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Wednesday, 23 July 2014 03:40

Swim for Sharks 2014

Swim for Sharks 2014

swim-for-sharks-2014One of the biggest days on Koh Tao is almost upon us- Swim for Sharks, which is a charity event held every year. It's a huge day for residents of the Island, and is open to anyone and everyone to get involved and raise some money for shark conservation.
The event itself involves a competitive swim around the Islands of Koh Nang Yuan, which, lets face it is pretty hardcore as the competitors are onlyt allowed to wear goggles and swimwear! But, as with other events like the London marathon, there is a fun swim, whereby people take a far more leisurely pace and are allowed to wear a mask, snorkel and fins. This year there is also a team swim.
The prize for the craziest person that wins each of the catagories is a sharkskin rashvest; the most sought out of all aquatic clothing. There isn't an official 2nd, 3rd or 4th prize, as organisers clearly thought that participants being thankful that they made it around in one piece should suffice.
Once the event is over, there will be a presentation and a raffle at Big Blue bar, followed by a disco, conveniently at the same venue. The last few years saw men and women organise a "shave for sharks" event at the bar, which was great fun, and thankfully only involved hair being shaved, styled and cropped from the cranial region. It'd entirely up tp you if you're happy to look ridiculous for the following few weeks.
So if you're around on the 2nd August, get yourself signed up for the event at Big Blue Diving at 9:30. Bring your trunks and a packed lunch.. it's going to be amazing!

How it all began
Like with most great ideas, Swim for Sharks was formed via a conversation in the Big Blue Bar. They must have thought it was a great idea to swim around Nang Yuan, but I bet they didn't give it a test run the next day.. Once the event was finalised, 19 people took part and raised 19,000 Baht for shark conservation. Last years event had 61 swimmers, who raised 120,000 baht! The event on the 2nd is expected to be the biggest by far. 

 

 

Wednesday, 09 July 2014 10:34

3-Day Dive Trip

Angthong Marine Park trip
Angthong-marine-parkBig Blue Dive Club's first ever diving expedition was a resounding success, with some seriously happy customers arriving back at Big Blue after a 3-day jolly, I mean trip to Angthong Marine Park. The trip was open to anyone and we had a mixture of Big Blue instructors and divemasters, customers from the UK, and divemaster trainees from other dive schools on Koh Tao all taking part.
We departed on the 4th July and managed to fit in 2 dives at an amazing dive site before heading to the accommodation on Ko Wua La Tap, which is where the headquarters of the national park is based. The Island was stunning (pictured)... beautiful sandy white beach, friendly staff, and simple and clean accommodation. A hike to the top of the Island was available to those hardy enough to attempt it, with viewpoints at various heights offering incredible views of the entire marine park.
After a long day everyone was ready for bed in anticipation of the next day's diving.
Day 2 saw an early start to head out into the park to look for new dive sites. It has to be said that the underwater visibility in the middle of the park was not amazing, but that didn't matter as the whole idea was about exploring and looking for new dive sites. So we headed up to the North of the park and found some great spots to dive, and the marine life was incredible; huge shoals of barracuda, trevaly, a sea snake, Stonefish, baby boxfish, cuttlefish, pipefish, huge snappers, lionfish, and numerous adult and juvenile blue-spotted rays. We then headed back to the accommodation and started a barbecue and fire on the beach... burgers, bangers, jacket potatoes and sweetcorn.. all washed down with a few cold beers whilst watching instructor Steveo have a good snore! Not a bad way to end the day )apart from the snoring), and all included in the cost of the trip!
On day 3 we headed out to some more dive sites for 2 last dives, before heading back to Koh Tao, tired but happy with our little adventure. Everyone had an amazing time and Big Blue Tech is already busy planning the next trip to Chumphon Marine Park in August. If you're interested in coming on one of the trips, follow Big Bue Tech and join the Big Blue Dive club on facebook for updates.

Mini-facts about Angthong Marine Park

  • The Marine Park consists of 42 tropical Islands!
  • The name in Thai is Mu Koh Angthong National Marine Park.. don't ask me what that stands for!
  • The Park is around 102 km² in size, with about 82% of it being water.
  • It lies in the Province of Changwat Suratthani
  • Although much of the filming actually took place in Koh Pi Pi, Angthong Marine Park was meant to be the setting for the film the Beach by Alex Garland.

