3-day trip and full day trips
chumphon-marine-parkAll dive bags are packed, the breakfast and lunch have been ordered, and hopefully everyone participating will have had (by the time this goes to press) a good nights sleep and not overslepted for the 6am departure to begin their three day, 8 dive trip to Chumphon Marine Park! Organised by the Big Blue Dive Club (running out of Big Blue Tech), the trips have become a monthly event, with the aim of allowing people to dive some of the less frequently dived areas within the Gulf of Thailand. The previous trip to Angthong Marine Park was a great success, and this trip looks to be even better, for the simple reason that we already know that the diving is epic there!
Big Blue Diving is the only dive resort on Koh Tao that goes to Chumphon Marine Park, and in all of the full day trips we've run there, we've never known the visibility to be bad. In fact its always been amazing! Also, because the dive sites are not often dived, the fish are more curious of divers. Plus, well, you know, it's a protected area, so the marine life is thankfully extremely abundant. It also has a purposely sunk wreck called the HTMS Prab, which is now a haven for all manner of marine creatures, and sits much shallower than the HTMS Sattakut.
If this is all making you jealous don't despair, although you've missed out on this trip there will be others. Additionally, on the 21st we are running a full day trip out there on our fun diver boat; Porponawa; the fastest dive boat in the universe! Three dives, breakfast, lunch, chocolate brownies, water and as many soft drinks as you can cope with! If you're interested, you just need to go to the Big Blue office to sign yourself up.. then all you have to do is turn up on the day!

Blue Whale numbers on the rise
It's not often we get good news about the state of the marine ecosystem, but here's some encouraging research. California blue whales are believed to have increased in number to up to 2,200! Historic whaling of these incredible animals saw 346,000 of them killed in the colder waters surrounding Antarctica, but since the practice was banned in 1966 they have increased their populations dramatically. The Californa whales live accross a huge area, from Alaska to Costa Rica. The number of blue whales caught in the Pacific was much lower, approximately 3,400 between 1905 and 1971, and their numbers are not as accurately known as for the California whales. But it's a good sign that protecting them has paid off. Let's hope their increase in numbers continues.

 

 

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Cesare Benelli
Cesare-benelliSome very sad news this week, the founding father of scuba diving in Koh Tao passed away; Cesare Benelli. Many years ago he set up a dive school in Koh Samui, called Samui International diving. This was the first dive school in Samui and he took divers to sites such as Sail rock. Not one to just do the same old thing, he realised that as more and more people came to learn to dive or go fun diving, he needed to be able to offer them more, so started exploring the Gulf of Thailand. It wasn't long before he began running trips to Koh Tao, which, in those days was an overnight trip... no lomprayah ferries back then! He discovered many of the dive sites that we visit every day, and legend has it that he named White rock, Red rock and Green rock after the colours of the Italian flag, his homeland.
Seeing that the diving in Koh Tao was better than in Samui, he opened the first dive school here- Planet Scuba. Over time more and more people were drawn to Koh Tao to come diving, and so it slowly developed into the diving mecca it is today. I'm sure it was only a matter of time before people discovered the diving on Koh Tao, but Cesare was the driving force in making it popular early on.
Cesare brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people through discovering the beautiful dive sites we have. May you rest in peace.

Koh Panghan Airport
Announced to great fanfair in 2011 that a new airport was going to be built on Koh Panghan, once construction began everything seemed to go very quiet. But they have a website and everything, and apparently the opening date is now going to be September 2014! Wait a minute, it is Septemeber 2014.... So who knows how close to completion it is, and when it will be finally open for business. The runway will be much shorter than at Koh Samui airport, due to the mountenous terrain, so ti will be limited to 50 seater turboprops, and initially will only run two flights a day to bangkok and back.
It will be interesting to see what the costs will be though, i'm sure they will be very competitive, and it's an hour nearer than Samui, so hopefully it will be a viable option for getting to Bangkok cheaply. No doubt there will be a grand announcement once it's all completed.

