Big Blue Diving - Koh Tao - Thailand - Displaying items by tag: KOH SAMUI
Saturday, 13 October 2018 10:20

Koh Tao and 711 Say 'No' to Plastic Bags

 

Anyone who’s spent time in Thailand will be familiar or perhaps even have an intimate relationship with everyone’s favourite convenience store, the all-conquering 711.  Having supplies of the ubiquitous cheese and ham toasties 24 hours a day, every single day of the year is certainly not to be sniffed at by most Thailand backpackers, who seem to be fuelled almost entirely on a concoction of Pringles, cheese toasties and buckets of cheap booze– thankfully Thailand isn’t a country famous for its cuisine or they may all be missing out on something…

 

However, in an extraordinary move that has surprised the whole of Koh Tao, and after decades of asking politely, demanding, begging, pleading and grovelling it seems that the powers that be at 711 have finally taken our advice and stopped giving out unnecessary plastics. I’m sure there’s not a person amongst us who hasn’t returned form a 711 trip to find some sneaky frigging plastic spoon or straw slipped into your bag without your knowledge, and often when you didn’t even buy something that warranted the use of one! Packet of cigarettes? Plastic bag. Can of Coca-Cola? Plastic bag and straw. A couple of bottles of Singha to drink immediately? Triple-bloody-bagged, with a handful of straws lurking in them. Multiply this by the 10,000 or so 711 stores just in Thailand, and you can see where the root of the problem lies.

 

Of course we cannot blame 711 entirely for this, as consumers it is up to us to refuse the bags and straws we’re offered. We all no doubt know by now that plastics are a huge worldwide problem and the oceans especially are in particular trouble of succumbing to the invasion of plastics dumped in it by us ungrateful humans, but by cutting out our supplier it’ll certainly help a huge amount.

 

As responsible visitors to this amazing island there are also plenty of other ways to help combat the plastics problem facing all of us – for example you could join in one of the regular beach clean-ups, divers can dive for free (!) on the underwater clean-ups that Big Blue and a handful of other places offer, or you can invest in your own reusable ‘Trash Hero’ water bottle (as seen below) and enjoy the free water fill-ups offered by almost 50 of the dive schools on Koh Tao, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe and more!

 

So next time you go shopping at 711 remember to take your Big Blue tote bag with you (available for free from us when you like our Facebook page) or you’ll be faced with a massive 15 baht fee to use one of the stores bags. Hot food still comes in a little plastic bag, but we must take baby steps here guys, first Koh Tao, next stop the world!

 

 

 Do your part here on Koh Tao with our conservation team here at Big Blue, for more information click here

 

 

 

Published in October
Friday, 05 October 2018 16:42

Freediving on Koh Tao

 

When I was a child my family and I would take yearly trips to see my Italian family in Sicily, during which my father would take my ten-year old self and my brothers out spearfishing. The thrill of being in the ocean wielding my very own weapon (a ferocious trident that was my absolute pride and joy) at an age when I was barely allowed to cross the street alone was incredible, and then to go on the hunt for elusive octopus, delicious passing snapper, aggressive eels and basically anything else that looked reasonably edible was something I’ll never forget to this day.

What really had me fascinated was when my father would spend a bit of time breathing quite deeply on the surface for a minute or so, take what seemed like a gargantuan breath and effortlessly disappear beneath the waves to impossible depths for a child to imagine – how did he do it? How could he hold his breath for so long? Why weren’t the fish scared away by him? I had so many questions, and that’s when freediving first piqued my curiosity.

 

It wasn’t till years later that I learnt that what we were doing (in a very amateurish fashion) was called ‘freediving’, and was becoming a very popular pastime for those wanting a little more from their diving. The 1988 Luc Besson movie ‘The Big Blue’ we’re named after then showed me just what freediving could offer with some training and what seemed like a lot of effort, and I was hooked.

