Friday, 21 September 2018 03:41

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

Here at Big Blue (for the first time in what seems like forever) we have a job vacancy here on Koh Tao, and it’s for arguably the best job the world has ever known: Full Time Divemaster!

The role of the Divemaster here at Big Blue sounds almost too good to be true, to be perfectly honest with you all, and certainly not something where you are actually paid real cash money to perform – you have to dive an incredible tropical divesite (with water temperatures not dropping below 26 degrees here) with a small group of certified divers, and located amazing marine life.

Then comes the hard part – you must then raise your arm, extend a finger and point at whatever you’ve found, whilst simultaneously attracting the attention of your group so they too get to look at it.

Yes, that’s pointing at beautiful things for a living, and getting paid to do so. You can see why we don’t often have any openings in such a wonderful job, as not many of our DMs ever want to leave!

 

Of course, it’s not all pointing at whalesharks, turtles and stupid bloody Nemo. Once every four days to give your ears a bit of a rest we get you to do a day in the Big Blue Diving reception. This entails meeting new divers, explaining what our trips can offer, organising the boats, the equipment needed for each, and the divers allocated to the correct boat. So that’s talking to people about diving, counting things, and a little adding up and multiplication for which a calculator is available (if necessary).

 

Let’s summarise the DM role a bit:

  • Dive beautiful dive sites
  • Find stuff
  • Point at stuff
  • Call people over to look at stuff
  • Count stuff
  • Use a calculator
  • Talk to people about stuff underwater
  • GET PAID

 

I’m sure you’ll all realise that competition for this job is likely to be fierce, so anyone interested in becoming our latest ‘luckiest person in the whole wide world’ should come and see us in person (so we can stare at you and judge you) with your CV, or drop us an email via this website, and we’ll stalk you on your Facebook.

 

Published in September

 

After a bit of a whaleshark dry spell of only 3 in the last 2 weeks (all at Sail Rock) our lucky fundivers and Advanced students today managed to cross something else off their bucket lists, with a beautiful young specimen stopping by our best local site of Chumphon Pinnacle.

Initial reports have declared it to be either 3 metres long, or 4m, or possibly 5m, and of course there are a couple of people out there who have decided there were two – it’s not uncommon for people too see one, turn 360 degrees, see the same one again but decide it was another!

 

To celebrate their return we should have a look at my 3 favourite facts of the mighty whaleshark:

 

  • Despite its name, the whaleshark is not a whale and is in fact the world’s largest fish, reaching lengths of 12 metres. Weighing them isn’t so easy, but researchers from the Okinawa Aquarium that imprisons them have managed to weigh one of their larger individuals, which was over 7000 kg!

 

 

  • Experts believe they reach maturity around age 30, but their life expectancy is still a mystery to us. Some ichthyologists say they die in the sixties, while others believe they can live till around 100 to 150 years old, which is approximately as old as the clothes our favourite instructor Neil Draycott

 

 

  • No two whalesharks on the planet share the same markings! Just behind the gills of a whaleshark is a unique pattern of white spots, which can be used to identify the fish. Interestingly, the method to identify them has been adapted from The Groth Algorithm, which is a pattern-recognition formula used by NASA to map the countless star fields observed by the world’s super telescopes like the Hubble. Jason Holmberg and NASA astrophysicist Zaven Arzoumanian, the guys behind this technique, simply adapted the algorithm to read white spots on the whaleshark, rather than white stars against the black night sky!

 

Sign up for your chance to dive with one of these incredible beasts here , or if you’re not already a diver take a peek right at this

Published in August

One of the most breathtaking creatures on the planet to dive with, the manta ray is real bucket-list item for divers all around the world. Once commonly seen here on Koh Tao, there hadn’t been a confirmed sighting of a manta for at least 15 years…until last week when we encountered one at Chumphon Pinnacle.

With the diving community absolutely ecstatic over the magnificent manta that paid us a visit, there’s never been a better time to look more closely at these creatures, and investigate what may have brought it here.

 So what do we know about the manta ray?

There are 2 species of manta rays: the reef manta (Manta alfredi) and the giant manta ray (Manta birostris). Both are classified as “vulnerable” in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, unfortunately. They have the largest brains of all fish apparently, which doesn’t explain why it’s been so long since they came to Koh Tao the ignorant shits.

Fish you say? That’s right, just like Nemo and Dory manta rays are in fact fish, just funny-looking ones. They are actually related to sharks, but are considered gentle creatures which do not represent a significant threat to humans, plus they lack the venomous tail spikes that many of their relatives have.

The largest species is the giant manta ray, whose central disc can measure up to 9 meters wide! Despite their massive size mantas eat only tiny little plankton, which they filter through their gills with something called ‘gill rakers’ – widely sought-after in Chinese medicine due to the ridiculous belief that it can heal anything from colds to cancer. Yeah right China, keep your filthy mitts off them!

 So what brought them to us again?

