What's better: Divemaster or Instructor?



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




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


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

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



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

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

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


 padi dive instructor teach kids


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


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

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

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

banner padi dive instructor


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


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


Divemaster Training on Koh Tao: 10 Reasons to Choose Big Blue



Koh Tao is a very popular choice for those wishing to undertake their Divemaster training or ‘DMT’, and with over 90 dive centres to choose from finding the one most suitable for you has never been harder, and that's not even thinking about the dive centres on our neigbouring islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan!


Here we will look at my Top 10 reasons why there’s no one better than Big Blue if you want to do your Divemaster training here in SE Asia:


  1. Take as long as you like – The DMT can be done in just 4 weeks if you’re in a hurry, but when time isn’t an issue then it’s no problem to spend as long as you like getting to know the dive sites before getting signed off as one of our new Divemasters – after all, with over 25 sites to learn why hurry when you can dive as much as you like during your training!



  1. Large, comfortable boats made for divers – With two large diving boats (rather than the usual small ex-fishing boats favoured by most of our rivals) you can really enjoy the travel time before and between dives with over 90% of the boat covered – essential in the heat (and rains) of Thailand. Also their size and weight makes them a lot more stable in rough seas – take note those of you who get seasick…
  1. More dive sites to learn – With no restrictions on where we can send our boats and regular trips to Sail Rock and Samran Pinnacle when conditions allow us, you’ll get more dive sites than those diving at the smaller dive centres – the bonus of diving at a well-established dive centre with 27 years of experience in these waters.
  1. Separate boats for the certified divers – In my opinion absolutely THE most important factor to consider when committing to at least a month of diving around Koh Tao is whether you’ll have to go to the same beginner dive sites every day, after all Koh Tao has a lot more first time divers than those already certified. If we had just one boat it would mean precisely that, and we do feel sorry for those out there missing out on so many excellent but challenging dive sites around the island. What’s that, Big Blue have three boats and can go wherever we want, regardless of how unsuitable it is for new divers? Where do I sign up!


andros dive web


  1. Make yourself very employable on Koh Tao – directly linked to the previous reason, if you’re planning to look for Divemaster work after your training has finished then do you want to know just a handful of dive sites, or do you want to know them all? Our fresh new DMs generally know more of underwater Koh Tao than 90% of the other DMs on the island that have trained elsewhere!
  1. Learn from the best – Divemasters don’t often stay in the job for too long, as the pull of earning lots as an instructor usually kicks in after a few months of long hours and little pay. At Big Blue however we have a team of DMs with thousands of Koh Tao dives between them (DM Steph alone has over 3000) so when you want to know what that obscure nudibranch is, what to expect when exploring off-site or just how to organize a boat as efficiently as possible then experience wins out every time.
  1. Beachfront location = great atmosphere – With limited space on the beaches, not all of the dive centres on Koh Tao are blessed with what we’re enjoying every single day – sunset facing beachfront classrooms, dorms, bar, restaurant, coffee shop and training pool. We defy anyone to not instantly relax when they see what we’re so lucky to have available to us, and of course the atmosphere around the resort reflects this. Come join us one evening for a sunset drink and see for yourself, you may never leave!


PADI Scuba Diver

  1. Diving 365 – High season? Diving. Monsoon season? Diving. Christmas Day? Diving. Martin Luther King Day? You get the idea! As one of Koh Tao’s only dive centres that are diving every single day of the year, rain or shine, you can be sure that if you want to really get as many dives as possible during your DMT experience then Big Blue is the place for you.
  1. Fill the tanks on the boat – Now this is one that a lot of potential DMTs don’t think about when shopping around for the dive centre most suitable for them, but it’s something that can really suck when diving every day – moving full and empty tanks to and from the dive boats. Tanks are heavy, so inevitably who gets the job of moving all the cylinders needed for the dive trip: that’s right, it’s the lucky DMTs. At Big Blue however we have our compressors on the boats, so all the tanks we need are sitting there filled and waiting for us when we get there – no need to move them back and forward every day!
  1. Dive for free forever! – This is an incredible perk, and one that may end up biting us on the arse in the future with so many happy new DMs leaving with promises to return as soon as their finances allow it: once you’ve become a fully-fledged BB Divemaster, you can return and dive for free with us as much as you like, for the rest of your life! Suddenly the little extra it costs to do your DMT with us is looking like quite the bargain, right?



