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Big Blue Diving Resort - Koh Tao - Thailand

January 30th 2014

More wrecks!
Trident-sinkingContinuing the theme of wrecks in and around Koh Tao, today it’s the MV Trident. The Trident is a dive boat that was sunk on purpose to act as an artificial reef. When in service, she (that’s how you refer to ships, they’re all female) was operated by Tech Thailand as a technical diving liveaboard. She was used to search for wrecks all over the Gulf of Thailand, and was able to find 30 lost ships before the owners decided to sink her. These include a variety of World War two ships and submarines, including the USS Lagarto, and more modern day cargo ships- even a drilling ship. Once the decision was made to decommission and sink her in November 2010, she had all her insides removed- engines, transmission, electrical wiring, furniture, fluffy dice, and even the soda stream. This was to make her environmentally friendly so she didn’t leak any oil or diesel into the ocean, and to make technical wreck penetrations a little less deadly. So there she sits today, her 29 metre steel hull rusting away on the sea bed at 36 metres- pretty deep for recreational divers but still open to experienced fun divers that have their deep speciality certification. It’s also a great training site for any technical diving courses beyond intro to tech.
She’s located just to the South of Shark Island, which is around a 20 minute ride from Big Blue. The great thing about the location is that Shark Island can sometimes be subjected to strong currents, which means that any local marine life use the Trident as a shelter- great for divers... not really ideal for snorkelers.. If you want to dive the Trident, pop into the office during your stay with us and charm the divemasters into letting you go, they’ll be mad for it. Then tell them you've changed your mind and just want to snorkel it..

Monkey or no monkey?
One of the posher resorts on Koh Tao, Jamikiri, say on their website that they have a monkey sanctuary. I had no idea whatsoever, and was quite excited about the prospect, so I asked around all the people that have been here forever, but no-one else had any idea either. So they’re either telling porkies about monkeys on their website, or its Koh Tao’s best kept secret. The only other monkeys I’ve ever seen on Koh Tao are owned by local Thai guys that go round the resorts and use them to remove coconuts from the trees so they don’t fall on anyone’s heads, killing them outright, and allowing them to join the statistical comparison, whereby more people are killed by coconuts each year than are killed by sharks.. fact. So the monkeys are on a very long dog lead, go up the tree, and commit violence on the coconuts until they fall to the ground. As for monkeys in the wild roaming around the jungle tree-tops, I have no idea, I’ve never seen any. Maybe they all dug a tunnel reinforced with coconuts and escaped to the mainland, and were employed as extras in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 film.

January 27th 2014

Getting wrecked
htms-sattakutAs a comedienne once asked Debbie McGee, “What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” I shall ask you a similarly loaded question; what attracts you to dive in oceans that are abound with beautiful, eerie and historical shipwrecks? Did you say wreck diving? Thought so. Then allow me to tell you all about the more prevalent wrecks that litter the sea bed around Koh Tao. Today it’s the most common one that we dive, the HTMS Sattakut (HTMS- His Majesty's Thai Ship). It’s an ex-US Navy landing craft infantry vessel that was donated to Koh Tao by the Thai Navy in 2011. The Sattakut was involved in a number of battles in World War 2; the battles of Okinawa and Iowa Jima, and the liberation of Peleliu/Palau. After WW2 it was purchased by the Thai Navy, where it lived out its service as a patrol boat before being committed to its current resting place. As well as being its own dedicated dive site, it also happens to be the closet dive site to Big Blue diving, positioned just 10 metres to the North of Hin Pee Wee. It lies on the sea bed with the bow facing North on a sloping sandy bottom. The bottom of the bow is at 27-ish metres, the top of the bow is at 20-ish metres. The stern sits at 31-ish metres on the sea bed, and 27-ish metres at the top. The vessel is 48 metres long (no-ish this time). To visit the Sattakut you’ll need to undertake your advanced course- easily done if you allow yourself another couple of days on Koh Tao after completing your 3-day open water course. If you’re already an advanced fun diver you will be good to go.
The Sattakut is about as safe a wreck as a wreck can be; no fishing is allowed on it, so it’s not littered with fishing nets, all the furniture, the engine, and electrical cables have been removed from the inside, and the current is not usually very strong around it. Having been sitting on the sea bed for almost 3 years, marine life is abundant all over it, and providing the thermocline is not too bad there is lots of stuff to see as you swim around the outside of it. I say outside because even if you have your wreck speciality, wreck penetration is not something recreational divers should be doing. The PADI and SSI wreck specialities are not designed to teach you what you need to know about going inside a wreck. To do that, you need to be a tech diver and undertake the advanced wreck course. I’m not going to drone on about how dangerous wreck penetration is, but it is, so there… So as long as you don’t touch, and don’t even think about penetrating, you can swim around it to your heart’s content, or at least until your NDLs or air require you to ascend. It’s an amazing thing to see this object that we’re so familiar with on the surface, just lying there slowly being swallowed by the ocean, with hobo fish using it as a drop-in shelter. It’s the reason I love diving; I get to see a bit of history, with marine life thrown in for free. It’s also common knowledge that whalesharks are amateur naval historians, and will occasionally drop in for a peek of their own.
If you want to come to Big Blue to dive the Sattakut, look on the rest of the website and make a booking for a course or to fun dive- you won’t be disappointed.

Samosa!
Now this is probably going to sound pretty random, but I know somewhere that sells amazingly tasty samosa on Koh Tao. Granted, it's not your traditional Thai fare, but they are damn good nonetheless. The place is all over Sairee- it's a guy that wanders round with a tray reminiscent of the ice cream seller in cinemas of old. They are home made, when and where, I haven't asked- presumably at his house. Either way, you'll see him in the daytime wandering up and down the beach until the tray is empty. Don't worry though, I know you're all dying to try one now, and instead of chasing around the yellow brick road searching for him, you can easily find him outside the Big Blue office at 12pm on most days. He's always got a smile, and a straw hat- he's a bit of a dude.. probably enjoys bowling and plays jazz music while baking them. They sell for the grand price of 20 baht. If you think that's expensive, you are clearly not worthy to try one.

 

January 25th 2014

Dive “professionals”
instructorIn the last blog I wrote about the funny things that open water students ask or say during their course. It's a goldmine of stories that just keeps on giving. But I also promised to write about all the silly things instructors and divemasters have said or done. Not as easy as you might think. I spoke to a few people at the bar last night, and every story was about someone else. Who’s really going to admit that they’ve come out with something absolutely ridiculous? I myself have never left my dive gear on land when going on the dive boat, totally fluffed a skill I’ve been demonstrating in the pool, or come out with some kind of Freudian slip when teaching academics... Anyway, I did manage to glean some stories from my colleagues, that they have observed or heard other people say or do.
How about the divemaster that was heard telling their customer that if they had ear problems underwater, they should just put their fingers in their ears! I think the person in question may have been joking- I really hope there are no dive professionals reading this and thinking "well what's wrong with that? sounds sensible". What about the instructor that dived with a whaleshark with their students. Back on board the boat, one of them asked why the whaleshark repeatedly swam up to the surface and then descended back down. The instructor replied that it "needed to go to the surface to breathe"....! But my favorite has to be the instructor that was explaining how sound travels differently underwater, by explaining that sound waves enter one ear, travel through the skull, and exit the other ear, which is why you can’t tell where sound is coming from underwater. That’s like explaining that objects underwater appear larger than they actually are because the pressure of the water has shrunk your eyes!
I also know of an instructor that was showing their student how the equipment should be assembled, and then proceeded to put the regulator on first. I guess when you're carrying your tank under your arm, your BC probably looks a bit more stylish.
I had an instructor intern that I was mentoring, and, for once he was being very organised on the boat before dive three of the open water course. As his students stood at the back of the boat, he demonstrated the easiest and safest entry into the water. “So, I’m going to hold my right hand on my regulator and two fingers on my mask, like this. My left hand is touching the buckle of my weight belt. Now, with my toes over the edge, I’m going to look down to ensure I’m clear to jump, then, I’m going to look straight ahead and take a big step forward, like this”. As he came back to the surface, he fully inflated, signalled to the boat that he was ok, and then, as he drifted further and further from the boat, shouted “can someone please throw me my fins”.

Speedos season
It looks like the captain of Banzai was correct a couple of days ago when he said that the weather is going to get better and better from now on. It’s baking hot, the sea is flat as a pancake and the residents of Koh Tao are happy again. We didn’t really have much of a monsoon this time around, but it was cloudy for a couple of months, so it was slightly colder than the usual 30 degrees centigrade we are used to. The Island has been agog with dive instructors and divemasters wearing hoodies and moaning about being cold. No more, it’s just going to get hotter and hotter from hereon in. In April it will be touching 35-40 degrees, and then everyone that lives here will be complaining that it’s too hot. You just can’t win. The downside to it being nice and sunny is that there will be increased sightings of European men wearing speedos, which no-one wants to see, especially the flesh-coloured ones (speedos, not men). But it’s a small price to pay to live here. All we need now is for the Gulf of Thailand to warm up a little, back to 31 degrees.. because, you know, 27 degrees is practically Baltic isn’t it….

January 23rd 2014

Ask a silly question
silly-scuba-questionsAs you can imagine, we get a very broad mix of people coming to Big Blue to either learn how to dive, or go fun diving. They bring with them every sort of personality you can think of, as well as some you can't. We have quiet students that diligently listen and just get stuck into the learning process, people who don't listen to a word you say as you're trying to teach them, and people who ask very sensible questions that actually make some experienced instructors have to think about the answer. On the flip side of that, we're also asked questions that make us wonder how that person managed to ever obtain a passport, make it to the airport and travel to Thailand in the first place.
One student in the pool once described how they really liked the attention to detail we'd made to emulate the conditions of the ocean by installing a "current simulator". After a bit of head scratching, the instructor realised that they meant the filter that sucks water in to clean the pool! One of our ex-instructors, Tosh, was asked by their student why Koh Tao doesn't drift away.. after a pretty confusing conversation, it turns out that they thought that the entire Island of Koh Tao was like a raft that was anchored to the sea bed to keep it in place! That one is going to take some serious beating. One of my recent students was having a bit of trouble understanding dive planning, and whilst we were going through the dive tables she told me she couldn't understand what "residential nitrogen" meant. Either she meant residual, or I need to look at the tables again. I should have replied that residential nitrogen must always be kept seperate from the central business district nitrogen, or there will be noise complaints about the divers once they get back to land.
On the advanced course we talk about increased pressure from diving to 30 metres, and can demonstrate this by taking an empty water bottle down, filling it up with air, and then on the boat hearing it pop as the lid is removed. We also play tricks occassionally and people do fall for them. One is to show students a large bottle of chang beer on the boat, then take a small bottle of chang down to show them at 30 metres, implying that the increased pressure has shrunk the bottle. You'd be amazed how many people fall for this. We also do the same with small and large mars bars, and convince people that the pressure makes the chocolate taste better.. at least that's what it looks like as they nod their heads whilst taking a bite post dive. Maybe people just prefer the taste of salty mars bars.
At the end of the diving day, as people wash their equipment they are asked to fully inflate their BC before handing it in, so it has a chance to dry on the inside as well as outside. We see quite a lot of people pressing the inflator button, staring at us in puzzlement, before asking the inevitable "why is it not working". 
A really common question we are often asked comes as we are about to descend underwater in the pool for the first time... "Do I need to put my regulator in to go down?" But my favourite was a recent student that came up to me at the end of the pool session on the first day of her open water course, and said, completely straight faced, "Have you ever taught anyone as thick as me before?" How could I possible say no to that!? That just made me think she was awesome.
It's all part of the reason that we love our job, we're not really laughing at you, the questions are often very endearing, and you should hear some of the stupid things we say when talking to students, usually first thing in the morning. In fact, i'll have a chat with my colleagues and dedicate the next post to the stupid things instructors and divemasters have said to their customers.

Jan-soon
We've had a mini-relapse of monsoon over the past few days, with very choppy conditions out in the Gulf of Thailand cancelling some of the ferries, and creating some very green looking people. But hurrah, the forecast is set to calm down over the next couple of days. Speaking to the captain of Banzai yesterday, he said that once the weather has died down, that's it... flat seas, hot baking sun and incredible underwater visibility, mostly until the next monsoon! Looking forward to Mr Sun heating Mr Ocean up again so that us pathetic dive professionals can go diving sans wetsuit and instead put on a rash vest and board shorts. We've all acclimatised to the ocean being 27 degrees instead of the usual 31, so we are cold when diving. Our customers that are used to colder conditions anyway will not really think it's cold at all. It seems that the vending machine that supplies cups of concrete has been broken of late.

January 21st 2014

Watch now, buy later
big-blue-videoA friend of mine came to Koh Tao recently to see me, and he came up with an idea that I think is pretty good. In case you don't know, if you come to Big Blue to learn how to dive, we will film you during your final two dives of your open water course. That afternoon, the Big Blue videographer edits the footage and puts it to music. Then the instructor meets their students in the bar that evening and they watch the video together. It's a perfect way to review what the students have achieved, see how beautiful the underwater world is, and celebrate becoming open water divers. The students have the option to buy the video, and many people do so- It's a fantastic way to show their friends and family what they were up to on Koh Tao, and it's good to watch every now and then to remind them of what a great time they had at Big Blue.
Many people are travelling on a budget, and simply can't afford to buy the video, even though it is pretty cheap. So how about 6 months after they've left Koh Tao, we email them to say that they still have a chance to buy the video? Maybe they have settled back to life and they want to be reminded of their time here, or perhaps they've been working hard and managed to get some money behind them so they can now afford it. I think it's a great idea and I think many people would go for it. Who knows, being stuck in the 9-5 and then seeing what they were doing 6 months ago might spur people on to get itchy feet again and see a bit of the world, and that can't be a bad thing! If there's one thing people seem to be crazy about these days, it's having lots of options and choices.
I think it's got legs, but what do you think? If you did your open water course with us, do you think it would have been beneficial to be able to buy the video later, after you'd returned home? Let us know on our facebook page.


"Music" on Koh Tao
There's currently a two day electronic music festival happening on Koh Tao, which is brilliant news if you like partying for two days and nights, and also happen to enjoy listening to electronic music. Not so good if you live next door to it, you're old, and the constant bass reminds you of trying to sleep when working on an oil rig- trust me, it sounds pretty damn similar. Maybe i'm getting old, or maybe I don't want to hear a million car alarms going off next to my house for the next two days, but it seems as Koh Tao gets more and more popular, the nightlife is turning into a mini Koh Panghan. This Island is really missing one thing- a vibrant live music scene. It's the perfect venue to be having loads of bars with live bands playing every night, but for some reason most places along Sairee beach just seem to play the same old crappy house/drum and bass or whatever the hell it is. Big Blue bar is the only place I know that plays normal music of all genres. Ok, perhaps Banyans does too (on the road up to Jitson). There is a serious opportunity for someone who's in the know in the music business to get some bands over here to promote their wares. That's something I know I'd be up for, and so would many people I know. Now, do I put my ear plugs in and get a good night sleep, but miss the morning boat because I don't hear my alarm? My open water video tomorrow night is definitely going to have a zombie feel to it..

January 18th 2014

Batman on a horse
guyThe boss Jim is currently away visiting friends and family back home. So it's a given that anarchy ensued within hours of his departure. Regarding our instructors, Neil has vowed to demonstrate what a showman he can be on the open water videos, and has already bought his leotard. Mini Ant is threatening to get a life-size tattoo of a sea urchin on his face- not because the boss is gone, but because he thinks it'll probably match his eyes. Iain might even go so far as to say a swear word in front of his students, and Ami with an I has already rented a salang, from which she intends to sell laughing gas outside the office as our fun divers come back from their dives. Helium would have made more sense. As for the divemasters, Steven will suspend his usual high standards of customer service, and instead will tell anyone and everyone he meets exactly what he's thinking.. no wait... and Carly will probably start snogging all the divemaster trainees, male and female, all in one drunken night....... again.
But fear not people. Standing in for Jim is divemaster trainee mentor Guy, one of our finest, oldest and weirdest instructors. The other staff may think they will be able to wrap him around their collective fingers, but he has a fiercesome arsenal of nuanced jedi mind tricks he can play to keep everyone in line. Firstly, hailing from Yorkshire allows him to keep his natural miserable-ness on high alert- for 24 entire hours of each and every day (i'm told he sleep-whinges). So trying to get on his good side is technically an oxymoron as he doesn't have sides, or good. Secondly, he has extensive experience in handling unhappy customers from his years of performing in working men's clubs in his home town of Huddesfield. His turn was basically a David Copperfield-style magic act, performed whilst dressed as Jimmy Sommerville with high collars, extensive make-up and a cape. So, short of dazzling him with their ability to make the ocean dissapear/re-appear, he won't be fooled by any customers that appear to be having too good a time. Thirdly, he's definitely the right man for the job.. if that job is to sit on a horse looking like you have saddle sores, whilst wearing a batman t-shirt. I think that requires no further elucidation.
Joking aside, Big Blue is in good hands, we're busy and our staff are working hard, pulling together, and enjoying what they do. Whether you're a fun diver or learning how to dive, you'll get the best experience of diving you can possibly have on Koh Tao. So what are you waiting for? Guy is dying to say hello and introduce you to Steven..

Turtle traps
With high season well under way, here's two things to avoid on Koh Tao. The first is laughing gas. It's actually illegal in Thailand, but for some reason it's recently become big business on Koh Tao. Lots of bars are selling it all along Sairee beach- it seems to be the new poppers. But it's not very good for you after you've been diving. Think about it, nitrous... nitrogen. What is your body trying to get rid of after a dive? Exactly. The medical literature is very well versed on the need to avoid laughing gas or entonox (if you dive in the UK) after a dive. So do one or the other, but not both. There has also been a massive increase in used balloons littering Sairee beach. This is ugly, but more importantly some of it will end up going out to sea. Perfect food for turtles and other marine mammals (they might think they look edible). But they will get stuck in their throats and kill them. All because you wanted a cheap high.
Secondly, lots of people like buying one of those huge lanterns, adorning it with some kind of profound message written in very fetching and romantic permanet marker, and then setting it free to float up in the air. But what comes up must come down. There isn't a lantern cleaner that sits in a boat waiting for these things to fall back to earth so they can be disposed of safely. They land back in the sea and stay there, and over time the paper disintegrates, leaving the wire frame sitting there for turtles to get stuck in. Turtles have been found dead in the past encased in these things. Even if they weren't hazardous to turtles, would you buy a load of paper and wire and throw them in the sea? Of course not, so why is it ok if they stay in the air for a while first? Stop littering the ocean and watch the beautiful sunset instead, then go diving on a beautiful, litter-free dive site.

January 15th 2014

Narcosis part deux
hydroxI wrote about inert gas narcosis a few days ago, giving an overview of how, when we dive below a certain depth, nitrogen can have a narcotic effect on your brain. Recreational divers that stay within the limits of their training and experience have nothing to worry about, at 30 metres narcosis is usually hardly felt by most people, and even at 40 metres you can learn to cope with its effects. But what about deeper diving; technical diving? I've undertaken countless technical dives to 55 metres, which is pretty much the limit of diving on air, and most of the time i've felt fine and in control. But occassionally I have been pretty narced. I've dived at Khao Sok National park in Thailand, diving to 55 metres to see an underwater forest and look for a school that sits at the bottom. I felt fine on each dive, but on reviewing the video footage me and my buddy took during one dive, it seems we spent the entire time singing incomprehensible songs to each other! The whole thing was pretty surreal, especially as the disturbed silt on the tree branches made it look like it was snowing!
Beyond 55 metres, technical divers need to breathe a different gas than air- trimix, which is a combination of nitrogen, oxygen and helium. Helium is added to the mix to reduce the percentage of oxygen and nitrogen that is being inhaled under increased ambient pressures. This lowers the partial pressure of those gases at a given depth compared with air and therefore reduces the effects of narcosis. The deeper you go, the more helium, and conversely less nitrogen and oxygen is required to be able to function. However, at some point helium also begins to have a narcotic effect on your brain, and beyond 150 metres you are susceptible to High Pressure Nervous Syndrome (HPNS). How badly HPNS affects you depends on your rate of compression, i.e. how fast you descend, the percentage of helium you're breathing, and how deep you go. Symptoms of HPNS include tremors, changes in the electrical signals in the brain, and somnolence (drowsiness). The deeper you go, the worse these symptoms will get until they can be life threatening (estimated to be around 360 metres for most people). But the boffins are always looking at ways to go further, and experiments with increasingly exotic breathing gases have allowed humans to go even deeper. Now, bear in mind that the deepest ever scuba dive by a real, living, breathing person in the ocean was 318 metres, and that more people have walked on the moon than dived deeper than 200 metres. Yet humans have sat in hyperbaric chambers and breathed hydreoliox, a mixture of hydrogen, helium and oxygen, and hydrox- hydrogen and oxygen, in order to push the boundaries, and limit the effects of HPNS. At 500 metres, hydreliox has been successfully used to reduce HPNS to a manageable level. But predictably, beyond this depth hydrogen becomes narcotic, and hydrogen narcosis kicks in. The deepest any human has ever dived was to 701 metres in a hyperbaric chamber using hydrox, undertaken by Theo Mavrostomos in 1990, technically making him the deepet human ever. I can only imagine how long it took him to get back to the surface! The next step is obviously to invent working gills in humans!
If you're not interested in breaking the record for the world's deepest scuba dive, but perhaps want to explore a wreck that sits at 70 metres, such as the Prince of Wales of HMS Repulse (both in the South China sea), you'll need to do some technical diving training. Guess what, we can do that at Big Blue. Big Blue tech can provide all the technical diving training you'll need, building up your comfort, introducing you to changing gases underwater and teaching you decompression procedures, so that you can stay down longer and go much deper than with recreational diving. If that sounds of interest to you, send an email to Big Blue Tech's manager, James Foleher here, or pop in to the tech shack to have a chat with the tech boys.

Bit of Korean?
Koh Tao has restaurants to suit all tastes, German, French, Mexican, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Thai (obviously), but what about Korean? There are a couple of places that do Korean-style barbeques. Basically you get a hotplate that sits on top of a big bowl. You'll be given a plate of vegetables and a seperate plate of meat, then you get to retrace your ancestry all the way back to being a caveman as you have to cook your own food using fire! As the meat sizzles away on top, the fat drips down into a broth, which serves to thicken it. The broth boils the vegetables, so you end up with a bowl of delicious broth with veggies in it and a plate of cooked meat. There are surprisingly as many as four places that do this, one is in Jitson opposite Pi-Dangs, one is in Mae Hadd behind the petrol station on the main road (my favourite), one sits on the way to Chalock (called Golden 99), and one somewhere else that I have no idea where it is. It makes a nice change from the other types of food on offer around Koh Tao. How authentic it is is a little ambigueous, but I find myself sometimes eating there 3 times a week, so it must be pretty damn good!

January 13th 2014

Air pig-ery
air-pigAfter finishing teaching an SSI advanced course yesterday morning, I got to thinking about air consumption, as, you know, I need to get out a lot more. In the last blog post I wrote about the deep dive of the advanced course, and about how inert gas narcosis can impair judgement, and how it's important to know what to do to eliminate its effects. Monitoring your air consumption is also important on a deep dive, and you need to be checking it regularly. As you descend on a dive, you are being subjected to greater ambient pressure due to the increasing weight of water above you exerting additional force on your body's air spaces (plus the weight of the air in the atmosphere). If you can think back to Boyle's law from your school chemistry lessons, you'll know that the pressure and volume of a gas are inversely proportional. So, if you imagine a 1 litre balloon at the surface, then take that balloon down to 10 metres depth, the air inside will be crushed by the pressure of the water, so the pressure will be greater and the volume smaller (half the volume at 10m). The scuba cylinder containing your air is a rigid container, so the pressure and volume stay the same as you descend. But when the air comes out of your regulator into your lungs, your lungs are at the same ambient pressure as the water, so the air is compressed to that ambient pressure. But you still need to fill the same lung volume, so this means that you are basically breathing more atoms of air per breath. Thus, the deeper you go, the quicker you will go through your air. For a standard 11 litre cylinder, if you dive to 30 metres your dive time will be shorter than staying at 12 metres.
Bear in mind we need to ascend slowly from any dive, but especially from a deep dive, and it will take a few minutes to get from 30 metres to 5 metres for the safety stop. So keeping a good eye on your air is very very important. It's no good telling your buddy that you have 70 bar of air at 30 metres.. you WILL be sharing air before getting to the surface. 120 or 130 bar is a good rule of thumb to begin your ascent from 30 metres. Then you'll have plenty of air as you shallow up. Luckily, you're not a nutter attempting an open circuit world record deep dive. The official record is 318 metres, completed by South African Nuno Gomes in 2005. It took him 15 minutes to get down and 12 hours to get back up! At 250 metres, a standard 11 litre cylinder will give you approximately 11 breathes from full to empty!
Each dive of the advanced course introduces you to a different element of diving, and it's a perfect next step from the open water course. We run them every day, so give yourself 5 days when you come to Big Blue so you can continue your new addiction!

Bike-ageddon
January kicked off as planned with Koh Tao being crazily busy. This means lots of people renting motorbikes to take in other parts of the Island, such as Tanote bay and Shark bay. Unfortunately it also means roads full of people who have no idea how to ride a motorbike, which inevitably ends in numerous crashes. Koh Tao tattoos are everywhere, with people wandering around with bandages all over their legs and arms from having wiped out on a bike. You can easily prevent this from being you. If you've never ridden a motorbike before, why would you think it would be a good idea to learn in a foreign country, where the rules of the road will be different from your own? If you can already ride a motorbike, just consider getting a taxi to wherever you want to go. They're not that expensive and you can go anywhere on the Island in one, or get a longtail taxiboat if you wish to go to one of the bays on the East or South coast. If you still insist on renting a bike, make sure you also rent a helmet, drive like a grandma and DO NOT drive when drinking. Also be aware of sand patches on the road, especially on bends. If you do crash, and hopefully don't injure yourself, you will have a hefty repair bill. The rental places will sting you, and they have your passport remember. If you do get into an argument over payment, you should call the police, as they are not allowed to keep your passport- it belongs to the Government where you come from.

January 9th 2014

British Women Reside Amongst Fungus
rsz buddy-checkFor those of you that are yet to become divers, diving is all about safety, having a back-up of a back-up of a back-up.. We check our equipment before we get in the water- as we're setting our gear up, and then again just before we get in the water. It's called a pre-dive safety check and it serves two purposes. We are checking that our equipment is working properly before we go diving, so if we have any issues they can be resolved on the boat, and we are familiarizing ourselves with our buddy's gear, so that if they need any kind of assistance during the dive or on the surface we will be better able to help them. First of all, we make sure our BCs are working correctly. Then we double check that each person is wearing a weight belt that has an accessible, right-hand, quick release mechanism (so we can drop our weights easily if we need to). Then we familiarise ourselves with how our buddy's BC is secured, type and number of clips, and location of them. We also check that the tank band is nice and tight, so that the air cylinder will not come loose during the dive. Then we check our air supply. One person breathes from their primary regulator, whilst the buddy breathes from the alternate regulator (belonging to the first buddy, so two people are breathing the air from one tank). They breathe in at the same time to make sure the needle of the air gauge doesn't fluctuate. If it does, it could mean that the air is not fully turned on, or that there is a problem with the regulator. Then the exercise is repeated with the 2nd person's regulators. The last check is the final ok- we are just ensuring that everything is working and streamlined, and that we have our masks and fins so that we are good to go diving. 
We always do the check in the same order, and remember it by using an acronym; BWRAF. We can remember this by using some standard phrases or we can make up our own. I mentioned it the other day on the Big Blue Facebook page and people were coming up with all sorts of weird phrases. The most benign would be Begin With Review And Friends. Then there is Bruce Willis Ruins (or Rocks) All Films. Bangkok Women Really Are Fellas, or Bruised Wrists Ruin Arse Fun. See if you can come up with something original and funny and post it to our Facebook page. 
Once the check is done, we can do what we're here for... To go diving!!


Koh Tao hospital
So I don't know when it happened exactly, but the new hospital that was being built on Koh Tao, has been built, and is open for business.. Hopefully it won't get many customers. It's been a long time coming, but what I do know is that the private health clinics are a complete rip off, and if you're used to something like the NHS, you may need to recalibrate your expectations of medical care. The Government hospital is brand spanking new, and treatment will be much much cheaper than the clinics. It's based somewhere in Chalock.. I don't need to be worried about being vague, it's not as if it's going to be difficult to find on an Island this small!

 

 

 

 

 

January 6th 2014

You see?
good-visAll I can say is wow. After around 2 months of monsoon diving with reduced visibility, I took my open water students on dives 3 and 4 of their course this morning, and the "vis" was fantastic- 15 metres, and fish everywhere. Dive sites twins and white rock we're equally beautiful, and Chumphon pinnacle was also amazing according to our fun divers. It was a great reminder of what conditions are normally like on Koh Tao, and I look forward to teaching a lot more courses throughout the year with similar or even better conditions.
But why does visibility vary? Like life, it's complicated and has to do with loads of things. The latitude of the dive site, and the time of day will both affect how much light enters the water instead of being reflected off the surface- generally the closer to the equator a dive site is, the better the visibility will be (so contrary to popular opinion, noon is actually the best time to dive if you want good vis, but there is usually more marine life to see in the mornings). The action of waves, tides, and currents also stir up the bottom and suspend particles in the water, which scatters light in all directions (Rayleigh scattering for the geeks), and guess what- reducing vis!
The type of bottom can also affect vis; disturbed sand or gravel will sink back to the seabed much quicker than clay or silt. Run-off from land inundates the water with sediment, which in turn may provide nutrients for algae to bloom and therefore reduce vis further (this also helps to explain why whalesharks tend to be more prevalent after heavy rain). Biological particulate matter can also reduce vis because they scatter more light, but they also enable filter feeding organisms to go on a feeding frenzy, which serves to improve vis. Finally, thermoclines (thermo= temperature, cline= gradient) and haloclines (halo=salt), can reduce vis because two bodies of water with different properties meet and mix. This reduces vis because the refractive index of the light traveling through the water is altered, but you knew that already didn't you...
This is obviously just a broad summary, the interaction of all of the above make predicting visibility pretty difficult. But we know from experience that the next 10 months are going to be consistently good, 10-30 metres. If you don't know what that's like, you'd better get your ass over here and come diving with us!

