17/18 Moo 1, Koh Tao Suratthani, 84360 Thailand         Info @ Big Blue Diving        +66 (0) 77 456 050

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Tuesday, 18 March 2014 14:20

March 19th 2014

The human teapot
lukeBad news for all you ladies out there that just can't get enough of men from Grimsby. Big Blue PADI and SSI instructor and Platinum Grimsby bruiser Luke White has had a little accident that has put him out of action for a while. This means that he's out of the water and unable to woo you with his Northern charm whilst teaching you how to dive on your SSI open water course- when you haven't passed out from swooning that is.
If you're around Big Blue at the moment, you can't miss him. He's the one walking around like a teapot with his fishing arm in a sling. For those that know him he's a little bit more grumpy than usual, which, on the scale of Luke grumpiness is not actually that different from normal. But don't worry, we will be having a benefit night for him sometime in the next week, just so we can all have an excuse to get drunk and make him that little bit grumpier, but also to help the sweaty idiot get back on his feet.
On the bright side at least he'll get to spend a lot more time in the shop checking customers in and chatting to any prospective divers as they walk by our retail shop. On the down side you'll have to meet Luke when you check in to come diving with us.. sorry about that. Anyway, we all wish him well and hope he has a speedy recovery. God help his fiance.

Thai factoids
Time for the last 15 dazzling facts about Thailand. That's 35 in the last few days you greedy sods. Enjoy:

21. A century ago, more than 100,000 elephants lived in Thailand, with about 20,000 of them untamed. Now, there are about 5,000, with less than half of them wild.
22. Both the Hollywood movie and Broadway play of The King and I are banned in Thailand. Based on the Siamese ruler King Mongkut and a teacher named Anna Leonowens, the movie is seen as insulting to the king. While the movie depicts him as uncultured, he is believed to be the first Asian ruler to speak, read, and write English fluently. He also is considered highly intelligent, cultured, and well read. Further, he is known as the father of Thai scientists
23. Thailand’s and the world’s longest reigning monarch is Bhumibol Adulyadej, who became King Rama IX in June 1946. He was born in the U.S. in 1927 when his father was studying medicine at Harvard. He owns a patent on a form of cloud seeding and holds a degree in engineering from Switzerland. He also plays the sax and composed Thailand’s national anthem.
24. Tiger Woods is the son of an American father and a Thai mother.
25. Thailand is the world’s largest producer of tin.
26. Each year, around six million foreign tourists visit Thailand. Thailand has also attracted many expatriates from developed countries.
27. The population of Thailand is 67,091,089, which is ranked 20th in the world.
28. Sometimes the SkyTrain will stop for no apparent reason. When any member of the Royal family travels downtown, the trains will stop in a postion so that it is not above the Royal. Essentially your head can not be directly above theirs.That goes for walking on the overhead passes too.
29. At 15 a youth can enter but not drink in a club if accompanied by BOTH parents.
30. In 2008 Bangkok was ranked the best city in the world according to Travel and Leisure magazine
31. Khao San Road is the liveliest and busiest tourist area in Bangkok.
32. Don Mueang International Airport sports the tallest control tower in the world, measuring 132.2m (434ft)
33. Leaving the house without any underwear on is illegal, you can be arrested for it.
34. Bangkok is also called the ‘Venice of the East’ due to its large number on canals.
35. Thailand is the world’s 51st largest country. Russia is the largest. The United States is third largest.

Sunday, 16 March 2014 03:04

March 16th 2014

Eat dive relax dive eat dive relax cake!
chumphon-marine-parkThe full day trip two days ago was another resounding success, with some big smiles on our fun diver's faces as they stepped back on land. This time around the full day trip went to Chumphon Marine Park, which is NOT VISITED BY ANY OTHER DIVE RESORT ON KOH TAO. So that means pristine dive sites that will only be as busy as the number of people on board our boat. A rare treat for any fun diver. The marine life is incredibly abundant, so there is lots to see on every dive, and there is a wreck very similar to the HTMS Sattakut, called the HTMS Prab, with the only difference being that it lies in shallower water, so you get longer to see it. This trip is so amazing that our staff try and book days off to see if they can get on the trip if there are some left over places! But how come no other dive resorts visit there? It's because it's just too far away for them to be able to fit in three dives. But out fun diver only boat Porponawa is ridiculously fast, so we can provide you with three dives. Not only that, we feed you- breakfast, lunch and chocolate cake, plus as many soft drinks as you can manage.
We run full day trips every 3 days, alternating between sail rock, Chumphon Marine Park, and Ang Thong Marine Park (another rarely visited area for diving). So if you want to experience the best diving that the Gulf of Thailand has to offer, get yourself on the next full day trip. Pop into the office on Sairee beach and have a chat with one of our divemasters to find out when the next one will be, and where we will be going.

