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Big Blue Diving Resort - Koh Tao - Thailand

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.

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