10 things you SHOULDN'T do after diving:
1- Fly within 24 hours of completing your last dive.
2- Heavy exercise- why would you do that at any time anyway?
3- Freediving. To the layperson, duck diving, no, that wasn't a typo of di....
4- Breathe laughing gas- it won't be as funny as you think.
5- Have a deep tissue massage. Give it at least a few hours you lazy aching masochist.
6- Write a blog for work.
7- Write a blog for fun.
8- Play in the road with your imaginary friend.
9- Think you can swim to Chumphon and decide to prove it.
10- Log the dive from the depth gauge of your SPG, that says you went to 80 metres.

10 things you SHOULD do after diving:
1- Go on trip advisor and say how amazing your instructor or divemaster was.
2- Go diving again, but with someone else- your divemaster wants the afternoon off.
3- Give the tizer or umbongo that you brought with you to your instructor or divemaster. 
4- Offer to write the Big Blue blog for your instructor.
5- Offer to pay your instructor for the privilege of writing the Big Blue blog for them.
6- Put a thousand baht behind the bar for your instructor.
7- Figure out why it's not called residential nitrogen when doing a repetitive dive. True story.
8- Realise that your way of remembering the pre-dive safety check is a bit weird- Bruised Wrists Reduces Arse Fun.
9- Revel in your weirdness and patent your method for remembering the pre-dive safety check.
10- Ask your instructor for a new battery for your LPI, as the one that powers your inflator must be dead, because it won't inflate after washing.

January 2nd 2014

New years resolutions
new-year-beach300x225So have we all made the usual new years resolutions? Quitting the booze and smokes, maybe aiming to exercise a little more? Various staff at Big Blue will be endeavouring to keep to their resolutions until at least the middle of January.. a record by Koh Tao standards. From our pool of instructors, mini Ant will be striving to make himself less of an object of ridicule by his peers. The only hope he has of achieving this is by making a vow of silence.. I can't wait to watch him miming his open water academics. Steveo will be trying to turn down his Yorkshire-ness so that his students can finally understand him, and Ernesto will be aiming to teach a group of students with a combined age of less than 400. As for our divemaster team, Steven will be refining his "missing link" look, and Phil has promised to twitch his leg slightly less, or at least figure out a way to harness the energy to power the office. Nick will try and stay with the same girl for at least a week, and so will Carly...
Ian and James at Big Blue Tech have a pact that James will make Ian a cup of tea first thing every morning, so that Ian can learn how to read tea leaves to plan his dives better.
The staff at Big Blue Freediving are aiming to hold their breath for the entire year, and office manager Jess has vowed to put her combat training into practice at those who want their passports back after the office has closed (at 7pm- now you know and have been warned).
Whether any of our staff stick to their resolutions or not, 2014 is looking good for Big Blue. We'll continue to have the most professional and fun instructors and divemasters on Koh Tao, we'll still take our customers to the best dive sites that they want to go to, and we will still be able to provide you with any kind of course you can think of.. As long as its not ice diving.
From all of us at Big Blue, we hope that 2014 is everything you want it to be. Happy new year!

The calm after the storm
So new years has been and gone, and hopefully everyone had a great time. it was kind of weird leaving big blue after midnight, as the road leading back to the main road in Sairee is usually heaving with revelers moving from bar to bar. But this year it was eerily quiet. I don't know why but Choppers bar and grill was closed, as was Diza bar, so it was desserted. Very strange.
All down the beach though the action was in full swing. Fireworks were going off anywhere and everywhere, and just about every bar had a big sign saying happy new year that was ceremonially set on fire at the strike of midnight. The whole Island had a good natured festive feel to it, and. As with anywhere else in the world the entire Island was pretty quiet on new years day, as everyone nursed their heads. So what's next? Sonkran, that's what!

February 28th 2014

What where why when how who who what!
giant-strideSince the last blog I was hoping that some new underwater hand signals would have been developed, that our instructors and divemasters can impart to our open water students and fun divers. But no. Living on a hot tropical Island means that the people of Koh Tao have better things to do, or are too lazy, or both, or neither. So I guess I'd better write about something else instead then!
So, you've just booked to do your open water course with us, probably because you want to see what the underwater world is like, but also maybe because you like to learn new things and potentially challenge yourself. So what kind of student are you? Are you the type of person that needs to be pushed into doing everything? Are you incapable of doing anything without being shouted at? Maybe you're the student that, on the morning of the first day of the open water course has already read the manual twice, finished all the study guides and you have a list of questions for the instructor. At the other end of the spectrum maybe you'll turn up late having done none of your study guide, ansd are struggling to stay awake whenever the instructor opens their mouth (in which case really what are you doing there?). Do you need to be shown something once and that's it, you've got it? Or do you need to be shown 20 times before your brain has even the vaguest idea of what just happened? Are you a visual learner or do you prefer to be told?
One thing is for certain, you will not be shouted at by any Big Blue instructor. You're the customer and you're on holiday. But having signed up to learn how to dive, you do need to be receptive to learning. Given that you may be in a group of people that are all travelling on their own, and all of those people will have different ways of taking in information, how the hell can we teach you all effectively?
Well it all boils down to your instructor. Just about every one of our instructors has a different style of teaching. They all impart the same information, and they all have to follow the same timetable, i.e. the pool on day one and the sea on days two and three. But how they get across that information can vary quite a lot, and it all depends on you and the rest of your group. We are very good at amending our teaching so that everyone on the course gets the most out of it. If there is a student that's not quite picking it up as fast as everyone else, they'll never be made to feel stupid or told that they're holding up the rest of the group. We can make extra time for that person and teach them one-on-one if that's the best way to get that person up to speed.
We're also pretty good at reading people. Some people like the limelight and speak so much it's a miracle they stop to take a breath. Some people are really quiet and would rather blend in. We meet different people every day and are pretty good at steering the social dynamic of a group so that everyone is happy.
So it really doesn't matter what type of person you are or what type of learner you are, as long as you are prepared to listen, watch, and learn, you will get a lot out of the open water course, and once it's completed you'll never look back, as, quite literally a whole new world will have been opened up to you.
So get on our website, book your course and accommodation, and make the most out of your holiday!

Incoming!
Sitting on the beach under a tree today, a coconut fell down and almost hit me on the head, and it got me to thinking about coconuts falling out of trees and hitting people on the head. Now one thing Koh Tao has in abundance is coconut trees. They're everywhere. Most people don't really notice them unless they make a point of looking up. But when they do they'll immediately be alarmed at the likelyhood of playing chicken with a high velocity coconut. Make no mistake they fall a long way and, being full of coconut milk are pretty heavy. If one of those connects with your bonce it can kill you. I've often wondered what it must be like to attend the funeral of someone who was killed by a falling coconut. It must be a pretty surreal experience, I mean, there's no shame in it, but there's no glory either. Here lies ......, he was killed by a fruit.
But we do have one saviour on Koh Tao, a Thai man periodically wanders the Island with a pet monkey, who's job it is to scale the coconut trees and remove any coconuts that are ripe enough to fall off. He can regularly be seen in Sairee, and he keeps the monkey on a very long leash. I hope one day it doesn't lose it's footing, as the only thing weirder than being killed by a falling coconut, is to be killed by a falling monkey!

February 25th 2014

Sign language
hand-signalsFor those of you that have never been diving, you may think that we just speak to each other as we would on the surface, like the presenters in those fancy BBC diving documentaries, wearing full face masks that allow them to have a full-on chin wag underwater. Unfortunately full face masks are pretty expensive items of equipment and require additional training, so you can't just strap one to your face and jump in the water.
Instead we have to go old school and use hand signals to communicate. It's basically underwater charades without the eggnog. Now there are some obvious hand signals, like asking how much air your buddy has, asking whether your buddy is ok, or saying that you want to end the dive. But there are many more that aren't as obvious, but they allow you to dive safely as a buddy team, whilst staying on the same page with minimum fuss. Now, as most people go diving to see marine life, it's good to be able to communicate what you're looking at in addition to sharing information regarding your dive parameters, and this is where the possibilities begin to be endless. As long as you confirm with your buddy before the dive what the sign for this or that fish will be, you can make up whatever signals you like. For example, the sign for an angelfish is to draw an imaginary halo with your finger around the top of your head. But it could also mean that you just saw Jesus behind the brain coral. It would be interesting to see your buddy try and communicate that they disagreed that it was Jesus and thought it was actually Captain Birdseye. Maybe after all that you really saw an angelfish behind the Bryan coral.
One of the weirdest hand signals I know is used during the open water course when a student doesn't quite get a skill right in the pool or ocean, so the instructor uses it to indicate that they want them to do it again. The only way I can describe it is by imagining that your right-hand is an aeroplane and you are going to crash it into the palm of your other hand in a curve-like motion. It makes about as much sense as if someone wanted to beckon you over to them from afar, and instead of gesturing with their hand they just started moonwalking sideways. So I obviously use my own hand signal to ask someone to repeat a skill. What I do is arch my back, puff out my chest, put my hands over my eyes, and then just allow myself to fall sideways and just lie there in that position on the bottom of the pool, motionless... works every time.
If you haven't learned to dive yet, you'll need to learn the hand signals that your instructor teaches you. But once you're qualified, providing your diving with someone you know pretty well, make up some of your own between you. You never know, some of them may even catch on and become diving industry norms.

Ants!
You're in a tropical country, there are insects everywhere, get used to it. You may as well learn something about them:

- If a man could run as fast for his size as an ant can, he could run as fast as a racehorse.
- Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight.
- With their combined weight greater than the combined weight of all humans, ants are the most numerous type of animal.
- An ant brain has about 250,000 brain cells. A human brain has 10,000 million. So a colony of 40,000 ants has collectively the same size brain as a human.
- Ant brains are largest amongst insects. An ant’s brain may have the same processing power as a Macintosh II computer.
- The average life expectancy of an ant is 45-60 days.
- Adult ants cannot chew and swallow solid food. They rely on juice which they squeeze from pieces of food.
The abdomen of the ant contains two stomachs. One stomach holds the food for itself and second stomach is for food to be shared with other ants.
- There are over 10000 known species of ants.
- Some worker ants are given the job of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it outside in a special rubbish dump.
- Some birds put ants in their feathers because the ants squirt formic acid which gets rid of the parasites.
- If a worker ant has found a good source for food, it leaves a trail of scent so that the other ants in the colony can find the food.
- The queen ant lives up to ten or twenty years.
- Some colonies may contain millions of ants, all produced by a single queen.

February 23rd 2014

Oxygen tanks?
scuba-cylindersQuite often when teaching an open water course, students refer to the diving cylinder as the oxygen tank. Not really that surprising as we need oxygen to survive, but walking around in our day to day lives we don't breathe pure oxygen. We breathe air, which is rounded up to be 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. The gas you breathe when you go diving is the same air as you are breathing now (unless you are somehow reading this on mars), it's just compressed into a cylinder that you breathe from during your dive. So here's a few facts about the thing that enables you to be underwater in the first place.
You may have dived all over the world, and used cylinders of varying sizes and shapes. But could you tell the difference between them? There are three types of cylinder; Steel, aluminium, and carbon fibre. You'll never ever see a carbon fibre cylinder as they are very expensive and pretty new. Dive resorts could never afford them and they'd have no need to use them anyway. Steel and aluminium are the types you'll always encounter. Steel is heavier than aluminium, but it's also stronger so the walls of the tank are slightly thinner. Because steel is stronger, air can be compressed to a higher pressure. So you can have a smaller cylinder, such as the so-called stubby. Steel is more liable to corrosion than aluminium, so steel cylinders have to be painted, and re-painted due to their exposure to saltwater. In tropical areas such as Thailand, you'll only find aluminium being used; they are less affected by saltwater and cheaper than steel.
The standard cylinder as used by recreational divers is the AL80. The AL stands for aluminium and the 80 means that it can hold 80 cubic feet of air. Things can get a little confusing as cylinder sizes can be described by internal volume of gas or water capacity (how much water it can hold), or by the nominal volume of gas stored. Being all fancy we use metric everywhere except the US, so it's common to describe an AL80 cylinder as an 11 litre (10.94l to be exact), that is rated to be filled to 210 bar of pressure. Tanks need to be periodically inspected to ensure that they are fit for purpose. A visual inspection involves looking inside the cylinder for corrosion, metal fatigue, and especially corrosion around the neck of the cylinder where the threads that house the valve live. A hydrostatic test is a pressure test, undertaken to determine that the metal is not fatigued (metallurgists call it creep or cold flow- I used to be one- a metallurgist, not a creep).. Cylinders are stamped with the latest hydro test date, and when they need to be performed depends on where you are in the world. In Thailand it's every five years.
In recreational diving, as a fun diver using a dive resort's cylinder you don't really care too much what type of tank you have, as long as it will give you a decent dive time. But with technical diving we need to know exactly what we're dealing with, as we plan our dives using software and have to calculate the gases that we will need. Anyone who has done a course with Big Blue tech will be able to tell you that 11 litres at 200 bar equals 2,200 litres of air. As tech divers have two tanks on their back that's 4,400 litres (not as is commonly thought, two tanks equalling 400 bar!). By calculating your Surface Air Consumption (SAC) rate, you can determine exactly how much gas you will need on a given dive. This means two things, tech divers clearly have OCD, and you can tell a tech diver out on a recreational dive as they'll be sat on their own in a corner of the boat, rocking back and forth with a calculator in hand, trying to look busy to hide their lonely tears.
As a customer of a dive resort you don't have to worry too much about diving cylinders. It's probably a good idea to check that they are within their hydrostatic test date, the valve is in good condition and the o-ring that will create the seal with your regulator is good to go, and generally that the clyinder and valve don't look they were recently purchased from an antiques shop. Apart from that, don't pick them up by the handle.. yes that means you divemasters, instructors and DMTs, don't bash them about, and never let them get completely empty (water can then get in and corrode them). Just connect them to the breathy thing and your air-filled diving cardigan, and away you go.
If your interested in learning more about diving cylinders, regulators, BCs and other diving equipment, Big Blue Tech runs regular equipment service technician courses. Have a look on the Big Blue Tech website and get in touch to find out more.

Lowest of the low
Continuing the theme of creepy crawlies, here's some facts about every tourist and restaurant owner's nemesis, the cockroach:

- Cockroaches could survive a nuclear war. For humans, a dose of 800 or more rems would be lethal. The lethal dose for the American cockroach is 67,500 rems and for the German cockroach it is between 90,000 and 105,000 rems
- A cockroach could live a long time, perhaps a month, without its head.
- Number of legs on a cockroach: 6
- Number of knees on most cockroaches: 18 at least
- Number of minutes cockroaches can hold their breath: 40
- Time that cockroaches spend just resting: 75%
- Cockroaches can run up to three miles in an hour.
- Male cockroaches transfer sperm to females in a “gift-wrapped” package called a spermatophore. Some males cover the package in a protein-rich wrapping that the female can eat to obtain nutrients to raise her young.
- The New Zealand Y2K Readiness Commission gave out a recipe for cockroaches in case the world ended on New Year’s Eve, 1999. “Simmer cockroaches in vinegar. Then boil with butter, farina flour, pepper and salt to make a paste. Spread on buttered bread.”
- Cockroaches can make up to 25 body turns in a second – the highest known rate in the animal kingdom.
- Cockroaches can respond remarkably quickly – after around 29 milliseconds – to the sensory cues that their antennae deliver.
- Blinded and deafened cockroaches were able to navigate completely normally, even if their average speeds were lower than their sighted and air-current-sensitive counterparts.
- Female cockroaches prefer males at the bottom of the social pecking order, and dominant males try and stop them from having their way. But when females do get the low-ranking man of their dreams, they produce fewer sons, apparently in an effort to avoid passing on his wimpishness.
- Scientists claim some female cockroaches prefer weaker partners because they like gentle sex. A University of Manchester team has concluded stronger male cockroaches are too aggressive and often injure their partners.
- Most species give birth to live young — highly unusual for insects — but a sure way to prevent other critters from feeding on their eggs.
- If food is scarce, adolescent cockroaches can live on a very reliable resource — their parents’ feces.

February 21st 2014

On a tropical Island far far away
scuba-warsThis may be the weirdest blog in a while (and that's probably saying something), but recently I was asked to write a post comparing staff at Big Blue with star wars characters. Of course it was a conversation in the bar, but i'll give it a go. Now, not being a huge star wars fan even though I grew up with the original three, there may be some confusion with star trek and spaceballs in there somewhere. But unlike the films, all characters appearing in this work are real. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is because they do resemble them.. kind of.
Instructor Guy- divemaster trainee mentor and professional Moby assassination double. He's mentored a number of instructors that ended up working at Big Blue, which is either extreme cronyism, or they were well trained. Two such people are instructors Oli and Alex. They look up to Guy in a weird worther's originals kind of way, so, if Guy was luke Skywalker, which is about as far, far away from reality as you can imagine, then Oli would have to be C3PO, as he's Skywalker's slave.. I mean companion, and he exudes a camp lankiness that you could probably only get in space.. all that metal needs lubricating after all. Now, comparing instructor Alex to an Ewok would be lazy if you've met him, so Alex would have to be an Ewok, as Ewoks tend to hang around with C3PO and are squat, hairy and cuddly (and probably play rugby in their spare time). I think that's were the similarity ends, because they're both vying for Guy's fatherly affections, but as far as I remember, Ewoks just thought Skywalker was just some important dude with a long glow stick, and actually worshipped C3PO. Good job the comparisons end there, because it would mean that Alex would have a shrine to Oli at his house, and Guy would have to be pretty handy with strip lighting, have hair, and be quite adept at moving objects with his mind (that much may be true).
But Guy does have a girlfriend that I think once attended a fancy dress party dressed as princess Leia. Though I don't think Big Blue instructor of the year Petra is his sister, but it wouldn't surprise me if she was.. the sicko.
PADI and SSI instructor Luke White is obviously Jabba the Hut because he likes to eat gekkos, moan a lot, and probably has a big pit under his house. Chewbacca roams the earth in the form of divemaster Steven, as he looks like one, and Chewy's language was loosely based on Geordie. Obi Wan Kinobi would have to be SSI instructor trainer Simmo as he's wise and old and hangs around young boys, and Jess would be R2D2 as she always fixes the messes that everyone else gets into... and probably bleeps a lot.
Instructor Donnie would be Hans Solo because he's got similar hair, used to be a carpenter, and must have, at some point in his life been frozen in carbon. But who's going to get the honour, or own up to being Guy's father Darth Vader? Tosh doesn't work for us any more and he would have never fit into the costume (apart from his head). And who would be unfortunate to be compared with Jar Jar Binks? Our fun diver boat Porponawa is obviously the millenium falcon as it's the fastest boat on Koh Tao, and we do see the occassional death star on the dive sites... 
I think i'll write the next blog post about scuba tanks, just to make the point that reality has resumed and we are in fact a dive resort!

Noisy little critters
Now that we're out of monsoon, some little insects have come out to play that are the bane of any dive instructor's open water academic session- Cicadas. They make a hell of a racket and we're well and truly stuck with them. So here's a few facts about them that you're all dying to know:

- Adult cicadas live 2 to three weeks, but some live only for a day or two or less.
- The male cicada makes the loudest sound in the insect world; they have their own built-in sound system. The sound can carry for up to a mile.
- The sound is made by vibrating the ribbed plates in a pair of amplifying cavities at the base of the abdomen.
- Each species has its own distinctive call and only attracts females of its own kind, even though rather similar species may co-exist.
- A female cicada lays her eggs in the twigs of trees and shrubs. She places the eggs in small holes that she makes with a sawlike organ near the tip of her abdomen.
- The female cicada can lay four hundred to six hundred eggs.
- After the adults have mated, both will die.
- Different species can be heard at different times of the day. While some prefer mating during the day, others prefer the evening hours.
- Cicadas have large compound eyes situated one on each side of the head They also have three very small glistening simple eyes (ocelli) on the top of the head.
- Cicadas feed by piercing the surface of plants with their mouth stylets. They then suck up the sap through a tube formed by the concave surfaces of two of the stylets. They also suck water out of moist sand on the banks of streams.
- Male cicadas have been seen to attempt to mate with other males as well as with dead females.

 

February 19th 2014

Planning ahead
SSI-advanced-wreck-diveI finished an SSI open water course yesterday with a lovely group of people- A pair of Englandonians, two Chileeeeans, and a brace of Netherlandarians. I made a point that, for their first two open water dives they would see some marine life, but they would be diving over sand and needed to concentrate on what they were doing in order to get to grips with buoyancy control and moving efficiently through the water. However for their last two open water dives we took them to some really nice dive sites- white rock and twins, to take in the huge variety of different marine animals pretty much everywhere they looked. By dives three and four they knew what they were doing and were comfortable enough in their abilities to be able to relax and take in the dive site. This was the reason they wanted to learn to dive in the first place.
Unfortunately they all had to leave Koh Tao straight after the course, and it prompted me to advise any would-be Big Blue divers out there of two potentially important things to consider before travelling to Koh Tao.
First, if you want to come and dive with Big Blue, BOOK ONLINE BEFORE YOU ARRIVE.. I cannot emphasise this enough. At the height of busy season, i.e. now, the Island gets pretty crazy, especially after the full moon party on Koh Panghan. If you want to be sure that we can provide you with accommodation whilst you are diving with us, ensure that you go on our website, decide the type of course you want to do, and then use the online booking form to reserve your room. People do end up sleeping on the beach when the entire Island is full; don't be one of them.
The second bit of advice would be to not come to Koh Tao at the end of your trip. Make it the first place on your travel itinerary. The reason for this is that 99.9999999999% of people that learn to dive with us fall in love with diving and just want to do more and more. The next natural step for anyone who has completed their open water course is to do the advanced course. It's an absolute no-brainer. After five more dives in only two days, you'll be a much more confident diver and you'll really know what you're doing. It's great fun and is easily the cheapest place in the world to do it. You'll be certified to dive to 30 metres instead of 18, you'll be able to night dive, your buoyancy will be much better, you'll know how to use a dive computer and compass and we'll even throw in a world war two wreck dive. Oh yeah and we'll take you to one of the best dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand- Chumphon pinnacle. Surely you don't need any more convincing than that!!
All you need to do is allow an additional two days after completing your three-day open water course to complete the advanced course. So, five days altogether. But remember that you cannot fly within 24 hours after diving, so factor this in as well.
Unfortunately, there is no such organisation as divers anonymous to help you control your newly found addiction, so until then I guess you'll just have to keep diving!

It's a gas
I've heard that the police have been clamping down on bars that sell laughing gas over the last few weeks here on Koh Tao, which sounds immensely sensible to me. Laughing gas is illegal in Thailand, but on Koh Tao it has become the latest money spinner for bars to sell to those customers that fancy a quick high. Laughing gas is nitrous oxide, and in the olden days it was used as an anaesthetic, and is still used to some degree in conjunction with other anaesthetics. The reason it is particularly bad on Koh Tao is that it’s really not a gas you want to be breathing after you’ve been scuba diving. During a dive your body accumulates nitrogen in your tissue. When you get back to the surface you circulatory system will be working hard to get rid of this nitrogen. If you then decide to do a laughing gas balloon, you are loading more nitrogen into your body. Whilst laughing gas has a very short half- life, it is much more soluble in your tissue than nitrogen or oxygen in isolation. Therefore it can put you at risk of developing symptoms of decompression sickness, even if you didn’t have any before. Furthermore, laughing gas is pretty bad for you if you have a little bit of trapped air in your ears or sinuses, which can be commonplace after diving- the gas will usually work its way out in its own time. Laughing gas can cause the trapped gas to expand, which will cause more pain and potentially damage the ears.
So the sooner it’s eliminated from Koh Tao, the better.

 

February 17th 2014

Come on you blues
Big-blue-dolphinsAnother massive victory for the Big Blue instructor, divemaster, and DMT football team yesterday morning; 3-1 to the "Big Blue dolphins" no less. It was a very local Derby as their opponents were the Big Blue restaurant and equipment room boys. I wasn't present at any point of the game, but I'm pretty sure there would have been lots of friendly advice from the players and fans along the lines of "play it wide", "keep it", "to me, to you", and "you're on my team you idiot". Pretty technical stuff. Instructor Andy was snapping away with his camera from the sidelines and grabbed some lovely shots of the action, which you can see on our facebook page. Most endearing photo of the game goes to PADI and SSI instructor Neil, who, after probably running around for a whole 3 minutes, duly substituted himself for a nice refreshing smoke break.. lovely stuff!
The players have received a bit of a psychological boost recently by having some very fetching kits made up. Blue shorts (of course), blue tops, nicknames on the back and a lovely big dolphin on the front. A few of the players have also invested in proper football boots and shin pads, and I think there will probably be a team masseuse standing by before the next big match. The team bus has also apparently been ordered. But before they go on a national tour there'll be lots more local friendly games to enable them to further hone their craft. Of course the best bit of the entire day was having a celebration breakfast at Greasy Spoon- a local health food cafe in Mae Hadd.
So well done Simo's giants.. the weirdest line up of humans the world has seen since Sylvester Stallone's team on the film Escape to victory! 

Bacon blues
I would love for someone to explain to me why it is that the bacon on Koh Tao tastes really weird. Never anywhere on the Island have I been able to have a lovely bacon sandwich and enjoy it with a bit of Daddy's sauce or ketchup, it just tastes wrong. Yet if you go to Koh Samui bacon actually tastes normal. I often stay at a lovely hotel called Cocooning in Fisherman's village, run by ex-Big Blue instructor Dave Gatty, and you can enjoy your morning coffee with a lovely bacon butty. It's just a complete mystery why this isn't the case on Koh Tao. If anybody knows why it tastes so bad can they please inform the local butcher what they're doing wrong, as i'm dreaming of bacon way too much lately. Someone please send over a packet of frazzles from the UK!

February 14th 2014

Happy buddy day
buddy-systemI guess I can't completely avoid the fact that it's Valentine's Day, but this is a diving blog so I’m hardly going to drone on about Christian Martyrs or Al Capone. But if I were to relate it to diving, the closest thing that springs to mind is the buddy system.
When you learn how to dive, one of the most important things you learn as that you never ever ever ever ever ever ever dive alone. Why not? You can't talk underwater so who cares whether you go for a nice little dive on your lonesome? Well, there are numerous reasons why not. First of all, being allegedly a social species, it's always nice to go for a dive with someone else so you can see the amazing-ness of the underwater world and relate it to someone who had the same experience. Secondly, it’s always nice to have someone looking out for you, after all, some people are more absent minded than others and easily distracted from such mundane tasks as monitoring their air supply, or wandering way off the dive site. But also, with your scuba gear you have one cylinder of air. Although scuba equipment is very reliable, you don’t want to have a problem and have to deal with it by yourself. I mean, you might get in a huff with your equipment and start sulking, and refuse to help yourself, because that regulator just has to learn... Diving with a buddy means you have two cylinders of air, two pairs of arms and legs, four regulators, two dive knives, and hopefully two brains. Always nice to have a back-up.
So the next time you go diving and your buddy just disappears off to explore , and you spent the entire dive just keeping an eye on them and trying to keep up with them, you might want to think about making friends with another diver. Just don't get carried away when you meet them and open the conversation by asking if they want to join the 10 metre club..

Table for two
It’s that time of the month again where Koh Tao winds down a little in preparation for the incoming hoards of people after the full moon party on Koh Panghan on the 15th. The timing may be perfect for those couples on Koh Tao that haven’t been very organized with regard to Valentine’s Day; they may actually get a table at the restaurant they want to eat at. Personally I’d rather go out for dinner on any other night of the year where I won’t be surrounded by other couples staring into each other’s eyes, just because the calendar has spoken.
But no doubt there will be all sorts of marriage proposals in between the poppadums and Chicken tikka masala. Maybe even without mango chutney being stuck in anyone’s teeth. Someone will usually propose marriage underwater via sign language or slate, and there’s always the chance of an underwater marriage ceremony, complete with chairs and marriage register. The usher’s role would probably be different though, there will always be an air pig in the audience so they’ll be ascent escorts so as not to disrupt proceedings. Of course this will all change if SNUBA diving ever finds it’s way onto the Island. But I digress. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all. Hopefully they said yes!

February 12th 2014

Big Blue photography competition
big-blue-photography-competitionNational Geographic stand aside, there's a new photography competition in town, to be hosted by.... Us! Many of our fun divers bring their own fancy photography equipment with them when they dive with us, and some of the pictures they produce are amazing. So we thought why not showcase the best ones and raise some money for marine conservation at the same time? Some people like to take a standard underwater camera on their dives, and are happy to just snap away in the hope of capturing something worthwhile. Others are already very accomplished photographers, and have clearly spent a lot of time and money combining photography with diving. If you put little wheels on some of the cameras they have, they could easily be mistaken for the Mars rover! These guys know exactly what they're looking for to get a great shot, and with the help of our divemasters, they will also find it, whether it's a nudibranch, or a school of barracuda.
The theme of the competition is Koh Tao Island, and photos elligible for judging must be related to conservation, or have a caption relating to conservation. So even if you're a landlubber that has no intention of even snorkeling, you can still enter the competition.
Now here's the best bit, the prizes... 1st prize will be a free place on one of our full day trips that we regularly run to Chumphon marine park, with incredible diving and no other dive resorts anywhere near (we're the only one that goes there!). 2nd prize is a free half-day coral and coral nursery workshop with Big Blue Conservation. We'll teach you about everything and anything you want to know about coral and coral conservation. 3rd prize is a very stylish Big Blue eco t-shirt and cotton bag for life. Each entry you make will cost 200THB. But you can enter 3 photos for only 500THB! The submission/fee deadline is the 31st March, and final judging will take place on 4th April. Send in your photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or drop them off in our shop (USB, CD, DVD), along with your entry fee. All proceeds from the competition will go to shark conservation and anti-shark finning projects.
I might even enter myself. I'm amazing with a goPro. That is, if you want to see 100 photos of my finger...

