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Thursday, 10 April 2014 00:42

April 11th 2014

 

Junkyard part deux
junkyardJunkyard is a fantastic place to go diving. Located on Sairee, it's an artificial dive site made up of, literally, junk. The whole area is pretty shallow, 7-12 metres deep, and is all sand. Objects that have been placed there include a bunch of toilets, a weight bench with some free weights on a, er, i guess you'd call it a weight shelf!? There's a replica of the Sydney harbour bridge complete with model cars, a Jeep slowly being eaten by the ocean, and there are wire scaffolds for marine life to adhere to, all over the dive site.
Now, outside Big Blue on Sairee reef, we also have loads of sand, and it ranges from 6 metres all the way out to 15 metres where our boats moor up. We already have our coral nursery out there, but how about we do something similar to what's been done at Junkyard? It would be great to have our very own area full of inert inanimate objects, but if we were to do it, what would we put there?
In an ideal world, it would be fantastic to just build a proper dive site. Get some huge granite boulders, put them on a barge with a crane on it, and lower them over the side in a big stable pile on the sea bed, then just watch the marine life grow. After all, what are dive sites? They're rocks that jut out of the sea bed that allow coral to grow on, and attract all manner of marine life. What is the geology of Koh Tao? Granite. What rocks are the dive sites made out of? Granite. The geologist in me will tell you that granite is made up of the minerals biotite, feldspar and quartz. It's a very hard igneous rock (formed by volcanic activity at the surface of the Earth), and marine life just seem to love living on it. But creating a dive site in this way would be a pretty costly exercise without gaining sponsorship from the Thai Government and large multinationals, such as oil companies. So what could we use instead? Junkyard has lots of interesting marine life all over it, pufferfish, nudibranche, and all the usual suspects that live on the shallower dive sites. There may not be a lot of coral growing on the items, but marine life would certainly find shelter in some of it.
It would be great to get your ideas on realistic and affordable ways to take the junkyard idea further. Plus, it would take a little pressure off junkyard and the other dive sites if there was an additional place to take our divers. So get busy on our facebook page and come up with some ideas. If we get an amazing idea, we may even give some fancy prizes away. You can post on the article for this blog here.

 

Beer float
It's getting to that time of year when the tide is quite far out in the afternoon on Sairee beach. This means only one thing. Hoards of people up and down the beach lying in the shallow water drinking afternoon beers in the tropical Sun. Tough life I know. The downside to this practice is that if you're a quick drinker you'll have to keep getting up to go to the bar. The upside is that you won't need to keep getting up to go to the toilet! If you're feeling really fancy and are a diver with your own dive gear, you can wear your BC fully inflated, which means you can float all day long getting sozzled. Last year at Big Blue we got around the getting a beer problem by setting up a bar in the sea, with an eski brimming with beers. So maybe we'll do it again this year as it seemed to be pretty damn popular. Just remember though, you don't need to have your mask on and snorkel in, as that would give you some seriously weird tan lines!

 

 

Monday, 07 April 2014 08:34

April 8th 2014

 

Photography winners
photo-competition-winnerAfter a lot of pacing up and down, head scratching (which doesn't fully explain his lack of hair), and a little bit of repetitive strain injury on his eyes, manager of Big Blue Movies, Wayne, finally managed to choose a winning photo as submitted to our photography competition. The standard of pictures was really high and we received a lot of inspiring photos with some great conservation captions, but in the end we could only pick 3 winners. 3rd prize goes to Sebastian Åkerblom of dive4photos, for his photo of the jeep taken at junkyard, surrounded by marine life. 2nd prize goes to Big Blue videographer and SSI instructor James Emery, for his beautiful shot of a saddleback anemonefish taken at Sairee reef, with the caption "I don't need a circle to stay healthy". This highlights the contention in having an artificial stone circle at dive site twins to protect a solitary anemone, which many people believe is doing more harm than good.
But 1st prize goes to our very own divemaster Phil "fishlad" Smith, for his photo of a nudibranche doing a little tightrope walk on a fishing net, taken at Southwest pinnacle. Phidiana Militaris for those of you down with the latin names of these beautiful sea slugs. His caption was "not all fish cages destroy life", which is probably rubbing it in a bit if you're a talking nudibranche sitting on the outside of a cage looking in at the poor fish on the inside, plus you're gloating that you, as an underwater gastropod are actually able to understand English! Pretty clever caption actually as there are abandoned fishing nets all over the ocean, and it just shows that the rope will begin to harbour life given enough time.
So phil wins a free place on one of our full day trips to Chumphon marine park (we may even allow him to fun dive), James wins a free coral workshop afternoon with Big Blue Conservation, and Sebastian wins a Big Blue Conservation bag for life. Congratulations to you all!
The photography competition was a huge success, so much so that we will run another one in the future. All proceeds to the competition will go to Swim4sharks 2014, to raise money for various shark conservation projects in and around Koh Tao. If you'd like to view the winning 3 entries, go to our facebook page here.