Saturday, 28 June 2014 13:47

Big Blue is Hiring

 

Job Opportunity
turtleAttention job seekers and beach bum wannabees, Big Blue Diving is hiring! We are looking for a new manager to take over Big Blue Conservation, as current manager Lizzie has decided to up sticks and go back to the UK to "study" at University. The ideal candidate needs to be prepared to commit to a 6 month- 1 year contract, full-time, to start in August.
Managing the conservation department at Big Blue is a big responsibility, and involves ensuring that the dive school as a whole is operating in an environmentally friendly way, including recycling of waste and water use. A large part of the role involves educating divers and the local community about marine conservation, along with organising, arranging and teaching conservation courses and internships.
The ideal candidate should have a passion for marine biology and marine conservation, and preferably have a degree in a related subject. They should also be a dive instructor in active teaching status, from any of the major diving agencies (BSAC, SSI, PADI etc). It would also be desirable but not essential that they be experienced in teaching and/or managing conservation projects.
If you are interested in applying for the position, or would like more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive a full job description.

The 10-point plan to become more eco-friendly
1. Make a conscious effort to reduce your Carbon Footprint- All the common sense stuff really, Turn lights off, get your home insulated, walk instead of driving short distances, use compact fluorescent bulbs, turn the heating down by 1 degree.

2. Eat only Sustainable Seafood- Global fish populations are effectively being wiped out because people are eating them in much greater numbers. This is of course completely unsustainable and we will end up with a dea lifeless ocean if we carry on. So when you are shopping or eating out, help to reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable.

3. Use less Plastic- Plastic often ends up as ocean debris, which hugely contributes to habitat destruction and entangles and kills tens of thousands of marine animals each year. To help reduce this, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in nondisposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible.

4. Keep the Beach clean!- Whether you're a diver, surfer, or just like to lounge around on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups.

5. Don't Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life- Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products.

6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner- Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.

7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean- Many institutes and organizations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organization and consider giving financial support or volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home.

8. Influence Change in Your Community- Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects. Consider patronizing restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood, and speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter.

9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly- Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life- All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health—then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others.

 

Thursday, 12 June 2014 07:13

June 12th 2014

 

Loose Feet
Save-Koh-TaoThe dance rehearsals are currently in full swing for the Save Koh Tao festival in a couple of weeks. Big Blue will be on the main stage with a dance rendition of footloose, choreographed by our head of marine conservation Lizzie May, with help from SSI instructor and, as the rumour goes, ex-professional dancer Lotte Niens. There'll be a girls dance, then a boys dance, and then for the ending, everyone together. It's a pretty good turnout of volunteers this year too, with a mix of instructors, divemasters, and divemaster trainees all getting involved. But we will be missing the star performer of the last two years, Neil Draycrott. He'll be too busy watching the world cup to even notice it's happening at all. It's going to be a pretty intense last few days to make sure that they're all ready to nail the actual performance, but they seem to be highly motivated- probably helped by visting the bar whilst waiting to get started each night!
If you're lucky enough to be around for the festival, it takes place on the 17th to the 19th of June, and there is loads of stuff happening, admittedly it will never be as exciting as the father ted episode with the fairground, with rides such as the spinning cat and the like, but there will be lots of amazing Thai food, dancing galore, and who knows what else on the main stage. There will also be things happening in the daytime, such as the release of baby turtles into the ocean.
So if you're around in the middle of June, be sure to go and cheer on the Big Blue footloose dance brigade.. or go and watch the world cup with Neil.

Evening light shows
We're getting some incredible electrical storms in the evenings at the moment. April, May and June are the hottest months of the year in Thailand and, in the Gulf of Thailand all that humidity is the perfect recipe for lightning, which is great news for people wanting to find a nice vantage point to just sit and watch the light show. Not so good however for the dogs on Koh Tao that run for cover at the first sound of thunder! It's probably also an excuse for anyone in a bar on Sairee beach to stay and have another drink in case they might get caught in the rain!

 

Sunday, 08 June 2014 15:27

June 9th 2014

 

Full Day Trip
sail-rock300x225Yesterday's full day trip was a resounding success, with lots of happy fundivers returning to land following two epic dives at sail rock and one at Southwest on the way home. The visibility was good, the fish were everywhere and the Sun was shining. Not a bad way to spend a day! We run regular full day trips on our fundiver only boat- Porponawa. It takes us wherever we want to go way way faster than any other large dive boat on Koh Tao, and it's spacious enough to enjoy the surface interval between dives, whether that involves a bit of sun worshipping or relaxing under cover. We provide a hearty breakfast and delicious Thai lunch for the trips, and as many soft drinks as you can manage. Plus, on the way home we get the chocolate cake out!
We like to have small groups for fundivers; the maximum group size with a divemaster showing you the marine life on the dive sites is 4. And, if you want to do all of the dives on nitrox, no problem, only 200baht a tank!
We alternate the full day trips between Chumphon Marine Park, Sail Rock and Angthong Marine Park, and Big Blue Tech are now running 3-day trips to Angthong Marine Park, which involves staying on one of the beautiful Islands for 2 nights!
To get on one of the trips, all you have to do is sign up in the Big Blue shop, and then get excited.. in that order!