Read more about Divemaster training at Big Blue right here


What's Going on With all the Weird Marine Life? - June 2018

The Wonderful New World of Underwater Koh Tao

It’s been a while since I gave you an update on the diving we’ve been enjoying around Koh Tao recently, for no reason other than we’re trying to keep it secret so we’re not swamped with divers looking to see some incredible marine life – and believe me, we’ve been seeing some truly amazing things so far this year!

After the spectacularly whaleshark year of 2017 when so many of these big spotty monsters were seen that people were actually asking to not dive with them (as they’d ‘seen them too many times already’!) 2018 seems to following nicely in the footsteps of its older sibling and is even trying to take it one step further by showing us things we previously wouldn’t dream of encountering underwater 


Guitarfish                                                                                      guitar shark 1600x900

These weird-looking things are part of the ray family, and I suppose from their name are supposed to look like guitars, if guitars looked like a spiky evil shark-thing. Guitarfish are bottom feeders, and like to bury themselves in mud or sand and eat crabs, and clams and worms in typical ray fashion.

There were reported sightings of guitarfish close to Shark Island a year or so ago, but as there were no photos the identification was never confirmed and they were forgotten about until last week, when a pair were spotted chilling on the sand at South-West Pinnacle!

Eagle Rays                                                                               Eagle Ray 140 1024x576  

Now this is something that’s been recorded before around Koh Tao, but very rarely indeed until a month or so ago when they were seen at Chumphon Pinnacle, White Rock, Japanese Gardens and even just off Sairee Beach on a number of occasions – in fact we saw more in 2 weeks than we’d seen in the previous 5 years, which was just great thanks!

These large species live in the open ocean rather than on the sea bottom like most rays, and feed on hard-shelled, bottom-living clams, snails and hermit crabs. Known to live as long as 25 years, they are what we could call ‘frequent flyers’ as they’re often seen breaching the surface with giant leaps!


False Killer and Pilot Whales                                                          FKW lifting heads while surfacing 331

Around May/June each year we’re visited by a few false killer and pilot whales who like to follow the boats, leap about a bit and then disappear as soon as we try to enter the water for a better look – they’re very shy of humans, we thought, and to be honest who can blame then?

This year was very different! For almost the whole month of May we had groups of both visiting us at different spots around Koh Tao, with pods of false killer whales being seen just a little south of Shark Island pretty much every day. These were a lot happier to be around us, and on a few occasions we were able to swim with them too.


                  pilot whale3

Both part of the dolphin family, they are found all around the world. The most common around Koh Tao are the short-finned pilot whales which are often confused with our other visitors, the unfortunately-named false-killer whales. Not considered a killer whale or even closely related to the killer whale, they’re named because of the shape of their skulls. Daft!




Lionfish                                                                              Lewis Kirkpatrick - AMRAE Productions

Rarely seen on the dive sites of Koh Tao, the lionfish is one of the most strikingly beautiful fish we have in our waters here in the Gulf of Thailand. Preferring to hide out in the deep sand away from our underwater pinnacles and reefs, to get to see one usually meant that you were lost or out looking for them purposely in the middle of nothing…but this year tells a different tale!

First there was one sitting on the HTMS Sattakut wreck, then a little later another appeared right in the middle of South West Pinnacle (thanks for the photo Lewis Kirkpatrick). Just as we were celebrating our good fortune with these two we had a sudden outbreak of them on the shallowest points of Chumphon Pinnacle, with at least TEN different fish hanging out there now, with their old hiding places abandoned to our delight.

A very photogenic fish, they’re also carrying a LOT of poisonous spines that they use to defend themselves, however they tend to be non-aggressive and usually shy away from divers (I'm trying to forget the time I was chased by a gang of them in the Similan Islands).



What’s the Story? 

So what’s changed to bring all of this marine life to us?  It’s something that’s being debated everyday here, but unfortunately it seems like the most logical theory for it may end up being a problem that could affect all of us diving here on Koh Tao.  In the deepest parts of the oceans surrounding the island we have had what’s being nicknamed ‘the dead zone’, a layer of black gunk which could very likely be mats of cyanobacteria where nothing is living due to the low levels of oxygen in it (in some cases they’re totally free of oxygen), leaving hundreds of bottom-dwellers dead or dying – in particular crabs and shrimp. As this anoxia is a death trap for our marine life, a lot of divers here believe that the creatures that would usually be well away from our divesites - the lionfish are a perfect example – are now seeking refuge on shallower parts which still have plenty of oxygen for them to thrive – like the shallow top of Chumphon Pinnacle.