More facts about Thailand
Following on from a few days ago, here's 10 more interesting and occassionallly downright weird facts about the land of smiles:

11. Thailand is home to the world’s hairiest child, Supatra “Nat” Sasuphan.
12. The full name of Bangkok is- Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. It means “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest. Bangkok is a great city to visit because of its rich culture and diverse history. Tourists wishing to explore a city that is well known and highly recommended should check out Bangkok. The vivacious street life and interesting architecture makes this city a “must see”. Be sure to book your Bangkok hotel in the heart of the city. By centrally booking your hotel allows you to have convenient access to multiple restaurants and entertainment. There is a good reason that Bangkok was recently named, “World’s Best City”. If you are looking to discover a vibrant city in Asia, this is the place to see.
13 The Thai alphabet has 32 vowels and 44 consonants.
14. One-tenth of all animal species on Earth live in Thailand. More than 1,500 species of orchids grow wild in Thai forests. Thailand is the world’s number one orchid exporter.
15. Siamese cats are native to Thailand. In Thai they are called wichen-maat, meaning “moon diamond.” A 14th-century book of Thai poems describes 23 types of Siamese cats; today only six breeds are left. Giving a pair of Si Sawat cats (a type of Siamese cats) to a bride is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage.
16. Thailand is home to what may be the world’s longest snake, the reticulated python. The largest one ever found stretched over 33 feet (10 m) from end to end.
17. Thailand is home to the world’s longest poisonous snake, the king cobra. The cobra can reach more than 18 feet long, and one bite from it can kill an elephant.
18. Swiftlet nests are made from strands of saliva from the male swiftlet bird. Swiftlet nests collected from Thai caves can fetch more than $900 per pound. It is one of the world’s most coveted and expensive food items.
19. The Mekong River, which forms part of Thailand’s eastern border, supports more than 1,300 species of fish. It holds some of the world’s largest freshwater fish, including a giant catfish which can reach nearly 10 feet long and weigh as much as 660 lbs.
20. One of Thailand’s most curious creatures is the mudskipper, which is a fish that is capable of walking on land and climbing trees. It uses its fins to “walk” and can absorb oxygen through its skin and lining in its mouth. It spends most of its time out of the water, eating the algae in tidal pools.

Thursday, 13 March 2014 15:23

March 14th 2014

New SSI instructor trainers
Iain-GuySometime last year, SSI Instructor Trainer (IT) Paul "Tosh" Tanner decided to leave us completely in the lurch and move to Bali to become a monk. It was a pretty groundbreaking event. So groundbreaking in fact, that every member of staff remembers what they were doing at the moment he left, er, sometime last year... it was probably a friday. Our longstanding SSI IT, Simmo, has probably cried every day since Tosh left, but did a good job of convincing everyone that he's just sick of all the wars in the world. However, as more and more people want to be trained up to become SSI dive instructors, it was concluded that there just aren't enough Simmo's in the day to manage it all. So the post was advertised in all the corner shops and classified ads. Everyone at Big Blue was fully expecting one candidate to be chosen to work with Simmo, but no, we ended up getting two! It turns out that the applications from Big Blue divemaster trainee mentors Iain and Guy impressed the boss so much that he decided to hire them both!
I've written quite a bit about both of them previously, but in case you've never heard of them, Iain is Scottish, loves falling asleep at the bar of an evening- literally, and is apparently pretty handy at poker when he can stay awake. Guy is from Yorkshire, has a lovely mane of hair that he'll show to anyone (in old photos), and is addicted to Mills & Boon romance novels. They're both very experienced instructors and have spent the last few years moulding the next generation of professional SSI divemasters. Now they're going to get the chance to mould the next generation of SSI dive instructors.
They are both popular members of staff at Big Blue, and we'd like to wish them the best in their new roles.
If you'd like to live on a tropical Island and have the ocean as your new office, and are keen to find out what you need to do to become a diving instructor, get in touch with Simmo, Iain and Guy at Big Blue Pro. The email address is at the top of their webpage.