 

Surely for people to dive to such depths on just one breath you have to be some sort of super healthy, non-smoking, yoga loving athlete, right?

Wrong!

Freediving is something that everyone (regardless of shape, size, or fitness levels) can try and be successful at – as log as there’s no serious ear problems. In fact, the first man to freedive more 100 metres was 65 years old when he did it!

It starts with learning about the mammalian dive reflex, and controlling the urge to breathe (those contractions you feel in your diaphragm) which we all feel when we’ve held our breath underwater for a while. You learn relaxation procedures to help not just hold your breath for a minute or so but to really push the limits of your body and mind away from their comfort zones, control the feeling that you need to breather and before long enter into the realms of proper freediving – to be able to breath-hold for 2 minutes plus whilst gliding silently around the reefs, without a care in the world.

It’s not so much physical exercise, but more about knowing your body, mastering the psychological effects felt and strengthening our mind’s ability to live the moment peacefully, whilst in full control of the situation. 

 

 

So what are the benefits of learning how to freedive?

The freedom felt whilst underwater without the heavy scuba equipment is really quite exhilarating. Scuba diving is wonderful when you want to spend a long time underwater exploring every nook and cranny, but with freediving the beauty is in its simplicity and silence. 

 

When freediving the marine life you encounter aren’t as skittish as when you’re scuba diving – bubbles from scuba regulators are noisy, and there isn’t that much sound underwater other than the communication of the different creatures down there so it inevitably disturbs everything. Freedivers, on the other hand, appear to be less of a threat, so the creatures down there let you get closer to them, and they also come closer to you – after all you appear to them to be just a new, big fish so they’re also very curious. Of course, you are always limited in the time you can stay down there interacting, but it opens up so many places for exploration where it just isn’t feasible to go scuba diving - maybe there’s no dive centre to rent equipment or get your tanks filled, but with freediving all you need is to don your mask, grab some weight and a buddy and you’re good to go!

 

What’s next?

Easy; all you have to do is set aside at least 2 days of your life to visit us on Koh Tao, and the SSI Level 1 freediver licence can be yours for the rest of your life. To book your courses, or for a little more information take a look here!

 

 

“The scuba diver dives to look around. The freediver dives to look inside.

 

Umberto Pelizzari, world champion freediver.

 

 

 

Published in October
Friday, 21 September 2018 10:41

Daily Weather Reports for Koh Tao

Anyone who’s been living in a cave the last week may have missed out on some of the big news stories that have dominated our TV sets recently – extreme weather! 

With hurricane and typhoon season running from June to November in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and also a huge swathe of Asia, this time of year is always an exciting one for us weather watchers. Hurricane Florence is currently busy wrapping up its attempted destruction of North and South Carolina, USA and the other big story is Typhoon Mangkhut which had cut a deadly path through the Philippines, Hong Kong and South-East China, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

 

Luckily here on Koh Tao we don’t really get hurricanes or anything even close to what’s being suffered by those affected by Florence and Mangkhut, and it’s only usually during our monsoon rains (mid-November – December) that we can sometimes suffer from flooding – we had some bad ones in 2016 and again one year later – or the occasional super-cool water spout (thanks for the excellent photo of this beauty last November from Andreas Fiskeseth) that appear on the horizon around that time of year.

 

So how can we find out what the weather is like now anyway?

 

The easiest way to get a daily report of the weather here on Koh Tao from a real person who is actually on the island (that’ll be me) is to click right here where I’ve been reporting not just the weather but also information on wave size in regards to snorkeling and diving here, which are easily the most popular activities on Koh Tao, along with boozing.  I may not be as glamorous as those delectable beauties that are so commonly found on the Mexican news channels (if you don’t believe me just Google ‘Yanet Garcia’) but I’m certainly thorough.