Pufferfish
You may call them pufferfish, but if we wanted to be fancy then you would say that they belong to the family Tetraodontidae, of the order Tetraodontiformes (Ever learn the classification series- Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species?). There are at least 120 species of puffers in 19 genera. They are most diverse in the tropics, relatively uncommon in the temperate zone, and completely absent from cold waters. They are typically small to medium in size, although a few species can reach lengths of greater than 100 cm.
The puffer's unique and distinctive natural defences help compensate for its slow locomotion. It moves by combining pectoral, dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. This makes it highly manoeuvrable, but very slow, and therefore a comparatively easy predation target. Its tail fin is mainly used as a rudder, but it can be used for a sudden evasive burst of speed that shows none of the care and precision of its usual movements. The puffer's excellent eyesight, combined with this speed burst, is the first and most important defense against predators.
Its backup defense mechanism, used if successfully pursued, is to fill its extremely elastic stomach with water (or air when outside the water) until it is much larger and almost spherical in shape. Even if they are not visible when the puffer is not inflated, all puffers have pointed spines, so a hungry predator may suddenly find itself facing an unpalatable, pointy ball rather than a slow, tasty fish. Predators which do not heed this warning (or which are "lucky" enough to catch the puffer suddenly, before or during inflation) may die from choking, and predators that do manage to swallow the puffer may find their stomachs full of tetrodotoxin, making puffers an unpleasant, possibly lethal, choice of prey. This neurotoxin is found primarily in the ovaries and liver, although smaller amounts exist in the intestines and skin, as well as trace amounts in muscle. It does not always have a lethal effect on large predators, such as sharks, but it can kill humans. known as pakpao in Thailand, they are occasionally accidentally eaten believe it or not as by-catch.
For us divers, they are common all over the Gulf of Thailand, and we see them regularly on the dive sites close to Koh Tao, with perhaps the most common one being the masked porcupine fish.
If you see one, give it a bit of distance and never try and touch it. If it has to puff up, it's a very stressful event for it to have to go through.

 

Saturday, 05 April 2014 16:17

April 6th 2014

 

Big Blue award winners
big-blue-barWe're all pretty tired at Big Blue at the moment. Not because, you know, we work hard or anything like that. We're tired because we've been hosting some dignitaries. We even had to get the best china out to impress them. No it wasn't Bill Wyman looking for a new wife, or Tony Blair hoping to start a war between the dive schools (and then get a job as an ambassador for peace). It was the top brass from SSI worldwide. They were here on a two-pronged mission; to talk about the future of SSI after its aquisition by Mares last year, and also to recognise and award individuals and dive schools that have excelled in their training of SSI divers over the years. 
A few nights ago they held an event at the Big Blue bar, which was an excuse to provide Big Blue staff with free beer. They also honoured the boss, Jim, by awarding him the Platinum Pro 5,000 diver award- the highest SSI diving certification available. So he joins the ranks of Jacque Cousteau, who also received the award, in basically becoming a human fish. A hufish if we want to be taxonomically accurate. But that was nothing special compared with the free SSI beach towel he received. He also won the informal "sweatiest man of the evening" award, overtaking instructor trainer Simmo by a hair's breadth. Anyway, a good night was had by all, even though the free bar lasted for about 10 minutes. 
But just when we all thought we could get back to reality, we had a SSI conference two days ago. It was held at a fancy resort in Mae Hadd, with no expense spared (apart from the buffet). A few dive schools received awards, but Big Blue basically stole the evening. Instructor trainer Simmo won an award for certifying 500 instructors. Let me explain that in a little more detail. Since working at Big Blue, Simmo has taught over 500 hundred people to become SSI dive instructors- a phenomenal achievement. Big Blue Freediving also won an award for having certified over 100 people in their first year of operation, and divemaster mentor Nick "sloth" Bufton won an award for having certified 1,000 divers! That's 1,000 people that had never been underwater, who are now able to enjoy scuba diving! Again, an incredible achievement. 
The buffet however, was far from incredible. The spring rolls and onion rings ran out in about 30 seconds, so they went with their back-up plan of providing about 12 tonnes of crisps, which was great but the plates we had were essentially teacup saucer-sized; a disaster in finger food terms. 
SSI showed us some exciting developments that are in the pipeline. In a nutshell everything is going digital. You will be able to do your SSI open water academics on a tablet or smartphone app, and it'll hopefully be available at the end of this year. That will make the course a little easier to do seeing as everyone is pretty much living in the internet nowadays. Not sure how instructor Neil will adapt to this change though, he still uses a feather and ink to write his letters as far as i'm aware. There will hopefully also be some news forthcoming with Big Blue being able to offer SSI technical diving courses. Whatch this space.
So in conclusion, Big Blue is THE most successful, forward-thinking SSI dive resort in the world- fact. We have some incredible dive professionals here, and we have the awards to prove it. So you know there is only one place on Koh Tao that you need to come to, to learn how to dive, take your diving further, fun dive, or freedive. So get booking online now!