Wildlife protection groups join forces
Good news for shark protection. Two leading organisations have recently merged, WildAid and Shark Savers. The work previously undertaken by Shark Savers will now be taken on by WildAid. So, in addition to running a number of programmes to protect endangered wildlife species including elephants, rhinos, and tigers, they will also be campaigning to reduce shark fin consumption and protect manta rays. Shark Savers' 'I'm FINished with Fins' campaign was launched in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan last year with WildAid, National Geographic, and World Wildlife Fund as partners. WildAid launched the 'I'm FINished with Fins' campaign in China in late 2013 building on its ongoing campaign to stem consumption of endangered wildlife. In addition to the 'I'm FINished with Fins' campaign, Shark Savers' SharksCount citizen science program and the overall Shark Savers grassroots campaign to protect sharks and rays will continue within the context of WildAid's Shark program. Shark Savers' Shark and Ray Sanctuaries program will combine with WildAid's Marine Protection Program.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 03:54

March 12th 2014

Instructors on tour
stag-weekendSix of our full time-instructors, including myself, arrived back yesterday from a stag weekend/bucks/batchelor party in Phuket. We had a wonderful time, taking in the botanical gardens, going to the opera, spending a couple of days on a detox yoga mountain retreat, and volunteering at the local cat shelter. The journey there started with a fantastic disco on the deck of the car ferry, leaving us all really well rested for the bus journey from Suratthani to Phuket- at 5am. This journey only took 6 and a half hours, with the driver being helpful enough to stop every 2 minutes or so on random street corners to pick up more customers, probably to test the carrying capacity of the coach. When we arrived in Phuket, we thought we'd have a quiet night in the local pub, but we got confused and night actually meant noon. So the next day, fully armed with the visible appearance of having land-sickness, we boarded a boat which was to be our home for the next two days, feeling confident that no-one would get sea sick. Luckily only the stag, Luke White did. Everyone else just got sun burnt. I think we all agreed that Neil had a lovely singing voice, but that he'd also confused detox with tox.
The rest of the trip was a bit hazy after that, but I do remember that we made the very sensible decision to give the task of booking our return tickets to Rich. But there was a little confusion, and when he'd said it was "all sorted", he actually meant that "the night boat was full, but we could still get on as long as we could find somewhere to lie on top of all the cargo", but he decided not to tell us this until we tried to board the night boat. So Luke actually got a bit of action on the trip by being spooned by videographer James. Not sure he filmed that though.
Anyway, we all came back feeling great and ready to get back to teaching people how to dive. But we were a litte dissapointed that Big Blue hadn't fallen apart because we weren't there. Instead it seems as busy as ever, the weather is great and the Gulf of Thailand is nice and warm. Can't wait to work on my sun burn a little more.
If you're thinking of going to Phuket during your time in Thailand, reconsider immediately unless you like the idea of middle-aged Russians wearing speedos. Come to Koh Tao instead and dive with Big Blue, but please please book ahead for your travel, book ahead for your accommodation, and get someone other than Rich to help you!

10 interesting facts about Thailand
We live here, you're hopefully coming here, so here's some things you may not know about the land of smiles:

1. Thailand’s name in the Thai language is Prathet Thai, which means “Land of the Free.” It is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonized by a European nation.
2. Thailand is home to the world’s largest gold Buddha, the largest crocodile farm, the largest restaurant, the longest single-span suspension bridge, and the world’s tallest hotel
3. In the past, all Thai young men including the kings became Buddhist monks for at least a short period of time before their 20th birthday. Today, fewer young men observe the practice.
4. The world’s smallest mammal, the Craseonycteris thonglongyai (the bumble bat), is found in Thailand
5. Medicine man Hoo Sateow from Thailand has the world’s documented longest hair at 16 foot 11 inches long
6. In 1996, two rare “diamond-eyed cats,” Phet and Ploy, were married in a lavish $16,241 Thai wedding, the most expensive pet wedding in the world.
7. In 1999, 30 vets worked to heal a 38-year-old cow elephants’ foot, which had been destroyed when she stepped on a landmine in Thailand. It set the record for the largest number of vets in one procedure.
8. In 1999, a group of 282 skydivers set the record for the largest number of skydivers in a free-fall formation above Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. They held the link for 7.11 seconds.
9. The world’s largest Christmas log cake was made in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 25, 1997. The cake weighed 5,071 lbs. and reached 27 feet 6 inches. It was later cut into 19,212 portions
10.Thailand set the record for the longest catwalk on April 9, 2010. The catwalk was 1,584 meters long and was part of the Pattaya International Fashion Week