 

 

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September is go!
chumphon-sidemountTrue to form, September is looking good so far on Koh Tao. The sea is flat calm, the weather is scorching hot, and the underwater visibility is absolutely breathtaking! Every dive site is just incredible to dive at the moment. At Chumphon pinnacle yesterday you could see the bottom from the boat, and when diving the pinnacle you could see way way off into the distance; even the thermocline at 40 metres seems to have gone on holiday! I dived the HTMS Sattakut a few days ago- our very own purposefully sunk artificial reef, and again you could see practically the entire vessel from the surface, all 48 metres of it, which is unheard of!
There is a huge array of marine life all over the place too, in the last month we've seen whalesharks, a pod of pilot whales and false killer whales, and on the macro scale the Bruce Lee of the ocean: the mantis shrimp.
September is always a great time to visit, but this is the best one in years! It's a little quieter than usual too, probably because people have been put off visiting Thailand due to the coup. Yet it hasn't affected anything, there is no curfew, no army presence on Koh Tao (and barely any visible signs in Bangkok either). Life continues as it always has- great diving, Sun, sea, lounging on the beach, and a huge choice of amazing food to choose from. Bet you're annoyed you went to Blackpool instead now aren't you....

Mantis Shrimp facts
These little critters are amazing in every conceivable way, so here's a few facts to show you why:

- They can grow up to 11cm long.
- They're very brightly colored. Their shells can be blue, green, red and orange. The forearms are often covered with spots.
- Their eyes are located on long stalks that move independently. They have exceptional eyesight that is used both for the detection of prey and predators.
- Their eyes are also the most complex in the animal kingdom. They can see ultraviolet and polarized light. They have trinocular vision which means that they can see objects using one of the three different parts of eye.
- All mantis shrimps can be divided on spearers and smashes, based on the morphology of appendages and tactic they use to kill the prey.
- Spearers have spiny appendages that are used to stab soft-bodied prey such as different types of worms and fish.
- Smashers have club-like appendages that easily smash shell of snails, oysters, crustaceans and molluscs.
- They attack their prey extremely quickly- 50 times faster than the blink of an eye. With a velocity of 10 meters per second, their punch has the power of a .22 calibre bullet.
- Smashers are famous for their incredibly strong punches that can break the glass of an aquarium!
- Most species of mantis shrimps are solitary and territorial creatures. They fiercely defend their home against intruders.
- They are able to recognize their neighbours by smell, and also by their shape.
- Some species of mantis shrimp are monogamous and spend up to 20 years together. During mating, they often fluoresce.
- Females can lay eggs in the burrows or keep them in their forelimbs until they hatch. Some species exhibit parental care. The female lays two sets of eggs, one for her and the other for the father to take care of the eggs until they hatch.
- Larvae of mantis shrimps swim as a part of zooplankton up to 3 months. They show aggressive behaviour even during the larval stage.
- Mantis shrimp can survive more than 20 years in the wild.

 

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New manager at Big Blue Conservation
lizzieSad news today, our head of Marine conservation, Lizzie May is moving on to pastures new and leaving Koh Tao. She's decided to go back to University, which involves getting up late, not really doing anything, and then getting drunk every night. Why she has to go half way around the world to do that I don't know.. she could do that right here!
But seriously, she applied for uni, and based on the work she's done at Big Blue conservation they practically begged her to do the marine biology course!
Lizzie did a fantastic job for us here getting the message out about the importance of looking after our oceans, organising and leading beach clean ups, teaching marine conservation courses, planting coral in our coral nursery and showcasing why it matters, and of course, organising this years hugely successful swim for sharks charity event.
We'd like to thank her for all she's done and wish her all the best with her studies and beyond.
Rachel Linarts will be taking on the role of managing Big Blue Conservation. She's got a lot of experience as a dive instructor, through teaching people to dive in the freezing waters of the UK! She's been on Koh Tao for over 3 years and has probably just about acclimatised to the warm water by now! She is hugely passionate about marine conservation and will no doubt put her own stamp on the eco-shack. Good luck Rachel!