Whales of blue
Here's a few facts about the blue whale, as supplied by onekind.org You may have heard some them before, but they are so mind boggling it never ceases to amaze me when I read them.

blue-whale-big-blue- The Blue Whale is the largest creature ever to have lived on earth.
- Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant. Their hearts, as much as a car.
-Amazingly, however, this giant of the ocean feeds on some of the smallest marine life – tiny shrimplike animals called krill.
- A single adult blue whale can consume 3,6000kg of krill a day.
- They mainly catch their food by diving, and descend to depths of approximately 500m.
- The whale’s mouth has a fascinating row of plates fringed with bristles to help it filter its’ main source of food – Plankton from the water. There is what looks like a moustache of long bristles on the end of each plate to help it hold the minute prey. With each mouthful, the whale can hold up to 5,000kg of water and plankton. Having forced the water out of its mouth, the whale licks these bristles with its fleshy tongue.
- Although the blue whale is a deep-water hunter, as a mammal, it must come to the surface of the sea to breathe. When it surfaces, it exhales air out of a blowhole in a cloud of pressurized vapour that rises vertically above the water for up to 9m.
- Blue whales occasionally swim in small groups but usually alone or in pairs. They are thought to form close attachments.
- In spite of their bulk, these graceful swimmers cruise the ocean at over 8km/h, and can reach speeds of over 30km/h.
- Though we can’t hear them, blue whales are one of the loudest animals on the planet, communicating with each other using a series of low frequency pulses, groans, and moans. It is thought that in good conditions blue whales can hear each over distances of up to 1,600km. Scientists think they use these vocalizations not only to communicate, but, along with their excellent hearing, to sonar-navigate the dark deep oceans.
- Females breed only once every three years and gestation is between 11-12months. Females usually only have one young.
- A baby blue whale (calf) emerges weighing up to 2,7000kg and up to 8m long. New born whales are helped to the surface of the water by their mothers and are often encouraged (nudged) by other females so that they can take their first breath of air.
- The calf is suckled in the water, drinking more than 600 litres of milk each day and gaining about 90kg every day for its first year.
- Blue whales have few predators but are known to fall victim to attacks by sharks and killer whales, and many are injured or die each year from impacts with large ships.
- It is thought that whales feel emotions.
- Intensive hunting in the 1900s by whalers seeking whale oil drove them to the brink of extinction. Hundreds of thousands of whales were killed. The 1966 International Whaling Commission finally gave them protection, although they have only recovered slightly since then. Blue whales are currently classified as endangered on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List. It is estimated that only 10,000-25,000 blue whales now swim the world's oceans.

February 10th 2014

That’s heavy man
weightbelt Learning to dive can be an exhilarating and, without sounding too cheesy, for some people a life-changing experience. Taking your first breaths underwater makes you suddenly realize that there is literally a whole new world waiting to be discovered. But before you can dive around with ease, you'll need to learn some fundamental skills, such as buoyancy control and how to move in the water efficiently.
You’ll hear it over and over again that buoyancy is the key to becoming a good diver, and it’s true. But the secret to good buoyancy is also ensuring that you are correctly weighted.
We all have to wear weights when we dive in order to counteract our body’s own buoyancy. Most people will be neutrally buoyant whilst floating naked at the surface; they just don’t get too much opportunity to practice it! How dense your muscles, bones and fat are, combined with the thickness, age, and type of wetsuit will determine how much weight you are going to need when you decide to not dive naked.
Many diving instructors overweight beginner divers so that they don’t float up to the surface easily. After all, they’re going to be easier to deal with if they’re actually underwater! But that student will need to add a fair bit of air to their BC to stop them dragging along the bottom. If they rise up a bit, Boyle's law will take over and they'll have to get rid of all that expanding air. So for a while they'll be like a yo yo- wasting air and making their ears work harder than they need to. So it can take a lot more time for them to understand how to control their buoyancy. I would rather start my students if anything a little light, so that they are not having to add anywhere near the amount of air into their BC. I also brief that they should use their lungs to come back down if they find they are a little “floaty”. If they are consistently finding it hard to stay down I can give easily them an extra weight. The closer they are to having the right amount of weight, the less they will be adding and removing air through their BC, and thus the less they will be moving up and down in the water column.
On the advanced course, a lot of emphasis is placed on using the lungs to fine tune buoyancy, so the quicker the head start a student gets in their open water, the better. However, more often than not, on the buoyancy dive no mention is placed on correct weighting. Some instructors will perform a buoyancy check on a student and help refine the amount of weights they need, especially if they haven’t dived with them before or the student hasn’t dived in a while and can’t remember how many weights they normally have. But that's it.
But weighting is one of those things that the student needs to understand, so they can start to take responsibility for themselves as an autonomous diver. The least weird analogy I can think of would be learning to ride a bike as a young kid. At some point you become adept enough that your parents will take those stabilisers off. But with diving it’s your decision as to when to take the stabilisers off, and you have to experiment. If you’re being led by a dive professional on a dive, it’s always a good idea to discuss it with them, but if you want to experiment with having, for example one less weight just give it a go, your dive leader can always carry an extra weight during the dive.
To know how much weight you need, you have to be able to stay comfortably at 5 metres at the end of your dive during your safety stop. Air, like anything else, has a weight, and as you breathe through your supply, your tank is getting lighter. This can be a 2kg difference from the beginning to the end of the dive. So at the beginning of any dive you will be a little bit negatively buoyant. You don’t want to increase that by having too many weights. Statistics show that most divers that get into trouble are usually found to have been badly over-weighted. Remember, the deeper you go, the more negatively buoyant you become. If you’re a fun diver, you should hopefully be following this article. If you’re planning on learning how to dive and have read this far, hopefully you’ll be a dream student. But don’t worry; your instructor at Big Blue will help you get the weight you need. But remember, if we ask you to carry more weight than your friend, we’re not saying you’re fat!

Turtle traps
chinese-lanternsSo, you come to a tropical Island like Koh Samui or Koh Tao and, as you’re walking along the beach at night a friendly Thai approaches and asks if you’d like to buy a lantern to launch into the air, with a personalized message attached for good luck. Very romantic. But let’s think of it another way. How about a Thai person comes up to you, hands you some metal wire and some paper fabric, then says that you have to get in a boat, travel a kilometer out to sea and then throw it all into the ocean.. Sounds bad? Well that’s exactly what you’re doing if you chose the first experience! I don’t care how romantic or sentimental it all sounds, you’re basically littering the ocean.. So don’t do it!
To top it all off, when the wire mesh falls back into the ocean, it settles on the bottom and turtles come along to investigate it and get stuck. They then find it very difficult to get back to the surface to breathe, and often drown. So now you’ve read this, please don’t even go near the lantern sellers. They don’t understand the effects of what they are selling, they are just trying to make a living, but if no-one buys them they’ll quickly move on to sell something else.

February 8th 2014

TV show recruiting now!
bangkok-flyer-keo-filmsExciting news for all you budding films stars out there.. sort of. We’ve been contacted by a film production company that is planning to do a TV show, following various people as they visit Thailand, beginning with their arrival at Bangkok airport and presumably ending there too at the end of their trip. They are particularly interested in people that are planning to go diving, getting married, having some kind of medical treatment, taking part in a sporting event (i.e. Muay Thai, but maybe tiddlywinks too), or travelling in search of spiritual enlightenment.
They have asked for our help to spread the word as they seem very keen that at least one of the people that they film comes to dive with us (why would they go elsewhere anyway!?).
So here’s your chance to get your name in lights, handprints on Broadway, get a bit of red carpet treatment or whatever else happens in a documentary these days. One thing’s for sure, if you are picked because you want to learn how to dive, you’ll certainly get the red carpet treatment from us.
So dust off your costumes and get in touch with Keo Films by emailing them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. just don’t forget that your mum and dad may end up watching what you’re up to!
It’s a shame they don’t want to film some of our staff as they go about their day, but then again I think the world is pretty familiar with the likes of David Brent by now. We could throw a few of our staff the film makers way though. It would be the perfect medium for Steven to prove that he really is the best divemaster in Asia (or did he say Asda?), and Guy would finally find a way to put all those financial irregularity allegations to bed. Neil could perhaps prove once and for all that he’s not Elvis, and Nick could dust off his drum & bass vinyls, which may or may not blow his cover as an SAS operative . It would all make for some cracking telly!

Not so bright but early
Getting up at silly o’clock yesterday morning to get the Lomprayah to Koh Samui, I’d forgotten about the stuff that goes on on Koh Tao to keep things running smooth for all the visitors to this amazing place. Eveything we have on the Island comes in from the mainland via the ferries. So at 5am the roads are full of cars and trucks coming off the night ferry, delivering to the local resorts and businesses. Street food vendors are firing up their cooking pans, ready to feed anyone that passes by, and those travellers that are on a tight schedule are waiting to get on the first ferry out of here so that they can fit in as much as possible on their tours of Thailand. I would love to know what is produced locally on the Island, lots of fruit and vegetables, and rainwater is collected on each building, but drinking water, furniture, metal, vehicle parts, diving consumables, household appliances, gases for cooking and cooking implements, I could go on and on. The wifi being as it is I can only assume that the data is delivered daily in actual packets…
Anyway, we’re pretty dependent here, and forget that there is a small army of people keeping everything going behind the scenes. So thanks very much, whoever you all are!

February 6th 2014

Waverunner is go!
waverunner-refurbishmentIt’s all happening here at the moment, boat-wise. It all started with our acquisition of MV Waverunner last year. We wanted to basically rebuild her, as she’s a fantastic boat but the Feng Shui was all over the place and was interfering with the captain’s chakra, or something. But seeing as it was so busy last year we had to keep using her until it was quiet enough to send her off to be refurbished, right up until November. But that process is now well underway. Big Blue’s head naval architect and most inappropriately tattooed dive instructor mini-Ant is currently in Chumphon on a jolly, I mean overseeing the work that is being done on her. First glance of the photos show her to be in a pretty sorry state (like most of Ant’s women), but actually the messiest part of the refurb has already been done. She’s been gutted back to the main structure. So now the work of building her up to how we want her can begin. 
Ant is quoted as saying “Chumphon is not very cosmopolitan is it, I mean, where the hell am I going to get my vanilla mocha-locha-chino latte from? Everyone knows that architects just sit around all day drinking coffee and playing with lego. But at least I went to see a big pretty boat in the harbour today.” The project is clearly safe in his hands. 
In the meantime, the rest of the Big Blue fleet are holding the fort- Ao Meung, Porponawa, and Big Blue. MV Banzai set sail for Chumphon yesterday for its annual service and lick of paint, so we are renting a boat while it’s gone. That means that until waverunner is back, we will have FOUR dive boats currently in use. One for the fun divers only, so they are not restricted in the dive sites they want to visit, one for the tech divers and freedivers, so they can find more challenging sites with greater depth, and two for people doing courses such as open water, advanced, and rescue diver. Most of the dive resorts on Koh Tao only have one boat to accommodate everyone on.. yet another reason to come to Big Blue.
I can only imagine how mini Ant and P’Piak, the captain of Banzai, are whiling away the evenings, swapping knitting stories and keeping each other warm.
The only other question is, when waverunner returns, shall we rename her? If so, what is she to be called? Let us know by posting on our facebook page here.

Nice view
Anyone that has visited Koh Tao will tell you that it is as beautiful a place in person as it is in a glossy holiday brochure. If you’re staying on a budget you’ll be staying somewhere in Mae Hadd in a guesthouse, or in Sairee in a hostel, and you’ll have to walk to get the view you want (not very far I might add). But if you’ve booked a luxury holiday, you’ll want luxury accommodation to go with it. You won’t have to look far to find it. If you choose Sairee, you can travel North on the main road and then turn right near the whale skeleton all the way up into the centre of the Island. All the way up means higher up. Higher up means stunning views. There are villas up in the hills that have their own affinity pools, and huge balconies to sit on whilst you take in Sairee below you and watch the Sun go down.
Alternatively you could go remote and find a holiday let on the South or East of the Island. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of Sairee and Mae Hadd, nice and quiet. Again you’ll be high up, so the views are incredible. You’ll be able to watch the Sun rise instead and be only a stone’s throw away from Tanote bay or Ao Leuk bay to service all your lounging and snorkelling needs. With Koh Panghan and Shark Island on the horizon, there are far worse places to be.
These resorts are all online, so you won’t have to google very far to get what you want.

February 4th 2014

Local wrecks for technical divers
unicorn-wreckThe last few blog posts have all been about the wrecks that lie in and around the waters of Koh Tao. They all have one thing in common- they are all accessible to recreational divers. By that I mean that the wrecks are shallow enough for recreational divers to visit, and swim around the outside only- wreck speciality courses offered by PADI and SSI do not adequately prepare divers for entering inside a wreck.
There are loads of other wrecks in the Gulf of Thailand, but they are all strictly off limits to recreational divers, mainly due to their increased depth; if you want to explore them, you'll need to be a technical diver, conversant with decompression procedures. Here's a brief overview of two of the most popular wrecks frequented by tech divers near Koh Tao.
The unicorn, also known as the dog food wreck, lies at a depth of 50 metres, one mile to the North of Mango bay (the northernmost point of Koh Tao). It's a steel-hulled freighter that was skuttled in 1989 in order for the owners to claim on the insurance. However, shortly after sinking, the insurance company smelled a rat and had some tech divers go and investigate. Contrary to popular belief, it was not carrying tins of cheap dog food instead of the expensive tuna claimed by the owners on the insurance form. It was indeed carrying tuna, but only for pets to consume, rather than humans. Bad luck skuttlers!
The wreck is 60 metres long, and leans 60 degrees to port. It used to be covered in fishing nets, but these have since been removed. The wreck has always been a challenge to penetrate due to the tightness of the entry points, but today it is pretty much impossible, as the wreck has degraded structurally and is thick with visibility-reducing silt inside.
This challenging dive serves as a stark reminder that it is off limits to recreational divers, as there have been a number of instances of inadequately trained succumbing to serious diving related injuries whilst attempting to dive it, with one person unfortunately getting lost in the engine room and dying in 1996. The Thai Navy had to recover his body. Your No Decompression Limit (NDL) at 50 metres on a single tank is 1 minute, whilst breathing 6 times the amount of gas per breathe compared with at the surface.. definitely not a good idea on a single tank.
But with correct training, it's an amazing experience to dive the Unicorn, with huge shoals of red snapper and barracuda circling around you as you complete your decompression obligation.
Another amazing wreck is the Torpedo. It's a 60 metre Japanese cargo vessel that sank in the mid-seventies, and lies two hours North of Koh Tao. It sits upright at 55 metres and has two large cargo holds on the main deck. A collapsed crane can be seen on the main deck, and the whole thing is covered in fishing nets encrusted with coral. I dived it last May and there was a huge school of barracuda circling around us on the main deck. The reason it was nicknamed the torpedo is that it was carrying a cargo of teak logs.
Now this is just scratching the surface of the wrecks available to technical divers in the Gulf of Thailand. Others include the HTMS Pangan, Hishidaiya Maru, C47 Aircraft Wreck, Davy Jones, Akita Maru, Big Boy maru, Tottori Maru, Inverted wreck, Brick Maru, Bitumen Wreck, Wankey Tankey, and the Dumb Dumb Maru. All of them challenging dives, and none of them have been dived for a long time. They are just waiting to be explored again, and it would be fascinating to see what condition they are in. The best news is that the person who has all the gps co-ordinates for these wrecks is one of our very own boat captains!
If you would like to explore these wrecks, you'll need to become a fully qualified tech diver, with an advanced wreck certification. Big Blue Tech can teach you all the courses you will need to be able to dive these wrecks. If you'd like more information on the TDI courses that we offer, contact James at Big Blue Tech here. It starts with Intro to tech. You need to have logged 25 dives and be an advanced open water diver. Each course progresses on from the next, until you are a fully qualified extended range or trimix diver. Then you can go off and see some of these bad boys for yourself!

Unleaded dive sites?
On the theme of wrecks, the marine branch of the local environmental organisation Save Koh Tao, has recently concluded that not enough marine life has grown on the HTMS Sattakut in the almost three years since it was sunk as an artificial reef. So volunteers have begun scraping off the paint in an attempt to coax coral into attaching itself to the hull. I've heard a number of people say that this is about as environmentally friendly as allowing Joseph Fritzl to present an episode of crimewatch. The reason? Lead paint. Having taken a cursory glance, it seems that lead is still very much an additive in paint manufactured in Thailand, despite international efforts to remove it. Research published late in 2013 by the Ecology Alert and Recovery Thailand Foundation (Earth), concluded that levels of lead in paint manufactured in Thailand exceeded Thai Industrial Standards Institute (Tisi) limits by a huge margin. 40% of all samples taken were over 100 times greater than the maximum allowed levels. only 15 out of 42 paint manufacturers adhered to Tisi standards. It doesn't exactly help that the Tisi operates on a system of voluntary compliance.
However, I am unsure as to whether the Thai Navy uses Thai manufactured paint to protect it's fleet of ships from the elements, that may or may not contain lead. IF it does, then it doesn't matter how carefully Save Koh Tao volunteers attempt to dispose of the paint that flakes off from the Sattakut, lead will enter the local eco-system.
However, when you think about it, it really doesn't matter whether it's scraped off. If there is lead in the paint, leaving it on the Sattakut won't prevent it from entering the local eco system as the wreck is slowly consumed by the ocean. So actually scraping the paint off and taking it in bags back to the surface will actually minimise lead leaching into the ocean.
We have a certain Thomas Midgely to thank for lead being added to paint. He was a one-man walking environmental disaster, first to utilise CFCs for use in refrigeration, adding lead to petrol, and paint. If any one person has caused more damage to the environment, it's him. 

February 1st 2014

Exclusive Big Blue wreck to explore
HTMS PraabOne of the best kept secrets for diving in Thailand is Chumphon National Park. It covers an area of around 320 square kilometres and hosts some beautiful Islands. In the waters around these Islands are some absolutely stunning divesites. The good news is that the area is very rarely dived, and no fishing is allowed, so there is a wide abundance of marine life encompassing the entire area. The even better news is that Big Blue diving is THE ONLY dive resort on Koh Tao that ever goes there. That's a pretty important detail, so let me say that again just to be sure you got it.. Big Blue is THE ONLY dive resort to take people diving there...! We regularly run full day trips there for our fundivers. How come only we go? Simple, we have a dive boat that is really really fast, and it can make the trip in over half the time any other dive boat on Koh Tao could, so we can still fit in 3 dives so you get your money's worth.
Now, in continuing the theme of wrecks, Chumphon National Park houses a wreck that is very similar to the HTMS Sattakut, but lies in shallower water. It's called the HTMS Prab. Like the Sattakut, it was a US Navy landing caft infantry vessel in World War 2. It was involved in landing troops on D-Day, and also in Italy shortly thereafter. Following the war it was purchased by the Thai Navy and it lived out it's life until 2011, when it was decommissioned and donated to the National Park to act as an artificial reef. So there it sits, at about 22 metres off Ngam Noi Island, just waiting to be explored.
On one of the last trips to the National Park, we also stumbled upon a freshly sunken Thai fishing boat. It was sitting in really shallow water and could only have sunk a few days prior to our visit. It would be good to see if the wreck is still there.. after all, what's better than diving a wreck? why diving two wrecks of course!
If you'd like to dive the HTMS Prab, go into the office during your stay with us and bug the divemasters to run a full day trip. They'll always agree to it as the full day trip comes with breakfast, lunch, as many soft drinks as you can manage and chocolate cake. Just take one look at our full-time divemasters and tell me they don't like cake... it's a given.

More monkey business
After writing about monkeys, and wondering whether or not Jamikiri resort houses a monkey sanctuary, long term Koh Tao resident and Big Blue member of staff Wibeke got in touch to confirm that there was once a "sanctuary" of sorts, if sanctuary means cages at the entrance to the resort with monkeys in them.. Staff apparently used to ask visitors not to put their hands inside the cages as the monkeys could bite. One of Wib's friends went for some pampering one day and following his aloe vera body scrub or whatever it was, as he stood outside the entrance feeling all relaxed and refreshed, one of the monkeys, having escaped, suddenly landed on his shoulder. As he was armed with the knowledge that they could bite, he completely freaked out whilst the monkey held on for dear life in between attacking him. I guess he had to go somewhere else for another massage to calm himself down. I don't know if that was the cause of the "sanctuary closing, but there are no longer any monkeys residing in the resort!

 

March 30th 2014

 

Drifting along nicely
drift-by-big-blueThe Big Blue retail shop has been open a good few months now, and it's doing really well. This isn't because we have really pushy sales people harassing you into buying stuff, far from it. The manager Robin is about as honest, genuine and friendly as it's possible to be. It's been successful because we really offer something different to anywhere else on Koh Tao. We have a fantastic display of all kinds of diving masks, snorkels, fins and wetsuit boots that you can try on to your heart's content. There's an area dedicated to all the little functional diving gadgets such as alternate air source holders, bottle openers, slates, DSMBs, reels, clips and god knows what else. We have a wide range of rash vests, with sharkskins proving to be a very wise purchase if you want thermal protection to last a long time. We sell compasses, dive computers, knifes, torches, dry bags and isaw underwater video cameras.
But the thing that really sets us apart is that we have our own clothing range; drift, by Big Blue. This includes board shorts, bikinis, t-shirts, singlets, polo shirts, and even dresses. Very stylish they are too. I know a few instructors and divemasters (myself included) that went in the shop when it first opened to have a nosy, and ended up walking out with 3 pairs of shorts and 5 t-shirts!
If you are doing a course with us, you will receive a 10% discount on most items. But even if you're passing by, you'll still be getting a bargain no matter what you walk out with. Plus, watch this space as we are finishing off the final touches of putting the shop on-line so you can buy what you want without even coming here. In the meantime, have a look at the drift facebook page. We update it regularly.
The way it's going at the moment, it won't be long before we become for diving what North Face is for outdoor gear. So if you're coming to Big Blue, pop in and have a browse, but be prepared to have a complete new summer wardrobe that you know no-one else back home will have, so leave plenty of room in your suitcase!

Marine litter facts
Given that we had a really successful beach and underwater clean up yesterday on Sairee beach, here's a few facts about where marine litter comes from, and where it goes in the oceans. If you're coming on holiday to Koh Tao, Koh Samui or anywhere else in Thailand, please be responsible and dispose of your rubbish responsibly.

- Marine litter (debris) includes all objects that do not naturally occur in the marine and coastal environment but are nevertheless found there.
- Marine litter is the collective term for any man-made object present in the marine and coastal environment.
- It consists of articles that have been made or used by people and, subsequently, deliberately discarded or accidentally lost. In most cases, it is the result of careless handling or disposal of items of solid waste, including containers of liquid waste. However, it can also be material lost at sea in hard weather (fishing gear, cargo).
- Marine litter consists of mostly very slowly degradable waste items — items made of persistent materials such as plastic, polystyrene, metals and glass — from a large number of different sources.
- Marine litter can blow around, remain floating on the water surface; drift in the water column; get entangled on shallow, tidal bottoms; or sink to the deeper seabed.
- Marine litter are items and material that are either discarded directly (thrown or lost directly into the sea); brought indirectly to the sea with rivers, sewage, storm water or winds; or left by people on beaches and shores.
- Marine litter is found everywhere, around the world, in the marine and coastal environment.
- Marine litter is found floating on the water surface. Almost 90 per cent of floating marine debris is plastic.
- Marine litter is found on the seabed. It could be that as much as 70 per cent of the entire input of marine litter sinks to the bottom and is found on the seabed, both in shallow coastal areas and in much deeper parts of seas and oceans.
- The main sea-/ocean-based sources of marine litter are from merchant shipping, ferries and cruise liners, fishing vessels, military fleets and research vessels, pleasure craft, offshore oil and gas platforms, fish farming installations.
- The main land-based sources of marine litter are from municipal landfills (waste dumps) located on the coast, riverine transport of waste from landfills or other sources along rivers and other inland waterways (canals), discharge of untreated municipal sewage, including storm water (including occasional overflows), industrial facilities: Solid waste from landfills, and untreated waste water, and tourism (recreational visitors to the coast; beach-goers).

 

 

March 28th 2014

 

Mini-antPlimsoll
Occasionally, inspiration for a blog post is staring you in the face the whole time. Conversing with my colleagues over a beer last night, I mentioned that I needed to go home to write the blog. I was then bombarded with ideas of what to write about. SSI instructor Anthony Edgely, AKA mini Ant, AKA Plimsoll, AKA Ant 2, came up with an idea so completely forgettable, that I decided there and then that I would dedicate an entire post to him instead. There is reason behind the madness. Ant is the living embodiment of someone that decides that they are so sick of their drab and dreary life that they end up actually doing something about it. In his case, as the circus wasn't hiring tent-pole holders, he decided to become a dive instructor, and luckily for us he chose Big Blue to do all his dive professional training. As far as i'm aware, he never looked back. Not that that would have done much good, because, the Earth being an oblate spheroid, and Thailand being at a different longitude and lattitude to Aldershot in the UK, he wouldn't have been able to see whatever it is that that particular metaphor intimates. But I digress.
In spite of being one of our full-time instructors, he's proved to be quite useful, as, in his previous life he was some kind of architect... he knows a lot about potable water and good drainage.. a real lady killer. But as we are about to start sprucing Big Blue 2 up, Ant was able to draw up the plans. The fact that he did it in 12 minutes on the back of an open water manual fills us all with confidence that we will end up being the proud owners of the first windmill on Koh Tao. We also recently purchased a dive boat we had been renting long term- MV Waverunner. It's currently in dry dock in Chumphon undergoing a complete refurbishment. Ant saunted over there with his tape measure one day and has, we think, accidentally instructed the Thai naval engineers to build the world's first ever floating windmill. I see a pattern forming here.
When Ant's not designing buildings to turn flour into bread, he likes nothing better than to put on his best top shop frock and mime along to his favourite Dolly Parton album (the best of Dolly Parton), probably with clogs on.
Obviously, this is all ridiculous (apart from the Dolly Parton bit). Ant has proven to be a very patient, diligent instructor that really cares about his studentss' development. He's well liked by the rest of the team and it's been great for his SSI instructor trainer mentors Simo and Guy to see him go from open water diver to a highly professional SSI dive instructor. Just think, that could be you, leaving your job, getting the hell out of wherever you live to come and live and work on a tropical Island doing something you love. If you're interested in becoming a dive professional, have a look on our bigbluepro website and contact Simmo, Iain, and Guy for more information. The email address is at the top of their webpage.
Hopefully now Ant has finally got the message not to beg me to stop taking the mickey out of him on the blog!

Rainbow runners
Diving along the top of Chumphon pinnacle this morning, I saw a rainbow runner hunting and eating some little fishies. It was pretty amazing to watch as it herded the shoal and finally went in for the kill. So what are rainbow runners? Some facts for your brain:

- Elagatis bipinnulata, also known as the rainbow yellowtail, Spanish jack and Hawaiian salmon, is a common species of pelagic marine fish of the jack family, Carangidae.
- The species is widespread throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the world, inhabiting both coastal as well as far offshore areas.
- It is a fast swimming predator, taking small fish, cephalopods and a wide variety of planktonic crustaceans.
- The species reaches sexual maturity at around 60 cm (24 in), and spawning takes place at different times, with some populations spawning year round, while others only spawn at certain times of the year.
- Rainbow runner are also one of a number of pelagic fishes that prey on open-ocean species of sea-skaters- a type of insect which rest on the surface of the ocean.
- Rainbow runner themselves are important prey items for a number of larger species, with positively identified predators being Fraser's Dolphin, and a number of seabirds of the family Laridae.
- The fish is oviparous, producing pelagic eggs and larvae.
- Rainbow runner are not a major commercial species like tuna or herring, but are taken in large quantities as bycatch. Their flesh is said to be of fair to excellent standard, depending on personal preferences, but generally fetch a low price at markets because they are relatively unknown.
- There is a minor recreational fishery for rainbow runner in parts of the world. Often they are taken while trolling for other species such as tuna and mackerel, but are often targeted inshore by anglers on the west coast of the Americas using surface 'popper' style lures.

 

 

March 25th 2014

 

Rave reviews
buddy-teamAnyone planning a holiday has it relatively easy compared with the olden days. Before the 90s it was a case of going to a travel agent to book your holiday and then hoping for the best when you arrived at your destination. There were plenty of TV travel shows that highlighted the plight of many a holiday maker, who was enticed into booking a holiday to Mallorca by the glossy brochure, only to discover a building site next to their "sea-view villa" when they arrived. Nowadays, it's a little different. The internet has made planning a holiday much easier, and people can be way more picky and thorough than ever before. 
Trip advisor has, and continues to be by far the most popular planning tool used by travellers to decide where to go and what to do on their travels. It has also benefited resorts that strive to provide a great experience for their guests, and also highlights and shames the ones that are obviously and consistently lacking. Big Blue has benefited no end from trip advisor. We have over 1,100 reviews to date, and the vast vast majority are excellent. Now, we are not perfect and don't always get it right, but we do listen to valid criticism and strive to give our customers the best experience possible. However, it's also fairly evident when reading negative reviews that some people are never happy unless they are moaning. We've actually had people come to Big Blue because they said they read the small number of negative reviews, and couldn't believe how ridiculous they were! Thank heavens for intelligent people. 
Most of the people that come to dive with us say that they did so because of our trip advisor reviews, and we continue to get excellent reviews from people who either learned to dive with us, or came to fun dive.
But as with any business, trip advisor has competition. There are other ways to scope out a dive resort, or give your thoughts on your experience of having dived with them. You will get more information from many of them than with trip advisor, especially if you are already a qualified diver. If you're an experienced diver you can also gain an understanding of the diving conditions in Koh Tao and read about the type of marine life you might see at the dive sites. The most popular review sites are world diving review, tangareef, scubadviser, and divezone. You can obviously also leave a review on our facebook and G+ pages.
If you're thinking of coming to Big Blue, have a look at them. If you've already been to Big Blue, we would be really grateful if you could spend the time to write a review of your experience with us on one of those sites (or just copy your review to all of them!). If you had a great time, brilliant! Thanks for telling the world. If there was something that we didn't quite get, your feedback is important, we will listen, and we will work to improve.

Whaleshark drawing
whaleshark-drawingNo story this time, no factoids about Thailand, Koh Tao, Koh Samui or anywhere else in the Gulf of Thailand. I just saw a photo that I thought was utterly amazing, and I'd love to see this type of art permanently drawn onto pavements all over the world. If you know who it was that did this, please let us know. He's amazing and he needs to be told! Pretty accurate in dimensions of the whalesharks we get here, but our boats are a little bit bigger!