World Oceans Day
Yesterday was world oceans day, which involved highlighting the awe-inspiring beauty of the oceans and how much we depend on them, and also getting the message across that they are under threat, which means that we are under threat. Many people just don't realise how much rubbish gets thrown into the oceans, and how much they are overfished. Our dependence on them really cannot be overstated. They generate most of the oxygen that we breathe, regulate the climate, drive our weather, provide us with food, and allow potential new medicines to be developed in the form of pharmacutical drugs harnessed from a variety of marine life. Getting people to think about these things and realise the need to conserve the oceans is vital. If more people are aware of the issues, then politicians will be more inclined to take steps to preserve them for the future.

 

Thursday, 05 June 2014 02:05

June 5th 2014

 

Save Koh Tao Festival
Save-Koh-TaoOh lordy, has it been a year already? Time again for the annual Save Koh Tao festival. This year it takes place over the 17th-19th June, and promises to be a rather splendid affair. There will be a ceremonial release of turtles and clams, underwater clean-ups, mooring line repair and installation workshops, a Tour de Tao bicycle parade, and a "miss" save Koh Tao contest!
High up on the list of events is the evening of the last day, where a number of dive schools put on a bit of a dance for the audience. The year before last, instructors, divemasters and divemaster trainees put on a performance of the evolution of dance. Last year it was the blues brothers, and this year is a surprise until you see it for yourself!
Each year we do something for the festival, we have more and more people wanting to get involved. SSI and PADI instructor Neil always seems to be the dance leader, as, bizarrely he seems to be a pretty good dancer. Plus, having been in a number of bands before coming to Koh Tao, he's used to being on a stage with a huge audience watching. But most of the other participants remedy's for stage fright seem to involve a couple of beverages beforehand to steady the nerves... 
The festival is a great time for locals to get to know each other, and also for visitors to eat some amazing Thai food, watch some traditional Thai dancing, and see some of the dive schools make fools of themselves.
If you're around, you won't be able to miss it, as everywhere else on Koh Tao will be deserted in the evenings!

Banded Coral Shrimp
On a fun dive yesterday I had a couple of huge banded coral shrimp pointed out to me, and I thought they looked pretty cool. So here are a few facts about the said beast:

- They look like a spider.
- I hear they smell like chicken coated in marmalade.
- They occur in temperate areas all over the world, from Canada, Brazil and Mexico to as far South as Sydney, Australia.
- They live in the intertidal zone up to 210 metres deep!
- They are pretty striking to look at, with red and white banding all over, which is probably war paint.
- They are also known as banded boxer shrimp because of their massive claws.
- IThey're scavengers, and will pretty much eat anything presented to it.
- They are all over the dive sites in the entire Gulf of Thailand, Chumphon pinnacle, Twins, White rock, and pretty easy to find.

 

Saturday, 31 May 2014 01:06

May 31st 2014

 

What Coup? 
martial-lawWe've been posting regular news articles about the recent coup over the last week onto our facebook page, in order to get the message out there that there really is nothing to worry about for people thinking of coming to Thailand. Life is continuing as if nothing has happened, especially on Koh Tao- no curfew, no army, nothing. Even in Bangkok the only real difference is that there are a few soldiers on the street, and that a curfew has been in place between 9pm and 5am. But even that has now been relaxed to midnight until 4am. Apart from that, anyone coming to Thailand would have no idea that anything was happening at all. Many tourists are now getting their photos taken with soldiers, who seem more than happy to oblige them!
The problem is that once something like a coup gets out to the worldwide media, panic mode is activated, with national media and Governments warning their citizens not to travel here. Completely understandable if it happened in a country like Zimbabwe, but coups in Thailand seem to happen pretty regularly, and always very peacefully.
It has gotten a little quieter on Koh Tao, but it's quiet season anyway until July. We are still teaching a lot of people how to dive that are having a great time regardless. Very few of our customers have even asked about the coup, because they can see that nothing has changed. In fact, there are actually advantages to what's going on at the moment, flights to Thailand and hotels are massively discounted! So you could have the holiday that you planned to do anyway, but now it will cost you a hell of a lot less!
So please don't allow yourself to be scared off by the news in Europe and America. The reality is very different. Governments obviously need to be seen to give advice to their citizens, even though it is (especially here) being overly conservative advice.
Get yourself over to Thailand as planned, and don't bother spending time in Bangkok, come straight down to Koh Tao and get diving!