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 09:03

March 6th 2014

Blog ideas
writers blockAnyone who's done any kind of writing whatsoever, be it a blog, novel, University thesis, or just writing up your notes from your days' stalking, will be able to tell you all about writers block. It's a pretty debilitating illness, especially when you work full-time in between and have a deadline to keep. Guess what, it's happening right now.
So, seeing as we're a little bit quieter at the moment in preparation for the oncoming hoards of travellers that will inevitably find their way to Koh Tao after the insanity that is the half and full moon parties, why not write a blog asking you what kind of blogs you'd like to see? There have been articles written about various aspects of scuba diving; buoyancy, diving cylinders and equipment. I've written about what's been happening at Big Blue, from the photo competition to the shenanigans of the Big Blue football team, and also about some of the dive sites we have and the full day trips that we organise. The articles that seem to get the best response always seem to be the ones having a light-hearted poke at our staff- boat captains, the divemaster team, the divemaster trainee mentor instructors, and the shop staff. Given that I can't write about these people every other day without repeating myself a lot, it would be good to know what type of people read the blog the most (ex-visitors, people who are planning on coming to Big Blue etc), and what they are more likely to read, so that I know whether to write articles aimed at people with none, some, or a good knowledge of scuba diving. I suspect that it's a mix of all of those, so i'm screwed either way!
To use a bit of management-speak, it's market research without sending out questionaires. So, going forward, help us to get behind the eight-ball so we can do some blue-sky thinking to enable us to reach all the low-hanging fruit- we don't want the grass to get too long on this one. By end of play we need to action those deliverables that will give us best leverage with our stakeholders and touch base 110%..... damn it, why didn't I just write a blog about management-speak?
Anyway, please tell us what you'd like to see in the blog and write a comment under the article on our facebook page. It'll get completely ignored and i'll continue to publish articles in as random a manner as possible, but at least we'll give the impression that we've listened!

This is the life
Living on Koh Tao is such a chore. I'm sick to death of walking up the beach and taking a dip in the warm clear ocean to cool off, taking in the Sun, and eating good, cheap Thai food whilst watching the world go by, and on my days off enjoying a cocktail or two and resting my bones in 30 degree temperatures.. horrible. Koh Tao is a diving Island, that's what most people come here for, and when you ask our customers what they are going to do when they've finished a diving course, they usually say relax, have a few beers, and maybe see some of the Island. There are quite a few other actvities that you can do here but that seems to sum up pretty well what the vast majority of people end up doing. And there are lots of places you can do that. Sairee beach has loads of bars and restaurants where you can have a drink and some food, take in the view and get that vitamin D from the Sun. Sairee village has endless Thai and Western food restaurants and cafes no matter what you fancy. Plus, you can easily get around the Island by land taxi or taxi boat to see that people are doing exactly the same thing at Shark bay on the South or Tanote bay on the South East.
So don't get any ideas about jungle trekking or crazy golf, just get yourself a nice spot to perch and take it all in.

 

Tuesday, 04 March 2014 02:01

March 4th 2014

Photo competition still open
big-blue-photography-competitionJust a quick post to remind any budding photographers out there that it's not too late to enter the Big Blue photography competition. You have until the 31st of March to get your entry or entries in, which will be judged on the 4th of April. It's open to anyone, whether you're a divemaster, instructor, fun diver, tech diver, freediver, or have never ever set foot in the ocean. You can take your image on land or underwater. The theme is Koh Tao and the photo must have a conservation message or caption. To enter one photo will cost 200 baht, but you can enter three photos for 500 baht. All proceeds will go to this years Swim for Sharks charity event.
There will be three amazing prizes on offer: 1st prize is a free place on a full day trip to Chumphon Marine Park, 2nd prize is a half-day coral workshop with Big Blue Conservation, and 3rd prize is a very stylish eco t-shirt and cotton bag.
Email your photos (the address is at the top of our homepage) or drop them off at the Big Blue shop (Sairee Beach) on a USB stick, CD or DVD with your entry fee. Sadly we cannot accept entries on VHS or Betamax. Please include your name in the file name. 
Note: Prizes are awarded as a voucher, valid for 6 months from the 4th April. Full day trip to Chunphon Marine Park is availabe on scheduled dates, subject to weather conditions. the coral workshop must be scheduled in advance. the eco t-shirt & bag can be redeemed at Big Blue's Drift retail shop. For more information on any of the above, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sea Cucumbers
Like giant underwater caterpillars, sea cucumbers can be found all over every single dive site in Koh Tao. So given that you're definitely going to see one if you come diving here, how about I tell you some lovely facts about them:

