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Big Blue Diving Resort - Koh Tao - Thailand

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.

 

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