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november 24th 2013

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Beginners guide to Buoyancy
giant-strideLearning how to Scuba dive is a process of getting to grips with a number of different elements- physical dexterity and spatial awareness (i.e. not banging into other divers or coral), physics (buoyancy), engineering (fixing your own equipment), and differing levels of OCD (washing your own equipment properly). To get you to understand these, the open water course is a combination of theory lessons in the restaurant or classroom, and practical sessions, starting in the pool and ending in the ocean. At Big Blue we completely understand that the last thing anyone would want to do is to go on holiday and end up being bored to death about physics in a classroom. So we're very good at teaching you the information that you need to digest and understand in order to improve your diving, but without waffling on forever. One of the most important elements of diving is buoyancy. It's pretty easy to get your head around, people have an instinctive understanding of it, even though they don't know it at first. The key to improving buoyancy is by practising it whilst diving. Remember your first driving lesson and how you probably stalled the car a few times before you were able to actually get going? Buoyancy is no different, but instead of having dual controls, we get you to feel and practice the feeling of changing buoyancy in the safe confines of a pool.
Here's the basic principle. When you jump in the water off a dive boat, you need to be what we call positively buoyant. This means that you will float along without having to kick like crazy to keep your head out of the water with all your equipment on. You achieve positive buoyancy by putting air into the jacket that you wear, called a BC, that also holds your cylinder of air. Now, when you want to go underwater you need to let all that air out so you will sink as you head down the descent line- this is called negative buoyancy. To stop you sinking all the way to the sea bed, you need to put little bits of air in your BC so that you will float along at the same level. This is called neutral buoyancy and it's neutral buoyancy that we want to achieve when we are swimming along underwater. If you kick up just a little bit, the air in your BC will expand slightly, and make you want to go up to the surface. You want to stay down underwater so you need to let a little bit of that air out of your BC to remain at the same depth. If you can get your head around that, you will be a good diver very quickly.
The most counter-intuitive thing about diving is when you want to go to the surface and end your dive. Most people think that you add air into your BC to go up, after all that's going to make you float up. The problem is if you do add air, you'll go to the surface way too quickly, and we always want to ascend nice and slowly and controlled. So to end the dive we periodically let air out of the BC as we swim up. That way, we are in control instead of our BC full of air taking us up. You don't have to let all the air out straight away, but instead vent air as you feel your BC taking charge of your ascent. As soon as your head is out of the water, then you can fill your BC with air and be a positively buoyant cork again. Easy eh?
Your instructor will take as long as you need to help you get to grips with it all, and the good news is that once you understand it, it becomes automatic so you can concentrate on enjoying what you see underwater.

How to behave in Thailand
Every country in the world has their own set of rules regarding social etiquette that all natives will grow up learning. When travelling to other countries it's a good idea to do some research on how these rules differ from place to place, so you can save yourself and others embarrassment, or, at worst, offence. Here's a few basic tips to help you blend in a little easier, and maybe stop you getting arrested!:

funny-thai-sign1- Don't get angry or raise your voice. Thai's are not confrontational, and if you shout you will embarrass them, which will quickly stop them from helping you out in any way. Keep calm and smile just as they do.
2- Don't touch anyone! Touching a Thai person is considered very rude, and an invasion of their personal space. The head is also the most revered part of the body for Thais, so don't be patting anyone on the head. If you accidentally touch someone on the head, apologise immediately.
3- Don't point your feet to indicate the direction of something, or touch anyone with your feet, they are considered unholy and it will be seen as an insult.
4- Never ever talk disrespectfully of the Royal family in Thailand, you can be arrested for it, seriously. Don't even step on a coin in the street if it is heads side up. Don't even have a laugh under your breath.
5- Wear appropriate dress when entering a buddhist temple. That means covering up your arms and legs. Some places may provide a skirt to wear, or deny you entry. Always take your shoes off too. Women are not allowed to touch Monks.
6- It's good manners to take your shoes off when entering a shop or restaurant, but especially when entering someone's house.
7- Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances take or possess any kind of drugs in Thailand. The penalties are very harsh and the police don't care about personal use or dealng, or whether it's class A's or softer drugs. If you're caught with any amount of any drugs on you, you could either be made to pay a very hefty fine to stop you going to prison, or get 25 years in jail. There are lots of westerners in Bangkwang prison in Bangkok-one of the worst prisons in the world. Don't be joining them.
8- Don't drink and drive- You could kill yourself or someone else, or if you're lucky, just have to pay a hell of a lot of money for damage to vehicles. Taxis are way cheaper and safer.
9- Please don't wear speedos!!!!!
10- There isn't a number 10... please just be really nice to dive instructors and divemasters and tell the boss how brilliant we are :-)

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