diving anywhere else. We got free accomodation on dive days, and the restaurant was very good. Sairee also has some great restaurants for alternative dinners. I also did a day-dive, when we went out on the boat for the whole day to a far-flung dive site closer to Koh Phagnan, and all food and drink was provided. Our instructors (Dave and Steve) made sure we made the most of this experience and showed us a lot of the interesting underwater creatures that I would have missed otherwise.

Underwater robots to repair coral reefs
Are there no limits to the amazing-ness of technology and it's ability to get us out of the jams we get ourselves into as a species? Boffins at Heriot-Watt University in the fair city of Edinburgh, Scotland are currently developing a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that is designed to work together in small groups (akin to ants apparently), to repair damaged coral! Known as "coralbots", these ingenious devices will be able to go much deeper than even the most crazy technical diver, beyond 200 metres, to repair coral in a matter of days and weeks instead of years. Currently, if coral is damaged, divers can sometimes re-cement the fragments together, which helps them to grow again, but it is a painfully slow and ineficient process. A quarter of all marine life inhabit corals, so it's pretty damn important to try and look after them! If they get the required funding, the scientists are hoping to put them into service within a year. Maybe we can get one for Koh Tao, then we can send our fun divers out to look for the famous "robot fish"! 

October 4th 2013

Big Blue Freediving becomes an SSI Instructor Training Facility

Congratulations to Big Blue Freediving's very own Flavia Eberhard on becoming an SSI freediving instructor trainer! Travelling all the way to the Phillipines to undertake the gruelling seven day course (she swam there underwater on one breath apparently), she passed with flying colours and is now able to teach freediving at all levels, from beginner to instructor. That's pretty amazing considering that Big Blue Freediving only opened for business this year! Flavia and Pepe have worked tirelessly to get it off the ground and it's worked-  a lot! People are coming from all over the world to train with them; they are highly respected within the freediving world, both holding records from their respective countries. They're also both involved in the judging side of AIDA freediving world record attempts, with their services being regularly called upon. I probably don't need to tell you that Flavia is the one pictured on the right, proudly displaying her new card; the modelling world's loss is definitely our gain. We did consider naming Big Blue Freediving "The Flavia Eberhard centre for kids that can't hold their breath good", but you know what those brand alignment people are like. Maybe it'll work now- "The Flavia Eberhard centre for people that want to teach people who can't hold their breath good to now hold their breath good"? If you've never seen the film Zoolander then I apologise for the last sentence being absolute gibberish! If you have, then you'll know how dazzlingly funny I am. If you're interested in trying free diving, gaining a freediving qualification, or even or becoming an SSI Freediving professional, contact Flavia and Pepe here.

Big blue freediving instructor trainer
“Highlight of my trip”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 2 October 2013- By far the highlight of my month long trip to Thailand was doing the Open Water diving course in Koh Tao with Big Blue. Diving itself is an incredible experience, and Koh Tao provides the perfect location for people to learn to dive. The water is so warm, there is no need to wear a wetsuit, and the water is crystal clear. Also, when not diving, Koh Tao itself is a beautiful island, with amazing beaches, perfect for relaxing when not diving, and enjoying a beer in the evening. I am very glad I chose to do the course with Big Blue as they are a very professional outfit with excellent instructors and equipment. Diving can be a dangerous hobby if not practised safely and sensibly, and therefore it is very important to go with a school like Big Blue. They also provided heavily discounted, clean, comfortable accommodation. I would also like to particular emphasise how great my instructor, Sophia Reuser was, and if you were to consider a diving course in Koh Tao, to definitely request her! She is really friendly and an excellent teacher. If I had the time, I would have come back straight away to do my Advanced diving course, like my 2 friends did after I had left Thailand.As soon as I have the opportunity, I am coming straight back!

Health of world's oceans in rapid decline

Pretty depressing reading, a report published by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), concludes that the world's oceans are in an even worse state than previously thought, due to a multitude of threats. They are being warmed by climate change, suffering from overfishing on a momumental scale, and increasing in acidity as they absorb greater quantities of CO2 produced by man-made emissions. The report also states that the number of so-called "dead zones", caused by fertiliser run-off are also increasing. The report continues: "We have been taking the ocean for granted. It has been shielding us from the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess CO2 from the atmosphere", and that "public and policymakers are failing to recognise- or choosing to ignore- the severity of the situation". Just read that last sentence again.. it's astonishing that things have gone this far. For divers on Koh Tao and any Island in the Gulf of Thailand, this is going to have huge ramifications if something is not done soon. Coral reefs will suffer from higher ocean temperatures and the effects of acidification, which will have a knock-on effect on the eco systems that depend on the reef. In many areas over fishing and bad fishing practices, along with pollution also weakens reefs. There's not much point in going diving if there's nothing to see! Save Koh Tao, the Thai Government and Big Blue Conservation all work together with local fishermen to ensure that the oceans are not overfished and the dive sites are left alone, as well as educating divers and locals about climate change and its impact on the ocean. But we seriously need international action before it's too late. If this frustrates you as much as us, get involved; follow Big Blue Diving  and Big BlueConservation on facebook to find out what we're up to and see how you can help.