 

March 23rd 2014

 

Dive professional training with Big Blue
dmtsIf you're utterly fed up with your job at the moment, this is the article for you. I've been there before, the long commute surrounded by what feels like millions of other people, no-one smiling, getting to work with the knowledge that you have to sit in front of a computer screen or sit on a production line for the next 8 hours. But the worst of it is knowing that you have to do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
If you're getting itchy feet and want a bit of adventure, but don't quite know how to get it or what to do, we have the answer. If you do it, you won't regret it, once you're doing it, you will look back and wonder why you tolerated your previous life for so long. Come to Big Blue and learn to become a dive professional! We can take you from zero to a fully qualified divemaster or dive instructor. All you need to do is have a great time in the process! We'll teach you how to dive from scratch, take your diving further by becoming an advanced and then a rescue diver, then you can enrol on our divemaster training program. You will dive in tropical waters every day, getting to know the dive sites, assisting instructors on courses, learning about the marine life in the ocean and building up to taking people on tours of the dive sites. This of course is in between enjoying living on a tropical Island, eating great food, having all your laundry done for you, and getting to know lots of different people in the bar.
When you're ready, we can teach you to become a SSI dive instructor. Your office will be the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, your commute will be sitting in the sunshine on a dive boat, your shift will include teaching people how to scuba dive safely, which can be very rewarding. Once you're up and running as a qualified dive professional, you can start earning money doing something we guarantee you will love, and you will have the choice of working in a thousand idyllic locations around the world.
Sounds almost too good to be true doesn't it.. it's not. All you have to do is make the decision to go for it and get that flight booked! For more information have a look on our website, go to bigbluepro, and contact the team. The email is at the top of the bigbluepro website.

Sea cucumbers under threat
Sea cucumbers are the less glamorous cousins of starfish and sea urchins, occurring in all of the major oceans and seas. They are aten in China and other southeast Asian countries, and have been for centuries. They are appreciated for their soft texture, and dietary and so-called medicinal properties. But as China is becoming more affluent, they have become a sought after delicacy for festive dinners, and can sell from anywhere between US$10 and US$600 per kilo in Hong Kong and mainland China. One cold-water species farmed in China and Japan sells for up to US$3,000 per kg dried.
But as with anything that is over-fished, the rest of the ecosystem suffers. Cucumbers play a significant role in their local marine environment. They help turn over sand in reef lagoons and seagrass beds. By feeding on dead organic matter mixed with sand and mud, the nutrients they excrete can be again taken up by algae and corals – a pathway of nutrient recycling on reefs. So, they may not incite as much emotion in people as shark finning, but their reduction in numbers will have as significant effect on the oceans. No doubt we will be hearing more about their loss over the next few years. So far on Koh Tao, they are being left alone, and Big Blue conservation will work hard to keep it that way.

 

March 21st 2014

 

Help prevent the annual slaughter of dolphins
the-coveAnyone that likes to scuba dive will have their own reasons for doing so. Some like the feeling of weightlessness. Some like to challenge themselves by exploring wrecks or by going cave diving. But it's pretty unanimous that anyone that sets foot in the ocean is awed by the marine life that they encounter. The thought of swimming with a dolphin has to be on the bucket list of any diver, bar none. As divers, its important that we do everything we can to preserve the life in the oceans so that we, and anyone in the future can enjoy seeing the incredible variety of life. Sadly not everyone seems to think like this and the slaughter of marine animals is occuring every day at a truly frightening rate. For example, in Taiji, Japan, 20,000 dolphins, porpoises, and small whales are killed each year. The killing begins on September 1st and usually continues until the following March, fishermen herd entire families of small cetaceans into a shallow bays and mercilessly stab and drown them to death.
This annual slaughter would have continued unabated without anyone even knowing about it if it weren't for the organisation Sea Shepherd. They took covert footage of this horrific event, which culminated in the release of the documentary, "The cove". This film highlighted to the world the events that take place in Taiji, and since 2010 Sea Shepherd has an ongoing presence of volunteers standing watch on site at the Cove. They are The Cove Guardians. The worldwide attention that their work receives is helping to put pressure on the Japanese Government, so that they will put a stop to the killing. But their work costs money and they need your help.
Big Blue Diving is committed to marine conservation, and through Big Blue Conservation, we run numerous programs to encourage coral growth around Koh Tao, increase the numbers of marine creatures such as turtles around the Island, and to educate the local Thai residents on how they can minimise their impact on the local marine environment. We also run marine conservation programs and internships, and educate all of our customers on the importance of looking after the oceans.
So we want to do our bit to help Sea Shepherd. So, for the rest of March, if you like Big Blue Conservation on our facebook page, we will donate 10 baht to Sea Shepherd so they can continue their important work. Please take 5 seconds out of your day to do it, and pass the message on to as many people as possible.

Dolphin facts
Dolphins are such incredible animals, most of us would agree. But, apart from the fact that they look like they're smiling all the time, why are they so amazing? Here's why:

1. There are almost 40 distinct species of dolphins. Most live in shallow areas of tropical and temperate oceans, and five species live in rivers.
2. Dolphins are carnivores. Eating fish, squid and crustaceans. A 260-pound dolphin eats about 33 pounds of fish a day.
3. Known for their playful behavior, they are highly intelligent. They are as smart as apes, and the evolution of their larger brains is surprisingly similar to humans.
4. They form part of the family of whales that includes orcas and pilot whales. Killer whales are actually dolphins.
5. Dolphins are very social, living in groups that hunt and even play together. Large pods of dolphins can have 1,000 members or more.
6. Depending on the species, gestation takes nine to 17 months. After birth, dolphins are surprisingly maternal. They have been observed nestling and cuddling their young.
7. A dolphin calf nurses for up to two years. Calves stay with the mothers anywhere from three to eight years.
8. Dolphins have acute eyesight both in and out of the water. They hear frequencies 10 times the upper limit of adult humans. Their sense of touch is well-developed, but they have no sense of smell.
9. Dolphins have few natural enemies. Humans are their main threat. Pollution, fishing and hunting mean some dolphin species have an uncertain future. In 2006, the Yangtze River dolphin was named functionally extinct.
10. Because dolphins are mammals, they need to come to the surface of the water to breathe. Unlike land mammals that breathe and eat through their mouths, dolphins have separate holes for each task. Dolphins eat through their mouths and breathe through their blowholes. This prevents the dolphin from sucking up water into the lungs when hunting, reducing the risk of drowning.

 

March 19th 2014

The human teapot
lukeBad news for all you ladies out there that just can't get enough of men from Grimsby. Big Blue PADI and SSI instructor and Platinum Grimsby bruiser Luke White has had a little accident that has put him out of action for a while. This means that he's out of the water and unable to woo you with his Northern charm whilst teaching you how to dive on your SSI open water course- when you haven't passed out from swooning that is.
If you're around Big Blue at the moment, you can't miss him. He's the one walking around like a teapot with his fishing arm in a sling. For those that know him he's a little bit more grumpy than usual, which, on the scale of Luke grumpiness is not actually that different from normal. But don't worry, we will be having a benefit night for him sometime in the next week, just so we can all have an excuse to get drunk and make him that little bit grumpier, but also to help the sweaty idiot get back on his feet.
On the bright side at least he'll get to spend a lot more time in the shop checking customers in and chatting to any prospective divers as they walk by our retail shop. On the down side you'll have to meet Luke when you check in to come diving with us.. sorry about that. Anyway, we all wish him well and hope he has a speedy recovery. God help his fiance.

Thai factoids
Time for the last 15 dazzling facts about Thailand. That's 35 in the last few days you greedy sods. Enjoy:

21. A century ago, more than 100,000 elephants lived in Thailand, with about 20,000 of them untamed. Now, there are about 5,000, with less than half of them wild.
22. Both the Hollywood movie and Broadway play of The King and I are banned in Thailand. Based on the Siamese ruler King Mongkut and a teacher named Anna Leonowens, the movie is seen as insulting to the king. While the movie depicts him as uncultured, he is believed to be the first Asian ruler to speak, read, and write English fluently. He also is considered highly intelligent, cultured, and well read. Further, he is known as the father of Thai scientists
23. Thailand’s and the world’s longest reigning monarch is Bhumibol Adulyadej, who became King Rama IX in June 1946. He was born in the U.S. in 1927 when his father was studying medicine at Harvard. He owns a patent on a form of cloud seeding and holds a degree in engineering from Switzerland. He also plays the sax and composed Thailand’s national anthem.
24. Tiger Woods is the son of an American father and a Thai mother.
25. Thailand is the world’s largest producer of tin.
26. Each year, around six million foreign tourists visit Thailand. Thailand has also attracted many expatriates from developed countries.
27. The population of Thailand is 67,091,089, which is ranked 20th in the world.
28. Sometimes the SkyTrain will stop for no apparent reason. When any member of the Royal family travels downtown, the trains will stop in a postion so that it is not above the Royal. Essentially your head can not be directly above theirs.That goes for walking on the overhead passes too.
29. At 15 a youth can enter but not drink in a club if accompanied by BOTH parents.
30. In 2008 Bangkok was ranked the best city in the world according to Travel and Leisure magazine
31. Khao San Road is the liveliest and busiest tourist area in Bangkok.
32. Don Mueang International Airport sports the tallest control tower in the world, measuring 132.2m (434ft)
33. Leaving the house without any underwear on is illegal, you can be arrested for it.
34. Bangkok is also called the ‘Venice of the East’ due to its large number on canals.
35. Thailand is the world’s 51st largest country. Russia is the largest. The United States is third largest.

March 16th 2014

Eat dive relax dive eat dive relax cake!
chumphon-marine-parkThe full day trip two days ago was another resounding success, with some big smiles on our fun diver's faces as they stepped back on land. This time around the full day trip went to Chumphon Marine Park, which is NOT VISITED BY ANY OTHER DIVE RESORT ON KOH TAO. So that means pristine dive sites that will only be as busy as the number of people on board our boat. A rare treat for any fun diver. The marine life is incredibly abundant, so there is lots to see on every dive, and there is a wreck very similar to the HTMS Sattakut, called the HTMS Prab, with the only difference being that it lies in shallower water, so you get longer to see it. This trip is so amazing that our staff try and book days off to see if they can get on the trip if there are some left over places! But how come no other dive resorts visit there? It's because it's just too far away for them to be able to fit in three dives. But out fun diver only boat Porponawa is ridiculously fast, so we can provide you with three dives. Not only that, we feed you- breakfast, lunch and chocolate cake, plus as many soft drinks as you can manage.
We run full day trips every 3 days, alternating between sail rock, Chumphon Marine Park, and Ang Thong Marine Park (another rarely visited area for diving). So if you want to experience the best diving that the Gulf of Thailand has to offer, get yourself on the next full day trip. Pop into the office on Sairee beach and have a chat with one of our divemasters to find out when the next one will be, and where we will be going.

More facts about Thailand
Following on from a few days ago, here's 10 more interesting and occassionallly downright weird facts about the land of smiles:

11. Thailand is home to the world’s hairiest child, Supatra “Nat” Sasuphan.
12. The full name of Bangkok is- Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. It means “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest. Bangkok is a great city to visit because of its rich culture and diverse history. Tourists wishing to explore a city that is well known and highly recommended should check out Bangkok. The vivacious street life and interesting architecture makes this city a “must see”. Be sure to book your Bangkok hotel in the heart of the city. By centrally booking your hotel allows you to have convenient access to multiple restaurants and entertainment. There is a good reason that Bangkok was recently named, “World’s Best City”. If you are looking to discover a vibrant city in Asia, this is the place to see.
13 The Thai alphabet has 32 vowels and 44 consonants.
14. One-tenth of all animal species on Earth live in Thailand. More than 1,500 species of orchids grow wild in Thai forests. Thailand is the world’s number one orchid exporter.
15. Siamese cats are native to Thailand. In Thai they are called wichen-maat, meaning “moon diamond.” A 14th-century book of Thai poems describes 23 types of Siamese cats; today only six breeds are left. Giving a pair of Si Sawat cats (a type of Siamese cats) to a bride is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage.
16. Thailand is home to what may be the world’s longest snake, the reticulated python. The largest one ever found stretched over 33 feet (10 m) from end to end.
17. Thailand is home to the world’s longest poisonous snake, the king cobra. The cobra can reach more than 18 feet long, and one bite from it can kill an elephant.
18. Swiftlet nests are made from strands of saliva from the male swiftlet bird. Swiftlet nests collected from Thai caves can fetch more than $900 per pound. It is one of the world’s most coveted and expensive food items.
19. The Mekong River, which forms part of Thailand’s eastern border, supports more than 1,300 species of fish. It holds some of the world’s largest freshwater fish, including a giant catfish which can reach nearly 10 feet long and weigh as much as 660 lbs.
20. One of Thailand’s most curious creatures is the mudskipper, which is a fish that is capable of walking on land and climbing trees. It uses its fins to “walk” and can absorb oxygen through its skin and lining in its mouth. It spends most of its time out of the water, eating the algae in tidal pools.

March 14th 2014

New SSI instructor trainers
Iain-GuySometime last year, SSI Instructor Trainer (IT) Paul "Tosh" Tanner decided to leave us completely in the lurch and move to Bali to become a monk. It was a pretty groundbreaking event. So groundbreaking in fact, that every member of staff remembers what they were doing at the moment he left, er, sometime last year... it was probably a friday. Our longstanding SSI IT, Simmo, has probably cried every day since Tosh left, but did a good job of convincing everyone that he's just sick of all the wars in the world. However, as more and more people want to be trained up to become SSI dive instructors, it was concluded that there just aren't enough Simmo's in the day to manage it all. So the post was advertised in all the corner shops and classified ads. Everyone at Big Blue was fully expecting one candidate to be chosen to work with Simmo, but no, we ended up getting two! It turns out that the applications from Big Blue divemaster trainee mentors Iain and Guy impressed the boss so much that he decided to hire them both!
I've written quite a bit about both of them previously, but in case you've never heard of them, Iain is Scottish, loves falling asleep at the bar of an evening- literally, and is apparently pretty handy at poker when he can stay awake. Guy is from Yorkshire, has a lovely mane of hair that he'll show to anyone (in old photos), and is addicted to Mills & Boon romance novels. They're both very experienced instructors and have spent the last few years moulding the next generation of professional SSI divemasters. Now they're going to get the chance to mould the next generation of SSI dive instructors.
They are both popular members of staff at Big Blue, and we'd like to wish them the best in their new roles.
If you'd like to live on a tropical Island and have the ocean as your new office, and are keen to find out what you need to do to become a diving instructor, get in touch with Simmo, Iain and Guy at Big Blue Pro. The email address is at the top of their webpage.

Wildlife protection groups join forces
Good news for shark protection. Two leading organisations have recently merged, WildAid and Shark Savers. The work previously undertaken by Shark Savers will now be taken on by WildAid. So, in addition to running a number of programmes to protect endangered wildlife species including elephants, rhinos, and tigers, they will also be campaigning to reduce shark fin consumption and protect manta rays. Shark Savers' 'I'm FINished with Fins' campaign was launched in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan last year with WildAid, National Geographic, and World Wildlife Fund as partners. WildAid launched the 'I'm FINished with Fins' campaign in China in late 2013 building on its ongoing campaign to stem consumption of endangered wildlife. In addition to the 'I'm FINished with Fins' campaign, Shark Savers' SharksCount citizen science program and the overall Shark Savers grassroots campaign to protect sharks and rays will continue within the context of WildAid's Shark program. Shark Savers' Shark and Ray Sanctuaries program will combine with WildAid's Marine Protection Program.

March 12th 2014

Instructors on tour
stag-weekendSix of our full time-instructors, including myself, arrived back yesterday from a stag weekend/bucks/batchelor party in Phuket. We had a wonderful time, taking in the botanical gardens, going to the opera, spending a couple of days on a detox yoga mountain retreat, and volunteering at the local cat shelter. The journey there started with a fantastic disco on the deck of the car ferry, leaving us all really well rested for the bus journey from Suratthani to Phuket- at 5am. This journey only took 6 and a half hours, with the driver being helpful enough to stop every 2 minutes or so on random street corners to pick up more customers, probably to test the carrying capacity of the coach. When we arrived in Phuket, we thought we'd have a quiet night in the local pub, but we got confused and night actually meant noon. So the next day, fully armed with the visible appearance of having land-sickness, we boarded a boat which was to be our home for the next two days, feeling confident that no-one would get sea sick. Luckily only the stag, Luke White did. Everyone else just got sun burnt. I think we all agreed that Neil had a lovely singing voice, but that he'd also confused detox with tox.
The rest of the trip was a bit hazy after that, but I do remember that we made the very sensible decision to give the task of booking our return tickets to Rich. But there was a little confusion, and when he'd said it was "all sorted", he actually meant that "the night boat was full, but we could still get on as long as we could find somewhere to lie on top of all the cargo", but he decided not to tell us this until we tried to board the night boat. So Luke actually got a bit of action on the trip by being spooned by videographer James. Not sure he filmed that though.
Anyway, we all came back feeling great and ready to get back to teaching people how to dive. But we were a litte dissapointed that Big Blue hadn't fallen apart because we weren't there. Instead it seems as busy as ever, the weather is great and the Gulf of Thailand is nice and warm. Can't wait to work on my sun burn a little more.
If you're thinking of going to Phuket during your time in Thailand, reconsider immediately unless you like the idea of middle-aged Russians wearing speedos. Come to Koh Tao instead and dive with Big Blue, but please please book ahead for your travel, book ahead for your accommodation, and get someone other than Rich to help you!

10 interesting facts about Thailand
We live here, you're hopefully coming here, so here's some things you may not know about the land of smiles:

1. Thailand’s name in the Thai language is Prathet Thai, which means “Land of the Free.” It is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonized by a European nation.
2. Thailand is home to the world’s largest gold Buddha, the largest crocodile farm, the largest restaurant, the longest single-span suspension bridge, and the world’s tallest hotel
3. In the past, all Thai young men including the kings became Buddhist monks for at least a short period of time before their 20th birthday. Today, fewer young men observe the practice.
4. The world’s smallest mammal, the Craseonycteris thonglongyai (the bumble bat), is found in Thailand
5. Medicine man Hoo Sateow from Thailand has the world’s documented longest hair at 16 foot 11 inches long
6. In 1996, two rare “diamond-eyed cats,” Phet and Ploy, were married in a lavish $16,241 Thai wedding, the most expensive pet wedding in the world.
7. In 1999, 30 vets worked to heal a 38-year-old cow elephants’ foot, which had been destroyed when she stepped on a landmine in Thailand. It set the record for the largest number of vets in one procedure.
8. In 1999, a group of 282 skydivers set the record for the largest number of skydivers in a free-fall formation above Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. They held the link for 7.11 seconds.
9. The world’s largest Christmas log cake was made in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 25, 1997. The cake weighed 5,071 lbs. and reached 27 feet 6 inches. It was later cut into 19,212 portions
10.Thailand set the record for the longest catwalk on April 9, 2010. The catwalk was 1,584 meters long and was part of the Pattaya International Fashion Week

March 6th 2014

Blog ideas
writers blockAnyone who's done any kind of writing whatsoever, be it a blog, novel, University thesis, or just writing up your notes from your days' stalking, will be able to tell you all about writers block. It's a pretty debilitating illness, especially when you work full-time in between and have a deadline to keep. Guess what, it's happening right now.
So, seeing as we're a little bit quieter at the moment in preparation for the oncoming hoards of travellers that will inevitably find their way to Koh Tao after the insanity that is the half and full moon parties, why not write a blog asking you what kind of blogs you'd like to see? There have been articles written about various aspects of scuba diving; buoyancy, diving cylinders and equipment. I've written about what's been happening at Big Blue, from the photo competition to the shenanigans of the Big Blue football team, and also about some of the dive sites we have and the full day trips that we organise. The articles that seem to get the best response always seem to be the ones having a light-hearted poke at our staff- boat captains, the divemaster team, the divemaster trainee mentor instructors, and the shop staff. Given that I can't write about these people every other day without repeating myself a lot, it would be good to know what type of people read the blog the most (ex-visitors, people who are planning on coming to Big Blue etc), and what they are more likely to read, so that I know whether to write articles aimed at people with none, some, or a good knowledge of scuba diving. I suspect that it's a mix of all of those, so i'm screwed either way!
To use a bit of management-speak, it's market research without sending out questionaires. So, going forward, help us to get behind the eight-ball so we can do some blue-sky thinking to enable us to reach all the low-hanging fruit- we don't want the grass to get too long on this one. By end of play we need to action those deliverables that will give us best leverage with our stakeholders and touch base 110%..... damn it, why didn't I just write a blog about management-speak?
Anyway, please tell us what you'd like to see in the blog and write a comment under the article on our facebook page. It'll get completely ignored and i'll continue to publish articles in as random a manner as possible, but at least we'll give the impression that we've listened!

This is the life
Living on Koh Tao is such a chore. I'm sick to death of walking up the beach and taking a dip in the warm clear ocean to cool off, taking in the Sun, and eating good, cheap Thai food whilst watching the world go by, and on my days off enjoying a cocktail or two and resting my bones in 30 degree temperatures.. horrible. Koh Tao is a diving Island, that's what most people come here for, and when you ask our customers what they are going to do when they've finished a diving course, they usually say relax, have a few beers, and maybe see some of the Island. There are quite a few other actvities that you can do here but that seems to sum up pretty well what the vast majority of people end up doing. And there are lots of places you can do that. Sairee beach has loads of bars and restaurants where you can have a drink and some food, take in the view and get that vitamin D from the Sun. Sairee village has endless Thai and Western food restaurants and cafes no matter what you fancy. Plus, you can easily get around the Island by land taxi or taxi boat to see that people are doing exactly the same thing at Shark bay on the South or Tanote bay on the South East.
So don't get any ideas about jungle trekking or crazy golf, just get yourself a nice spot to perch and take it all in.

 

March 4th 2014

Photo competition still open
big-blue-photography-competitionJust a quick post to remind any budding photographers out there that it's not too late to enter the Big Blue photography competition. You have until the 31st of March to get your entry or entries in, which will be judged on the 4th of April. It's open to anyone, whether you're a divemaster, instructor, fun diver, tech diver, freediver, or have never ever set foot in the ocean. You can take your image on land or underwater. The theme is Koh Tao and the photo must have a conservation message or caption. To enter one photo will cost 200 baht, but you can enter three photos for 500 baht. All proceeds will go to this years Swim for Sharks charity event.
There will be three amazing prizes on offer: 1st prize is a free place on a full day trip to Chumphon Marine Park, 2nd prize is a half-day coral workshop with Big Blue Conservation, and 3rd prize is a very stylish eco t-shirt and cotton bag.
Email your photos (the address is at the top of our homepage) or drop them off at the Big Blue shop (Sairee Beach) on a USB stick, CD or DVD with your entry fee. Sadly we cannot accept entries on VHS or Betamax. Please include your name in the file name. 
Note: Prizes are awarded as a voucher, valid for 6 months from the 4th April. Full day trip to Chunphon Marine Park is availabe on scheduled dates, subject to weather conditions. the coral workshop must be scheduled in advance. the eco t-shirt & bag can be redeemed at Big Blue's Drift retail shop. For more information on any of the above, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sea Cucumbers
Like giant underwater caterpillars, sea cucumbers can be found all over every single dive site in Koh Tao. So given that you're definitely going to see one if you come diving here, how about I tell you some lovely facts about them:

- Sea cucumbers are echinoderms, like starfish and sea urchins. There are some 1,250 known species, and many of these animals are indeed shaped like soft-bodied cucumbers.
- All sea cucumbers are ocean dwellers, though some inhabit the shallows and others live in the deep ocean. They live on or near the ocean floor—sometimes partially buried beneath it.
- They feed on tiny particles like algae, minute aquatic animals, or waste materials, which they gather in with 8 to 30 tube feet that look like tentacles surrounding their mouths. The animals break down these particles into even smaller pieces, which become fodder for bacteria, and thus recycle them back into the ocean ecosystem. Earthworms perform a similar function in terrestrial ecosystems.
- Sea cucumbers, particularly eggs and young larvae, are prey for fish and other marine animals. They are also enjoyed by humans, especially in Asia, and some species are farmed as delicacies.
- When threatened, some sea cucumbers discharge sticky threads to ensnare their enemies. Others can mutilate their own bodies as a defense mechanism. They violently contract their muscles and jettison some of their internal organs out of their anus. The missing body parts are quickly regenerated.
- Sea cucumbers can breed sexually or asexually. Sexual reproduction is more typical, but the process is not very intimate. The animals release both eggs and sperm into the water and fertilization occurs when they meet. There must be many individuals in a sea cucumber population for this reproductive method to be successful. Indeed, many parts of the deep ocean host large herds of these ancient animals, grazing on the microscopic bounty of marine waters.

March 2nd 2014

Sub-aquatic film school
If you go onto the Big Blue facebook page, Big Blue movies has posted a quick clip of Barry- one of our videographers, filming a triggerfish. It initially seems to be completely disinterested in him or his camera, but then suddenly decides to make it known that its personal space has been violated by quickly charging the camera for a warning headbutt. Triggerfish one, Barry nil.
damsel-fishMaking friends with triggerfish is optional, but that clip is just one of many amazing interactions that our videographers capture every single day. The Big Blue Movies team spend their mornings diving in tropical waters, filming the local marine life and flexing their creativity muscles (the videographers, not the marine life). In the afternoons they work hard to edit their footage and produce a short film. But their day is not over yet, they then go to the bar and play the video to the delight of our customers and staff.
On your open water course we film you on your final two dives. Watching the video in the bar is a great way to celebrate passing your open water course, and you have the option to buy it so you can show your friends and family what you've been up to on your travels. But videographers like Barry don't just decide to take a camera on a dive with them one day. They are highly trained in what they do, having undertaken a SSI videography internship with one of our experienced videography instructors. This involves learning how to use a camera properly underwater- not as easy as you'd think. Give any diver a camera and suddenly their buoyancy control becomes a distant memory, because they concentrate so much on getting a shot they forget about the diving bit! During the internship you'll go out with your instructor to learn how to properly handle a camera underwater (all equipment provided during the course). Then, once you've got the hang of that you'll learn how to get good footage; no shakey camera movement, no fingers on lenses, making good use of focus in different diving conditions, making the most of the foreground and background, the rule of thirds, and effective use of lighting.
On top of that you'll learn how to use professional software to edit your footage, so you can make a film yourself. Your internship ends with you filming our customers, editing your videos and showing them, so that you'll have actual work experience as a videographer. It can be hard work; long days with square eyes, but it can also be very satisfying, and you get to film the biggest fish in the sea, the whaleshark! Perhaps the best bit is when you get to see all the open water students watching your video with open jaws in amazement at what you captured.
If you'd like your new office to be the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, or even if you'd like to become better at taking pictures and video underwater, get in touch with Wayne at Big Blue Movies. He'll give you all the information you need, and it won't be long before you're booking that flight to Bangkok. The email address is at the top of our homepage.

Triggerfish facts
Seeing as I mentioned triggerfish earlier, here's some more facts about the grumpiest fish in the ocean. Wouldn't you be if you were that ugly?

- There are 40 species of triggerfish, scattered throughout the world’s seas.
- The largest is the stone triggerfish, which reaches up to 1 metre in length.
- They live on the bottom of the ocean and dig out prey such as crabs and worms, by flapping away debris with their fins and sandblasting with water squirted from their mouths. They also use very tough teeth and jaws to take on sea urchins, flipping them over to get at their bellies, which are armed with fewer spines.
- The trigger on their back is used to deter predators or to “lock” themselves into holes, crevices, and other hiding spots.
- They tend to be solitary, but meet at traditional mating grounds according to timetables governed by moons and tides. The males of many species appear to establish territories on these spawning grounds and prepare seafloor nests that will house tens of thousands of eggs. Females share caring for the eggs until they hatch, blowing water on them to keep them well supplied with oxygen. In some species males are known to maintain a harem of female mates.
- Triggerfish are infamous for their nasty attitude, and this behavior is especially evident around nests, where intruders, from other fish to divers, are likely to be charged.
- Triggerfish are often brightly coloured. Some species have become too popular for their own good. They are sought for the aquarium trade, which has prompted fishermen to gather even threatened species from the wild. Researchers are working to raise triggerfish in captivity so that wild populations might more likely be left alone.

April 28th 2014

 

Busman's holiday
DMT-liveaboardSome of our divemaster trainees (DMTs) have just come back from a 4 day jolly to the West coast of Thailand to dive with Big Blue in Khao Lak, on one of our luxurious liveaboards. By the looks of the photos they had a great time! Some of them finished off their deep speciality course, which qualifies them to dive to 40 metres, but the rest just went fun diving. There's probably not enough room on the website to fit in all the marine life they saw, but the highlight has to have been manta rays, lots of manta rays!
Because Big Blue is located in both Khao Lak and Koh Tao we were able to give them a heavily discounted rate for the trip, which is probably enough of a reason to sign up to do your divemaster in itself! With DMT mentors Rich & Nick, and Big Blue Tech manager James Folehereherherher also on the trip, the DMTs couldn't have been in better hands to help them improve their diving and find new and exciting marine life. I would say having that many DMTs on one boat should have meant that in the evenings the boat would have been transformed into a booze cruise, but with four dives a day on offer they were probably all tucked up in their cabins by 9pm.
The DMT program at Big Blue trains people up to be professional divers, which means they get to spend their days diving in tropical waters, looking at incredible marine life and showing people around a variety of dive sites. They are also able to assist instructors on diving courses, and are elligible to become dive instructors themselves. It sounds too good to be true but it really isn't. All you need to do is decide to jack in your boring job, hop on a plane and go diving, as many times as you like! You'll have an amazing time and meet some fantastic new people, and you'll be completely addicted to diving. If you like the idea of becoming a dive professional, have a look on our website and get in touch with us. If you've already got your heart set on it, and you know you want to work in the diving industry, consider doing some technical diving courses in conjunction with your DMT with us. It will help a lot with your DMT, and allows you to take your diving even further. It will also look good on your diving resume if you want to stand out from other dive professionals. Have a look at Big Blue Tech's website here.
Or you could just carry on with the rat race, running round and round in the wheel that goes nowhere... Gee, let me think...

Manta Ray facts
Here's a few interesting facts about the beautiful manta ray. Because that's all the DMTs will be talking about in the Big Blue bar for the next few days!