- Sea cucumbers are echinoderms, like starfish and sea urchins. There are some 1,250 known species, and many of these animals are indeed shaped like soft-bodied cucumbers.
- All sea cucumbers are ocean dwellers, though some inhabit the shallows and others live in the deep ocean. They live on or near the ocean floor—sometimes partially buried beneath it.
- They feed on tiny particles like algae, minute aquatic animals, or waste materials, which they gather in with 8 to 30 tube feet that look like tentacles surrounding their mouths. The animals break down these particles into even smaller pieces, which become fodder for bacteria, and thus recycle them back into the ocean ecosystem. Earthworms perform a similar function in terrestrial ecosystems.
- Sea cucumbers, particularly eggs and young larvae, are prey for fish and other marine animals. They are also enjoyed by humans, especially in Asia, and some species are farmed as delicacies.
- When threatened, some sea cucumbers discharge sticky threads to ensnare their enemies. Others can mutilate their own bodies as a defense mechanism. They violently contract their muscles and jettison some of their internal organs out of their anus. The missing body parts are quickly regenerated.
- Sea cucumbers can breed sexually or asexually. Sexual reproduction is more typical, but the process is not very intimate. The animals release both eggs and sperm into the water and fertilization occurs when they meet. There must be many individuals in a sea cucumber population for this reproductive method to be successful. Indeed, many parts of the deep ocean host large herds of these ancient animals, grazing on the microscopic bounty of marine waters.

Sunday, 02 March 2014 04:35

March 2nd 2014

Sub-aquatic film school
If you go onto the Big Blue facebook page, Big Blue movies has posted a quick clip of Barry- one of our videographers, filming a triggerfish. It initially seems to be completely disinterested in him or his camera, but then suddenly decides to make it known that its personal space has been violated by quickly charging the camera for a warning headbutt. Triggerfish one, Barry nil.
damsel-fishMaking friends with triggerfish is optional, but that clip is just one of many amazing interactions that our videographers capture every single day. The Big Blue Movies team spend their mornings diving in tropical waters, filming the local marine life and flexing their creativity muscles (the videographers, not the marine life). In the afternoons they work hard to edit their footage and produce a short film. But their day is not over yet, they then go to the bar and play the video to the delight of our customers and staff.
On your open water course we film you on your final two dives. Watching the video in the bar is a great way to celebrate passing your open water course, and you have the option to buy it so you can show your friends and family what you've been up to on your travels. But videographers like Barry don't just decide to take a camera on a dive with them one day. They are highly trained in what they do, having undertaken a SSI videography internship with one of our experienced videography instructors. This involves learning how to use a camera properly underwater- not as easy as you'd think. Give any diver a camera and suddenly their buoyancy control becomes a distant memory, because they concentrate so much on getting a shot they forget about the diving bit! During the internship you'll go out with your instructor to learn how to properly handle a camera underwater (all equipment provided during the course). Then, once you've got the hang of that you'll learn how to get good footage; no shakey camera movement, no fingers on lenses, making good use of focus in different diving conditions, making the most of the foreground and background, the rule of thirds, and effective use of lighting.
On top of that you'll learn how to use professional software to edit your footage, so you can make a film yourself. Your internship ends with you filming our customers, editing your videos and showing them, so that you'll have actual work experience as a videographer. It can be hard work; long days with square eyes, but it can also be very satisfying, and you get to film the biggest fish in the sea, the whaleshark! Perhaps the best bit is when you get to see all the open water students watching your video with open jaws in amazement at what you captured.
If you'd like your new office to be the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, or even if you'd like to become better at taking pictures and video underwater, get in touch with Wayne at Big Blue Movies. He'll give you all the information you need, and it won't be long before you're booking that flight to Bangkok. The email address is at the top of our homepage.

Triggerfish facts
Seeing as I mentioned triggerfish earlier, here's some more facts about the grumpiest fish in the ocean. Wouldn't you be if you were that ugly?