10 things you can do to save the ocean
Given the eco theme, it seems only fitting to get the marine conservation message out. Read these and then do them"

1. Try to reduce your Carbon Footprint and save energy that you use- Your everyday actions contribute to the effects of climate change.
2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices- Global fish populations are plumeting because of over-fishing, loss of habitat and unsustainable fishing practices. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for over exploited species by choosing seafood that is healthy and sustainable- no-one wants to see a dead, lifeless ocean.
3. Use less plastic- Plastic floats around in the oceans for a long time before finally degrading, during which time it entangles tens of thousands of marine animals. They also eat it, which not surprisingly also kills them
4. When you go to the beach, clean up after yourself- If you're feeling really helpful go and help out beach clean ups.
5. Don't Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life- Don't buy coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products. Don't release those lantern things into the ocean, they kill turtles.
6. Only buy dog food that contains sustainable seafood- Much of it currently comes from over-exploited sources, which contributes hugely to their decline. 
7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean- There are loads of them that are local to you, and they all do important work
8. Speak out about marine conservation- Contact your local parliamentarian and lobby them to enact laws to protect the oceans. 
9. Act responsibly when on the ocean- whenever kayaking, or on a boat, never throw anything overboard. 
10. Educate Yourself about marine conservation and marine life- The more you know, the better decisions you can take and influence others that will help conserve the oceans!

 

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Waverunner is Back!
MV-waverunnerFinally, the news we've all been waiting for, our flagship boat MV Waverunner has arrived from it's monumental refurbishment in Chumphon, and it's looking amazing! She arrived two days go to zero fanfare becuse no-one recognised her! But on Wednesday morning Big Blue divemasters and instructors arrived for work to see a huge dive boat moored up with a Big Blue paint job. Some of them were convinced it was just a cheap copy from China, but when viewed through binoculars it was obvious that such fine workmanship could only mean it was the real deal.
Yesterday it was used in anger to take our open water students out on their first two open water dives, and it behaved like a dream. The difference in interior design is astonishing. Before the refurbishment having more than 15 divers setting up their equipment was like trying to go skipping in downtown Tokyo and not get arrested. But now you could easily fit 60 people on board, have them all set up at the same time and then swing their regulators around their heads without touching anything! There is a, you guessed it, huge area upstairs for relaxing out of the Sun, and there's even a mobile phone charging point!
The captain has been arranging the Feng Sui in his cabin, and by the constant smile across his face he must be pretty happy with it.
Every single employee at Big Blue cannot wait to get on board and see it for themselves. It's taken a while to completed, but it was worth the wait and we're all really proud of it.

Jet skis
Whilst on the boat the other day at Mango bay, I noticed that there are two new naval vessels operating in the area- a couple of jet skis. Now, i'm not really jet ski-ist, as they are a lot of fun to ride around on, but I really can't think of many things that would be worse for Koh Tao than jet skis whizzing around all over the place. Why? Because they are hired mainly by people who, a- have no idea how to ride them, b- may well have been drinking, and c- Are not aware of things they need to look out for and where they should and shouldn't drive them.
Mango bay is the perfect example of this. It's a great location for taking try divers or open water divers out on their first ever dives in the ocean. It's shallow, it's mainly sand, the sea bed slopes really gradually, and you can show them some beautiful marine life without fear of them damaging the coral. On the surface there are of course longtails to be careful of, but this is why divers use Deplayed Surface Marker Buoys (DSMBs), and also use the ears attached to the side of their heads.
Someone on a jetski will be going so fast they won't notice bubbles on the surface that show the position of divers underwater, and they wouldn't know what a DSMB is or what it is for.
The two jetskis I saw ran straight over two DSMBs that were close together, and just carried on going. I don't think I really need to explain why this was dangerous and stupid.
There are lots of jet skis in Pattaya, we don't want them in Koh Tao, it has a totally different vibe here and we want to keep it that way, so lets hope that they disappear soon and we don't see anymore.