1. Mantas are not generally very social animals unless they want to mate. Though you will often find them in the same place as long as there is plenty of food.
2. They spend a lot of their time at so called "cleaning stations", where they sit still as if getting their hair cut, whilst fish eat the bacteria off their bodies.
3. Mantas only give birth every two years. They usually have only one pup, or two smaller pups that come out looking like they've been introduced to a rolling pin.
4. Mantas have a tendancy to leap completely out of the water, though why this is is unknown. It may be to impress a female, to get rid of parasites, or it may even be an elaborate form of communication.
5. They can be up to 8 metres long from one wingtip to the other, and are thought to live for up to 25 years.

 

April 24th 2014

Vacancies at Big Blue!
JamesbbtWe have two new vacancies for full time staff members at Big Blue. First, Big Blue Tech needs a new Manager! The last one will be exploding come the end of May so we’re going to need to replace him!
If interested in taking on this very exciting & challenging role managing one of Thailand's leading Tech Dive Centres you will need to submit your CV & put together a brief proposal listing ideas as to how you feel you can contribute, grow & better our already extremely successful Tech Diving operation. Please submit all applications to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The boss Jim would also like to take this opportunity to thank James Foleher for his contribution to Big Blue Diving & especially Big Blue Tech over the last 4 years, and wish him every success in his new chosen path. Our loss is the Koh Tao Cabarets gain! All the best James Foleherdyher.
The second position is for a full-time divemaster. This role will be highly sought after by any divemaster worth their salt. You'll get the opportunity to work with some of the best divemasters in the world, at the best dive resort in the world.. period. We have extremely high standards at Big Blue in terms of professionalism, customer service, prepping the boats and ensuring that our day to day diving operations run smoothly. The job is pretty demanding but also very rewarding. We have an amazing team of divemasters and instructors here, and the successful candidate will have the opportunity to be a part of that. As with the tech manager position, to apply, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., with a cover letter and CV. The cover letter should include a summary of your experience within the diving industry, and an outline of what you think you can bring to the role that would make you stand out from anyone else.
Good luck!

Razorfish
Teaching a TDI decompression procedures course the other day involved diving to 45m at Chumphon pinnacle. Heading back to the pinnacle I came accross my favourite fish, the razorfish. These cool looking fish swim vertically with their heads down. So in homage to them, here are a few facts about the fish with the best underwater balance:

- They swim vertically, in sychronised groups, with their long snouts pointing down.
- The term razorfish can refer to five species in the Centriscidae family, and most species act in a similar manner.
- The razorfish is closely related to pipefish and the seahorse.
- They can vary in colour depending on their habitat, but are generally light silver with a red or greenish-yellow stripe along the top and bottom of their bodies.
- Razorfish tend to hide in the spines of sea urchins to gather food and protect themselves.
- They are characterised by an extremely thin or flattened and almost transparent body, which is encased in an integument of thin, sutured plates, whatever that means!
- They are capable of rapid bursts of horizontal swimming when chased by a diver or predator.
- They are restricted to the tropical Indo Pacific region and contains two genera and four species, 3 of which occur in the East Indian region.
- Their diet consists of a variety of zoo-plankton and minute crustaceans. When in captivity, they are fed bait shrimp and a variety of small, live marine food. They swallow their food whole.
- This fish, like its closest relative, the seahorse, is toothless. As a young fish, it is prey to many larger fish. As an adult, however, the fish is thought to have little, if any, predators. This is thought to be because of its great camouflage and its “armor”. The life span of the fish, unlike the reproduction method, is unknown.
Their maximium size to about 14 cm.

 

April 21st 2014

 

Coral sex!
CoralIt's all happening at the dive sites off Koh Tao at the moment. The coral is getting a bif frisky and is fit to burst in a sexual crescendo of epic proportions apparently. It's really not something that i neither know, or would pretend to know about- Big Blue Conservation are the people for that. Over the last two days, head honcho Lizzie has been taking interested fun divers and DMTs to some of the dive sites in the hope of seeing this x-rated undersea event. It's a pretty rare thing to happen, and even rarer to actually catch the coral in the act, but if you don't get out there and have a look you'll never see it!
Like most perverted things, coral spawning happens at night, so even if they don't manage to catch the coral in the act the divers will still get to see some of the dive sites in the dark, where all the colours are more vivid because of the torch lights bringing back the colours that normally fade with depth.
I can only presume that the coral took itself out to dinner and got to know itself a little bit, before taking things a step further and having a bit of a smooch with itself. The point of spawning must be when it invited itself to sleep over for the first time.
Big Blue Conservation is always running projects and events to either just go out and see some cool stuff happening underwater, to educate and inform divers about the need to be responsible and considerate divers with regard to the environment, or to engage people to actually help maintain the ocean environment, such as building and sinking objects for coral to adhere to, or introducing baby sharks and turtles back into the ocean. They also work hard to keep the dive sites and beaches clean of debris and rubbish, and run regular clean up days. If you'd like to get involved in any of the above, contact Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation here.

What is coral?
Hot on the heels of the coral sex, it kind of begs the question, "what the hell is coral anyways?". So here are some coral facts for your delectation:

-Coral organisms, called polyps, can live on their own, but are primarily associated with the spectacularly diverse limestone communities, or reefs, they construct.
- Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms related to sea anemones and jellyfish. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs. Reefs begin when a polyp attaches itself to a rock on the sea floor, then divides, or buds, into thousands of clones. The polyp calicles connect to one another, creating a colony that acts as a single organism. As colonies grow over hundreds and thousands of years, they join with other colonies and become reefs. Some of the coral reefs on the planet today began growing over 50 million years ago.
- Coral polyps are actually translucent animals. Reefs get their wild hues from the billions of colorful zooxanthellae (ZOH-oh-ZAN-thell-ee) algae they host. When stressed by such things as temperature change or pollution, corals will evict their boarders, causing coral bleaching that can kill the colony if the stress is not mitigated.
- Corals live in tropical waters throughout the world, generally close to the surface where the sun's rays can reach the algae. While corals get most of their nutrients from the byproducts of the algae's photosynthesis, they also have barbed, venomous tentacles they can stick out, usually at night, to grab zooplankton and even small fish.
- Coral reefs teem with life, covering less than one percent of the ocean floor, but supporting about 25 percent of all marine creatures. However, threats to their existence abound, and scientists estimate that human factors—such as pollution, global warming, and sedimentation—could kill 30 percent of the existing reefs in the next 30 years.

 

April 18th 2014

 

 

FUN diving!
fundiving225x300If you're coming to Big Blue, you will at some point meet one of more of our full-time divemasters. You can't miss them in fact, as they take turns to man the shop on the days they aren't diving. We have, in order of the amount of facial hair- Nick, Phil, Carly, and Steven. They are really good at knowing where things are, and taking you to see them. By things I mean marine life, and by taking you there I mean leading fun divers around all the fantastic dive sites that we have in and around Koh Tao. Oh yeah, and they also keep the place running on a day to day basis. They decide which instructors and divemasters will go on what boats for the morning, afternoon, and night dives. They ensure that there are enough full diving cylinders, regulators, masks, weights, weight belts, plasters, mask straps, and yes, pineapples on each and every boat that goes out from Sairee reef. They manage how many cylinders will be needed for the open water course pool sessions. They organise when and where the next exclusive full day trip is, what mood the captain will be in, and what kind of washing he should have drying on the boat when customers are on board... (underwear only). They even go so far as to bunch fundivers with the same divemaster based on how good their air consumption is.. which is pretty damn cool. These guys are the best at their profession that you will ever see anywhere in the world. If you want to go diving, see some amazing things and also have a great time in the process, then these are the guys to do it with. But like anything in life, you can't have everything; Phil used to be a horticulturalist and still randomly recites latin names of plants for no reason whatsoever, Nick used to be a banker and yet still claims to have morals, Carly used to be a man (and still is in many ways), and Steven reckons that he has a wooden leg but a real foot.. ?
We are obviously biased in thinking they are great, but we do know that you simply cannot have a better time on Koh Tao than to spend time with these guys on our fun diver-only boat, whilst they get all excited and animated about wanting to show you some amazing marine life, and you know that they really love their jobs.
So get yourself booked in to come and fun dive with Big Blue now.. you really really really really really will not regret it!

Hi-vis
The underwater visilibility is pretty damn astonishing right now. We are getting regular days on most of the dive sites where the visibility is between 15 and 30 metres. Around the Island of Koh Nagyuan it's pretty consistently good, as is Mango bay to the North of Koh Tao, and White rock to the West. It's a pleasure to be working in these conditions, and everyone that works in the industry is loving it at the moment. In Monsoon in November the conditions become pretty poor in terms of visibility, so it makes it especially amazing at the moment, particularly for those instructors that hang around at monsoon and know what it can be like.
So long may it continue. If the whalesharks are around at Chumphon pinnacle then we will be able to see them off the dive site from further away, and all eyes are looking out for exactly that reason when we go there. Lets hope that the school of false killer whales that have been spotted lately will stick around and pay a visit at one of the dive sites that we visit soon!

 

 

April 15th 2014

 

Another amazing Songkran
songkran-simmoYesterday saw pretty much the entire Island of Koh Tao suffering from a collective hangover- literally! Today it's business as usual, but two days ago locals and tourists alike were celebrating Songkran- the traditional Thai new year. This is where people spray each other with water pistols or buckets of water, in order to cleanse and purify the soul from whatever debauchery it accumulated over the previous year. It seems that everyone felt that everyone else needed a lot of cleansing!
At Big Blue it all kicked off at around 10am, with some very civilised light-dousings, interspersed with moderate imbibing of alcoholic beverages. Obviously it only took around an hour for the bar and restaurant to resemble a scene from the hunger games, and it quickly became every man for himself. Most people just wanted to shoot water all day and night, some just wanted to sit and watch it all unfold, but everyone had a great time. At around 2pm, SSI instructor trainer, and part-time brigadier-general Simon Garrity commanded the Big Blue divemaster trainees to raid another dive school, and the bar was temporarily slightly quieter than before. But then they all returned victorious and immediately forgot about their dive school alliance of not 5 minutes prior, and proceeded to turn on each other again! There was also a makeshift water slide going from outside the office to the sea. I've been told that health and safety officers had inspected it and certified it as safe for use, and the rumours that some drunken people thought it would be a great idea to build it were completely unfounded....!
Details of the day became more and more sketchy, but what is recalled is that the whole day and night was all very good natured and everyone seemed to have a great time. Songkran is easily the best day of the year for people who live here, and it must come as a big of a shock for people who find themselves staying here when it all kicks off! Ah well, only 363 days until the next one..

Star watching
Living in a city, it's easy to forget that you can't see anywhere near as many stars as you can in places where there is little or no light pollution. In Koh Tao, as long as the squid boats are not out in force, it's pretty damn dark outside of Mae Hadd and Sairee village. So you can get a bit of stargazing in. This month is particularly good for planet spotting; last night I could see Mars next to the full Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter. Pretty amazing. Electrical storms are also common at this time of year, as we approach the hottest time of the year and the warm and cooler air battle it out. The light shows can be mesmerising and you can easily find yourself watching them for hours. So the next time you stumble home from your night out, remember to look up!

 

April 13th 2014

 

Sawatdee Pee Mai Kap!
songkranThe fact that all the shops in Koh Tao have recently been selling water pistols can mean only one thing. Today is Songkran! Songkran is the traditional Thai new year, and they sure know how to celebrate in style. Thais roam the streets with containers of water or water guns. All along the streets, people will have small bowls of beige colored talc sold cheaply and mixed with water, which is then smeared on the faces and bodies of random passersby as a blessing for the new year. Sometimes this talc is mixed with menthol, just in case you would otherwise smell like a wet dog. What this all means is that, no matter where you go today, there will be no escaping the fact that you will be doused, squirted, showered, and sprinkled, with water- most of it ice-cold. Everyone gets involved, and I mean everyone.
By around 10am, Big Blue will be transformed into a water park (minus the height restrictions on the rides), with customers, Thai staff, Burmese staff, shop girls, instructors, divemasters, tech divers, freedivers, and divemaster trainees all getting a piece of the action. It's really not a good day to be walking around with your backpack on, or to have anything electrical like your smartphone in your pocket. It's also not a good day for feeling grumpy and getting annoyed with being doused with water everywhere you go- ocassionally there is the odd hapless tourist that hasn't read anything about Thailand before visiting, who is caught unawares by it all and just can't get into the spirit of things. Maybe it would be better for them to stay indoors for the day and let everyone else have all the fun.
Though this will be my 4th Sonkran, the details of the preceding 3 are, to put it midly a little sketchy, as the Big Blue bar is also open in the morning and throughout the rest of the day and night! It's the biggest day of the year on Koh Tao, way bigger than Christmas, and it's a great opportunity to let loose and have some fun. But for everyone out there enjoying the festivities, please be careful and leave your bikes at home. Sawatdee Pee Mai Kap!!!!

Songkran- why water?
So why is it that the entire festivities at Songkran revolve around dousing people with water? The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this "blessed" water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. Among young people the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand (temperatures can rise to over 40°C). This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles.
Nowadays, the emphasis is on fun and water-throwing rather than on the festival's spiritual and religious aspects, which sometimes prompts complaints from traditionalists. In recent years there have been calls to moderate the festival to lessen the many alcohol-related road accidents as well as injuries attributed to extreme behavior such as water being thrown in the faces of traveling motorcyclists. The water is meant as a symbol of washing all of the bad away and is sometimes filled with fragrant herbs when celebrated in the traditional manner.
Besides the throwing of water, people celebrating Songkran as a Buddhist festival may also go to a wat (Buddhist monastery) to pray and give food to monks. They may also cleanse Buddha images from household shrines as well as Buddha images at monasteries by gently pouring water mixed with a Thai fragrance over them. It is believed that doing this will bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year. In many cities, such as Chiang Mai, the Buddha images from all of the city's important monasteries are paraded through the streets so that people can toss water at them, ritually 'bathing' the images, as they pass by on ornately decorated floats. In northern Thailand, people may carry handfuls of sand to their neighborhood monastery in order to recompense the dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the rest of the year. The sand is then sculpted into stupa-shaped piles and decorated with colorful flags.
Some people make New Year resolutions - to refrain from bad behavior, or to do good things. Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal. Besides washing household Buddha images, many Thais also take this opportunity to give their home a thorough cleaning. On Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Songkran lasts officially 1 day. In Bangkok it is around 3 days, but in Chiang Mai it goes on for a staggering 7 days!

 

April 11th 2014

 

Junkyard part deux
junkyardJunkyard is a fantastic place to go diving. Located on Sairee, it's an artificial dive site made up of, literally, junk. The whole area is pretty shallow, 7-12 metres deep, and is all sand. Objects that have been placed there include a bunch of toilets, a weight bench with some free weights on a, er, i guess you'd call it a weight shelf!? There's a replica of the Sydney harbour bridge complete with model cars, a Jeep slowly being eaten by the ocean, and there are wire scaffolds for marine life to adhere to, all over the dive site.
Now, outside Big Blue on Sairee reef, we also have loads of sand, and it ranges from 6 metres all the way out to 15 metres where our boats moor up. We already have our coral nursery out there, but how about we do something similar to what's been done at Junkyard? It would be great to have our very own area full of inert inanimate objects, but if we were to do it, what would we put there?
In an ideal world, it would be fantastic to just build a proper dive site. Get some huge granite boulders, put them on a barge with a crane on it, and lower them over the side in a big stable pile on the sea bed, then just watch the marine life grow. After all, what are dive sites? They're rocks that jut out of the sea bed that allow coral to grow on, and attract all manner of marine life. What is the geology of Koh Tao? Granite. What rocks are the dive sites made out of? Granite. The geologist in me will tell you that granite is made up of the minerals biotite, feldspar and quartz. It's a very hard igneous rock (formed by volcanic activity at the surface of the Earth), and marine life just seem to love living on it. But creating a dive site in this way would be a pretty costly exercise without gaining sponsorship from the Thai Government and large multinationals, such as oil companies. So what could we use instead? Junkyard has lots of interesting marine life all over it, pufferfish, nudibranche, and all the usual suspects that live on the shallower dive sites. There may not be a lot of coral growing on the items, but marine life would certainly find shelter in some of it.
It would be great to get your ideas on realistic and affordable ways to take the junkyard idea further. Plus, it would take a little pressure off junkyard and the other dive sites if there was an additional place to take our divers. So get busy on our facebook page and come up with some ideas. If we get an amazing idea, we may even give some fancy prizes away. You can post on the article for this blog here.

 

Beer float
It's getting to that time of year when the tide is quite far out in the afternoon on Sairee beach. This means only one thing. Hoards of people up and down the beach lying in the shallow water drinking afternoon beers in the tropical Sun. Tough life I know. The downside to this practice is that if you're a quick drinker you'll have to keep getting up to go to the bar. The upside is that you won't need to keep getting up to go to the toilet! If you're feeling really fancy and are a diver with your own dive gear, you can wear your BC fully inflated, which means you can float all day long getting sozzled. Last year at Big Blue we got around the getting a beer problem by setting up a bar in the sea, with an eski brimming with beers. So maybe we'll do it again this year as it seemed to be pretty damn popular. Just remember though, you don't need to have your mask on and snorkel in, as that would give you some seriously weird tan lines!

 

 

April 8th 2014

 

Photography winners
photo-competition-winnerAfter a lot of pacing up and down, head scratching (which doesn't fully explain his lack of hair), and a little bit of repetitive strain injury on his eyes, manager of Big Blue Movies, Wayne, finally managed to choose a winning photo as submitted to our photography competition. The standard of pictures was really high and we received a lot of inspiring photos with some great conservation captions, but in the end we could only pick 3 winners. 3rd prize goes to Sebastian Åkerblom of dive4photos, for his photo of the jeep taken at junkyard, surrounded by marine life. 2nd prize goes to Big Blue videographer and SSI instructor James Emery, for his beautiful shot of a saddleback anemonefish taken at Sairee reef, with the caption "I don't need a circle to stay healthy". This highlights the contention in having an artificial stone circle at dive site twins to protect a solitary anemone, which many people believe is doing more harm than good.
But 1st prize goes to our very own divemaster Phil "fishlad" Smith, for his photo of a nudibranche doing a little tightrope walk on a fishing net, taken at Southwest pinnacle. Phidiana Militaris for those of you down with the latin names of these beautiful sea slugs. His caption was "not all fish cages destroy life", which is probably rubbing it in a bit if you're a talking nudibranche sitting on the outside of a cage looking in at the poor fish on the inside, plus you're gloating that you, as an underwater gastropod are actually able to understand English! Pretty clever caption actually as there are abandoned fishing nets all over the ocean, and it just shows that the rope will begin to harbour life given enough time.
So phil wins a free place on one of our full day trips to Chumphon marine park (we may even allow him to fun dive), James wins a free coral workshop afternoon with Big Blue Conservation, and Sebastian wins a Big Blue Conservation bag for life. Congratulations to you all!
The photography competition was a huge success, so much so that we will run another one in the future. All proceeds to the competition will go to Swim4sharks 2014, to raise money for various shark conservation projects in and around Koh Tao. If you'd like to view the winning 3 entries, go to our facebook page here.

Pufferfish
You may call them pufferfish, but if we wanted to be fancy then you would say that they belong to the family Tetraodontidae, of the order Tetraodontiformes (Ever learn the classification series- Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species?). There are at least 120 species of puffers in 19 genera. They are most diverse in the tropics, relatively uncommon in the temperate zone, and completely absent from cold waters. They are typically small to medium in size, although a few species can reach lengths of greater than 100 cm.
The puffer's unique and distinctive natural defences help compensate for its slow locomotion. It moves by combining pectoral, dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. This makes it highly manoeuvrable, but very slow, and therefore a comparatively easy predation target. Its tail fin is mainly used as a rudder, but it can be used for a sudden evasive burst of speed that shows none of the care and precision of its usual movements. The puffer's excellent eyesight, combined with this speed burst, is the first and most important defense against predators.
Its backup defense mechanism, used if successfully pursued, is to fill its extremely elastic stomach with water (or air when outside the water) until it is much larger and almost spherical in shape. Even if they are not visible when the puffer is not inflated, all puffers have pointed spines, so a hungry predator may suddenly find itself facing an unpalatable, pointy ball rather than a slow, tasty fish. Predators which do not heed this warning (or which are "lucky" enough to catch the puffer suddenly, before or during inflation) may die from choking, and predators that do manage to swallow the puffer may find their stomachs full of tetrodotoxin, making puffers an unpleasant, possibly lethal, choice of prey. This neurotoxin is found primarily in the ovaries and liver, although smaller amounts exist in the intestines and skin, as well as trace amounts in muscle. It does not always have a lethal effect on large predators, such as sharks, but it can kill humans. known as pakpao in Thailand, they are occasionally accidentally eaten believe it or not as by-catch.
For us divers, they are common all over the Gulf of Thailand, and we see them regularly on the dive sites close to Koh Tao, with perhaps the most common one being the masked porcupine fish.
If you see one, give it a bit of distance and never try and touch it. If it has to puff up, it's a very stressful event for it to have to go through.

 

April 6th 2014

 

Big Blue award winners
big-blue-barWe're all pretty tired at Big Blue at the moment. Not because, you know, we work hard or anything like that. We're tired because we've been hosting some dignitaries. We even had to get the best china out to impress them. No it wasn't Bill Wyman looking for a new wife, or Tony Blair hoping to start a war between the dive schools (and then get a job as an ambassador for peace). It was the top brass from SSI worldwide. They were here on a two-pronged mission; to talk about the future of SSI after its aquisition by Mares last year, and also to recognise and award individuals and dive schools that have excelled in their training of SSI divers over the years. 
A few nights ago they held an event at the Big Blue bar, which was an excuse to provide Big Blue staff with free beer. They also honoured the boss, Jim, by awarding him the Platinum Pro 5,000 diver award- the highest SSI diving certification available. So he joins the ranks of Jacque Cousteau, who also received the award, in basically becoming a human fish. A hufish if we want to be taxonomically accurate. But that was nothing special compared with the free SSI beach towel he received. He also won the informal "sweatiest man of the evening" award, overtaking instructor trainer Simmo by a hair's breadth. Anyway, a good night was had by all, even though the free bar lasted for about 10 minutes. 
But just when we all thought we could get back to reality, we had a SSI conference two days ago. It was held at a fancy resort in Mae Hadd, with no expense spared (apart from the buffet). A few dive schools received awards, but Big Blue basically stole the evening. Instructor trainer Simmo won an award for certifying 500 instructors. Let me explain that in a little more detail. Since working at Big Blue, Simmo has taught over 500 hundred people to become SSI dive instructors- a phenomenal achievement. Big Blue Freediving also won an award for having certified over 100 people in their first year of operation, and divemaster mentor Nick "sloth" Bufton won an award for having certified 1,000 divers! That's 1,000 people that had never been underwater, who are now able to enjoy scuba diving! Again, an incredible achievement. 
The buffet however, was far from incredible. The spring rolls and onion rings ran out in about 30 seconds, so they went with their back-up plan of providing about 12 tonnes of crisps, which was great but the plates we had were essentially teacup saucer-sized; a disaster in finger food terms. 
SSI showed us some exciting developments that are in the pipeline. In a nutshell everything is going digital. You will be able to do your SSI open water academics on a tablet or smartphone app, and it'll hopefully be available at the end of this year. That will make the course a little easier to do seeing as everyone is pretty much living in the internet nowadays. Not sure how instructor Neil will adapt to this change though, he still uses a feather and ink to write his letters as far as i'm aware. There will hopefully also be some news forthcoming with Big Blue being able to offer SSI technical diving courses. Whatch this space.
So in conclusion, Big Blue is THE most successful, forward-thinking SSI dive resort in the world- fact. We have some incredible dive professionals here, and we have the awards to prove it. So you know there is only one place on Koh Tao that you need to come to, to learn how to dive, take your diving further, fun dive, or freedive. So get booking online now!

SSI facts
Seeing as we've just hosted the top brass from SSI, it seems only fitting to provide a bit of background information on the fastest growing diving agency in the world:

- Started in 1970, SSI has expanded to include more than 30 Service Centers, is represented in more than 110 countries with over 2.500 International locations, and has materials printed in more than 30 languages.
- Since June 1, 2010, Scuba Schools International is one of the few training agencies who qualified for a Global ISO Certification.
- SSI is a founding member of the RSTC (Recreational Scuba Training Council) and is present in all major national committees to ensure that the diving community´s interests are been taken care of.
- For more than 40 years, SSI has provided training, scuba diving certification, and educational resources for divers, dive instructors, dive centers and resorts around the world.
- On the open water course, the skills that you need to learn can be done in a way that is more flexible for both the student and the instructor. Other dive agencies are less flexible, which is not great for people that learn at different speeds and in different ways.
- International Headquarters is where the important standardization of SSI diving certification and education happens. This is where SSI Training Standards are written, and where the skills and techniques for SSI courses are created. This is also where we produce educational materials and, with the help of our Service Centers, translate them into many languages.
- SSI Dive Centers and Dive Resorts are professional businesses, that operate a scuba diving or freediving school for diver and dive professional training, as well as provide a variety of diving holidays, both local and destination for their customers. This network of Dive Centers and Dive Resorts around the world, where you can learn how to scuba- or freedive or further your diving education and experience, is extensive.
- SSI offers internationally recognized Scuba training programs for all levels - starting with Snorkeling and entry level diving courses up to Instructor Certifiers. The most common programs are: SSI Open Water Diver (OWD), Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD), more than 30 different specialty courses (like EAN Nitrox, Deep diving, Underwater navigation, Night diving and Limited Visibility, and many more). Dive leader training programs start with the Dive Control Specialist (who is qualified like Assistant Instructor) followed by Open Water Instructor and above.
- SSI's training program for children aged 8–12 years is called Scuba Rangers.
- The Training Program for technical Divers is called TechXR (Technical Extended Range) and includes decompression diving, trimix and other courses that exceed the limit for recreational divers.
- SSI Scuba Training programs are certified/recognized throughout the world (such as RSTC - Recreational Scuba Training Council, EUF - European Underwater Federation, CUA - China Underwater Association and others).
- SSI certified more open water divers in Australia in 2013 than PADI did.

 

April 3rd 2014

Perfect diving at the moment
open-water
The diving on Koh Tao at the moment is fantastic. Having just finished teaching a SSI open water course, my group were treated to four amazing dives where the conditions were absolutely perfect. White rock was calm, the Sun was shining, and the underwater visibility was around 20 metres. On top of all that, the ocean is like getting into a warm bath- 29 degrees Celsius! The sea in front of Big Blue is like looking at a mirror; flat calm. Chumphon pinnacle was also amazing, and again the visibility was around 20 metres. Once we'd descended to the pinnacle it seemed like rush hour for all the marine life, there were huge groupers all over the dive site, big shoals of fusilier and barracuda on the North, and pickhandle barracudas on the aply named barracuda rock to the Southwest. There were also a lot of golden trevaly hunting their prey, darting around at ludicrous speed hoping to catch a quick snack. To top it all off there were a few pretty big Spanish mackerel hanging around. Not a bad way to introduce diving to some enthusiastic open water students! We have the feeling that we'll be seeing whalesharks at Chumphon soon, they seem to be around again, with one showing up at Chumphon marine park on the last full day trip, and another one swimming with our divers at Southwest pinnacle on Tuesday morning. A whale was also spotted at Chumphon on Tuesday morning, followed by cries of incredulity by everyone (it was April fools day), until they saw it spouting at the surface in the background of an open water video! On the open water course we will take you to the best dive sites that Koh Tao has to offer, on the best dive boats, with some of the best dive professionals in the world. With the conditions being as they are at the moment, and the abundance and diversity of marine life on every dive site, you'll realise exactly why it was that you wanted to learn to dive, and want to do more and more and more diving. Don't bother with Koh Samui, and Chiang Mai can wait. Come to Koh Tao and let us teach you how to dive. Book your open water course on our website and we'll see you soon!

Restaurant boycott in Koh Samui
Some sad news from Koh Samui. A member of Marine Conservation Koh Tao recently saw shark being sold at a number of restaurants. Apparently much of it was caught in Koh Tao. We probably don't need to tell you that sharks are being taken from the ocean in huge numbers, and this practice needs to end. On Samui, the restaurants selling shark include Smile house, The address, and cococabana. I would urge you to avoid eating in those places and if you feel brave enough, explain to them why you will be going elsewhere. If you see sharks for sale in other places please take a photo and email it to Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation, so that we can help raise the profile of this awful practice. You could also go on their trip advisor pages and leave a review as to why you chose not to eat there. If they can't be persuaded to stop, we can make them stop by hitting them were it hurts the most- their wallets.

 

 

 

April 1st 2014

 

Big Blue Boffins
big-blue-boffinsWe've been working hard behind the scenes on something big over the last couple of years, and it's been frustrating not being able to say anything about it. But i've now been given the go ahead to shout it from the rooftops. So today i'm very proud to announce the grand opening of Big Blue Boffins- a brand-new part of the business dedicated to conducting scuba diving research. Now it's going to take time to get off the ground, but we're fully intending to revolutionise the diving industry and make it easier than ever for people to enjoy diving.
We're currently working on a number of revolutionary inventions. One example is synthesising sea cucumbers to excrete treacle, so that over time the ocean will become more and more viscous. So if you accidentally inflate your BC to go up, no problem, you'll still ascend nice and slowly! Plus, if you accidentally swallow a bit of water it will just make you crave pancakes! We also think it's pretty wasteful to have to put air in your BC from your diving cylinder to make yourself neutrally buoyant. So we're developing a kind of reverse-regulator to attach to your underpants, so that you can add air to your BC by utilising air from your bum. The first-stage will take the low pressure air from your bum and increase it to an intermediate pressure. The trials are going well, but we're going to have to spend more time on oral inflation at the surface- you don't want to be leaving your finger on the deflate button as you blow air into your BC! We'll let you know when it's ready to hit the shelves but we think we're onto a winner.
But perhaps the most important developments will involve looking at the bigger picture. We're currently in top-secret talks with the descendants of Robert Boyle, Archimedes of Syracuse, William Henry, John Dalton, and Jacques Charles, to gain permission to change the laws of physics relating to diving, as inspired by Willy Wonka. If we can re-arrange all the formulas, then it stands to reason that the underwater world will also change. Imagine if an increased partial pressure of nitrogen just made you a bit peckish instead of getting you narced! But don't worry, none of this will go to our heads when we receive the Nobel prize. We'll still take you diving to the best dive sites in Koh Tao, but it might be on a dive boat powered by Barracuda poo, with an in-built flux capacitor in case you missed the whaleshark.
So, just to summarise, Big Blue Boffins, as launched today, April 1st 2014.... you fools.