October 3rd 2013

DMT pub crawl
People will talk about last night for years to come.. ok days to come... The inaugural Big Blue divemaster trainee (DMT) pub crawl was fully expected to be a night of absolute alcohol induced carnage, and yet, until very late on it was actually a pretty civilised and hilarious affair with some very clever games that worked perfectly in breaking the ice with all the new DMTs, so that they got to know each other and the instructors and divemasters at Big Blue. Of course by the time they reached the last bar the DMTs had to be released back into the wild, as herding cats can be very time consuming! The evening began at Big Blue two, where almost immediately SSI instructor mini Ant managed to lose his keys through the slats of the decking not once, but twice in as many minutes! After the Rules of the night were read out, such as whoever's name was drawn out of a hat had to stand on a stool and sing a song chosen by a Big Blue mentor, or whoever was shown a particular playing card had to then spend the next ten minutes conversing only in mime, the evening commenced. Great fun. Everyone had a jolly marvellous time walking their merry way along Sairee beach until the last bar was reached (or not!). In the grey, corporate, office block world they call it a "team building exercise", but we just call it a good excuse to get to know the people we will be moulding into dive professionals.. Such a burden I know but it's a price we're willing to pay to forge the next generation of instructors and divemasters!

“Magic! ”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 October 2013- My boyfriend and I travelled to koh tao last month. I had been previously and done a try dive at a different resort and I was not looking forward to diving again. We turned up at big blue on a recomendation from our friends and it was excellent from the start. We were met by Steve, a big lovely northern bear of a man. Immediately we both felt in safe hands. We booked in to do our SSI open water course. The accomodation was basic, but it was clean and everything worked, it was quiet and just right for our needs. Steve was our instructor for the next few days, he was patient, attentive, thorough and a very good teacher. After the skills session in the pool our first reef dive was challenging but wonderful. At every sticking point steve was there with reassurance. By the final day we both got the diving bug and not only that we were lucky enough to swim with a whale shark! Big thanks to steve who really made our stay at big blue.

Save Mauis dolphins

Save Maui's Dolphins
Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation is getting people to sign a petition to highlight the issue of dolphins being caught in fishing nets. Maui dolphins are at the point of extinction, with only 50 thought to be left from a population of 1,800 forty years ago. They are the smallest and rarest marine dolphin species on earth, and are dying as a result of local fishing practices off New Zealand's coast. Fishing using gill nets and trawling are having a devastating effect on them. It's thought that they are only able to cope with one fatality as a result of human activity every 23 years, but the fishing is killing five of them every year. In the Gulf of Thailand we are lucky enough to get pilot whales and false killer whales, but they are not under the same threat as Maui dolphins. Please get the word out and sign the petition. Follow this link.

 

 

October 2nd 2013

Divemaster Whaleshark Training
It was a busy day yesterday for the new influx of divemaster trainees at Big Blue, up before the Sun for the morning boat so they could learn how the boats are readied logistically for the days diving, assisting customers with equipment, and helping to lug any tanks that were needed- and that's before they even got wet. The morning's training involved SSI instructor trainer and divemaster trainee (DMT) mentor Simon Garrity (Simo as we like to call him), going through a variety of rescue scenarios and then assessing the DMTs on what they learned. They are training to be dive professionals, so being able to deal with anything and everything is an essential part of the programme. A lot of people have started their DMT at the same time, so this week has been similar to freshers week, except that instead of sitting in a dingy pub with sticky floors, they spent most of their time on a dive boat in the Sun with the tropical Island of Koh Tao as their backdrop! The rescue assessments were all finished when word came over the captain's radio that a whaleshark was in the vicinity, at nearby divesite Green Rock, so everyone frantically got in their dive gear and jumped in the water for their first big spotted fish encounter- lucky buggers! It certainly gave them something to talk about in the bar later, as if they needed it! Lovely bunch of people that get on well with each other, they are embarking on an unforgettable experience at Big Blue. All part and parcel of becoming a professional divemaster or instructor. If you're reading this with a twinge of jealousy, maybe you should have a word with Simo. I promise the whaleshark is not animatronic! Contact Simo at SSI dive pro here

 DMTs

“Open Water Diving Course at Big Blue - the best experience throughout my trip”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 October 2013- I did the Open Water Diving Course at Big Blue Koh Tao. I was on my own and a bit nervous - it turned out to be the best experience throughout my trip. My Instructor Ant was very professional and did and amazing job. With his lovely sense of humor and smiling face he made me relax and feel very safe about the diving; breathing and do skills under water. They delivered great equipment and the diving sites were absolutely beautiful. I will definitely recommend Big Blue Diving!

Putting the warrior back into Eco

Bad news and good news- A recent full day trip to Chumphon Marine Park found fish cages; that's the bad news. This method of fishing captures not only the target fish species, but also bycatch including fish that are unsuitable to eat or sell. Use of fish cages is now prohibited in the protected areas of Koh Tao, and they are definitely prohibited in the waters in and around National Marine Parks such as Chumphon and Ang Thong! The good news is the divers that found the fish cage (full of rabbit fish) happened to be from Big Blue Conservation, and, being responsible divers they all carried a cutting device. So they set to work transforming the cage from a tomb to a sanctuary. Now the fish can use it for protection against predators, and leave whenever they feel like it! The incident was filmed and turned into a lovely little video. Watch it on the Big Blue Diving youtube channel here. 

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