Of course this theory is precisely that; just a theory, and it could be down to a number of other factors that affect the creatures down there (the large amounts of planktonic matter in the water right now is one factor that could be affecting the marine life) so keep your fingers crossed that it’s not something that’s going to lead to a mass die-off, and all these amazing creatures are here to stay for a very long time!





Benefits Of Being a Dive Pro When Travelling the World

“Workin 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely getting’ by
Its all takin’
And no givin’
They just use your mind
And they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it”


As legendary country singer and massive mammaried matron Dolly Parton sang, the real world can easily get you down if you let it.  For a few lucky souls out there who took the plunge and became dive instructors that 9 till 5 grind is a thing only of nightmares, and the world of scuba diving offers the chance to spread your wings and really experience all the wonders this god-forsaken planet has to offer.

Need more convincing? Check out this, my top benefits of travelling as a dive professional:

Pay Your Way

Travelling is, as we all know, not the cheapest way to spend your free time. However as a fully trained dive instructor with a bit of know-how it’s quite easy to plan your world travels around the diving seasons, and then hit up the local dive centres for work when you do arrive! Here on Koh Tao the best time to do exactly that is our peak months of January, February, July and August, and to come just after a Koh Phangan Full Moon Party will increase your chances even more due to the influx of bucket-drinking idiots that head our way once they’ve sobered up enough navigate to the local travel agent.



Make Friends Easily

Dive professionals may seem like an odd bunch, but put a few of us in the same room and it won’t take too long for the conversation to reach a deafening crescendo as we share the numerous diving stories we’ve collected in our scuba careers – after all, who enjoys scuba stories more than like-minded individuals who have equally as crazy stories to tell themselves!


Dive for Free!

Diving can be bloody expensive, and when on a budget or when you’re used to diving for free at your place of work to suddenly have to part with hundreds of dollars to get underwater can often feel like a kick in the teeth – so how can we work our way around this then?

It’s simple really - work your way into it! You’ll be surprised how many dive centres will let you dive for free with them in return for a little work,  and if you impress this will often lead to offers of more work to help fund your further travels; a win-win situation for us poverty-stricken dive pros!


3 Scuba Diving Myths Busted

Build an Impressive CV

With so many wise individuals entering the dive industry it’s never been more difficult to find instructor work, especially if your CV is a little lacking. By offering your services to different dive centres when travelling you’re building up some vital experience around the world which can only stand you in good stead for your future endeavours, or even get your foot in the door at a dive centre you feel like settling down in for a while!


Kissing the Girls and Boys

It’s a fact that dive instructors have a reputation for being rather easy to ‘kiss and cuddle’ with; it’s something I’ve witnessed many times myself on Koh Tao, even for the pug-ugly and those practically devoid of personality. I’m assuming that’s due to dive professionals simply being much cooler than everyone else (as none of us would ever take advantage of our positions of authority) so by using our supreme diving skills whilst on our travels, there’s no doubt in my mind that the chances of hooking up will rise accordingly.

 dive instructor long

International Contacts

Now maybe this is just me, but in my years of travelling one thing I always wanted was to get was an address book brimming with new travel buddies that I could go and visit in the future, and take advantage of their hospitality by staying with them rent-free till the end of eternity. Now, what better way to make firm friends with someone on your travels then to spend a few days introducing them to the greatest hobby the world has ever seen. One of the things you never forget was your first ever dive instructor, so why not take advantage of this by turning up on their doorstep one day with a smile and a big bag of dirty laundry.


Local Knowledge

Dive instructors and Divemasters, despite having the best job in the whole world, often feel a little hard done by for some reason. Because of this we tend to have an affinity towards each other, and when I meet other dive-pros working in my holiday destination they’re always very happy to share their local knowledge to ensure that I get the most out of my stay in their neighbourhood – so much so that nowadays one of the first things I do when arriving somewhere new is to locate a dive centre and hit them up for their top tips on where to eat well cheaply, which places will keep me on the toilet all day, which are the best prostitutes and where to pay off the police.