Giant groupers
Seeing as Chumphon and White rock seem to be covered in giant groupers at the moment, how about some lovely facts about these amazing lazy predators:

- The giant grouper is the largest bony fish found in coral reefs. It’s also known as the brown spotted cod and the Queensland grouper. In fact, it is the emblem of the state of Queensland, Australia. Groupers are a large family of fish and the giant grouper is one of the biggest in the family.
- It’s found throughout the Indo-Pacific area except the Persian Gulf. They’re a huge species and can grow as large as 2.7 m long and can weigh up to 600 kg. There are rumors that even larger groupers have been found but these are unconfirmed.
- The giant grouper is found commonly in shallow waters and feeds on a range of other marine life including small sharks, crustaceans and young sea turtles. Its favorite sea food is the spiny lobsters. Like other grouper species, it changes color as it ages.
- It has an extremely large mouth and a round tail. The young have uneven yellow and black markings whereas the adults are green, brown or gray with only a faint mottling. They also have a scattering of black spots on their fins.
- These giants can live up to fifty years in the wild. They are fully protected as their numbers are dwindling. They breed between May and August and like many other fish they are hermaphrodites.
- They are a specific type of hermaphrodite known as the protogynous hermaphrodite meaning the young are predominantly female but turn into males as they develop. When young they’re believed to grow over 1 kg a year. When they reach around 10 kg they turn male and the male grouper has a harem of up to fifteen females. If there is no male in the group, the largest female will turn male to satisfy their reproductive needs.
- The giant grouper preys upon other sea life but rather than chasing after its prey, it prefers to lie in wait and catch any prey unaware. But this slow-swimming, sluggish behavior isn't good for them if there are spear fishermen around. - Another threat is that their habitat is being destroyed by excessive fishing and its prey being wiped out. Similarly, the explosive devices used in reef areas have led to a decline in their population.

 

May 31st 2014

 

What Coup? 
martial-lawWe've been posting regular news articles about the recent coup over the last week onto our facebook page, in order to get the message out there that there really is nothing to worry about for people thinking of coming to Thailand. Life is continuing as if nothing has happened, especially on Koh Tao- no curfew, no army, nothing. Even in Bangkok the only real difference is that there are a few soldiers on the street, and that a curfew has been in place between 9pm and 5am. But even that has now been relaxed to midnight until 4am. Apart from that, anyone coming to Thailand would have no idea that anything was happening at all. Many tourists are now getting their photos taken with soldiers, who seem more than happy to oblige them!
The problem is that once something like a coup gets out to the worldwide media, panic mode is activated, with national media and Governments warning their citizens not to travel here. Completely understandable if it happened in a country like Zimbabwe, but coups in Thailand seem to happen pretty regularly, and always very peacefully.
It has gotten a little quieter on Koh Tao, but it's quiet season anyway until July. We are still teaching a lot of people how to dive that are having a great time regardless. Very few of our customers have even asked about the coup, because they can see that nothing has changed. In fact, there are actually advantages to what's going on at the moment, flights to Thailand and hotels are massively discounted! So you could have the holiday that you planned to do anyway, but now it will cost you a hell of a lot less!
So please don't allow yourself to be scared off by the news in Europe and America. The reality is very different. Governments obviously need to be seen to give advice to their citizens, even though it is (especially here) being overly conservative advice.
Get yourself over to Thailand as planned, and don't bother spending time in Bangkok, come straight down to Koh Tao and get diving!

Motorbikes more dangerous than any coup
Regardless of what's going on in Thailand at the moment, and people's perception of the danger they think they may be under, the reality is very different. The main hazard faced by people coming to Koh Tao is motorbikes. Motorbike crashes happen a lot here, and they are almost always tourists who rented one and had no idea how to ride them, or were just drunk at the time. Both not very good ideas. Thais have a very different attitude to riding a motorbike than westerners- they don't look right when turning left at a junction, and drive pretty erratically. Unfortunately, westerners seem to copy this approach too. 
The worst culprits are the boy racers that drive around like nutters all day because they have experience of riding bikes and know there are no speed limits being enforced. Sadly these are also exactly the type of people to go out, get really drunk, and then crash.
Then there are people who've never even sat on a bike that hand their passport in and suddenly have possession of a machine that they have no idea how to ride. It seems easy as most bikes are full automatic- throttle and brakes. But they have no control, and zero understanding of the danger of sand on the road. Usually they ride a lot slower though so most crashes cause superficial injuries and just hurt the wallet.. a lot!
So please be sensible, don't even think about getting on a bike here in Koh Tao. You can easily walk most places or get a taxi.

 

 

 

May 27th 2014

 

Fantastic review- by the reviewer!
Centre-of-excellenceAlways nice when you receive a pat on the back, especially when it's because of all the great feedback you get from your customers. We're really proud to have been recently awarded a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor. The letter we received reads:

Celebrate Your Certificate of Excellence!
TripAdvisor is delighted to award Big Blue Diving with a 2014 Certificate of
Excellence.
This prestigious award recognizes businesses that consistently earn top ratings from
TripAdvisor travelers. Showcase it to guests and staff with pride!
Congratulations.
Marc Charron
President, TripAdvisor for Business

That's amazing! We have over 1,200 customer reviews now, and the overwhelming majority are excellent or very good. Now, we're not perfect and don't get it right all the time, and we have a very small number of poor reviews. Some of them were legitimate criticisms, and we always work hard to address them, but others are a little strange or ridiculous, to the point where we have had people come to Big Blue solely because they read them and decided they were rubbish!
So we're pretty chuffed and will continue to work really hard to ensure that everyone coming to Big Blue has the best possible experience. But once you've left Big Blue, don't forget to leave a review on trip advisor! You can also leave a review at Divezone, Tangareef, Scubadviser, and World Diving Review

 

City Divers
Divers like to dive dive sites... obvious fact and tongue twister all rolled into one. But sometimes dive sites don't mean the usual wreck or rock pinnacle. Occassionally they involve an entire submerged city! Here's a list of the top five that any diver with a heartbeat would want to see:

  • Port Royal, Jamaica: Once one of the largest European cities in the new world, it was hit by a huge earthquake in 1692, leaving it 12 metres below the surface!
  • Pyramids of Yonaguni-Jima, Japan: No-one knows whether they are natural or man-made, but they look a little too designed to be natural. Plus, they rise 76 metres off the sea floor!
  • Dwarka, Gulf of Cambay, India: Situated in the bay of modern-day Dwarka (one of the oldest cities in India), it sits at 40 metres and is apparently the city of Lord Krishna. Artifacts from 7500BC have been found there!
  • Lion City, Quiandao lake, China: As big as 62 football fields, and lying at between 25 and 40 metres, it was intentionally flooded in the 1950s to create a dam.There are incredible sculptures on the buildings, and its the place I would like to dive the most.
  • Cleopatra's Palace, Alexandria, Egypt: Believed to have been sunk by an earthquake 1,500 years ago, archaeologists think it is the actual palace of Cleopatra. over 140 artifacts have been recovered to date, and scientists believe that they have even found Cleopatra's tomb!

 

May 23rd 2014

 

Still Diving
big-blue-diversYou probably saw the news yesterday that the Thai Army has initiated a military coup, brought about by the political stalemate that's been happening in the Thai Parliament. Now, hopefully you're not thinking that Thailand doesn't sound like a particularly attractive place to go on holiday right now. Because, although a coup sounds pretty scary, not much has actually changed, and in Koh Tao, NOTHING has changed.. nada, not one thing.
Let's provide a little bit of context. It's usually always a pretty big deal when a coup, military or otherwise happens in any country. But in Thailand, there have been 30 coup attempts since 1912, and 11 actual coups since 1932! So the nation is actually pretty used to it. But the crutial thing to note is that the army have gotten pretty adept at doing it peacefully. In Bangkok, yes you may see some soldiers, but in the main tourist areas, Khao San road for example, you're really not going to see anything. Plus, the main focus of what's occurring is in Bangkok (nowhere near touristy areas), so if you're worried, just fly in to Bangkok and spend your time elsewhere in the country! Get yourself down to Koh Tao and you'll be lucky to even see a policeman.. and keep it to yourself but I'm not sure that anyone on Koh Tao is paying much attention to the curfew either!
Our SSI and PADI instructors are still teaching people to dive, and our divemasters are still taking qualified divers out to see the best dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand. So don't let what's going on in the news stop you from having an amazing time. Get yourself booked in to come to Big Blue!

Engine's running...
I was pondering whether to write about the history of coups, then I thought I'd write something about pigeons, because, you know. But instead I think I'll just give you the top 7 (yes 7) countdown of the weirdest/funniest things said or done by students or instructors during their open water course:

7- "I really like the current simulator"- that'll be the pool filter then.
6- "I don't understand how you work out this residential nitrogen".
5- "ok, you just did everything I didn't want you to do, and nothing that I did want you to do".
4- "I don't understand how you put the fins on, then the boots over them".
3- "Have you ever taught anyone as thick as me before?"
2-"Will I need to put this in?" Pointing at the regulator before going underwater.
1- The scared student needing to be carried from the shallow to the deep end underwater, then being held in the instructors arms on his lap until he felt brave enough to kneel down by himself.

 

May 20th 2014

 Changes at Big Blue Tech

Big-Blue-Tech-Rick--DonnyWe are proud to announce that we have new management in place at Big Blue Tech. Instructors Rick and Donny will be taking over from the 25th May. They are both pretty weird people, and we're not sure whether putting them together will cancel out the weirdness or make it much worse. Donny is on the right in the photo, looking pretty special, and Rick is the one looking like Brick Tamlin in Anchorman 2 when he realises he's not actually dead.
Regardless, they are both really passionate about technical diving, and all joking aside want to get people interested in tech diving, and show recreational divers that are already aware of it that the impression they may have of what it's all about is probably wrong.
People have many different reasons for going diving. Most just want to see the marine life that's out there. Some want to get into marine biology and see diving as the perfect way to study ecosystems and fish. It might surprise some of them to know that some of the most prolific and famous marine biologists are also technical divers who found a niche to study> Richard Pyle is a very well respected marine biologist who dives beyond the photic zone and collects fish that live at depths of 70 and 80 metres. He's identified numerous species throughout his career, and he couldn't have done it without being a technical diver. Others study life in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, and need to become technical divers to allow them to do that. These are just some of the things that Rick & Donny will be engaging divers about over the coming weeks and months. They'll also be announcing some enticing offers for technical diving courses such as the entry level course- TDIs intro to tech. 
They are currently going through a handover process with outgoing manager James Foheler, who has decided to move on to another adventure, and Ian Jordan, who will be continuing to teach at Big Blue. Big Blue would like to thank them for all their hard work over the last two years, and wish them well in the future.If you'd like to find out more about technical diving, have a look on the Big Blue Tech website, or pop in to the tech shack to have a chat with the weirdos that dwell there.

Aquatic Lizards

I saw a recent photo on facebook the other day of a monitor lizard walking along the rocks at about 6 metres depth at Mango bay. I had no idea that they could dive and for a minute thought it was a bit of a hoax, but no, it turns out that they really do partake in a bit of freediving from time to time. Their apparent ability to stand on two legs and "monitor" what's going on around them is apparently where their name comes from. But what makes them go for a bit of a duck-dive? Well it's all to do with the fact that they are cold-blooded. All cold blooded reptiles need the heat of the Sun to allow them to get warm enough to allow their muscles to work so they can move around and hunt for prey. Now seeing as April and May are the two hottest months in Thailand, especially in Koh Tao, it can easily go the other way and they can find themselves overheating. Sometimes the shade just isn't enough, so a nice refreshing dip in the ocean makes perfect sense. But they must have been listening in on the freediver's yoga sessions to learn how to hold their breath for, wait for it... up to 30 minutes at a time!

 

May 17th 2014

 

Staff birthdays
birthdaysIt seems that May is the month for the vast majority of dive professionals to be born. This past week we have had what can only be described as a lot of staff birthdays, with more to come! The 3rd of May saw SSI instructor trainer Simmo celebrating whilst on his holiday in Morocco- wherever that is. May 11th was former instructor and current clown Anke's, May 14th was Daisy and outgoing Big Blue Tech manager James's. May 15th saw Neil and incoming Big Blue Tech manager Rick's. But the month is not over yet. On the 22nd it's divemaster trainee mentor Rich's, and the 27th is Rod's 30th.. blimey.
If we had any sense, we'd just have one monumental party. But no, we're way too greedy/hedonistic for that. We have to have about 10 instead, you know, because living on a tropical Island doing something we love for a living is not a reason for celebrating in itself.. Anyway, happy birthday to all of them, some much much older than others (James). We hope you had and have a great day, and don't remember any of the night!

Shark repellent
Some pretty clever people have come up with a different approach to repelling sharks. Marine biologists Professor Shaun Collin and Professor Nathan Hart have been studying shark vision, and have made some fascinating discoveries that have potential real-world applications. They discovered that sharks see in black and white, and also that, in spite of them using their mouths to sense the world around them by biting stuff (not good for humans), vision is also crucial to being able to understand whether something is potentially prey or not. This has led to the initial development of wetsuits that are designed to either convince a shark that the wearer is dangerous or unpalatable to eat, or just very difficult to see in the first place. The wetsuits are striped black and white. Lets hope that sharks don't like zebras much.
The simple idea could be used for wetsuits, scuba tanks, kayaks, surf boards, water skis, and anything else that involves humans potentially coming into contact with sharks. It will be fascinating to find out more about their effectiveness once more people are applying the concept.

 

May 14th 2014

 

Big Blue Wedding!
Luke-whiteYou may have noticed that it's been a little quiet at Big Blue over the last week or so.. not because we haven't got anyone diving with us, but because half of the instructors dissapeared on a jolly to Udon Thani to watch PADI and SSI instructor and Big Blue hearthrob Luke White get married. Sorry ladies, he went through with it, and the man previously known as the Grimsby platinum bruiser shall henceforth be known as the Grimsby newlywed schmoozer. There was a little bit of merriment in Bangkok, some poker playing, hours of trying to find the perfect shoes for instructor Neil Draycrott (we went with acceptable instead of perfect in the end- and I use the term acceptable loosely), and even a Thai Ska band thrown in for good measure.
The day itself went like clockwork, the ceremony was really interesting but baffling, as it was delivered in a local Udon Thani dialect. Not that I would have understood any of it if it was in standard Thai either! After the ceremony it was on to the reception for a bit of a Thai feast and quite a lot of whisky. Perhaps the most memorable part of the day was a powerpoint slideshow that Luke's dad had prepared, showing pictures of him as a baby and teenager, which was a bit of a shock as we all thought Luke was fully formed when he came out of the lab.
So now we're all back at Big Blue and expecting it to get even quieter now that the ladies know that Koh Tao's most elligible batchelor is off the shelf and fully taken.
Anyway, from everyone at Big Blue we'd like to wish Luke and Pekky all the best for the future, and, as Pekky's uncle said immediately after the ceremony, when will we see the little Lukes?

Marine Protected Areas
Here's a statistic that's pretty scary- only 2% of the world's oceans are covered by some sort of Marine Protected Area (MPA). What's a MPA I hear you ask. Well, it's an unbrella term for ocean sanctuaries, marine parks, and no-fishing zones, which are places where marine life is supposed to be left alone to allow it to thrive, free of human interference (or, at least, subject to limited human interference). There are around 5,000 MPAs in the world, and they include well known sites like the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands, but they can also simply be areas where either fishing is not allowed, or greatly limited.
We clearly need many more of them as the oceans have never been under greater threat from human activities than they currently are. But there are encouraging signs. Forward thinking countries are starting to realise that preserving their territories and opening them up to scuba divers and tourists is worth more money than opening them up to commercial fishing. However, this still leaves 59% of the open ocean available to commercial fishing. But even the UN is starting to loko into the feasibility of closing this down, in order to allow stocks of migratory fish like bluefin tuna to recover. Let's hope that actual action is taken to make this a reality!

 

 

May 6th 2014

 

Waverunner refurbishment almost done
waverunner-refurbGood news for our fleet of dive boats, MV Waverunner, our newest aquisition, is almost fully refurbished and will be ready for action in the next few weeks. This means that we will have FIVE boats flying the Big Blue flag.. FIVE!!!
We have rented waverunner on and off for a number of years, but decided last year to actually buy it. It's been a big help during busy periods, helping to ensure that the other boats weren't overcrowded. However, it had seen better days, and to say it was looking "rustic" would have been an understatement. So the decision was made to take it into dry dock, strip it back to the hull, and re-build the thing exactly how we want it. There was lots to be done, and it has taken a while, but by god it will have been worth it when it comes back. It will be one of the biggest dive boats on Koh Tao, and will have a huge area for divers to set up their equipment. There will also be a large area upstairs for people to relax in between dives, and it's pretty damn nippy in the water too.
There isn't a divemaster, divemaster trainee, instructor or tech instructor that isn't excited to see it in it's final glory. But i'll bet the day it comes back, when it finally moors up in front of Big Blue on Sairee Reef, not one person will recognise it until it's pointed out to them what it is! The captain, P-Choi, will probably be the proudest captain the world has ever seen, and he may even wear a different coloured singlet to mark it's maiden voyage with divers on board, but it's hard to tell with him.. he may just stick with his "I love Thailand" one.
Anyway, watch this space when she finally arrives, we'll be showing her off to anyone and everyone, and she'll take pride of place alongside our other boats- Ao Meung, MV Banzai, Big Blue, and Porponawa (our fundiver only boat).

Fashion show
There was a fancy swimwear fashion show held on Sairee beach the other night, in part to promote a new range of swimwear from one of the shops in Mae Hadd, but mainly so that people can ogle some of the local hot men and women as they strutted around and showed off their hour glass 6 packs. Big Blue instructors Denja and Daisy power-walked their way down the catwalk and did us proud. Actually not a bad idea for Big Blue to do to promote our own range of beachwear- Drift, by Big Blue, as sold in our retail shop in Sairee village. I can only imagine the horror if instructors Neil, Luke, Alex and Ian decide to show us what they're made of. Maybe we can hold off until we launch our monsoon range of wetsuits instead!!

 

May 2nd 2014

 

SSI videography course
nemoGet your reading glasses on and look at the photo to the right. I'm no expert in photography by any stretch of the imagination, but i would immediately assume that it was shot by a seasoned underwater photographer, wouldn't you? But we'd both be wrong- it was actually taken by a student undertaking their SSI underwater videography course with our resident expert instructor, James Emery.
This is an amazing course that is very high on my list of "want it, need it". It's designed to give you all the tools you need to be able to take stunning underwater photos and video. The package includes dives to improve your buoyancy- after all, what's the point in having a camera underwater if you can't keep it, or yourself still? Once you've got the hang of that, then you can focus on learning all about how to take the shots you want. You'll learn all about composition, lighting, framing, exposure rates, shutter speeds, infinity settings, use of filters, and all manner of other stuff that I know nothing about!
Then, once you've had a bit of experience in recording video clips, you'll learn how to use editing software, so you can get all that raw footage into something spectacular. Once you know what you're doing and get your qualification, you can work as an underwater videographer, and get paid to do something that you love!
If you want to find out more about the SSI videography course, get in touch with us.. the email address is at the top of our homepage.

UNESCO gets tough
Interesting news about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Unesco has threatened to list it as a World Heritage in Danger site, due to controversial plans to allow dumping of dredged sediment within the reef. The dumping plan arose because Tony Abbott's Government wants to build one of the world's largest coal ports. But scientists have warned that any sediment could poison or smother coral in the area, which could have disastrous effects to marine life, and also a knock-on eceonimc effect in terms of loss of tourism.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral structure, rich in marine life. It stretches for more than 2,600km (1,680 miles) along Australia's eastern coast. The proposed area for dumping sits just 16 miles to the East of the planned coal port, which lies within the marine park!
So hopefully, sense will prevail, and UNESCO's rhetoric will highlight the utter stupidity of dumping waste materials so close to one of the most incredible places on the planet. Let's see how it unfolfd with fingers crossed.

 

 

Big Blue is Hiring

 

Job Opportunity
turtleAttention job seekers and beach bum wannabees, Big Blue Diving is hiring! We are looking for a new manager to take over Big Blue Conservation, as current manager Lizzie has decided to up sticks and go back to the UK to "study" at University. The ideal candidate needs to be prepared to commit to a 6 month- 1 year contract, full-time, to start in August.
Managing the conservation department at Big Blue is a big responsibility, and involves ensuring that the dive school as a whole is operating in an environmentally friendly way, including recycling of waste and water use. A large part of the role involves educating divers and the local community about marine conservation, along with organising, arranging and teaching conservation courses and internships.
The ideal candidate should have a passion for marine biology and marine conservation, and preferably have a degree in a related subject. They should also be a dive instructor in active teaching status, from any of the major diving agencies (BSAC, SSI, PADI etc). It would also be desirable but not essential that they be experienced in teaching and/or managing conservation projects.
If you are interested in applying for the position, or would like more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive a full job description.

The 10-point plan to become more eco-friendly
1. Make a conscious effort to reduce your Carbon Footprint- All the common sense stuff really, Turn lights off, get your home insulated, walk instead of driving short distances, use compact fluorescent bulbs, turn the heating down by 1 degree.

2. Eat only Sustainable Seafood- Global fish populations are effectively being wiped out because people are eating them in much greater numbers. This is of course completely unsustainable and we will end up with a dea lifeless ocean if we carry on. So when you are shopping or eating out, help to reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable.

3. Use less Plastic- Plastic often ends up as ocean debris, which hugely contributes to habitat destruction and entangles and kills tens of thousands of marine animals each year. To help reduce this, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in nondisposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible.

4. Keep the Beach clean!- Whether you're a diver, surfer, or just like to lounge around on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups.

5. Don't Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life- Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products.

6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner- Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.

7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean- Many institutes and organizations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organization and consider giving financial support or volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home.

8. Influence Change in Your Community- Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects. Consider patronizing restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood, and speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter.

9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly- Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life- All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health—then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others.

 

Shark Guardians Coming to Koh Tao

 

Shark Conservation Presentation
shark-guardianKeep your diary free if you think you will be on Koh Tao on the 28th June, as we have some shark experts coming over to give a talk on shark conservation. The talk will be given by Brendon Sing and Elizabeth Ward-Sing, who are professional scuba divers and also shark divers and researchers.
They work for an organisation called Shark Guardian, which is dedicated to the conservation of sharks through education, promotion of research, and protection and sustainibility of marine ecosystems. The shark guardian presentation is designed for people of all ages to highlight the plight of sharks and reinforce how vital they are to a healthy marine ecosystem.
You will learn a lot from their presentation, even if you already know a fair bit about the subject area. You'll also be inspired by their passion for sharks to do all you can to help them and raise awareness. The presentation will take place at 7pm at Choppers bar in Sairee.

Why Sharks?
So why are sharks important in the oceans? After all, the media would have everyone believe that they are just mindless killers, and that it would be great if we got rid of them all.. Wrong! They have been around for 450 million years and are key to maintaining the right balance between predators and prey.
If all the sharks are gone, the population of the fish they eat would explode, meaning that any food lower down the food chain would dwindle, which, in turn would then reduce the populations of the very fish that were eating them. Before long the entire ocean habitat would be a ghost town, and on a large-scale, we would be looking at a lifeless dead ocean. Now isn't that a cheery thought!

 

June 12th 2014

 

Loose Feet
Save-Koh-TaoThe dance rehearsals are currently in full swing for the Save Koh Tao festival in a couple of weeks. Big Blue will be on the main stage with a dance rendition of footloose, choreographed by our head of marine conservation Lizzie May, with help from SSI instructor and, as the rumour goes, ex-professional dancer Lotte Niens. There'll be a girls dance, then a boys dance, and then for the ending, everyone together. It's a pretty good turnout of volunteers this year too, with a mix of instructors, divemasters, and divemaster trainees all getting involved. But we will be missing the star performer of the last two years, Neil Draycrott. He'll be too busy watching the world cup to even notice it's happening at all. It's going to be a pretty intense last few days to make sure that they're all ready to nail the actual performance, but they seem to be highly motivated- probably helped by visting the bar whilst waiting to get started each night!
If you're lucky enough to be around for the festival, it takes place on the 17th to the 19th of June, and there is loads of stuff happening, admittedly it will never be as exciting as the father ted episode with the fairground, with rides such as the spinning cat and the like, but there will be lots of amazing Thai food, dancing galore, and who knows what else on the main stage. There will also be things happening in the daytime, such as the release of baby turtles into the ocean.
So if you're around in the middle of June, be sure to go and cheer on the Big Blue footloose dance brigade.. or go and watch the world cup with Neil.

Evening light shows
We're getting some incredible electrical storms in the evenings at the moment. April, May and June are the hottest months of the year in Thailand and, in the Gulf of Thailand all that humidity is the perfect recipe for lightning, which is great news for people wanting to find a nice vantage point to just sit and watch the light show. Not so good however for the dogs on Koh Tao that run for cover at the first sound of thunder! It's probably also an excuse for anyone in a bar on Sairee beach to stay and have another drink in case they might get caught in the rain!

 

June 9th 2014

 

Full Day Trip
sail-rock300x225Yesterday's full day trip was a resounding success, with lots of happy fundivers returning to land following two epic dives at sail rock and one at Southwest on the way home. The visibility was good, the fish were everywhere and the Sun was shining. Not a bad way to spend a day! We run regular full day trips on our fundiver only boat- Porponawa. It takes us wherever we want to go way way faster than any other large dive boat on Koh Tao, and it's spacious enough to enjoy the surface interval between dives, whether that involves a bit of sun worshipping or relaxing under cover. We provide a hearty breakfast and delicious Thai lunch for the trips, and as many soft drinks as you can manage. Plus, on the way home we get the chocolate cake out!
We like to have small groups for fundivers; the maximum group size with a divemaster showing you the marine life on the dive sites is 4. And, if you want to do all of the dives on nitrox, no problem, only 200baht a tank!
We alternate the full day trips between Chumphon Marine Park, Sail Rock and Angthong Marine Park, and Big Blue Tech are now running 3-day trips to Angthong Marine Park, which involves staying on one of the beautiful Islands for 2 nights!
To get on one of the trips, all you have to do is sign up in the Big Blue shop, and then get excited.. in that order!

World Oceans Day
Yesterday was world oceans day, which involved highlighting the awe-inspiring beauty of the oceans and how much we depend on them, and also getting the message across that they are under threat, which means that we are under threat. Many people just don't realise how much rubbish gets thrown into the oceans, and how much they are overfished. Our dependence on them really cannot be overstated. They generate most of the oxygen that we breathe, regulate the climate, drive our weather, provide us with food, and allow potential new medicines to be developed in the form of pharmacutical drugs harnessed from a variety of marine life. Getting people to think about these things and realise the need to conserve the oceans is vital. If more people are aware of the issues, then politicians will be more inclined to take steps to preserve them for the future.

 

June 5th 2014

 

Save Koh Tao Festival
Save-Koh-TaoOh lordy, has it been a year already? Time again for the annual Save Koh Tao festival. This year it takes place over the 17th-19th June, and promises to be a rather splendid affair. There will be a ceremonial release of turtles and clams, underwater clean-ups, mooring line repair and installation workshops, a Tour de Tao bicycle parade, and a "miss" save Koh Tao contest!
High up on the list of events is the evening of the last day, where a number of dive schools put on a bit of a dance for the audience. The year before last, instructors, divemasters and divemaster trainees put on a performance of the evolution of dance. Last year it was the blues brothers, and this year is a surprise until you see it for yourself!
Each year we do something for the festival, we have more and more people wanting to get involved. SSI and PADI instructor Neil always seems to be the dance leader, as, bizarrely he seems to be a pretty good dancer. Plus, having been in a number of bands before coming to Koh Tao, he's used to being on a stage with a huge audience watching. But most of the other participants remedy's for stage fright seem to involve a couple of beverages beforehand to steady the nerves... 
The festival is a great time for locals to get to know each other, and also for visitors to eat some amazing Thai food, watch some traditional Thai dancing, and see some of the dive schools make fools of themselves.
If you're around, you won't be able to miss it, as everywhere else on Koh Tao will be deserted in the evenings!

Banded Coral Shrimp
On a fun dive yesterday I had a couple of huge banded coral shrimp pointed out to me, and I thought they looked pretty cool. So here are a few facts about the said beast:

- They look like a spider.
- I hear they smell like chicken coated in marmalade.
- They occur in temperate areas all over the world, from Canada, Brazil and Mexico to as far South as Sydney, Australia.
- They live in the intertidal zone up to 210 metres deep!
- They are pretty striking to look at, with red and white banding all over, which is probably war paint.
- They are also known as banded boxer shrimp because of their massive claws.
- IThey're scavengers, and will pretty much eat anything presented to it.
- They are all over the dive sites in the entire Gulf of Thailand, Chumphon pinnacle, Twins, White rock, and pretty easy to find.

 

Big Blue Selfie

 

Big Blue Selfie
big-blue-selfieSwim for Sharks 2014 is almost underway, and I don't want to bombard you with posts about it, but it is for charity, and there seems to be more and more amazing prizes being given away every day. Big Blue Conservation has just launched #bigblueselfie, which is open to any previous Big Blue customer. All you have to do is have a photo taken of yourself wearing a Big Blue t-shirt in front of a famous landmark, or some kind of jaw-dropping backdrop somewhere on the planet. Then you simply have to share it to the Big Blue Diving facebook page... easy! We've had some interesting ones already, including the ASDA car park in Lancaster, UK... classy I know.
But why bother? Well i'm glad you asked. The winner will receive a FREE Deep, Wreck, and Nitrox course, worth around 15,000 baht! This will increase your maximum diving depth for 40 metres, allow you to stay at depth for longer through the benefits of nitrox, and teach you how to navigate safely around a wreck. What more could you ask for from simply having your mugshot taken in a certain t-shirt? It's also an incentive to get yourself back over to Koh Tao!
The competition has already begun, and closes on the 31st August 2014. The prize voucher is valid until 31st August 2015. To get you started, to the right is one of our instructors Phil on a recent holiday in Germany at Neuschwanstein Castle.. lovely stuff!