Motorbikes more dangerous than any coup
Regardless of what's going on in Thailand at the moment, and people's perception of the danger they think they may be under, the reality is very different. The main hazard faced by people coming to Koh Tao is motorbikes. Motorbike crashes happen a lot here, and they are almost always tourists who rented one and had no idea how to ride them, or were just drunk at the time. Both not very good ideas. Thais have a very different attitude to riding a motorbike than westerners- they don't look right when turning left at a junction, and drive pretty erratically. Unfortunately, westerners seem to copy this approach too. 
The worst culprits are the boy racers that drive around like nutters all day because they have experience of riding bikes and know there are no speed limits being enforced. Sadly these are also exactly the type of people to go out, get really drunk, and then crash.
Then there are people who've never even sat on a bike that hand their passport in and suddenly have possession of a machine that they have no idea how to ride. It seems easy as most bikes are full automatic- throttle and brakes. But they have no control, and zero understanding of the danger of sand on the road. Usually they ride a lot slower though so most crashes cause superficial injuries and just hurt the wallet.. a lot!
So please be sensible, don't even think about getting on a bike here in Koh Tao. You can easily walk most places or get a taxi.

 

 

 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 04:38

May 27th 2014

 

Fantastic review- by the reviewer!
Centre-of-excellenceAlways nice when you receive a pat on the back, especially when it's because of all the great feedback you get from your customers. We're really proud to have been recently awarded a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor. The letter we received reads:

Celebrate Your Certificate of Excellence!
TripAdvisor is delighted to award Big Blue Diving with a 2014 Certificate of
Excellence.
This prestigious award recognizes businesses that consistently earn top ratings from
TripAdvisor travelers. Showcase it to guests and staff with pride!
Congratulations.
Marc Charron
President, TripAdvisor for Business

That's amazing! We have over 1,200 customer reviews now, and the overwhelming majority are excellent or very good. Now, we're not perfect and don't get it right all the time, and we have a very small number of poor reviews. Some of them were legitimate criticisms, and we always work hard to address them, but others are a little strange or ridiculous, to the point where we have had people come to Big Blue solely because they read them and decided they were rubbish!
So we're pretty chuffed and will continue to work really hard to ensure that everyone coming to Big Blue has the best possible experience. But once you've left Big Blue, don't forget to leave a review on trip advisor! You can also leave a review at Divezone, Tangareef, Scubadviser, and World Diving Review

 

City Divers
Divers like to dive dive sites... obvious fact and tongue twister all rolled into one. But sometimes dive sites don't mean the usual wreck or rock pinnacle. Occassionally they involve an entire submerged city! Here's a list of the top five that any diver with a heartbeat would want to see:

  • Port Royal, Jamaica: Once one of the largest European cities in the new world, it was hit by a huge earthquake in 1692, leaving it 12 metres below the surface!
  • Pyramids of Yonaguni-Jima, Japan: No-one knows whether they are natural or man-made, but they look a little too designed to be natural. Plus, they rise 76 metres off the sea floor!
  • Dwarka, Gulf of Cambay, India: Situated in the bay of modern-day Dwarka (one of the oldest cities in India), it sits at 40 metres and is apparently the city of Lord Krishna. Artifacts from 7500BC have been found there!
  • Lion City, Quiandao lake, China: As big as 62 football fields, and lying at between 25 and 40 metres, it was intentionally flooded in the 1950s to create a dam.There are incredible sculptures on the buildings, and its the place I would like to dive the most.
  • Cleopatra's Palace, Alexandria, Egypt: Believed to have been sunk by an earthquake 1,500 years ago, archaeologists think it is the actual palace of Cleopatra. over 140 artifacts have been recovered to date, and scientists believe that they have even found Cleopatra's tomb!