Change your life by becoming a dive instructor - Step One



What are 'The Bends'?  |  4/6/18


‘The Bends’, or decompression sickness to give its proper name, is one of the few dangers to be aware of when scuba-diving. Every diver out there dreads The Bends, and we all take a number of precautions to help keep it at bay every single time we dive – but what exactly is it and how do we avoid it?

Decompression Sickness

When on a normal recreational air-dive, the scuba diver is breathing in approximately 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. As we dive deeper, the increased pressure means this nitrogen is absorbed into our body tissue. This isn’t a problem for our bodies when we’re under these pressures, but if that pressure is reduced too quickly the nitrogen can form bubbles which enter the bloodstream and tissues, leading to The Bends. It's similar to what happens with a fizzy soft drink - when the pressure is released by when it’s opened, bubbles are quickly formed. If you think about how violently gas explodes out of a shaken can or bottle, you get a sense of the potential damage that can be done to the body.

5 decompression 1


The most common way of getting The Bends (named due to the pain often felt in the joints of your arms or legs) is by going over the decompression limits set on your dive computers or tables, or getting too close to them. However it can also occur even when the diver has followed all the guidelines on the odd occasion.

The bubbles that enter the body tissues lead to a range of symptoms, which usually emerge soon after you surface. Pain is often the first sign, usually in the joints and muscles. Other symptoms include unpleasant itchiness, skin rashes (caused by bubbles in and under the skin) as well as headaches, dizziness, visual impairment, confusion, problems with balance/coordination and nausea. In cases with a great amount of bubbles, lungs can become congested and even brain damage and heart attacks or death can occur.

Untitled design 4


How to avoid The Bends?

The best way to avoid it is to religiously follow the recommended rate of ascent set by your dive computers!  Failing that treatment comes in the form of painkillers for very mild cases, having the divers breathe pure oxygen (which helps speed up the rate that the nitrogen leaves your body), or the use of a hyperbaric or recompression chamber, which expose the sufferer to high pressure causing the nitrogen bubbles to safely leave the tissues.

Finally you should avoid flying within 24 hours of your last dive, as aircraft that are not fully pressurised at altitude can cause nitrogen bubbles to form, even if there was no problems before the flight.


pri 51688804

 Fisherman Alejandro Ramos Martinez with the funniest 'Bend' ever


Other Things Keep The Bends Away

  • Never dive right to the limits set by you dive computer, it’s best to always start your ascent at least a few minutes before you reach them.
  • The older you are, the less efficient your circulatory system becomes less efficient, which affects the elimination of nitrogen.
  • If you’re a bit of a fatty (or big-boned like me) you should know that nitrogen dissolves easily into fat tissue, so chubby funsters may absorb more nitrogen when diving.
  • Diving in cold water can cause your extremities to receive less circulation as they cool, which also effects nitrogen elimination.’
  • Don’t dive drunk or high! This is something we should never be doing anyway as your judgement will definitely be impaired, but it also makes you dehydrated and raises the heart rate, increasing the risk of those pesky bubbles forming.
  • Taking a hot shower or bath after a dive cause your capillaries to dilate, which will draw blood away from other areas which then eliminate nitrogen more slowly.


Safe diving folks!


Divers Wishlist | 30/5/18



The Most Desirable Underwater Encounters

From the toothiest shark to gentle giants like manta rays, no matter what your tastes every scuba diver has in their head a wishlist of marine life that they’d like to see before they die. After doing a bit of research from colleagues on Koh Tao and Koh Samui I’ve come up with this list of the hottest underwater creatures that we’re all determined to see before family and kids ruin everything.

Without further ado, I give you our top picks:




Hammerhead Shark

The undisputed number one on this list and something that was mentioned by almost every person I asked, the hammerhead shark is like the rarest Pokémon in the ocean, and a fish we all dream of encountering at some point. There are actually 9 different species, the largest of them all being the great hammerhead shark which can reach lengths of 6 metres. Attacks on humans by hammerheads are very rare you’ll be pleased to hear, despite them being aggressive hunters.

They best places to find them are Cocos Island off Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Madivaru Corner in the Maldives, Alor Island in Indonesia, Bimini and Andros in the Bahamas and the Aliwal Shoal in South Africa.