SSI facts
Seeing as we've just hosted the top brass from SSI, it seems only fitting to provide a bit of background information on the fastest growing diving agency in the world:

- Started in 1970, SSI has expanded to include more than 30 Service Centers, is represented in more than 110 countries with over 2.500 International locations, and has materials printed in more than 30 languages.
- Since June 1, 2010, Scuba Schools International is one of the few training agencies who qualified for a Global ISO Certification.
- SSI is a founding member of the RSTC (Recreational Scuba Training Council) and is present in all major national committees to ensure that the diving community´s interests are been taken care of.
- For more than 40 years, SSI has provided training, scuba diving certification, and educational resources for divers, dive instructors, dive centers and resorts around the world.
- On the open water course, the skills that you need to learn can be done in a way that is more flexible for both the student and the instructor. Other dive agencies are less flexible, which is not great for people that learn at different speeds and in different ways.
- International Headquarters is where the important standardization of SSI diving certification and education happens. This is where SSI Training Standards are written, and where the skills and techniques for SSI courses are created. This is also where we produce educational materials and, with the help of our Service Centers, translate them into many languages.
- SSI Dive Centers and Dive Resorts are professional businesses, that operate a scuba diving or freediving school for diver and dive professional training, as well as provide a variety of diving holidays, both local and destination for their customers. This network of Dive Centers and Dive Resorts around the world, where you can learn how to scuba- or freedive or further your diving education and experience, is extensive.
- SSI offers internationally recognized Scuba training programs for all levels - starting with Snorkeling and entry level diving courses up to Instructor Certifiers. The most common programs are: SSI Open Water Diver (OWD), Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD), more than 30 different specialty courses (like EAN Nitrox, Deep diving, Underwater navigation, Night diving and Limited Visibility, and many more). Dive leader training programs start with the Dive Control Specialist (who is qualified like Assistant Instructor) followed by Open Water Instructor and above.
- SSI's training program for children aged 8–12 years is called Scuba Rangers.
- The Training Program for technical Divers is called TechXR (Technical Extended Range) and includes decompression diving, trimix and other courses that exceed the limit for recreational divers.
- SSI Scuba Training programs are certified/recognized throughout the world (such as RSTC - Recreational Scuba Training Council, EUF - European Underwater Federation, CUA - China Underwater Association and others).
- SSI certified more open water divers in Australia in 2013 than PADI did.

 

Wednesday, 02 April 2014 06:42

April 3rd 2014

Perfect diving at the moment
open-water
The diving on Koh Tao at the moment is fantastic. Having just finished teaching a SSI open water course, my group were treated to four amazing dives where the conditions were absolutely perfect. White rock was calm, the Sun was shining, and the underwater visibility was around 20 metres. On top of all that, the ocean is like getting into a warm bath- 29 degrees Celsius! The sea in front of Big Blue is like looking at a mirror; flat calm. Chumphon pinnacle was also amazing, and again the visibility was around 20 metres. Once we'd descended to the pinnacle it seemed like rush hour for all the marine life, there were huge groupers all over the dive site, big shoals of fusilier and barracuda on the North, and pickhandle barracudas on the aply named barracuda rock to the Southwest. There were also a lot of golden trevaly hunting their prey, darting around at ludicrous speed hoping to catch a quick snack. To top it all off there were a few pretty big Spanish mackerel hanging around. Not a bad way to introduce diving to some enthusiastic open water students! We have the feeling that we'll be seeing whalesharks at Chumphon soon, they seem to be around again, with one showing up at Chumphon marine park on the last full day trip, and another one swimming with our divers at Southwest pinnacle on Tuesday morning. A whale was also spotted at Chumphon on Tuesday morning, followed by cries of incredulity by everyone (it was April fools day), until they saw it spouting at the surface in the background of an open water video! On the open water course we will take you to the best dive sites that Koh Tao has to offer, on the best dive boats, with some of the best dive professionals in the world. With the conditions being as they are at the moment, and the abundance and diversity of marine life on every dive site, you'll realise exactly why it was that you wanted to learn to dive, and want to do more and more and more diving. Don't bother with Koh Samui, and Chiang Mai can wait. Come to Koh Tao and let us teach you how to dive. Book your open water course on our website and we'll see you soon!