- There are 40 species of triggerfish, scattered throughout the world’s seas.
- The largest is the stone triggerfish, which reaches up to 1 metre in length.
- They live on the bottom of the ocean and dig out prey such as crabs and worms, by flapping away debris with their fins and sandblasting with water squirted from their mouths. They also use very tough teeth and jaws to take on sea urchins, flipping them over to get at their bellies, which are armed with fewer spines.
- The trigger on their back is used to deter predators or to “lock” themselves into holes, crevices, and other hiding spots.
- They tend to be solitary, but meet at traditional mating grounds according to timetables governed by moons and tides. The males of many species appear to establish territories on these spawning grounds and prepare seafloor nests that will house tens of thousands of eggs. Females share caring for the eggs until they hatch, blowing water on them to keep them well supplied with oxygen. In some species males are known to maintain a harem of female mates.
- Triggerfish are infamous for their nasty attitude, and this behavior is especially evident around nests, where intruders, from other fish to divers, are likely to be charged.
- Triggerfish are often brightly coloured. Some species have become too popular for their own good. They are sought for the aquarium trade, which has prompted fishermen to gather even threatened species from the wild. Researchers are working to raise triggerfish in captivity so that wild populations might more likely be left alone.

Thursday, 27 February 2014 15:46

February 28th 2014

What where why when how who who what!
giant-strideSince the last blog I was hoping that some new underwater hand signals would have been developed, that our instructors and divemasters can impart to our open water students and fun divers. But no. Living on a hot tropical Island means that the people of Koh Tao have better things to do, or are too lazy, or both, or neither. So I guess I'd better write about something else instead then!
So, you've just booked to do your open water course with us, probably because you want to see what the underwater world is like, but also maybe because you like to learn new things and potentially challenge yourself. So what kind of student are you? Are you the type of person that needs to be pushed into doing everything? Are you incapable of doing anything without being shouted at? Maybe you're the student that, on the morning of the first day of the open water course has already read the manual twice, finished all the study guides and you have a list of questions for the instructor. At the other end of the spectrum maybe you'll turn up late having done none of your study guide, ansd are struggling to stay awake whenever the instructor opens their mouth (in which case really what are you doing there?). Do you need to be shown something once and that's it, you've got it? Or do you need to be shown 20 times before your brain has even the vaguest idea of what just happened? Are you a visual learner or do you prefer to be told?
One thing is for certain, you will not be shouted at by any Big Blue instructor. You're the customer and you're on holiday. But having signed up to learn how to dive, you do need to be receptive to learning. Given that you may be in a group of people that are all travelling on their own, and all of those people will have different ways of taking in information, how the hell can we teach you all effectively?
Well it all boils down to your instructor. Just about every one of our instructors has a different style of teaching. They all impart the same information, and they all have to follow the same timetable, i.e. the pool on day one and the sea on days two and three. But how they get across that information can vary quite a lot, and it all depends on you and the rest of your group. We are very good at amending our teaching so that everyone on the course gets the most out of it. If there is a student that's not quite picking it up as fast as everyone else, they'll never be made to feel stupid or told that they're holding up the rest of the group. We can make extra time for that person and teach them one-on-one if that's the best way to get that person up to speed.
We're also pretty good at reading people. Some people like the limelight and speak so much it's a miracle they stop to take a breath. Some people are really quiet and would rather blend in. We meet different people every day and are pretty good at steering the social dynamic of a group so that everyone is happy.
So it really doesn't matter what type of person you are or what type of learner you are, as long as you are prepared to listen, watch, and learn, you will get a lot out of the open water course, and once it's completed you'll never look back, as, quite literally a whole new world will have been opened up to you.
So get on our website, book your course and accommodation, and make the most out of your holiday!

Incoming!
Sitting on the beach under a tree today, a coconut fell down and almost hit me on the head, and it got me to thinking about coconuts falling out of trees and hitting people on the head. Now one thing Koh Tao has in abundance is coconut trees. They're everywhere. Most people don't really notice them unless they make a point of looking up. But when they do they'll immediately be alarmed at the likelyhood of playing chicken with a high velocity coconut. Make no mistake they fall a long way and, being full of coconut milk are pretty heavy. If one of those connects with your bonce it can kill you. I've often wondered what it must be like to attend the funeral of someone who was killed by a falling coconut. It must be a pretty surreal experience, I mean, there's no shame in it, but there's no glory either. Here lies ......, he was killed by a fruit.
But we do have one saviour on Koh Tao, a Thai man periodically wanders the Island with a pet monkey, who's job it is to scale the coconut trees and remove any coconuts that are ripe enough to fall off. He can regularly be seen in Sairee, and he keeps the monkey on a very long leash. I hope one day it doesn't lose it's footing, as the only thing weirder than being killed by a falling coconut, is to be killed by a falling monkey!