Interesting fact:  They are one of very few animals who tan from the sun. This happens as Hammerheads are often cruising in shallow water or near the surface for extended periods of time, and refuse to wear sunscreen or floppy hats.


 facts about mantaray 623x200

Manta Rays

The largest rays on the planet yet considered harmless to humans, scuba diving with manta rays is something many of us here at Big Blue dream of. These underwater giants can reach sizes of up to 9 metres, and the giant oceanic manta (the largest of the species) can weigh over 1500 kg! And I thought I was fat. The manta, unlike other rays, does not have a spine on its tail for defense and is a filter-feeder, searching the waters by using their cephalic fins (the flappygiblet-looking things) to channel water into their mouths.

The best places to find them is temperate and tropical waters, for example they’re seen regularly around Socorro Island in Mexico, Kona in Hawaii, Similan Islands here in Thailand, Nusa Lembongan and Penida close to Bali, and Baa Atoll in the Maldives.

Interesting fact: Manta rays are often seen jumping out of the water when they’re pissed off, or more likely to rid themselves of parasites.


 3d5ef3bc4b dolphin photo jon thorne 120409 egypt


Show me someone who doesn’t want to dive with dolphins, and I’ll show you a liar. These highly intelligent marine mammals are found worldwide, mostly in shallow seas and are carnivores, feeding mainly on fish and squid. With almost 40 species of dolphin in the world, their colour can vary (can they get suntans too?) but the ones we all want to kiss and hug and play with are in general grey. The playful little buggers are famous for being a of fun, leaping around, chasing stuff, blowing bubbles, collecting treasures…basically anything that looks interesting to them gets them excited!

The most common dolphins to dive with are bottlenose, spotted and swimmer dolphins, and they can be seen underwater regularly at Kona in Hawaii, Hurghada in Egypt, Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and Fernandina Island, in Galápagos. Just watch out for the horny ones!

Interesting fact: Dolphins are considered second only to man in intelligence, which I assume now means women are in third place.




Humpback Whales

Quite the debate occurred when diving with whales was considered for this list, in particular about which whale would be the best. Humpback was of course the winner (the title of this section will have given you a clue) mainly due to the ease in which they can be seen (they tend to spend a lot of time close to the surface compared to other whales), their friendliness and also the beautiful songs the males are famous for – some last 10-20 minutes, and are often repeated for hours!

These massive mammals, fully grown, average about 15 metres long (with the females often a couple of metres bigger due to their high heels) and weigh around 40,000 kilos! They’re found in oceans and seas around the world, and the best places to spend time with them in the water are Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, Vavau Island in Tonga, Silver Bank in Dominican Republic and the Socorro Islands in Mexico.

Interesting fact: Humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 km each year, the exact same distance I’d go to have the chance of getting away from my ex-wife.


 whale sharks


Here on Koh Tao we don’t realise just how lucky we are to get to dive with these incredible creatures on a regular basis, especially as they’re now deemed to be endangered creatures. When divers first arrive here on Koh Tao all they want to know is when they could see one, how big it would be, which sites have the best chance…it really is the dream of many thousands of divers all around the world and there’s never been a better chance to see these docile giants of the ocean.

The largest fish on the planet, this stupidly-named shark is not actually related to whales at all, but was named due to its size and the way it feeds apparently - a likely excuse!

The largest one recorded was over 12 metres long, and they can weigh around 19,000 kg. Another filter feeder like manta rays, these harmless beauties pose no risk of eating divers, and prefer to spend their time eating plankton (and sometimes squid, krill and smaller fish) that they filter through their gills.

Those of you looking to dive with one should book to see us here on Koh Tao (the best time of year is usually between May and July), or alternatively try hotspots like Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, Al-Lith on the Red Sea, Isla Mujeres in Mexico or Darwin Island in Galapagos amongst others.

Interesting fact: The mouth of the whaleshark can grow to around 1.5 metres wide, just slightly less than my ex-wife when she’s nagging.



What are you waiting for? Get diving now, and non divers sign up for your Open Water diving course right here! 




The Best Places in Thailand to go Diving | 27/5/18


Thailand is world famous for its incredible dive sites, and with regular sightings of whalesharks all year round now on Koh Tao and the opportunity to bump into manta rays and leopard sharks on the Andaman side of the country there’s never been a better time to experience the best places Thailand has to offer for the scuba enthusiast.