 

Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:03

May 23rd 2014

 

Still Diving
big-blue-diversYou probably saw the news yesterday that the Thai Army has initiated a military coup, brought about by the political stalemate that's been happening in the Thai Parliament. Now, hopefully you're not thinking that Thailand doesn't sound like a particularly attractive place to go on holiday right now. Because, although a coup sounds pretty scary, not much has actually changed, and in Koh Tao, NOTHING has changed.. nada, not one thing.
Let's provide a little bit of context. It's usually always a pretty big deal when a coup, military or otherwise happens in any country. But in Thailand, there have been 30 coup attempts since 1912, and 11 actual coups since 1932! So the nation is actually pretty used to it. But the crutial thing to note is that the army have gotten pretty adept at doing it peacefully. In Bangkok, yes you may see some soldiers, but in the main tourist areas, Khao San road for example, you're really not going to see anything. Plus, the main focus of what's occurring is in Bangkok (nowhere near touristy areas), so if you're worried, just fly in to Bangkok and spend your time elsewhere in the country! Get yourself down to Koh Tao and you'll be lucky to even see a policeman.. and keep it to yourself but I'm not sure that anyone on Koh Tao is paying much attention to the curfew either!
Our SSI and PADI instructors are still teaching people to dive, and our divemasters are still taking qualified divers out to see the best dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand. So don't let what's going on in the news stop you from having an amazing time. Get yourself booked in to come to Big Blue!

Engine's running...
I was pondering whether to write about the history of coups, then I thought I'd write something about pigeons, because, you know. But instead I think I'll just give you the top 7 (yes 7) countdown of the weirdest/funniest things said or done by students or instructors during their open water course:

7- "I really like the current simulator"- that'll be the pool filter then.
6- "I don't understand how you work out this residential nitrogen".
5- "ok, you just did everything I didn't want you to do, and nothing that I did want you to do".
4- "I don't understand how you put the fins on, then the boots over them".
3- "Have you ever taught anyone as thick as me before?"
2-"Will I need to put this in?" Pointing at the regulator before going underwater.
1- The scared student needing to be carried from the shallow to the deep end underwater, then being held in the instructors arms on his lap until he felt brave enough to kneel down by himself.

 

Monday, 19 May 2014 16:46

May 20th 2014

 Changes at Big Blue Tech

Big-Blue-Tech-Rick--DonnyWe are proud to announce that we have new management in place at Big Blue Tech. Instructors Rick and Donny will be taking over from the 25th May. They are both pretty weird people, and we're not sure whether putting them together will cancel out the weirdness or make it much worse. Donny is on the right in the photo, looking pretty special, and Rick is the one looking like Brick Tamlin in Anchorman 2 when he realises he's not actually dead.
Regardless, they are both really passionate about technical diving, and all joking aside want to get people interested in tech diving, and show recreational divers that are already aware of it that the impression they may have of what it's all about is probably wrong.
People have many different reasons for going diving. Most just want to see the marine life that's out there. Some want to get into marine biology and see diving as the perfect way to study ecosystems and fish. It might surprise some of them to know that some of the most prolific and famous marine biologists are also technical divers who found a niche to study> Richard Pyle is a very well respected marine biologist who dives beyond the photic zone and collects fish that live at depths of 70 and 80 metres. He's identified numerous species throughout his career, and he couldn't have done it without being a technical diver. Others study life in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, and need to become technical divers to allow them to do that. These are just some of the things that Rick & Donny will be engaging divers about over the coming weeks and months. They'll also be announcing some enticing offers for technical diving courses such as the entry level course- TDIs intro to tech. 
They are currently going through a handover process with outgoing manager James Foheler, who has decided to move on to another adventure, and Ian Jordan, who will be continuing to teach at Big Blue. Big Blue would like to thank them for all their hard work over the last two years, and wish them well in the future.If you'd like to find out more about technical diving, have a look on the Big Blue Tech website, or pop in to the tech shack to have a chat with the weirdos that dwell there.

Aquatic Lizards

I saw a recent photo on facebook the other day of a monitor lizard walking along the rocks at about 6 metres depth at Mango bay. I had no idea that they could dive and for a minute thought it was a bit of a hoax, but no, it turns out that they really do partake in a bit of freediving from time to time. Their apparent ability to stand on two legs and "monitor" what's going on around them is apparently where their name comes from. But what makes them go for a bit of a duck-dive? Well it's all to do with the fact that they are cold-blooded. All cold blooded reptiles need the heat of the Sun to allow them to get warm enough to allow their muscles to work so they can move around and hunt for prey. Now seeing as April and May are the two hottest months in Thailand, especially in Koh Tao, it can easily go the other way and they can find themselves overheating. Sometimes the shade just isn't enough, so a nice refreshing dip in the ocean makes perfect sense. But they must have been listening in on the freediver's yoga sessions to learn how to hold their breath for, wait for it... up to 30 minutes at a time!

 

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