Sharkfin imports
This time last year, it seemed like an unwinnable battle, trying to prevent sharkfinning from happening, or stopping the fins themselves from being imported into the Countries where they are consumed. But then a campaign was begun that gained momentum fast, which led to 15 intercontinental airlines deciding that they would ban shark's fins from being carried on their flights! Now Thai Airways has also made the decision to embargo shark fins... hurrah!! It's only a matter of time before other airlines follow suit, and the illegal industry will find it way harder to get their product to market. Let's keep the pressure up!

 

Swim for Sharks 2014

Swim for Sharks 2014

swim-for-sharks-2014One of the biggest days on Koh Tao is almost upon us- Swim for Sharks, which is a charity event held every year. It's a huge day for residents of the Island, and is open to anyone and everyone to get involved and raise some money for shark conservation.
The event itself involves a competitive swim around the Islands of Koh Nang Yuan, which, lets face it is pretty hardcore as the competitors are onlyt allowed to wear goggles and swimwear! But, as with other events like the London marathon, there is a fun swim, whereby people take a far more leisurely pace and are allowed to wear a mask, snorkel and fins. This year there is also a team swim.
The prize for the craziest person that wins each of the catagories is a sharkskin rashvest; the most sought out of all aquatic clothing. There isn't an official 2nd, 3rd or 4th prize, as organisers clearly thought that participants being thankful that they made it around in one piece should suffice.
Once the event is over, there will be a presentation and a raffle at Big Blue bar, followed by a disco, conveniently at the same venue. The last few years saw men and women organise a "shave for sharks" event at the bar, which was great fun, and thankfully only involved hair being shaved, styled and cropped from the cranial region. It'd entirely up tp you if you're happy to look ridiculous for the following few weeks.
So if you're around on the 2nd August, get yourself signed up for the event at Big Blue Diving at 9:30. Bring your trunks and a packed lunch.. it's going to be amazing!

How it all began
Like with most great ideas, Swim for Sharks was formed via a conversation in the Big Blue Bar. They must have thought it was a great idea to swim around Nang Yuan, but I bet they didn't give it a test run the next day.. Once the event was finalised, 19 people took part and raised 19,000 Baht for shark conservation. Last years event had 61 swimmers, who raised 120,000 baht! The event on the 2nd is expected to be the biggest by far. 

 

 

3-Day Dive Trip

Angthong Marine Park trip
Angthong-marine-parkBig Blue Dive Club's first ever diving expedition was a resounding success, with some seriously happy customers arriving back at Big Blue after a 3-day jolly, I mean trip to Angthong Marine Park. The trip was open to anyone and we had a mixture of Big Blue instructors and divemasters, customers from the UK, and divemaster trainees from other dive schools on Koh Tao all taking part.
We departed on the 4th July and managed to fit in 2 dives at an amazing dive site before heading to the accommodation on Ko Wua La Tap, which is where the headquarters of the national park is based. The Island was stunning (pictured)... beautiful sandy white beach, friendly staff, and simple and clean accommodation. A hike to the top of the Island was available to those hardy enough to attempt it, with viewpoints at various heights offering incredible views of the entire marine park.
After a long day everyone was ready for bed in anticipation of the next day's diving.
Day 2 saw an early start to head out into the park to look for new dive sites. It has to be said that the underwater visibility in the middle of the park was not amazing, but that didn't matter as the whole idea was about exploring and looking for new dive sites. So we headed up to the North of the park and found some great spots to dive, and the marine life was incredible; huge shoals of barracuda, trevaly, a sea snake, Stonefish, baby boxfish, cuttlefish, pipefish, huge snappers, lionfish, and numerous adult and juvenile blue-spotted rays. We then headed back to the accommodation and started a barbecue and fire on the beach... burgers, bangers, jacket potatoes and sweetcorn.. all washed down with a few cold beers whilst watching instructor Steveo have a good snore! Not a bad way to end the day )apart from the snoring), and all included in the cost of the trip!
On day 3 we headed out to some more dive sites for 2 last dives, before heading back to Koh Tao, tired but happy with our little adventure. Everyone had an amazing time and Big Blue Tech is already busy planning the next trip to Chumphon Marine Park in August. If you're interested in coming on one of the trips, follow Big Bue Tech and join the Big Blue Dive club on facebook for updates.

Mini-facts about Angthong Marine Park

  • The Marine Park consists of 42 tropical Islands!
  • The name in Thai is Mu Koh Angthong National Marine Park.. don't ask me what that stands for!
  • The Park is around 102 km² in size, with about 82% of it being water.
  • It lies in the Province of Changwat Suratthani
  • Although much of the filming actually took place in Koh Pi Pi, Angthong Marine Park was meant to be the setting for the film the Beach by Alex Garland.

Changes at Big Blue Conservation

 

New manager at Big Blue Conservation
lizzieSad news today, our head of Marine conservation, Lizzie May is moving on to pastures new and leaving Koh Tao. She's decided to go back to University, which involves getting up late, not really doing anything, and then getting drunk every night. Why she has to go half way around the world to do that I don't know.. she could do that right here!
But seriously, she applied for uni, and based on the work she's done at Big Blue conservation they practically begged her to do the marine biology course!
Lizzie did a fantastic job for us here getting the message out about the importance of looking after our oceans, organising and leading beach clean ups, teaching marine conservation courses, planting coral in our coral nursery and showcasing why it matters, and of course, organising this years hugely successful swim for sharks charity event.
We'd like to thank her for all she's done and wish her all the best with her studies and beyond.
Rachel Linarts will be taking on the role of managing Big Blue Conservation. She's got a lot of experience as a dive instructor, through teaching people to dive in the freezing waters of the UK! She's been on Koh Tao for over 3 years and has probably just about acclimatised to the warm water by now! She is hugely passionate about marine conservation and will no doubt put her own stamp on the eco-shack. Good luck Rachel!

10 things you can do to save the ocean
Given the eco theme, it seems only fitting to get the marine conservation message out. Read these and then do them"

1. Try to reduce your Carbon Footprint and save energy that you use- Your everyday actions contribute to the effects of climate change.
2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices- Global fish populations are plumeting because of over-fishing, loss of habitat and unsustainable fishing practices. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for over exploited species by choosing seafood that is healthy and sustainable- no-one wants to see a dead, lifeless ocean.
3. Use less plastic- Plastic floats around in the oceans for a long time before finally degrading, during which time it entangles tens of thousands of marine animals. They also eat it, which not surprisingly also kills them
4. When you go to the beach, clean up after yourself- If you're feeling really helpful go and help out beach clean ups.
5. Don't Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life- Don't buy coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products. Don't release those lantern things into the ocean, they kill turtles.
6. Only buy dog food that contains sustainable seafood- Much of it currently comes from over-exploited sources, which contributes hugely to their decline. 
7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean- There are loads of them that are local to you, and they all do important work
8. Speak out about marine conservation- Contact your local parliamentarian and lobby them to enact laws to protect the oceans. 
9. Act responsibly when on the ocean- whenever kayaking, or on a boat, never throw anything overboard. 
10. Educate Yourself about marine conservation and marine life- The more you know, the better decisions you can take and influence others that will help conserve the oceans!

 

2014 Swim for Sharks

 

Swim for Sharks went Swimmingly!
swim-for-sharksThis year's Swim for Sharks was a great success, with 20 competitors and fun-swimmers making their way around the Islands of Nang yuan yesterday afternoon. The overall winner was a young lad called Bonk, who covered the 3.4kms in an astonishing 56 minutes and 40 seconds. Second place went to Big Blue instructor and previous winner Nick Bufton, with an impressive 1hr 1 minute swim. Third place went to Rachel Linearts, who did it in a very impressive 1hr 14 minutes.
Once the competitors got back to land and had a few hours rest, it was time to go to the Big Blue bar for a big party and a raffle... in that order. Everyone was buying t-shirts, wristbands and raffle tickets to help raise money for shark conservation projects, and in between boogieing the night away some amazing prizes were given away, including a sharkskin rash vest, two tickets for a luxury hotel in Koh Tao, a Mares dive computer provided by SSI, and a free sidemount course provided by Big Blue Tech.
For any residents of Koh Tao that may be wondering why there seems to be an outbreak of mohicans today, it's because they all shaved for sharks too! Offering to part with their barnets to raise some more cash. Even Big Blue videographer Barry put his money where his mouth was and forced to see his much-loved blonde locks fall to the floor with each swipe of the razor. Mini Ant, or Tony, as we like to call him seemed to enjoy that a little too much, but it was all for a good cause and Barry (and all the others) were more than happy to look ridiculous for the next few weeks!

Top 10 amazing creatures of the ocean
Completely unrelated to Koh Tao in any way, shape or form, but pretty fascinating nontheless, Big Blue Conservation have been posting facts about the most amazing creatures in the ocean, and some of them are pretty damn grizzly to say the least. Here's one of the oddest ones; the tongue-eating louse.
This parasitic crustacean latches onto the tongue of its primary victim, the spotted rose snapper, and doesn’t let go. Once it does, the louse sucks the blood out of the tongue, until the organ wastes away. When that happens, the louse essentially becomes the new tongue, attaching its body to the stub of the old organ. It then feeds on the remains of food that the snapper doesn’t completely swallow.
Amazingly, the snapper isn’t harmed too much by the entire process as it continues to live and feed after the louse makes a permanent residence. Though the spotted rose snapper is the louse’s main target, the crustacean has been found sporadically in several other species.

 

Pride of the Fleet returns

 

Waverunner is Back!
MV-waverunnerFinally, the news we've all been waiting for, our flagship boat MV Waverunner has arrived from it's monumental refurbishment in Chumphon, and it's looking amazing! She arrived two days go to zero fanfare becuse no-one recognised her! But on Wednesday morning Big Blue divemasters and instructors arrived for work to see a huge dive boat moored up with a Big Blue paint job. Some of them were convinced it was just a cheap copy from China, but when viewed through binoculars it was obvious that such fine workmanship could only mean it was the real deal.
Yesterday it was used in anger to take our open water students out on their first two open water dives, and it behaved like a dream. The difference in interior design is astonishing. Before the refurbishment having more than 15 divers setting up their equipment was like trying to go skipping in downtown Tokyo and not get arrested. But now you could easily fit 60 people on board, have them all set up at the same time and then swing their regulators around their heads without touching anything! There is a, you guessed it, huge area upstairs for relaxing out of the Sun, and there's even a mobile phone charging point!
The captain has been arranging the Feng Sui in his cabin, and by the constant smile across his face he must be pretty happy with it.
Every single employee at Big Blue cannot wait to get on board and see it for themselves. It's taken a while to completed, but it was worth the wait and we're all really proud of it.

Jet skis
Whilst on the boat the other day at Mango bay, I noticed that there are two new naval vessels operating in the area- a couple of jet skis. Now, i'm not really jet ski-ist, as they are a lot of fun to ride around on, but I really can't think of many things that would be worse for Koh Tao than jet skis whizzing around all over the place. Why? Because they are hired mainly by people who, a- have no idea how to ride them, b- may well have been drinking, and c- Are not aware of things they need to look out for and where they should and shouldn't drive them.
Mango bay is the perfect example of this. It's a great location for taking try divers or open water divers out on their first ever dives in the ocean. It's shallow, it's mainly sand, the sea bed slopes really gradually, and you can show them some beautiful marine life without fear of them damaging the coral. On the surface there are of course longtails to be careful of, but this is why divers use Deplayed Surface Marker Buoys (DSMBs), and also use the ears attached to the side of their heads.
Someone on a jetski will be going so fast they won't notice bubbles on the surface that show the position of divers underwater, and they wouldn't know what a DSMB is or what it is for.
The two jetskis I saw ran straight over two DSMBs that were close together, and just carried on going. I don't think I really need to explain why this was dangerous and stupid.
There are lots of jet skis in Pattaya, we don't want them in Koh Tao, it has a totally different vibe here and we want to keep it that way, so lets hope that they disappear soon and we don't see anymore.

 

Big Blue from the Air

 

Dive Sites from above
sail-rockHere's something you don't see every day, a photo of Sail rock from the air! It was taken by Big Blue SSI instructor and professional photographer Andy Campbell. He's got one of those "quads", or as I like to call it, a radio controlled helicopter. They seem to be the latest gadgets that people are playing with, and someone has had the brilliant idea of attaching a Go pro to the underneath of it, making it possible to literally look down on the things we see every day! Understandably he was very cautious with it at first, as high tech electronics and water don't tend to mix to well. But over time he's been getting more daring with it, to the point where he'll happily now take it on board the boat and fly it off the deck during his surface interval! We've now got some amazing shots of our fun diver boat Porponawa, and our tech boat Big Blue. When you have such beautiful locations as Chumphon Marine Park and Sail rock in the background, the end result is just stunning. We've also got incredible footage of both our dive resorts, and Sairee beach from the air! If you want to see some of these shots, have a look here at the video uploaded by Big Blue Movies of the 3 day trip to Chumphon Marine Park, organised by the Big Blue Dive Club. If you want to be in any of the aerial shots, then you'll have to come to Big Blue and go diving!

Koh Tao history in brief
It can be quite hard to find out detailed information about the history of Koh Tao, but if you do dig around, you can find some fairly consistent stories of how if came to be the place it is today. It was likely a stopping off point for Malay fishermen for centuries, due largely to its isolated position in the Gulf of Thailand. In the 1800s, there would have been a couple of small villages, while later on in the 1890’s King Chulalongkorn visited the island – which is marked with a monument on Sairee beach. The island remained a quiet place for decades, with a few fishing families and farmers and not much else.
After the Siamese Revolution of 1932, the country moved from being an absolute monarchy to a constitutional democracy (of sorts). Koh Tao was used as a political prison in a similar way to Koh Tarutao in the South. In 1947, the prisoner inhabitants were given a Royal pardon and shipped off out of exile to the neighboring islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. The island was once again abandoned.
The legend then goes that two brothers from Koh Phangan sailed to Koh Tao and settled on the land that is now considered Sairee beach. They farmed and fished and lead a fairly simple lifestyle occasionally trading with those on Koh Phangan.
The Vietnam war came about, which created a tourism boom in Thailand during the 1960s and 1970s for American GIs on R&R. Early backpackers began to explore the Islands in the gulf of Thailand, with dive trips originating from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The first full moon party being held on Phangan in the late 1980s. Gradually tourism began to increase on the Islands, and the island began to become more and more developed. First with a few simple shops and dive huts, then resorts, and later bars and other non diving related business. Larger ferry companies such as Lomprayah, Seatran and Songserm began to serve the island with overnight buses originating from Bangkok to fill the many spots on a growing dive industry. The island developed its two main areas of Sairee beach (which is now full of nightclubs, resorts and dive shops) and the sleepier “local” side of Chalok Ban Kao as well as the busy port of Mae Haad.

 

 

Chumphon Marine Park 3-day trip!

 

3-day trip and full day trips
chumphon-marine-parkAll dive bags are packed, the breakfast and lunch have been ordered, and hopefully everyone participating will have had (by the time this goes to press) a good nights sleep and not overslepted for the 6am departure to begin their three day, 8 dive trip to Chumphon Marine Park! Organised by the Big Blue Dive Club (running out of Big Blue Tech), the trips have become a monthly event, with the aim of allowing people to dive some of the less frequently dived areas within the Gulf of Thailand. The previous trip to Angthong Marine Park was a great success, and this trip looks to be even better, for the simple reason that we already know that the diving is epic there!
Big Blue Diving is the only dive resort on Koh Tao that goes to Chumphon Marine Park, and in all of the full day trips we've run there, we've never known the visibility to be bad. In fact its always been amazing! Also, because the dive sites are not often dived, the fish are more curious of divers. Plus, well, you know, it's a protected area, so the marine life is thankfully extremely abundant. It also has a purposely sunk wreck called the HTMS Prab, which is now a haven for all manner of marine creatures, and sits much shallower than the HTMS Sattakut.
If this is all making you jealous don't despair, although you've missed out on this trip there will be others. Additionally, on the 21st we are running a full day trip out there on our fun diver boat; Porponawa; the fastest dive boat in the universe! Three dives, breakfast, lunch, chocolate brownies, water and as many soft drinks as you can cope with! If you're interested, you just need to go to the Big Blue office to sign yourself up.. then all you have to do is turn up on the day!

Blue Whale numbers on the rise
It's not often we get good news about the state of the marine ecosystem, but here's some encouraging research. California blue whales are believed to have increased in number to up to 2,200! Historic whaling of these incredible animals saw 346,000 of them killed in the colder waters surrounding Antarctica, but since the practice was banned in 1966 they have increased their populations dramatically. The Californa whales live accross a huge area, from Alaska to Costa Rica. The number of blue whales caught in the Pacific was much lower, approximately 3,400 between 1905 and 1971, and their numbers are not as accurately known as for the California whales. But it's a good sign that protecting them has paid off. Let's hope their increase in numbers continues.

 

 

Rest in Peace Cesare Benelli

 

Cesare Benelli
Cesare-benelliSome very sad news this week, the founding father of scuba diving in Koh Tao passed away; Cesare Benelli. Many years ago he set up a dive school in Koh Samui, called Samui International diving. This was the first dive school in Samui and he took divers to sites such as Sail rock. Not one to just do the same old thing, he realised that as more and more people came to learn to dive or go fun diving, he needed to be able to offer them more, so started exploring the Gulf of Thailand. It wasn't long before he began running trips to Koh Tao, which, in those days was an overnight trip... no lomprayah ferries back then! He discovered many of the dive sites that we visit every day, and legend has it that he named White rock, Red rock and Green rock after the colours of the Italian flag, his homeland.
Seeing that the diving in Koh Tao was better than in Samui, he opened the first dive school here- Planet Scuba. Over time more and more people were drawn to Koh Tao to come diving, and so it slowly developed into the diving mecca it is today. I'm sure it was only a matter of time before people discovered the diving on Koh Tao, but Cesare was the driving force in making it popular early on.
Cesare brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people through discovering the beautiful dive sites we have. May you rest in peace.

Koh Panghan Airport
Announced to great fanfair in 2011 that a new airport was going to be built on Koh Panghan, once construction began everything seemed to go very quiet. But they have a website and everything, and apparently the opening date is now going to be September 2014! Wait a minute, it is Septemeber 2014.... So who knows how close to completion it is, and when it will be finally open for business. The runway will be much shorter than at Koh Samui airport, due to the mountenous terrain, so ti will be limited to 50 seater turboprops, and initially will only run two flights a day to bangkok and back.
It will be interesting to see what the costs will be though, i'm sure they will be very competitive, and it's an hour nearer than Samui, so hopefully it will be a viable option for getting to Bangkok cheaply. No doubt there will be a grand announcement once it's all completed.

 

 

Great time to visit Big Blue

 

September is go!
chumphon-sidemountTrue to form, September is looking good so far on Koh Tao. The sea is flat calm, the weather is scorching hot, and the underwater visibility is absolutely breathtaking! Every dive site is just incredible to dive at the moment. At Chumphon pinnacle yesterday you could see the bottom from the boat, and when diving the pinnacle you could see way way off into the distance; even the thermocline at 40 metres seems to have gone on holiday! I dived the HTMS Sattakut a few days ago- our very own purposefully sunk artificial reef, and again you could see practically the entire vessel from the surface, all 48 metres of it, which is unheard of!
There is a huge array of marine life all over the place too, in the last month we've seen whalesharks, a pod of pilot whales and false killer whales, and on the macro scale the Bruce Lee of the ocean: the mantis shrimp.
September is always a great time to visit, but this is the best one in years! It's a little quieter than usual too, probably because people have been put off visiting Thailand due to the coup. Yet it hasn't affected anything, there is no curfew, no army presence on Koh Tao (and barely any visible signs in Bangkok either). Life continues as it always has- great diving, Sun, sea, lounging on the beach, and a huge choice of amazing food to choose from. Bet you're annoyed you went to Blackpool instead now aren't you....

Mantis Shrimp facts
These little critters are amazing in every conceivable way, so here's a few facts to show you why:

- They can grow up to 11cm long.
- They're very brightly colored. Their shells can be blue, green, red and orange. The forearms are often covered with spots.
- Their eyes are located on long stalks that move independently. They have exceptional eyesight that is used both for the detection of prey and predators.
- Their eyes are also the most complex in the animal kingdom. They can see ultraviolet and polarized light. They have trinocular vision which means that they can see objects using one of the three different parts of eye.
- All mantis shrimps can be divided on spearers and smashes, based on the morphology of appendages and tactic they use to kill the prey.
- Spearers have spiny appendages that are used to stab soft-bodied prey such as different types of worms and fish.
- Smashers have club-like appendages that easily smash shell of snails, oysters, crustaceans and molluscs.
- They attack their prey extremely quickly- 50 times faster than the blink of an eye. With a velocity of 10 meters per second, their punch has the power of a .22 calibre bullet.
- Smashers are famous for their incredibly strong punches that can break the glass of an aquarium!
- Most species of mantis shrimps are solitary and territorial creatures. They fiercely defend their home against intruders.
- They are able to recognize their neighbours by smell, and also by their shape.
- Some species of mantis shrimp are monogamous and spend up to 20 years together. During mating, they often fluoresce.
- Females can lay eggs in the burrows or keep them in their forelimbs until they hatch. Some species exhibit parental care. The female lays two sets of eggs, one for her and the other for the father to take care of the eggs until they hatch.
- Larvae of mantis shrimps swim as a part of zooplankton up to 3 months. They show aggressive behaviour even during the larval stage.
- Mantis shrimp can survive more than 20 years in the wild.

 

Monsoon? What monsoon!!

 

Friday 31st Octobermovember

Monsoon? What monsoon? The weather here right now is amazing, the sea is flat as a ladyboys chest pre surgery and the diving is beautiful. 2 of our boats are off having their yearly facelift, ready for the Christmas crowd, and many of the instructors are preparing for this years Movember. Any excuse to grow facial hair and shaving it into weird and downright scary moustaches’. None of the boys here are shy in the slightest so keep your eyes peeled for some interesting designs. DM Steven will be keeping his Jesus beard as he stores his lunch and snacks there for when he is a bit peckish on a dive.

Its always great to hear what you though during your time with us diving here at Big Blue. Here are a few of our most resent students write up on Trip Advisor.

Dennis R, The Netherlnds 27th October-
Diving at BB- “A perfect mix of Russel Crowes rough looks, Robbie Williams' sweet voice, Jacques Cousteau's diving knowledge and Britney Spears' mental health. Simon (26975;) was an ace instructor for my open water and advanced courses. Loved diving at Big Blue! Thanks Simo!”

Avery B, Canada 25th October-
Great Expectations- “My girlfriend and I came here to do our basic underwater course. We both expected it to be good, but it completely beat our expectations. We ended up forgoing out trip to Koh Samui in order to do the advanced underwater course. Oli was our instructor for the basic and advanced courses, and he was great. He didn't push us too hard, but he didn't baby us either; it was the right balance. The basic course had some great dives, but the best by far were our advanced course dives. Going deep water, diving in night, and diving around a wreck were the highlights of our trip to Thailand. Big Blue could not have been better and Oli was a fantastic instructor.”


We pride ourselves in giving you the best experience both in and out of the water, so thank you for all your kind words.

 

Tech Diving courses starting in November

Wednesday 29th October

richtoddSad day at Big Blue today as one of our favourite instructors is leaving us after being on Koh Tao for just over 4 years. Rich has been offered a very good diving job which was hard to turn down, but we all know that if it doesn’t work out (which we secretly hope it doesn’t) he will welcomed back with a week of DSDs and a warm Chang. For those who have been to Koh Tao whether it is to learn to dive, just have a holiday or work as a dive professional, it is a very hard place to leave. Apart from the amazing beaches, crystal clear waters, amazing food, great night life, it is the friends you meet once you are here. There are some friendships that have been forged here that will never be broken and leaving after being here for so long is tough. But the invisible bungee cord is attached at the pier and it’s not long till you are pulled back to this amazing little island in the gulf of Thailand. From all of us a Big Blue Diving and Koh Tao we wish you the very best of luck Rich, but choosing Halloween for you leaving do is just going to end in tears!!

If you are interested in doing something a bit different and want to learn about increasing your knowledge of scuba diving Big Blue Tech are starting a number of TDI courses from the 7th November, these include Intro to tech, advanced nitrox and decompression procedures, finishing up with extended range.These courses will give you a greater understanding of what technical diving is all about allowing you to dive deeper than the recreactional limits of 30 metres using a variety of different methods. For more information on our Tech courses send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

Win 10 free fundives

 

Saturday 25th October

stickers-on-tanksWith only another 60 days left until Christmas is here we thought it would be nice to give you all a chance to win 10 free fundives with us here. Its not a quiz so no need to send your answers to us on a postcard, but we do want you to send us some pictures of yourselves. While you are here we want you to ask us to give you some Big Blue Diving stickers and then your mission is to take a picture of yourself with the stickers stuck in interesting places? so if you are off to India and you can stick one on the Taj Mahal (without being arrested though please- although inside a prison cell would be a good place to put a sticker too) or if you happen to know someone in the celebrity circles stick it to them. Be as imaginative as possible and give us a giggle too, so if you want to win 10 fun dives grab those stickers and get sticking! Email us your pictures to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. we will announce the winner of this competition in the end of November. Good luck!!

The big bossman was in the bar last night for a quiet (ahem) drink with his beloved team. Its funny how the rounds get bigger when the boss is buying the beer! He was treated to a Dirty Dancing treat when Patrick Swayze wannabe instructors Sid Bufton and Matt Waters began lifting our newly certified Open Water ladies. Luckily no injuries occured as there was plenty of safety catchers willing to help the poor damsels if the were dropped by their dance partners! See what we put on just for you Jim, now have a safe trip back to Samui with clear plastic seasick bags and unseasoned boat travellers. Until next time.

Really bad joke of the day-

How many people does it take to circumsise a whale?

Four skin divers :)

 

Turning Divemasters into Zombies

Friday 24th Octoberscuba-zombies

Time again to say congratulations to some of our newly graduated Divemasters in the time honoured tradition of a Big Blue Divemaster Challenge. Supposedly dressing up as zombies Jai, Brett, Tania, Mikey and Alex were beaten, abused, whipped, spanked and bitten, they moaned and groaned as any good zombie can, then they decided to leave P'Dangs and come to the bar and join us for a little party. Dave, David, Stefan, Ory and Elle, after getting their acts together decided on a homeless theme. Reminders of an old DM who slept at the petrol station and ate out of bins. The Dive Master course is a very rewarding course that develops a wide range of skills both in and out of the water and what better way to say well done but with a night full of games and frivolity! Well Done to you all.

It is the time of year when the wind direction changes leaving the ocean on Sairee beach looking like a mirror and sunsets that drags people away from their dinner and beer to take pictures. And people wonder why we left our mundane lives to come and live here...... hummmm! We have had a few random days of much needed rain but the diving is still amazing. Perfect conditions for all the types of diving we have to offer whether it be a beginner diving course, freediving or technical diving. So don't just think about it get your ass on that ferry and come play.

 

Christmas Plans are beginning

 

29th November 2014

santa_diving
Christmas Dinner preparations are under way. The menu is being drawn up by our very own Super Chef Scotty as I write. Turkey, lamb, pork and all the other stuff that goes with a Christmas Dinner. The decorations are being dusted off, Christmas hats are on order, and playlists are being composed. Christmas is the time of year when we really do hate the fact that we live on a tropical island, no snow, no scrapping ice off the windscreen on the way to work, no standing in the cold at bus stops. Instead we have to burn our bums on the red hot bike seats, have to deal with sand in our board shorts, spicy Thai food that makes us sweat more than we already are and beer that gets cold really quickly. It really is a hard life we lead here on Koh Tao, so please spare a thought for us at this festive time of year.

Today’s beach clean-up was a great success; we picked up litter from the top end of north Sairee back to Big Blue Resort. A tank trolley was filled to the brim with plastic straws, cigarette butts, empty beer bottles, bits of rope, polystyrene, empty plastic bottles and much more that doesn’t take a huge effort to walk an extra 20 metres to a rubbish bin. Well done Rachel for organising the clean-up and even bigger THANK YOU to everyone who took part in the beach clean-up and also the underwater reef clean up. Your free conservation bag is waiting for you.

Island news now, the road the comes from the main road down to our resort which was dug up a few years ago to fit a ‘drainage system’ that funnily enough didn’t work, that was dug up and filled it with sand which turned it into a bog of sand resulting in us having to use alternative roads to get back on to the main road. Well it has now been completely resurfaced with concrete which means we are back to having complete access from the main road again all the way down to our resort. Lets see what other bright ideas they come up with to stop water run off when it rains!

 

Beach and Reef Clean up

 

Thursday 27th November 2014

Big Blue Conservation will be holdingcleanup this month’s Beach and Reef clean up on Saturday at 10 am. If you want to come and join in with the fun and get the ultimate good feeling then we will be meeting at Big Blue one, where we will clean North Sairee beach. Then we will jump into the water in the afternoon for the Reef clean which is completely FREE for all certified divers.

We had some very happy divers the other morning when they spotted a baby 3 metre Whaleshark at Chumphon Pinnacle. They are usually not around this time of the year but who knows what goes through the brain of a whalesharks when it’s out swimming along. Open Water divers who were on the boat were lucky enough to see it, 3rd dive ever and they see a Whaleshark, not bad going, especially as we have instructors here with thousands of dives who have still never seen one or it took years of diving before they finally had their Whaleshark cherry popped.

Today is Thanksgiving for those American friends of ours. They will be tucking into turkey with all the trimmings and pumpkin pies. Interesting fact to know was that if Benjamin Franklin had his way, the turkey would be American national bird. An eagle, he wrote in a letter to his daughter, had "bad moral character." A turkey, on the other hand, was a "much more respectable bird." The thought of any country having a turkey as its national bird is quite amusing. Gobble gobble gobble!!

 

Jellyfish nappies, interesting!

 

Friday 21st November 2014Finding-nemo-dory-squishy

We have been noticing a few jellyfish around Koh Tao recently, nothing dangerous but still little pesky stingers. After a conversation with one of my Advanced Adventurer students after a night dive she informed me about jelly fish nappies/ diapers. Yes nappies made from the bodies of jellyfish.