In this blog we’ll be taking a closer look at what are regarded as the best dive sites to visit next time you’re in Thailand, and please feel free to offer suggestions of your own!


3807203 orig

‘Hin Daeng’, Mu Koh Lanta National Marine Park

Literally translated to ‘Red Rock’, this excellent divesite is located in south of Koh Phi Phi and Phuket on the west coast of Thailand. As you can see from the map it just breaks the surface and reaches depths of around 60 metres at a lovely steep wall covered in red soft corals which give the dive site its name. Best visited between November and April, there’s always a chance to see whalesharks, manta rays and even leopard sharks on occasion.  Jackfish are always present in great numbers, and it’s a lovely site to explore if you’re interested in the smaller things out there with many different types of nudibranch, shrimp and others to keep the keen macro photographer happy.

Hin Daeng

Its neighbor, ‘Hin Muang’ or ‘Purple Rock’ offers equally as wonderful diving, this time with more purple soft corals. It takes about 1-2 hours to get to these sites by speedboat from Koh Lanta or Koh Phi Phi, and is well worth the trip.

These sites are best dived with the SSI or PADI Advanced certification already due to its often challenging currents and depth.




richelieu rock dive site map

Richelieu Rock, Surin National Marine Park


Discovered as a recreational scuba dive site by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the 80’s (with the help of local fishermen) and arguably the number one site on this list, this underwater gem is world famous as being ‘Whale Shark Teritory' and draws many visitors every day because of this fact. Situated a little south of the Burmese border east of Surin Island it’s easily visited from Khao Lak and Phuket on Liveaboard or day trips, and is full of life with plankton flows ensuring the presence of big fish, in particular schooling whirls of barracuda, giant trevally, dogtooth tuna and of course the majestic whaleshark if you’re lucky.

whale shark richelieu rock

Beautiful corals, seahorses, ghost-pipefish, lionfish, harlequin shrimp, nudibranch and the chance for the rare flamboyant cuttlefish make this a must-see next time you’re diving Thailand – try to do two dives here if you really want to discover the whole site!





20 chumphon pinnacle

Chumphon Pinnacle, Koh Tao     

By far the most visually impressive site close to Koh Tao, this now legendary pinnacle is easily the best chance to see the whalesharks in the Gulf of Thailand (along with Sail Rock, next up on the list). Perfect for both SSI/PADI Open Water and Advanced fundivers and students, we always know that our divers are going to return from this site totally addicted to scuba diving! Once home to bullsharks and reef sharks, it's a fully submerged granite pinnacle 14 metres at its shallowest point and reaching as deep as 47 metres off the northern tip (towards a secret pinnacle nicknamed 'The Castle' due to its shape). It's surrounded by schools of barracuda, large grouper towards the ocean floor and beautiful schools of fusiliers being hunted by passing king mackerel, trevally, queenfish and rainbow runners.


Can be dived all year round, with the best months for whalesharks usually April – June.




sail rock

Sail Rock, not far from Koh Tao/Koh Samui/Koh Phangan

With no other dive site for miles around, Sail Rock is renowned for being the undisputed number one dive site in the whole of the Gulf of Thailand. The only site for miles around, all of the larger species in the area are attracted towards it which inevitably makes it a great place to see whalesharks and the other big stuff that hangs around our sites – in 2017 there were at least 102 whalesharks sightings here, the most ever seen in the history of Koh Tao/Koh Phangan diving!

Batfish at Sail Rock

Once home to bullsharks (come back soon please!) it's covered in pelagics - schools of chevron and pickhandle barracuda, along with batfish, queenfish and tonnes of fusiliers! The edges of the site are usually home to prowling King Mackerel over a metre long and huge, fat grouper lurking at depth, which are always looking to feed on the smaller fish that blanket the dive site.






king crusier map

King Cruiser Wreck, between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi

Originally a car ferry in Kobe, Japan, the King Cruiser was bought by Thailand’s marine company and used as a passenger ferry between Phuket and Phi Phi when it hit ‘Anemone Reef’ in 1997, and sank with no casualties due to the help of nearby dive and fishing boats. The wreck is 85 m long by 35 m wide, and has four decks with large walkways and windows. It lies perfectly upright at 33 metres at the deepest point, with the shallowest point being the captain’s cabin at 12 metres – strong currents and its depth make it unsuitable for Open Water divers however. 

turtle diving krabi

The wreck acts a home to hordes of scorpionfish and lionfish, and is also a feeding ground to enormous schools of snapper, batfish and trevally. Octopus, eels, turtles and the odd shark have also been known to make an appearance, so keep your eyes peeled!