 

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Swim for Sharks went Swimmingly!
swim-for-sharksThis year's Swim for Sharks was a great success, with 20 competitors and fun-swimmers making their way around the Islands of Nang yuan yesterday afternoon. The overall winner was a young lad called Bonk, who covered the 3.4kms in an astonishing 56 minutes and 40 seconds. Second place went to Big Blue instructor and previous winner Nick Bufton, with an impressive 1hr 1 minute swim. Third place went to Rachel Linearts, who did it in a very impressive 1hr 14 minutes.
Once the competitors got back to land and had a few hours rest, it was time to go to the Big Blue bar for a big party and a raffle... in that order. Everyone was buying t-shirts, wristbands and raffle tickets to help raise money for shark conservation projects, and in between boogieing the night away some amazing prizes were given away, including a sharkskin rash vest, two tickets for a luxury hotel in Koh Tao, a Mares dive computer provided by SSI, and a free sidemount course provided by Big Blue Tech.
For any residents of Koh Tao that may be wondering why there seems to be an outbreak of mohicans today, it's because they all shaved for sharks too! Offering to part with their barnets to raise some more cash. Even Big Blue videographer Barry put his money where his mouth was and forced to see his much-loved blonde locks fall to the floor with each swipe of the razor. Mini Ant, or Tony, as we like to call him seemed to enjoy that a little too much, but it was all for a good cause and Barry (and all the others) were more than happy to look ridiculous for the next few weeks!

Top 10 amazing creatures of the ocean
Completely unrelated to Koh Tao in any way, shape or form, but pretty fascinating nontheless, Big Blue Conservation have been posting facts about the most amazing creatures in the ocean, and some of them are pretty damn grizzly to say the least. Here's one of the oddest ones; the tongue-eating louse.
This parasitic crustacean latches onto the tongue of its primary victim, the spotted rose snapper, and doesn’t let go. Once it does, the louse sucks the blood out of the tongue, until the organ wastes away. When that happens, the louse essentially becomes the new tongue, attaching its body to the stub of the old organ. It then feeds on the remains of food that the snapper doesn’t completely swallow.
Amazingly, the snapper isn’t harmed too much by the entire process as it continues to live and feed after the louse makes a permanent residence. Though the spotted rose snapper is the louse’s main target, the crustacean has been found sporadically in several other species.

 

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Big Blue Selfie
big-blue-selfieSwim for Sharks 2014 is almost underway, and I don't want to bombard you with posts about it, but it is for charity, and there seems to be more and more amazing prizes being given away every day. Big Blue Conservation has just launched #bigblueselfie, which is open to any previous Big Blue customer. All you have to do is have a photo taken of yourself wearing a Big Blue t-shirt in front of a famous landmark, or some kind of jaw-dropping backdrop somewhere on the planet. Then you simply have to share it to the Big Blue Diving facebook page... easy! We've had some interesting ones already, including the ASDA car park in Lancaster, UK... classy I know.
But why bother? Well i'm glad you asked. The winner will receive a FREE Deep, Wreck, and Nitrox course, worth around 15,000 baht! This will increase your maximum diving depth for 40 metres, allow you to stay at depth for longer through the benefits of nitrox, and teach you how to navigate safely around a wreck. What more could you ask for from simply having your mugshot taken in a certain t-shirt? It's also an incentive to get yourself back over to Koh Tao!
The competition has already begun, and closes on the 31st August 2014. The prize voucher is valid until 31st August 2015. To get you started, to the right is one of our instructors Phil on a recent holiday in Germany at Neuschwanstein Castle.. lovely stuff!

Sharkfin imports
This time last year, it seemed like an unwinnable battle, trying to prevent sharkfinning from happening, or stopping the fins themselves from being imported into the Countries where they are consumed. But then a campaign was begun that gained momentum fast, which led to 15 intercontinental airlines deciding that they would ban shark's fins from being carried on their flights! Now Thai Airways has also made the decision to embargo shark fins... hurrah!! It's only a matter of time before other airlines follow suit, and the illegal industry will find it way harder to get their product to market. Let's keep the pressure up!

 

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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. 

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

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