Manta rays are distributed in tropical, subtropical and temperate oceans worldwide. They’re not fans of cold water at all, and with water temperatures on Koh Tao averaging around 30 degrees all year round the conditions are perfect for them to come and say hello!

As plankton eaters, it’s actually quite surprising that we haven’t been seeing them a lot more than one every million years or whatever it is – after all the ocean around Koh Tao is often full of plankton, which is the main reason why we have so many whalesharks visiting our waters all year round.

Could the recent anoxia event (complete lack of oxygen) we’ve been seeing at depth have something to do with it? It’s certainly possible, but I believe the most likely conclusion is that we’ve had an extra-long influx of planktonic matter this year, likely coming from the depths of the South China Sea – when the food comes, the hungry follow. This would also explain the numbers of whalesharks we’ve been seeing, and also the amount of salps and comb jellies we’ve been finding on every dive site and shoreline.

I’d love to be able to say these magnificent mantas are back for good, but only time will tell. Watch this space, and if you’re not already a certified diver then hurry and do something about it soon!

Published in August

 

 

Anyone working in the dive industry will have no doubt at some point in their careers had this very argument; is the divemaster (DM) or the instructor a better job? Ask a divemaster, and they’ll give you the opposite answer to if you ask an instructor, every single time. So who is right? Which is better? Let’s look at the facts right here:

 

 DMM

Divemaster

So what exactly does a DM do?’ I hear you ask. The truth is…pretty much everything needed to run the dive centre!

 

Here at Big Blue the DM on land is responsible for organizing the boats, signing up new divers onto the relevant trips, assigning instructors/students to the correct vessel whilst also deciding which dive sites they’re going to, and ensuring the correct amounts of dive equipment are on the boats ready for the students to use. This seems like a lot, right? That’s because it is! The DM is essentially running the whole dive centre, and without them the place would fall apart very quickly indeed. They also act as the intermediary between the ground staff, captains and management, and are expected to be able to quickly fix any problems that arise in a collected, composed and calm manner.

The land role of the DM, therefore, isn’t the greatest part of the job at all. Quite stressful at times, many decisions need to be made very swiftly whilst knowing in the back of your mind that just one small error could be make or break someone whole dive experience.

 

DM

The reason why the DM job is regarded as one of the best in the world is obviously not for the land based role, but the underwater part. With most of their work being done underwater, every day they are lucky enough to lead certified divers around the best sites, with their safety and enjoyment being of particular importance of course. Whilst guiding underwater their chief role is to find incredible marine life (that most divers wouldn’t be able to spot themselves) and…point at it!

Yes, that’s correct – pointing at beautiful things for a living. What a tough life they lead...

You can see now why so many divers aspire one day to become a real life Divemaster, after all it’s being paid to look for cool stuff just as we do when we’re on our holidays diving for fun, the only difference being that we have to point at it too! It also means that we’re not diving with beginner divers like the instructors, so we don’t have as many depth limits and are encouraged to use features like swim thru’s and play with currents to excite and challenge the divers we’re leading. As the best DM in Thailand (true fact, my mam told me) I know my heart would be broken having to dive our best deep sites like Sail Rock, Chumphon and South West Pinnacle but stuck at 18 metres as I’m teaching an Open Water course, or every other day diving our shallow beginner sites at such dizzying depths of around 8 or 9 metres maximum – this simply doesn’t happen to us DMs!

 

 padi dive instructor teach kids

Instructor

After reading all that about us lovely DMs there’s no way that the instructor role can be worth going for…or can it?

 

I think it all comes down to what sort of person you are, and what you’re hoping to get out of your diving. The instructors are there at the frontline of diving, taking new, nervous Open Water students and turning them from crying/bolting to surface/ripping out regulator divers and (in just days) transforming them into safe, competent and confident Gods of the ocean, gliding around the reefs without a care in the world. This obviously leaves a huge sense of reward for the instructor, and I’ve no doubt that the majority of us would love that feeling of accomplishment when we’ve completed something challenging and created these wonderful new divers – it’s a feeling that’s not always easy to come by in life and it’s right here every single day for the dive instructor.

I also think that the instructor role is a lot more simple than what the DMs must do (but I’m sure lots of instructors may argue with me on this one) as they have it all wonderfully laid out for them. The boats are organized, the equipment packed, tanks provided and dive sites chosen – all they have to do now is be a damn good instructor, and they’re a winner. The DMs however absolutely must find amazing things underwater, or they’ve failed and their divers will surface unhappy – I know just how worrying it is halfway into a dive when you’ve found nothing special!

Oh, and did I mention that the dive instructors get paid a hell of a lot more than the DMs, who make just enough to get by on?

banner padi dive instructor

 

To conclude, the best is what you believe to be the best. If you thrive under a bit of pressure and only want to dive the sexiest deep sites and not have to deal with problems associated with first time divers than DM is definitely the choice for you. If you want to come back from your dives feeling rewarded, having been directly responsible for changing someone’s life for the better, than maybe it’s time to that instructor course!

 

You can sign up for your DMT here and the Instructor training right here

Published in June
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