So how many of these have you dived? Do you agree with our Top 5, or would you put something else on the list? Let us know through our social media!




Thai Food



When asked what they most enjoy about this country, most Thailand backpackers we get here at Big Blue will mention the incredible food that’s easily available all over the country, from road side stalls to luxurious restaurants. A simple combination of Eastern and Western influences, often enough spice to keep you in the bathroom a lot longer than you expected and that lovely mix of flavours that shouldn’t really work (yet does) there’s something for everyone to love with Thai food, and then when we take into account the different styles of the South, with it’s lovely creamy curries of Indian influence, or my personal favourite the spicy Isan style of the North-East…well it’s easy to see why this dynamic food is so popular all around the world.


These are my top 3 ultimate recommended dishes to try when you’re next here on Koh Tao.


pad krapow chicken

Pad Krapao (Stir-fried meat/fish with chili and holy basil leaves)

Served with rice, this is found all over Thailand and it’s a great one on-the-go with every bus station, food market and train having someone somewhere knocking up a batch. It is normally cooked by stir-frying the basil very quickly with sliced chili, garlic, and your favorite meat which often comes minced – pork is usual when you buy it from food stalls. I love it with fish or beef personally, and you should definitely try it in typical Thai style with a fried egg on top, it really sets off the flavours!

Spice rating: Can often come with a lot of chili, so if you’re not a fan it’s advisable to request it less spicy. In Thai you say ‘nik noy pet’ which means ‘little bit spicy’.



som tam

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

Som Tam is a type of salad. Papaya is a disgusting fruit. Mixed together should be something unfit for human consumption, but instead you end up with a delicious dish full of everything Thai food should be – spicy, sour, sweet, fishy…it’s really quite amazing!

It is mostly made of shredded unripe papaya, which is crisp and unsweet, mixed with garlic, chili, sour lime, palm sugar, and a bit of fish sauce. It’s often served with green beans, dried shrimp, tomato or green beans depending on the chef, and very often can be bloody spicy! Can be ordered with seafood usually, I really like it with crab which comes with the added bonus of being able to order ‘som tam poo’, as we all secretly want to order poo right?


cx dtqfgor3zgfaby apxr640x480

Panang curry

One of the most popular Thai dishes, and easily one of the most ordered here at Big Blue, Panang (also spelt ‘phanaeng’ and other slight variations) is a plate of warm cooked rice topped with an incredible thick curry tasting of coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, chili and more!It has a lovely mix of tastes, giving off salty, sweet and creamy all at once, and usually comes only mildly spiced, so is a good one for those of you who prefer not to sweat all over your food.

It’s usually mixed with beef, pork or seafood, but I recommend the classic Panang Gai, which is with chicken.



Bon appetit!




Is Scuba Diving Safe?


Scuba diving is practised by thousands of lucky people around the world every single day. It’s something very special to be underwater yet a lot of people are very apprehensive about diving for the first time, even though it is considered a low-risk activity compared to many other outdoor and sporting activities – jogging for one is a lot more likely to put you at risk!

Of course it would be irresponsible of me to play down the risks involved, scuba diving is essentially an extreme sport which requires training and a licence. The most common medical issues are sunburn, seasickness and dehydration (all of which are easily avoided) but there also the dangers related to the effects of the increased water pressure underwater, dodgy scuba equipment and on the odd occasion marine creatures.

So is scuba diving dangerous? I think the best answer I’ve ever heard to this question is “diving is as dangerous or as safe as you want it to be”. If you practice safe diving by only diving to the limits of your experience and licence, maintain a reasonably fit and healthy lifestyle plus ensure the equipment you use is in good working order then diving is not very dangerous at all.


scuba turtle 160382899 56a8468d5f9b58b7d0f1ec11


Let’s look at a few ways on how to be a safe diver:


  • I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: dive within the limits of your experience – if you’re an Open Water diver stick to an 18 metre maximum depth, Advanced 30 metres and so on. Don’t be tempted to push your limits until you’ve had the necessary further training; it’s worth considering taking your PADI/SSI advanced, deep or wreck specialties.