 

If you’re looking to check the weather forecast for the next few days, there’s a glut of apps and websites that are available, and to be perfectly honest with you most of them are absolutely shite – it’s very common for these apps to declare the day as being ‘rainy’ even if it only rains for a few minutes in that day, which is pretty misleading. Here at Big Blue we rely on two in particular that seem to be a lot more accurate than other: ‘Windguru’, and ‘Windy’. By taking the information given from both we can usually predict the weather for the next week very accurately indeed!

 

Oh, and today? Hot, sunny, and another bloody whaleshark at Sail Rock. What a time to be alive!

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

Published in September

The Cheap Places

One of the great things about traveling and backpacking Thailand is the sheer amount of great places to eat which won’t break the bank, and Koh Tao is no different than the rest of the country. With new options appearing what seems like every other week (and disappearing too, unfortunately) what we’re going to look at now is what I consider to be the best places to fill your stomach without emptying your pockets.

 

Duck 995, Sairee Village Thai/Chinese, Vegetarian Options

Number 1 on this list for a damn good reason, this small and typically Thai-looking restaurant won’t win any prizes for décor, but has built up an excellent reputation for itself on Koh Tao for delicious, cheap food served quickly with minimum fuss and maximum taste. Always busy, this locals favourite serves what I consider to be the best duck noodle soup I’ve ever tasted (and I consider myself quite the connoisseur of noodle soups, I’ll have you know) and one taste of literally anything from their menu will show just why they’re rated so highly with those who know their food.

Main courses go for between 70 and 150 baht, or if you want the whole roast duck it’ll cost you just 700 baht. The menu is quite heavily duck-orientated but other options are available for those who don’t wish to eat these cute little quacking-machines.

 

Our Choice – There’s no doubt that the Spicy Duck Noodle Soup is a real joy, with an explosion of flavours on the taste buds with every bite. With a delicious broth to die for, noodles of your choice, bean-sprouts, peanuts and the perfect amount of seasoning it’s something you’ll come back for again and again.  Go for the larger 90 baht version, as you’ll no doubt want more.

 

 

 

Da’s Sandwiches, Mae Haad by the Pier and Sairee Walking Street Sandwiches, Fast Food, Vegetarian Options

 

Another Koh Tao local’s favourite, after fattening up everyone by the pier in its original location Da has now opened up a second outlet in Sairee, with exactly the same qualities as the original – massive, delicious sandwiches at a very low price of just 70 baht. Impossible to eat two, these wonder-sarnies are just packed with fresh ingredients making it a perfect pre/post dive bite, but don’t be surprised if it ruins your dinner – they’re really that big.

Not really a place where you’d sit and eat (though the staff are lovely and always happy to chat) I like to order takeaway and stroll down to the beach to munch on mine – just be aware that they usually close at 14.00 though!

 

Our Choice – The chicken breast, bacon and cheese in a fresh white bun is a sandwich that could sustain a man for weeks, and has reached ‘legendary’ status here on the island. Stay away from it if you’re on a diet…

 

 

Seasons, Sairee Village Thai, Isaan, Vietnamese, Seafood, BBQ, European, Vegetarian…you name it

A main-stay of the Koh Tao community for many years now for those in the know, Seasons (also known as ‘All Seasons’ in a previous incarnation) has probably the most comprehensive menu that I’ve ever come across, with pages and pages of Thai food from the far north to the more Indian-stylings of the south, incredible Vietnamese rolls and soups (the phở bò is wonderful), the obligatory European salads, sandwiches and burgers, BBQ mackerel, pork and chicken dishes…if you can think of it, it’s probably on there somewhere.

One of the more rustic restaurants on the island, the friendly owners have over 20 cats and dogs which may put a few people off (the dogs are rather fragrant) but once you dig in to the menu you’ll see why so many locals rate this as one of the best cheap places to get traditional fare on Koh Tao, with prices ranging from 60-350 baht for main courses. It’s also one of the few joints on the island where the food is actually cooked by Thai chefs, rather than using the Burmese cooks most establishments employ.