Restaurant boycott in Koh Samui
Some sad news from Koh Samui. A member of Marine Conservation Koh Tao recently saw shark being sold at a number of restaurants. Apparently much of it was caught in Koh Tao. We probably don't need to tell you that sharks are being taken from the ocean in huge numbers, and this practice needs to end. On Samui, the restaurants selling shark include Smile house, The address, and cococabana. I would urge you to avoid eating in those places and if you feel brave enough, explain to them why you will be going elsewhere. If you see sharks for sale in other places please take a photo and email it to Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation, so that we can help raise the profile of this awful practice. You could also go on their trip advisor pages and leave a review as to why you chose not to eat there. If they can't be persuaded to stop, we can make them stop by hitting them were it hurts the most- their wallets.

 

 

 

Tuesday, 01 April 2014 04:20

April 1st 2014

 

Big Blue Boffins
big-blue-boffinsWe've been working hard behind the scenes on something big over the last couple of years, and it's been frustrating not being able to say anything about it. But i've now been given the go ahead to shout it from the rooftops. So today i'm very proud to announce the grand opening of Big Blue Boffins- a brand-new part of the business dedicated to conducting scuba diving research. Now it's going to take time to get off the ground, but we're fully intending to revolutionise the diving industry and make it easier than ever for people to enjoy diving.
We're currently working on a number of revolutionary inventions. One example is synthesising sea cucumbers to excrete treacle, so that over time the ocean will become more and more viscous. So if you accidentally inflate your BC to go up, no problem, you'll still ascend nice and slowly! Plus, if you accidentally swallow a bit of water it will just make you crave pancakes! We also think it's pretty wasteful to have to put air in your BC from your diving cylinder to make yourself neutrally buoyant. So we're developing a kind of reverse-regulator to attach to your underpants, so that you can add air to your BC by utilising air from your bum. The first-stage will take the low pressure air from your bum and increase it to an intermediate pressure. The trials are going well, but we're going to have to spend more time on oral inflation at the surface- you don't want to be leaving your finger on the deflate button as you blow air into your BC! We'll let you know when it's ready to hit the shelves but we think we're onto a winner.
But perhaps the most important developments will involve looking at the bigger picture. We're currently in top-secret talks with the descendants of Robert Boyle, Archimedes of Syracuse, William Henry, John Dalton, and Jacques Charles, to gain permission to change the laws of physics relating to diving, as inspired by Willy Wonka. If we can re-arrange all the formulas, then it stands to reason that the underwater world will also change. Imagine if an increased partial pressure of nitrogen just made you a bit peckish instead of getting you narced! But don't worry, none of this will go to our heads when we receive the Nobel prize. We'll still take you diving to the best dive sites in Koh Tao, but it might be on a dive boat powered by Barracuda poo, with an in-built flux capacitor in case you missed the whaleshark.
So, just to summarise, Big Blue Boffins, as launched today, April 1st 2014.... you fools.

Giant groupers
Seeing as Chumphon and White rock seem to be covered in giant groupers at the moment, how about some lovely facts about these amazing lazy predators:

- The giant grouper is the largest bony fish found in coral reefs. It’s also known as the brown spotted cod and the Queensland grouper. In fact, it is the emblem of the state of Queensland, Australia. Groupers are a large family of fish and the giant grouper is one of the biggest in the family.
- It’s found throughout the Indo-Pacific area except the Persian Gulf. They’re a huge species and can grow as large as 2.7 m long and can weigh up to 600 kg. There are rumors that even larger groupers have been found but these are unconfirmed.
- The giant grouper is found commonly in shallow waters and feeds on a range of other marine life including small sharks, crustaceans and young sea turtles. Its favorite sea food is the spiny lobsters. Like other grouper species, it changes color as it ages.
- It has an extremely large mouth and a round tail. The young have uneven yellow and black markings whereas the adults are green, brown or gray with only a faint mottling. They also have a scattering of black spots on their fins.
- These giants can live up to fifty years in the wild. They are fully protected as their numbers are dwindling. They breed between May and August and like many other fish they are hermaphrodites.
- They are a specific type of hermaphrodite known as the protogynous hermaphrodite meaning the young are predominantly female but turn into males as they develop. When young they’re believed to grow over 1 kg a year. When they reach around 10 kg they turn male and the male grouper has a harem of up to fifteen females. If there is no male in the group, the largest female will turn male to satisfy their reproductive needs.
- The giant grouper preys upon other sea life but rather than chasing after its prey, it prefers to lie in wait and catch any prey unaware. But this slow-swimming, sluggish behavior isn't good for them if there are spear fishermen around. - Another threat is that their habitat is being destroyed by excessive fishing and its prey being wiped out. Similarly, the explosive devices used in reef areas have led to a decline in their population.

 

Saturday, 29 March 2014 12:13

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).

 

 

Friday, 28 March 2014 07:20

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.

 

 

Monday, 24 March 2014 10:27

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!

 

Sunday, 23 March 2014 04:26

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.

 

Thursday, 20 March 2014 10:53

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.

 

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