  • Maintain good health. A high percentage of dive accidents are caused because of a pre-existing medical condition, so if possible have a medical check-up before taking a dive course to make sure you’re in tip-top condition.


  • Check your dive equipment thoroughly. If you have your own make sure it’s maintained and serviced regularly, rinsed in fresh water after diving and stored in a dry place. If you’re using rental equipment from your dive centre have a look at how it’s kept, check the hoses aren’t damaged and that it’s all being cleaned after every dive trip.

dsmb 3

  • Respect the buddy check! Insist on a thorough buddy check EVERY time you dive regardless of your own or your buddy’s experience, and take a minute to make sure the air is turned on fully, all regulators are working properly and secured in the correct manner, and that the weight belt/pockets are secure. A proper buddy check as taught in your SSI/PADI Open Water is more than sufficient here and stops any silly little problems that can occur. Many times I’ve heard people saying ‘don’t bother with the buddy check’, and inevitably they’re the ones returning to the surface because they’ve forgotten something or have compromised their safety somehow.


  • Always dive with a buddy, and that means staying close enough to each other so that in the event of an ‘out of air’ situation you can easily reach each other in a few seconds. Also make sure before the dive you’ve worked out who will be following whom underwater!

azFJ65EIYFnZ4D 1024x667

  • Plan your dive properly, and stick to it as much as is possible. A good dive plan (and pre-dive briefing) will eliminate a substantial level of risk, but no plan is safe unless you follow it. In the event of the plan needing to change (for example, if a whaleshark appears on the divesite) make sure the whole group is aware of what will happen next, and make sure that each diver is aware of the reason for the change (in our example simply point at the whaleshark excitedly). The dive plan should also discuss at which point the divers will start their ascent – never go over the decompression limits without the correct training!


  • Keep practising to keep your skills fresh. Try to dive at least every 6 months, and if it’s been longer than that you should definitely consider doing a refresher dive: If it’s more than a year between dives then a refresher dive (also known as a scuba tune-up) should definitely be carried out for your safety and that of your buddy. I always ask all of my diving group when they last dived to get an idea of how good or bad they will be underwater, and which of them may need a little extra attention.


SueAustin 2012X embed


To conclude, as long as train properly with a reputable dive centre (and keep diving to the way you were taught to), keep your skills fresh by diving regularly, and look after yourself and your equipment there’s no reason why you can’t lead a happy and safe scuba diving life!





10 Things That Kill More People Than Sharks


Ever since I was a child, sharks have been generally portrayed as being absolute twats. These toothy, gobby little underwater fish-missiles could terrorize you the second your foot entered the water, would jump nonchalantly onto your boat and gobble bits off you, or baby ones would swim up your toilet as you sat there and put an end to future child support forever. It was movies like ‘Jaws’ (amazing) and media reports of gory attacks on surfers that helped perpetuate the myth, as myth it is as we’ll see here by looking closely at statistics from the USA.  

We chose the USA because as we all know, absolutely anything can happen over there and regularly does - Tide-Pod anyone?



Current figures indicate that sharks are responsible for an average of ten deaths a year worldwide.



10 Things That Kill More People than Sharks


bfe93994c72f021d2772973397a05f07 Cows kill 20 Americans a year, mostly from smashing into people or kicking them to death. Delightful.



Coconuts cause about 150 deaths a year, I think from people bashing them together pretending to be horses and then getting raped to death by horses.


Autoerotic asphyxiation kills 1000 peoplerverts a year. RIP David Carradine, in your closet. vaderchokefeature 619 386




 maxresdefault Champagne corks kill over 20 people a year. What a great excuse to leave the party early.



Tripping kills over 5000 people each year! Not the fun one, the old person on the pavement one.


       Bees kill around 100 honey-stealing nincompoops a year in the USA. Bee Sting Remedies


imagesYou’ve got to be kidding me, hot TAP water kills about 100 people a year in the US. Stop this stupidity. 

      77 slutty/stupid/greedy idiots choke to death each year trying to eat hot dogs.170905140330 boy eating hotdog stock super tease

vengeful vending machine  Vending machines killed 37 people in the US between 1978 and 1995. Sharks didn’t.                  

You have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the man flu. It's 1 in 3,748,067 from a shark.man flu men verses females


So you see, sharks are just a bit misunderstood, but feel free to punch a cow right in the kisser next time you see one!