 

Our Choice – It’s a tough choice with so many excellent dishes on the menu but I’ll stick my neck out and declare their Panang chicken curry as the best on Koh Tao, with fresh spices and that phenomenal homemade curry paste combining beautifully with the sweetness of the coconut milk and citrus of the kaffir lime leaves. Lovely stuff!

 

 

Yang’s, Mae Haad Thai, European, Vegetarian and Vegan options by request

 With a decent selection of Thai and European foods Yang’s is a firm favourite on Koh Tao, especially with the Spanish-speaking contingent here. Famous for delivering extra-large portions at really low prices leaving you with more money to spend on the nicer things in life (like diving), the reputation here is well deserved, with the restaurant often being filled with the more bohemian looking traveler trying to fill themselves up whilst spending as little as possible – try the chicken schnitzel and if you want to eat something the size of a frisbee.

Can get busy between 19.00-21.00 when service can get a bit slow, so best to order direct from the counter when it’s packed out. Mains cost from 60-250 baht, with the most popular dishes just under 100 baht.

 

Out Choice – The fried fish (usually mackerel) with chilli and basil on rice is really quite delicious, with the perfect amount of spices and fish that comes very well-cooked - unusual for cheaper restaurants that just love to overcook fish, in my experience.

Sairee 711 Foodcourt, Main Road Thai, Isaan, European, Japanese

 

Now this one might be cheating a little bit as the foodcourt isn’t just one place to eat but a handful of different outlets, but rules are there to be broken right?

This foodcourt popped up a few years ago, starting with ‘Krua Thai’ restaurant to the left of the 711, and then quickly followed by the fried foods brigade with their deep-fried delights, papaya salads, pad Thai, mango and sticky rice, strange-looking sushi and more…it’s basically a ‘who’s who’ of classic Thai streetfood all at bargain prices from 20 baht upwards.

Personally, I prefer to eat from Krua Thai which has a huge menu with a lot of unusual and classic northern Thai/Isaan food which can be hard to find at the run-of-the-mill Thai joints on the island. Service is always friendly, and they have a beautiful and friendly young Siberian Husky to play with as you wait for your order (which always comes out very quickly much to the dog’s dismay).

 

Our Choice – The fried spicy catfish curry with sticky rice is one of the most delicious Thai dishes I’ve ever eaten, with so many different textures and flavours throughout the dish you can’t fail to be impressed. Highly recommended!

 

 

Published in September

The Slightly More Fancy Places

With so many phenomenal restaurants, cafes and food stalls here on Koh Tao I’m going to delve a little deeper into the wonderful world of stuffing your face with delicious foods, and look at what are widely considered to be the best places to spend your hard-earned holiday funds, from the high end places to the cheaper plastic chair affairs that are so widespread here in Thailand.

Here in part one we’ll take a look at the best places for those looking to splash out a little on their evening meal: 

Barracuda Restaurant, Sairee   Thai, Healthy, Vegan, Vegetarian, Fusion, Mediterranean, Seafood, Steakhouse

 

With two locations in Sairee (in the village by the Ladyboy Cabaret and also now found at Darawan, near Bans) this excellent Thai-fusion restaurant seems to be going from strength to strength. Describing themselves as a “laidback and stylish diving alternative” with a menu to suit all tastes, they have delicious options for meat and fish-lovers as well as vegetarians and vegans - their spinach and roasted vegetable lasagne is wonderful!

What I notice every time I go there is the quality of the service from the mainly Burmese waiters employed there – they’re very attentive and not at all intrusive, which can be hard to pull off and is pretty rare here in Thailand!

With mains costing between 250 and 600 baht and a small beer just 70 baht the prices aren’t too high at all, making it a must-try restaurant for all visitors to Koh Tao – I’m certain you won’t be disappointed!

 

Our choice – The braised lamb shank is fit for a king, and always seems to be cooked so perfectly it just falls off the bone. Highly recommended!