Monday, 24 February 2014 17:08

February 25th 2014

Sign language
hand-signalsFor those of you that have never been diving, you may think that we just speak to each other as we would on the surface, like the presenters in those fancy BBC diving documentaries, wearing full face masks that allow them to have a full-on chin wag underwater. Unfortunately full face masks are pretty expensive items of equipment and require additional training, so you can't just strap one to your face and jump in the water.
Instead we have to go old school and use hand signals to communicate. It's basically underwater charades without the eggnog. Now there are some obvious hand signals, like asking how much air your buddy has, asking whether your buddy is ok, or saying that you want to end the dive. But there are many more that aren't as obvious, but they allow you to dive safely as a buddy team, whilst staying on the same page with minimum fuss. Now, as most people go diving to see marine life, it's good to be able to communicate what you're looking at in addition to sharing information regarding your dive parameters, and this is where the possibilities begin to be endless. As long as you confirm with your buddy before the dive what the sign for this or that fish will be, you can make up whatever signals you like. For example, the sign for an angelfish is to draw an imaginary halo with your finger around the top of your head. But it could also mean that you just saw Jesus behind the brain coral. It would be interesting to see your buddy try and communicate that they disagreed that it was Jesus and thought it was actually Captain Birdseye. Maybe after all that you really saw an angelfish behind the Bryan coral.
One of the weirdest hand signals I know is used during the open water course when a student doesn't quite get a skill right in the pool or ocean, so the instructor uses it to indicate that they want them to do it again. The only way I can describe it is by imagining that your right-hand is an aeroplane and you are going to crash it into the palm of your other hand in a curve-like motion. It makes about as much sense as if someone wanted to beckon you over to them from afar, and instead of gesturing with their hand they just started moonwalking sideways. So I obviously use my own hand signal to ask someone to repeat a skill. What I do is arch my back, puff out my chest, put my hands over my eyes, and then just allow myself to fall sideways and just lie there in that position on the bottom of the pool, motionless... works every time.
If you haven't learned to dive yet, you'll need to learn the hand signals that your instructor teaches you. But once you're qualified, providing your diving with someone you know pretty well, make up some of your own between you. You never know, some of them may even catch on and become diving industry norms.

Ants!
You're in a tropical country, there are insects everywhere, get used to it. You may as well learn something about them:

- If a man could run as fast for his size as an ant can, he could run as fast as a racehorse.
- Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight.
- With their combined weight greater than the combined weight of all humans, ants are the most numerous type of animal.
- An ant brain has about 250,000 brain cells. A human brain has 10,000 million. So a colony of 40,000 ants has collectively the same size brain as a human.
- Ant brains are largest amongst insects. An ant’s brain may have the same processing power as a Macintosh II computer.
- The average life expectancy of an ant is 45-60 days.
- Adult ants cannot chew and swallow solid food. They rely on juice which they squeeze from pieces of food.
The abdomen of the ant contains two stomachs. One stomach holds the food for itself and second stomach is for food to be shared with other ants.
- There are over 10000 known species of ants.
- Some worker ants are given the job of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it outside in a special rubbish dump.
- Some birds put ants in their feathers because the ants squirt formic acid which gets rid of the parasites.
- If a worker ant has found a good source for food, it leaves a trail of scent so that the other ants in the colony can find the food.
- The queen ant lives up to ten or twenty years.
- Some colonies may contain millions of ants, all produced by a single queen.