The eco-friendly product is being developed by an Israeli nanotechnology start-up company, and was inspired by research conducted at Tel Aviv University that studied the super-absorbent quality of jellyfish flesh. Jellyfish nappies were found to be twice as absorbent as most brands currently on the market, and they biodegrade in less than 30 days, which means fewer nappies take up space in landfills.(Don't worry, researchers remove all the stingers first.) They are manufactured by first breaking down the jellyfish flesh and then adding antibacterial nanoparticles. The resultant raw material is being called "Hydromesh," a name that is decidedly less yucky-sounding than the stuff it's made from. The products are particularly appealing because jellyfish populations have been booming worldwide as a result of overfishing and global warming. As fisheries decline, jellyfish encounter fewer predators and less competition for resources. The gelatinous organisms are also more adaptable to global warming. Researchers warn that if trends continue, the oceans of the future will be primarily the domain of jellyfish. Whether it’s right or wrong to kill jelly fish for our use, it’s still a pretty cool idea. So there you go Squishy from Finding Nemo really is your friend.

Every day is a school day here at Big Blue even for the instructors; Alex and Ernesto have completed their Side Mount course with Phil, and are now half way through Advanced Nitrox and Deco Procedures with Rick waffling on about the mechanics of bubbles amongst other big technical words. Recreational diving is only one part of what diving has to offer. Learning a new set of skills keeps us on our toes and expands our knowledge of our passion even more. If you are interested in expanding our sponge like brain and learning to dive drop us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Massive Thank you Waverunner Crew

 

Thursday 20th November 2014wavey

With it being our low season in the Gulf of Thailand we have sent some of our boats over to Chumphon for their yearly repairs and paint jobs ready for Christmas. With these boats being away our remaining boat has been working constantly every day starting at 6.30am and at night with advanced divers and fun divers going out on night dives. If you have ever been on our boats you will know the Captains and boat crew work tirelessly and always have a smile on their faces while they are filling your tanks and helping you in and out of the water. The instructors decided to have a whip around and bought the Captain and crew a big thank you present. The crew were clearly touched a soon tucked into to the goodies. Thank you for all the hard work Waverunner Crew kap.

This morning our advanced divers visited our local wreck HTMS (His Thai Majesty Ship) Sattakut. originally launched in 1944 the battleship was commissioned by the US Navy and was used during WW2. It was then bought by the Royal Thai Navy in 1946 and was used as a patrol boat until 2011. The Thai Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) purchased the ship with the intention of donating it to Koh Tao to act as an artificial reef, in order to promote tourism. The vessel was stripped of its engines, furniture, electric cabling and thankfully its ammunition! After being cleaned and sent to Koh Tao, it was sunk on the 18th June 2011. This wreck is now full of life boasting schools of juvenile fusiliers and barracuda, giant pufferfish, Jenkins whip rays all using the shelter from other predators. Being 30m to the bottom at the stern, this is perfect for deep dives and obviously the wreck dive option on the Advanced Course. Penetration of the wreck is strictly prohibited for recreational diver and only allowed for divers with technical dive training.

It’s a bit windy here at the moment to as a keeping up with Big Blue Health and Safety protocols we sent some monkeys up the palm trees to cut down the coconuts before they fall! Yes we have trained monkeys (also known as Nick Bufton) to cuts down the coconuts when it’s windy. Health and safety of course, if one of those lands on your head you would only know about it once you have regained consciousness! Ouch! Bonus for us though as we have free coconuts going for anyone who sees them, but make sure you get them fresh as you will go Milky Joe -coco-loco if they have gone off!

 

Freediving truly breath taking

 

Sunday 16th November 2014freediving

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to freedive down and hang out with the fishies with no bubbles, no equipment. Just you, a mask and fins. What is freediving or apnea diving? It is having the ability to dive whilst holding your breath, without any artificial apparatus. Freediving gives complete freedom underwater. It encourages you to ‘live in the moment’ by helping you to remain calm in the mind and truly connect to your body. A range of aquatic activities such as snorkeling, surfing, spear fishing, synchronised swimming, meditation & yoga, benefit from and, require techniques taught in Freediving.

Big Blue Freediving offer a variety of courses, with no experience required other than being able to swim! Level 1 Freediving course is an introductory course. In this course you will learn the appropriate skills and knowledge to dive safely to depths of up to 20 metres. We have complete confidence that all students can effortlessly reach 20 metres!

• theory sessions on Freediving Equipment, Physiology of Freediving, Freediving Skills and Freediving and Your Freediving Environment,
• freediving breathing techniques, for before and after diving,
• dry breath hold and relaxation session,
• dynamic apnea (horizontal under water swimming) and safety procedures,
• two (2) open water depth dives (along a secured line) where you will progressively learn about technique including adequate finning, body positioning, becoming more streamlined and carrying out safety procedures.

Sometimes due to medical reasons you may not be able to take the scuba diving certification, if this is the case freediving is another way to experience the underwater world. If you would like more information on freediving and the courses we off please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Our group of Divemaster trainees have been studying hard the last few days. Physics and physiology lectures, skill demonstrations in the pool, boat skills days as well as attending some marine conservation lectures. Once all the coursework and exams are complete the course is very much hands on experience with assisting courses, leading fun dives, organising and running dive trips. It a very worthwhile course and leads to employment in possibly one of the best industries in the world! Not that we have any bias at all here, but we do have the best jobs on the best island in the world!

 

 

104 metre Tech Dive In Song Hong Sinkhole

 

Wednesday 12th November 2014rick-hong-song

One rainy night our Technical diving manager Rick Devanney had a quiet night in front of the TV watching one of his all-time favourite movies The Little Mermaid and while Sebastian the crab was singing away about it being better down where is wetter under the sea, Rick thought he would see just how better it would be all the way down at 100 metres. So off he popped over to the mainland to visit Song Hong Sinkhole which is a 200 plus metre deep sink hole located in Thung Yai, Southern Thailand, in the middle of no-where! It is about a 3 hour drive from Khao Sok National Park which is also famous for its cave systems. Song Hong is a site for experienced technical divers and full cave divers and not for the faint hearted. Rick successfully completed a 104 metre dive. He had 5 tanks with him using advanced Trimix procedures. The dive lasted a total of 1 hour 30 minutes, with 1 hour and 10 minutes of that being decompression stops back up to the surface. Now he has his feet back on the sand of Koh Tao planning his next adventure.

We have had some familiar faces popping up in the resort recently Mama G-spot has returned from the mother land of Ireland bearing gifts of sweets: strawberry boot laces, flying saucers, black jacks, rhubarb and custard sweets ah the list goes on thanks G for the sugar rush you gave us, it’s great to have you back. We also have the Big Swede JD (Johan) who first came to Koh Tao to start his DMT a number of years ago, he is one of our longest serving Divemaster Trainees and is now back to hopefully complete his course this time. It’s always nice to see familiar faces returning to use, it’s that invisible bungee cord I mentioned before when you try and leave bringing you straight back again.

Finally as yesterday was Remembrance Day, we paid our respects in various places at 11am. Some of on boats, others on land all stood in silence to remember the fallen soldiers over the past 100 years. Thank you for those who took part in what is the 100 year anniversary of the ending of the First World War.

 

Eco Day with Our Eco Queen Rachel

 

Saturday 8th November 2014molly-adding-to-the-nursery

Next Monday our very own conservation queen is organising an Eco Day for guests and DMTs. This will involve a dive on our coral nursery where you will learn how to clean, maintain and replant coral which will attract new marine life. With reefs around the world being threatened, many scientists feel that much of the world’s reefs could be lost in the next 100 years. The destruction of reefs are due to humans primarily with trawling, dynamite fishing and chemical waste as well as divers and snorkelers who damage the reef and who thing it’s perfectly ok to stand on and break at their convenience. The only thing snorkelers and divers shown touch in the water is each other and they should only leave behind their own bubbles nothing else. A number of organisations including Save Koh Tao and other dive operators on Koh Tao have begun constructing small coral nurseries to test the feasibility and success of different methods. So far 3 different types of structures have been test-built and all have been successful. Come in and ask to speak to Rachel if you want to come and join us or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With monsoon supposedly being here and this being our low season now, not all the instructors are working. So what better way to spend the afternoon than in the pub watching the rugby! New Zealand v England in the Rugby League first and then England v New Zealand in the Rugby Union. Now our big boss here is a kiwi and there are a few Brits here so I am going to polite and leave it there.So its off I go to see if I keep my job or lose it but the end of the day.

 

Last nights Loy Krathong

 

Friday 7th Novemberkrathong

Last night saw the sky lit up with lanterns and decorated floats to celebrate Loy Krathong.
Loy Krathong is one of the most popular festivals that Thailand celebrates annually on the twelfth lunar full moon. “Loi” means to float and “Krathong” is a lotus or crown shaped vessel. The traditional Krathong are made from a slice of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant and decorated with banana leaves, these are natural materials and will biodegradable. It usually contains a candle, incense sticks, flowers and coins. When the moon is high the candles and incense are lit to offer thanks to the Goddess of water: Phra Mae Khongkha. Our thanks are for drinking and general use and safety in and around the water and forgiveness for the misuse of water through wastage or pollution. After making a wish, the Krathong is launched and we watch them drift away.

The Noistar Animal Clinic Pub Quiz was a great success and saw a great turnout in the Big Blue Bar, there was a few questionable questions, but as the Quiz Masters claimed that they were ALWAYS right (or at least Wikipedia is!!) There was no arguing! The entry fee was to be split with half going to the clinic and the other half as prize money but the winning team gracefully donated their prize money to the Animal Clinic giving them 3400 baht, along with t-shirt sales and further donations. A massive thank you to everyone who turned out for the night and supported the animals of Koh Tao, Eco-Rachel for organising the night for the clinic and also to Instructors Mini Ant and Oli for their internet searching skills in coming up with all the questions.

Are you already a Divemaster with over 100 dives and been diving for over 1 year since your open water cert and are interested in becoming a diving instructor? Big Blue Pro are starting an SSI Instructor Training Course (ITC) on 14th December. The course is usually conducted over 10 days and followed with the Instructor Examination (IE) straight after. Instructor training is designed to emphasise learning and development to prepare you to function as an instructor.
You gain knowledge, skills and coaching techniques to teach effectively;
The focus is on 'real world' application;
Your performance is measured throughout the programme to assist you to improve your abilities;
You are given an introduction to the business of diving, including economic, social, cultural, legal, governmental and environmental concerns as well as marketing and customer service.
Once the course has finished, if you decide to stay on Koh Tao Big Blue will give you an internship which allows you to see how courses are taught at Big Blue with your own Instructor mentor to help give you pointers and logistical infomation to running your own courses. You will recieve around 30 certification under the supervision of your mentor. An excellent way to begin your teaching career.
For more information about the course email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or check out www.bigbluepro.com

 

 

Pub Quiz for Animal Clinic Charity

 

5th November 2014noistar

If you have visited anywhere in Thailand you will have come across plenty of cats and dogs lounging around. Koh Tao is no exception, most resorts have their ‘family dive shop pets’, but on Koh Tao there are no animal shelters, no nationally run charities, but we do have Noistar Animal Clinic. This clinic was established in 2004 as a permanent veterinary clinic and has been helping to look after the pets and other animals on the island ever since. The amazing place is completely self-funded via donations, and with Big Blue having quite a few furry friends who have all used the vets before we thought it would be a great idea to help them raise some money by having a Pub Quiz night tomorrow night (6th November).

Entry is only 100baht with 4 people maximum per team, if you and some friends fancy coming down and testing your knowledge against our resident nerdy quiz master you need to sign up by 7pm and the quiz begins at 8pm in the Big Blue Bar. The winning team will receive a cash prize and you will have the chance to donate some of your beer money to a well-deserved charity. See you tomorrow night.

We have a new group of Divemaster Trainees starting with us right now; they are beginning an intensive course which covers all aspects of diving. This includes theory covering the physics, physiology, and dive planning theory as well as learning how to demonstrate skills in the water to an instructor level. They also learn how to give thorough boat and dive briefings and how to guide certified divers safely on fun dives. This course is hard work but it is also good fun working alongside dive professionals from all walks of life, with skills that can be transferred to any job in the real world, it is truly an amazing experience. I can say that because I did my Divemaster course here and I still haven’t left Koh Tao. If you want to try something different and get out from behind the office desk why not find out more about the Divemaster course at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

4th November 2014

 


Close-encountersIt’s been a few days and in typical jinxing style it has rained for the last two days, and today the sun is again beaming down. So now I am going to say it will be snowing tomorrow, just so our Thai staff can see the white powdery stuff that we left Europe for to stay and work here as dive professionals. If it does snow tomorrow will drink me coffee and tiger out of my trainers! We did get to see a very cool and very large tornado off Sairee. The twister was way off from Koh Tao but it had everyone on the beach taking photos. We do get to see quite a few of these but this was by far the biggest we have seen in a long time. Thank you to Andreas Fiskeseth for this picture.

On Koh Tao, Halloween is one of the biggest nights along with Songkran and Christmas Day and it was celebrated in style, it was also a leaving party for our instructor Rich who along with his merry band of men came dressed up in unmentionable costumes of an extremist nature (!!). Our resident fun diver and ex-DMT Aida also left us to go off on another one of her adventure around the world, this time over to New Zealand, being a rocket scientist has its advantages!

Have you ever wondered how long you can hold your breath for? The longest time holding the breath underwater was 22 min exactly by a Danish guy called Stig Severinsen at the London School of Diving in London, UK, on 3 May 2012. What about how deep you could dive without a tank and just a lung full of air? Natalia Molchanova of Russias national team recently made a new world diving to a depth of 237 metres in dynamic apnea, that’s nearly 5 lengths of an Olympic sized swimming pool! Do you think you could do better? Or would you like to give freediving a try, maybe you are unable to scuba dive but would still like to experience the underwater world, then Big Blue Freediving could be just for you, courses are scheduled for your needs and can be booked ahead of time. If you would like more information on freediving just drop us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Meet Our Newest Addition To The Team

 

30th December 2014deathstar

We hope you all had a great Christmas and are over your hangovers and food comas. Our Christmas Dinner was epic; Scott Frost our aussie instructor who was a chef in his previous life along with his side kick Lina cooked our dinner for nearly 40 members of staff. We were treated to lamb, pork and turkey with a Swedish input of meatballs and potato gratin and a whole other bunch of veggies and stuffing. Yum! But the best news of all was Big Blues present of a brand new boat. The boat which has yet to be named will be up and running in the New Year and will be the biggest boat in our fleet. This means we have four, yes four boats that can accommodate dive courses, fun divers and also run 3 dive day trips to Sail Rock. As you can imagine we are all very excited. All we need to do now is come up with a name for her. Suggestions on a post card please.

When we are taking certified divers fun diving it is sometimes surprising how many divers we see diving with too much weight because it’s what they were told they needed on their last diving holiday. Being weighted properly means that it isn’t all about kicking your way around a dive site, a more efficient way to move through the water is to kick and glide, thus reducing effort and air consumption. During the Advanced Adventurer course your Instructor will recommend that one of the chosen dives is Perfect Buoyancy and this is usually the first dive of the course, as this will help you determine how much weight you need for different diving conditions, and you will also experiment with different weight positioning to perfect your trim. It fines tunes your buoyancy skills and educated how just your breath can alter you buoyancy. Being able to control your buoyancy means that you are more comfortable in the water which also means you will enjoy your diving much more and also making you a safer diver. Ask your instructor about the buoyancy dive on your Advanced Course, or even the Buoyancy Specialty Course which is two dives of intense buoyancy skills. #realdiving

 

Congratulations SSI Instructors

 

Wednesday 24th December 2014instructors300x225

Congratulations to our two newest SSI Instructors Erik and Johan who passed their instructor exam yesterday. They had two days of exams in which they passed with flying colours just in time for them to celebrate Swedish Christmas today. Well done also needs to go to Iain their Instructor Trainer for preparing them to be the best #realdiving

Ho Ho Ho! From everyone at Big Blue Diving we wish you all a very Merry Christmas. We had our staff party the other night which the annual staff awards and tequila shots. The awards went to both the dive staff, the resort staff, the boat and equipment staff and to idiots that also deserved an award for being idiots! We love each other a lot.

Awards went to:
Best Retail sales- Tim
Best Team- Shop Girls
Best Dive staff- Ernesto
Best Newcomer- Rick
Biggest Contribution- Robyn (Drift)
Best Instructor- Petra
Best Sales- Wibeke
Good Samaritan- P’Tia
Best Land based staff- May
Best Boat Staff- Soe
Most Valuable Staff- P’Nut

 

Congratulations to Simo awarded the SSI International Training Director rating

 

Friday 19th December 2014SSImo

Big Blue Diving is bursting with pride today as our longest serving instructor Simon Garrity or SSImo as we call him has just been awarded the SSI International Training Director rating. This means he will be conducting SSI Instructor Trainer Seminars, primarily in and around SE Asia. This is pretty much the highest rating possible to achieve as an instructor with SSI. This course has taken place in the Philippines over the last week. Simon has asked me to pass on HUGE thanks go Al Stewart for all the support over the years and throughout the process, and also to the team at Big Blue Diving, he couldn't have done it without you! Congratulations SSImo on this rating there will be a few cold beers waiting for you when you get back. #REALDIVING

A new record has been set for the world's deepest fish. The bizarre-looking creature, which is new to science, was filmed 8,145m beneath the waves, beating the previous depth record by nearly 500m. Several other new species of fish were also caught on camera, as well as huge crustaceans called supergiants. The marine animals were discovered during an international expedition to the Mariana Trench, which lies almost 11km down in the Pacific Ocean. Until this expedition, the deepest fish had been found in the Japan Trench, also in the Pacific Ocean. A 17-strong shoal of pink, gelatinous snailfish (Pseudoliparis amblystomopsis) were recorded 7,700m down. This new record-breaking creature is close to the depth-limit at which scientists believe fish can survive. The dives made during the expedition were all conducted by unmanned vehicles, but a few humans have visited the world's deepest place.In 1960, US Navy Lt Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard made an incredibly risky journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in a bathyscaphe called the Trieste. And in 2012, Hollywood director James Cameron made a solo descent to the seafloor in his sub called the Deepsea Challenger. He described the place as a desolate, alien world, and has taken a lot of characteristics from deep sea marine live in many of his films. Very cool and still so much to be discovered.

 

 

Diving Santas take over the world (well the UK)

 

Thursday 18th December 2014scubasanta

BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) have just held their charity Scuba Santa event in the UK. With nearly 200 divers entering the water dressed up in Santa outfits, they are planning on raising over £2,000 for both the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) and DDRC (Diving Diseases Research Centre). Various dive centres around the country head down to Chepstow and Vobster Quay in Somerset for the event. I think we should have something like this next year here at Big Blue Diving and proceeds can go to our Eco projects.

As Christmas is rapidly approaching the social calendar is filling up fast. With Divemaster Challenges, Pub Quizzes and the Big Blue Staff party it is going to be a great build up to the Christmas dinner. if you are thinking about coming to Thailand for your holidays and t o Koh Tao to learn to dive accommodation at this time of year fills up quickly too so to avoid disappointment be sure to book your courses and fun dives and accommodation now. We still work throughout the holidays but some trips will not be running. There will be no diving on the morning of 23rd, 25th December or the 1st January. All other dive trips and courses will be running as usual around these dates.

 

 

Swedish Dive Professionals In The Making

 Monday 15th December 2014

ITC

Two of our ex- DMTs Johan Arsbog (aka JD) and Erik Sundkvist are half way through their SSS Instructor Training Course being taught by our very own Instructor Trainer Iain Goodfellow. Erik completed his Divemaster training in 2011 and went back to Sweden but has now come back to Big Blue after having enough of all the Swedish beauties. JD started his Divemaster training around 5 years ago but due to injuries and being unable to find the door out of a few bars, and finding a passion for technical diving, now he has finally completed his DM course and is taking the next step on the professional ladder. The two boys have been working very hard over the last few days. The course consists of lots of studying, academic presentation, pool presentations and open water presentations. Once they are ready they will sit their Instructor Exam which is split into 3 parts, written exam, classroom presentation assessment and open water presentation assessments. If you are interested in giving up your day job and starting a career that can take you all over the world, where the ocean becomes your office and where you get to meet people from all different walks of life, then find out more about becoming a dive professional by sending us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

When a baby whale shark was discovered swimming in the open sea on Sunday in the Maldives, it was a big deal. According to a local news report, a whale shark that young had never been spotted in the region and the find began speculation that whale sharks may be breeding in the area. It was regarded as a “joyous occasion” by a local research centre. However, when the 45 cm baby was captured and later shown to be swimming in a resort pool , it was extremely distressing Whaleshark Conservation groups because whale sharks are a threatened species and are protected, as they can grow up to 12- 13 metres they most certainly do not belong in captivity. The docile filter-feeder whale shark was hand-captured by employees from Ganhei Island Resort, and originally said to have been kept only temporarily in holding tanks before it would be released. But later in the day, photos surfaced showing the whale shark in a saltwater pool at a different resorts pool, swimming with resort guests. It turned out that instead of releasing the whale shark, an attempt by its captors was made to sell the animal to the owner of another resort. However, that person demanded that the captors take the whale shark back to where it was caught, and set it free. To end on a very much happier note, the baby whale shark was released after being catalogued in the Maldives Whaleshark database as WS217. Researchers will be able to identify the whale shark in future years, if it returns and is spotted. Happy ending thankfully!

 

World Record For Living Under The Sea

 

Friday 12th December 2014undersea lodge

As diving professionals we spend most of our time in the water but have you ever thought of living under the water permanently. Two scientists have broken the record for the longest time spent living underwater. The biology professors, Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain, have spent nearly 10 weeks in Jules' Undersea Lodge, which bills itself as “the only undersea hotel on Earth” and is located just off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. Cantrell and Fain, decided to live underwater to learn more about marine biology and educate students about the ocean. The undersea hotel is anchored just offshore under 7.6 metres of water. There are two guest rooms and an eight-by-20 foot common room, access is gained via a wet room with a moon pool. It has many portholes that allow visitors to watch sea life. The facility is filled with compressed air (as is the case with a spacecraft), which posed some interesting challenges, for example, before learning that under pressure, food cooks much more quickly than on land, Fain inadvertently burned some toast and “exploded” a few hot dogs in the microwave. The researchers will return to the surface on Monday, December 15, putting the new record for living underwater at 73 days (breaking the record was their stated goal at the outset). “I think we’ll be happy to see the sky and sun again,” Cantrell said. (Article from underwatertimes.com)

Over the next few days we will be following the experience of one of our Divemaster Trainees who recently finished their course.

Part one- My Dive Master Training Experience-
“One January, in a hostel somewhere in Mexico, I met guy that changed my life, he made me fall in love and showed me a whole new world. After talking to him for a while, I was pretty convinced but I was super nervous about my first time, he assured me though that it was super fun and I would be completely safe. And he was right. I went diving, I think it was then that I knew I wanted to be a dive professional. I’m sure when most people say they met someone that changed their life, it’s because they fell in love with them, but for me it’s because I fell in love with diving. So my journey started. After doing my open water and advanced course in Panama, I eventually made my way to Indonesia for my rescue course; next I had to make the big decision where to do my DMT. So after a bit of thinking I had a couple of places in mind and I hopped on a train from Malaysia, having slept through my train stop I ended up in Chumphon instead. And although partially accidental, coming to Koh Tao and to Big Blue has been honestly one of the best decisions I have ever made.

My first week here was kind of felt like I had moved to a new school. Everyone already had friends, and seemed to know what they were doing effortlessly, there was homework and exams, and I had to get up early. But fortunately I was wrong and it was really nothing like school, all the people here were genuinely really nice and wanted to help me, and everything slowly started to make sense. Despite the early mornings, homework and kind of being the Divemaster’s and Instructor’s goffer, I still absolutely loved it. I think the one of the most surprising things though was when I started assisting on courses, I quickly realised that this was something I really enjoyed and couldn’t wait to do another one. I thought it was really strange but great to see someone’s first breath underwater and then see them go from that moment to the end of a course. I hadn’t really thought about doing my instructor course before but it is definitely something I am considering now.”

 

Stop Killing Our Sharks, Stop Shark Finning

 

Thursday 11th December 2014shark fins

Prince William has sharply denounced the rapid growth of illegal wildlife trading worldwide but praised Air New Zealand for leading the way in refusing to ship shark fins on its planes. Citing statistics from Interpol, the international police organization, William said recent seizures of illegal wildlife products were the largest the agency has seen. Every year tens of millions of sharks die a slow death because of finning. Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark’s fins and throwing its still living body back into the sea. The sharks starve to death, or are eaten alive by other fish, or drown (if sharks are not in constant movement their gills cannot extract oxygen from the water). Shark fins are being “harvested” in ever greater numbers to feed the growing demand for shark fin soup, an Asian “delicacy”. Not only is the finning of sharks barbaric, but their indiscriminate slaughter at an unsustainable rate is pushing many species to the brink of extinction. Since the 1970s the populations of several species have been decimated by over 95%. Estimates of the global value of the shark fin trade range from US$540 million to US$1.2 billion a year.

This is something that has to stop, please while you are on holiday or even at home if you see restaurants serving and displaying shark please, please, please DO NOT eat there as this will only encourage this kind of behaviour. Koh Taos most popular dive site Chumphon Pinnacle used to be famous for its sharks, 4-5 years ago I could honestly with my hand on my heart promise my divers that we would see at least one shark if not more when we would dive there, I would even go as far as to say if we did not see any sharks I would buy the whole boat a beer- I never bought beer because we always saw them. Now we only really have sightings around Shark Bay and Liem Thain Bay. Save the Sharks Save the World!

The island is getting pretty busy right now on the lead up to Christmas so if you want to go diving with us we strongly recommend that you book online to save disappointment of not having any accommodation. We start courses every day, so whether you want to learn how to dive and do your Open Water course or if you are already certified and would like to further your diving education with the Advanced or Rescue or even your Divemaster course you can start when you like. If you would like to just go fun diving as a certified diver we have 2 dives every morning and 2 dives every day that you can sign up for with our Divemasters. Night dives are also available upon request. So what are you waiting for send us and email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and come and join us for Christmas

 

Divemaster Challenge and Bio-degradable fishing nets

 

Wednesday 10th December 2014dm challenge

4 of our most recent Divemaster Trainees celebrated finishing their course in a Doctors and Nurses themed Challenge. Our new Divemasters JD, Paul, Lina and Tiffany were amazing sports putting up with what can only be called loving and admirable humiliation and abuse, in the form of syringe shots, spanking, and other rubber glove and lube hospital based games. It is a long tradition at Big Blue that the DMTs have the option of having a Challenge as a way of congratulating them on their hard work throughout their training. Training as a Divemaster is hard work but it is also one of the best courses there is in the diving industry, the DMTs and other members of staff become like a family and it is always a sad time when it is time to leave, that is why most people don’t leave Koh Tao and stay on to become Instructors which is exactly what JD has decided to do.

 

Thailand like many countries relies greatly on the oceans and rivers for their food source, and so being a fisherman is a popular career to many Thai people. Whether it is commercial for the masses, or just local, feeding only their friends and family, it will affect the fish populations, in some way. The island of Koh Tao rests approximately 65km off the East side of mainland Thailand, and is the furthest North of all islands on this coastline. The Gulf is popular for squid fishing, barracuda fishing, king mackerel fishing, and the fishing of snappers, all of which play a crucial role in this particular ecosystem.

However it is more the way they are caught that is really having disastrous and long term affects within our oceans, the use of trawler nets, purse nets, and long lines, which catch more than the targeted species and when snagged on the coral will be left at the bottom trapping more fish for during their lengthy lifespan. So a solution may finally have arrived, a bio-degradable fishing net with a tracking system so each snagged net can be recovered for repair, or if left below, can then be triggered to break down at productive rate. For more information on this new design look in to the Remora net.

 

 

Underwater Shopping

 

Monday 8th December 2014Xperia-AquaTech-Store

For 3 days only in Dubai Sony have opened The Xperia Aquatech concept store which lays at 4 meters underwater, you can only enter if you are a contest winner, VIP, or otherwise Sony-approved patron before you can enter the strange jellyfish-themed underwater structure. It has been opened to promote their underwater products. Yes it is only a marketing gimmick but as there are already underwater hotels why not shops. Not sure that all shops would work, I can’t see items such bread and toilet paper surviving being transported back up to the surface, maybe the way forward is a type of shopping housing using lift bags to bring them to the surface. Perfect for those remote islands where land space is an issue! So it looks like the way we shop as divers is about to change- or not!

So if you are travelling in Thailand at the moment and you’re wondering what you can do for Christmas that’s a bit different, why not come and complete your Open Water Diver course. This 4 day course will allow you to dive anywhere in the world with a dive buddy. The course includes 2 days of theory and academic sessions, a confined pool session, and 4 open water dives taking you to 18 metres. Your Instructor will guide you through the course in a relaxed and comfortable pace. The possibilities after completing the Open Water course is endless, if you decide to continue on to your Advanced Course we will continue your education with dive that really tone your dive skills and include a deep dive 30 metres, night diving, and even an intro to wreck diving. You may decide to go down the technical diving path and learn more about deco diving and mixed gases and deeper diving. Or then there is the conservation route where you can learn more about coral nursery plantations and fish and coral identification. Seriously with the planet being covered in over 70% water this is the job to be in! Drop us an email if you would like to know more This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Happy Birthday King Rama IX

 

Friday 5th December 2014thai-king

Today is a very special day in Thailand. We celebrate the 87th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadey, also known as Rama IX. He is the longest serving monarch in the world serving for 68 years. The King’s birthday – also known as Father’s Day in Thailand – is a public holiday and Thais traditionally wear the royal yellow as a sign of devotion to the monarch, while roads are lined with royal flags. Happy Birthday. Long Live The King.

There has been a rise in Jelly fish in Thailand in the recent few weeks. While relatively harmless they will give you a nasty sting. Please be careful while you are out swimming especially with small children, use a mask and snorkel or goggles and keep your eyes peeled for the pesky little buggers. If you do happen to get stung by a jelly fish, get out of the water and remove any of the tentacles with tweezers (not your fingers), and pour vinegar over the area for about a minute, ice cubes can also help. Peeing on yourself or whoever has been stung does not work! Or buy yourself a rash vest from Drift which will cover your arms and chest up and also provide sun protection.

The Divemaster Trainees have a night out tonight at the mini golf; we have around 11 DMTs now so we use this as a team building, blow off steam evening. These guys work really hard throughout their course so what better way to treat them than to give them the night of to hit some ball around some windmills and giraffes!

 

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