 

Breeze, Mae Haad Global fusion, Seafood, Meats, Vegetarian and Vegan options

Found on the beach in Mae Haad this place is one of the newer additions to the list of incredible eateries here on Koh Tao and is proving to be a big hit with locals and tourists alike. They describe themselves as serving “modern global cuisine, relaxed dining right on the beach in Mae Haad and beachside dining with great sunset views” which is a pretty good description, albeit worded a little strangely.

Main courses go for between 200 to 450 baht per person and beers start at 70 baht so it’s well worth every penny, with special praise going for their sharing boards – the Mezze board in particular is proving to be very popular for those wanting to have a light bite with one of their fabulous drink options.

 

Our choice – The Mediterranean style snapper with asparagus is outstanding but for me it’s all about that amazing Mezze board, with Lebanese-style aubergine, grilled halloumi and a lot more!

 

The Gallery, Sairee Gourmet Thai, Vegetarian and Vegan options

Found in Sairee Village the Gallery has been open for over 6 years now, and is always an incredibly popular destination for those wanting to experience Thai food with a touch of class. Described by the owners as a place to “explore a marvellous array of flavours and experience excellent service in our cosy and chic, gourmet, authentic Thai restaurant” it’s somewhere where you can enjoy Thai food in a quaint setting surrounded by some tremendous artwork from co-owner/photographer/Koh Tao veteran Chris Clark, who also has a photo gallery and cute little bar attached to the restaurant.

Prices for the mains start at around 200 baht and go to just over 400 baht, but when you consider what you’d pay for Thai food of this quality anywhere else in the world you’ll see what a bargain this is.

 

Our choice – You’d be a fool not to go for the ‘Trust the Chef’ option, which delivers 4 starters, 3 mains and 2 deserts which the chef chooses based on your tastes; it’s bloody marvellous and an excellent way to experience all the different flavours and levels of Thai cuisine.

 

 

 

 

Baia Burger Concept, Sairee Village American, Breakfasts, Juices, Craft Ales, Vegetarian Options

With quite a few burger places on Koh Tao before the arrival of Baia Burger in 2017 it wasn’t easy to see where they’d fit in, but rest assured there is no burger joint like this probably in the whole of Thailand making it a ‘must-visit’ during your stay. Their forte is of course the delicious Australian Wagyu beef burgers which are accompanied with some of the highest quality ingredients that can be found on Koh Tao, as well as a very tasty line in ‘mac and cheese’, salads and desserts.  Prices may seem high with burgers starting from 250 baht and rising to around 450 baht, but my God they’re worth it.

Staff are friendly and attentive without being too intrusive, and it’s located in a great people-watching spot in the heart of Sairee Village.

Our Choice – For those wanting a bit of spice with their burger the ‘Koh Tao Heat’ is a perfect choice, with a freshly baked brioche bun housing a mouth-watering beef patty, a secret chilli sauce offset with a lovely mango chutney, plus aged cheddar and bacon bits. Comes with regular or sweet potato fries with truffle sauce on the side.

 

Fizz BeachLounge, Sairee Beach European, Asian, Thai, Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten Free options

 

Right in the middle of Sairee Beach can be found this great bar/restaurant which is always full of locals looking to enjoy the sunset with a bite to eat from their extensive menu. One of the few bars on the beach that isn’t blasting crappy commercial house music, their soulful yet groovy playlists give it a really laidback, chilled vibe perfect for the stunning sunsets Sairee enjoys almost every night of the year.

Whether just for a few drinks (try the espresso martini!) or a bite to eat, there’s not many better places in the area to enjoy the natural beauty Koh Tao has to offer in a relaxed setting. Prices range from around 200 to 600 baht for a main course, and a small beer will set you back just 80 baht.

 

Our choice – The Cottage Pie with steamed vegetables is an excellent choice for those looking for some comfort food both filling and delicious, in a stunning setting.

 

 

 

Published in September
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