Saturday, 22 February 2014 06:29

February 23rd 2014

Oxygen tanks?
scuba-cylindersQuite often when teaching an open water course, students refer to the diving cylinder as the oxygen tank. Not really that surprising as we need oxygen to survive, but walking around in our day to day lives we don't breathe pure oxygen. We breathe air, which is rounded up to be 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. The gas you breathe when you go diving is the same air as you are breathing now (unless you are somehow reading this on mars), it's just compressed into a cylinder that you breathe from during your dive. So here's a few facts about the thing that enables you to be underwater in the first place.
You may have dived all over the world, and used cylinders of varying sizes and shapes. But could you tell the difference between them? There are three types of cylinder; Steel, aluminium, and carbon fibre. You'll never ever see a carbon fibre cylinder as they are very expensive and pretty new. Dive resorts could never afford them and they'd have no need to use them anyway. Steel and aluminium are the types you'll always encounter. Steel is heavier than aluminium, but it's also stronger so the walls of the tank are slightly thinner. Because steel is stronger, air can be compressed to a higher pressure. So you can have a smaller cylinder, such as the so-called stubby. Steel is more liable to corrosion than aluminium, so steel cylinders have to be painted, and re-painted due to their exposure to saltwater. In tropical areas such as Thailand, you'll only find aluminium being used; they are less affected by saltwater and cheaper than steel.
The standard cylinder as used by recreational divers is the AL80. The AL stands for aluminium and the 80 means that it can hold 80 cubic feet of air. Things can get a little confusing as cylinder sizes can be described by internal volume of gas or water capacity (how much water it can hold), or by the nominal volume of gas stored. Being all fancy we use metric everywhere except the US, so it's common to describe an AL80 cylinder as an 11 litre (10.94l to be exact), that is rated to be filled to 210 bar of pressure. Tanks need to be periodically inspected to ensure that they are fit for purpose. A visual inspection involves looking inside the cylinder for corrosion, metal fatigue, and especially corrosion around the neck of the cylinder where the threads that house the valve live. A hydrostatic test is a pressure test, undertaken to determine that the metal is not fatigued (metallurgists call it creep or cold flow- I used to be one- a metallurgist, not a creep).. Cylinders are stamped with the latest hydro test date, and when they need to be performed depends on where you are in the world. In Thailand it's every five years.
In recreational diving, as a fun diver using a dive resort's cylinder you don't really care too much what type of tank you have, as long as it will give you a decent dive time. But with technical diving we need to know exactly what we're dealing with, as we plan our dives using software and have to calculate the gases that we will need. Anyone who has done a course with Big Blue tech will be able to tell you that 11 litres at 200 bar equals 2,200 litres of air. As tech divers have two tanks on their back that's 4,400 litres (not as is commonly thought, two tanks equalling 400 bar!). By calculating your Surface Air Consumption (SAC) rate, you can determine exactly how much gas you will need on a given dive. This means two things, tech divers clearly have OCD, and you can tell a tech diver out on a recreational dive as they'll be sat on their own in a corner of the boat, rocking back and forth with a calculator in hand, trying to look busy to hide their lonely tears.
As a customer of a dive resort you don't have to worry too much about diving cylinders. It's probably a good idea to check that they are within their hydrostatic test date, the valve is in good condition and the o-ring that will create the seal with your regulator is good to go, and generally that the clyinder and valve don't look they were recently purchased from an antiques shop. Apart from that, don't pick them up by the handle.. yes that means you divemasters, instructors and DMTs, don't bash them about, and never let them get completely empty (water can then get in and corrode them). Just connect them to the breathy thing and your air-filled diving cardigan, and away you go.
If your interested in learning more about diving cylinders, regulators, BCs and other diving equipment, Big Blue Tech runs regular equipment service technician courses. Have a look on the Big Blue Tech website and get in touch to find out more.

Lowest of the low
Continuing the theme of creepy crawlies, here's some facts about every tourist and restaurant owner's nemesis, the cockroach:

- Cockroaches could survive a nuclear war. For humans, a dose of 800 or more rems would be lethal. The lethal dose for the American cockroach is 67,500 rems and for the German cockroach it is between 90,000 and 105,000 rems
- A cockroach could live a long time, perhaps a month, without its head.
- Number of legs on a cockroach: 6
- Number of knees on most cockroaches: 18 at least
- Number of minutes cockroaches can hold their breath: 40
- Time that cockroaches spend just resting: 75%
- Cockroaches can run up to three miles in an hour.
- Male cockroaches transfer sperm to females in a “gift-wrapped” package called a spermatophore. Some males cover the package in a protein-rich wrapping that the female can eat to obtain nutrients to raise her young.
- The New Zealand Y2K Readiness Commission gave out a recipe for cockroaches in case the world ended on New Year’s Eve, 1999. “Simmer cockroaches in vinegar. Then boil with butter, farina flour, pepper and salt to make a paste. Spread on buttered bread.”
- Cockroaches can make up to 25 body turns in a second – the highest known rate in the animal kingdom.
- Cockroaches can respond remarkably quickly – after around 29 milliseconds – to the sensory cues that their antennae deliver.
- Blinded and deafened cockroaches were able to navigate completely normally, even if their average speeds were lower than their sighted and air-current-sensitive counterparts.
- Female cockroaches prefer males at the bottom of the social pecking order, and dominant males try and stop them from having their way. But when females do get the low-ranking man of their dreams, they produce fewer sons, apparently in an effort to avoid passing on his wimpishness.
- Scientists claim some female cockroaches prefer weaker partners because they like gentle sex. A University of Manchester team has concluded stronger male cockroaches are too aggressive and often injure their partners.
- Most species give birth to live young — highly unusual for insects — but a sure way to prevent other critters from feeding on their eggs.
- If food is scarce, adolescent cockroaches can live on a very reliable resource — their parents’ feces.

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