Choosing a Dive Agency

SSI

Here at Big Blue, we teach people how to dive and certify them through a number of different diving agencies- The British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI), Scuba Schools International (SSI), Scuba Diving International (SDI) and Technical Diving International (TDI). For someone who has never dived before and is not familiar with the dive industry, it can all be a little confusing. So how do you choose which agency to do your open water course with for example? There are over 50 different agencies that are able to certify someone to dive as a recreational diver. They create and comply with strict professional standards laid out by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC), and their certifications are recognized worldwide. Each agency establishes its own agenda for diver training and issues certifications for all levels of scuba diving, from beginner to instructor. Courses vary slightly in their teaching methods for the beginner's level, but they all cover the same essential knowledge and practical skills development as set by the WRSTC.

The reason you have heard of some dive agencies and not others is mainly due to how well that company has marketed itself to the general public. PADI for instance has been around since 1966 and has spent a lot of time and money marketing itself. SSI has been around since 1970, but was more of a slow burner in terms of public recognition. This has changed a lot in recent years; Today, SSI is a Global company with more than 3700 Dive Centres, 31 Regional Offices around the world and materials in more than 27 languages, and in Australia more people are certified every year by SSI than PADI.

At Big Blue, most of the open water courses we teach are SSI. We are just as happy to teach PADI, but most people choose SSI after weighing up the differences, the main one being flexibility in how dive skills are taught that can make the course less stressful for the student.  SSI is also cheaper than PADI. Another reason is very Koh Tao specific- SSI has a Regional office here, and we are able to give students their certification cards at the end of the course, for PADI it has to be sent to Australia for processing, and can take over 90 days before the card is posted to the student’s home address- if you lose your temporary card during that period there is a danger you will not be allowed to go diving. Certifications by different agencies are recognised as valid licenses to dive no matter where you dive. You could do your SSI open water, PADI advanced, SSI rescue and divemaster and PADI instructor- they are all interchangeable. As a PADI open water diver you are qualified to dive to 18m. As an SSI open water diver you are qualified to dive to 18m. Each agency recognises the level of certification you have previously achieved, regardless of the agency you did it with.

Perhaps the biggest difference between PADI and SSI is that PADI instructors are able to operate independently, whereas SSI instructors must be affiliated with an SSI dive school to be able to teach. This means that standards and quality of teaching can be monitored regularly and directly on-site to ensure that the student is being taught correctly and safely at all times. Ultimately though, any course is only ever going to be as good as the instructor that is teaching it, and at Big Blue we take great pride in teaching new instructors how to do things properly, and only employ people who are able to demonstrate a professional attitude to teaching at all times. If you don't believe us, have a look at our trip adviser reviews.

Big Blue staff profiles

Ant Silwood- Wales... birthplace of the internationally renowned and critically acclaimed soap opera Pobol y Cwm. If you've never heard of it, then you need to stay in more, speak Welsh and live in Wales. If you're unable to do so, the spirit of Pobol Y Cwm has made its way to Koh Tao in the form of Ant Silwood, 53, the man with a million nicknames- Ant 1, big Ant, the other Ant, definitely not Ant 2, and, this isn't the Ant I was looking for.. A PADI and SSI instructor and TDI technical diver, Ant was trained at Big Blue and worked as one of our full time divemasters before taking the plunge to instructing. He's pretty good at both so our loss was our gain, hurrah! With some kind of background in IT or computers or sales, or possibly something completely different, he decided to leave the Sun-draped valleys one day and hot foot his way around the world, and only stopped by in Thailand to spread the word of a brilliant new soap opera he'd heard of. Very amiable, universally liked by his colleagues and students, Ant knows how to get the best out of anyone. His dancing on the other hand is a complete disgrace to all men his age. The only way he keeps his dignity is to do it with a wry smile on his face, and only ever to dance next to tech Ian when he's "making shapes". If you are lucky enough to be taught how to dive by him, treat him as a Mogwai from the film gremlins- instead of not getting him wet, just don't allow music to reach his ears at any point.

Ant-silwood

Carly Marsh- Smaller than Frodo Baggins, and sporting hairier toes, Carly, 64, is one of our full time divemasters. Her strengths are her obsession and ability to find anything and everything that moves underwater for her customers, her frankly suspicious strength when lugging tanks around, and her unceasing friendliness in spite of her hailing from South Africa. Her weaknesses are her unhealthy interest in necromancy and voodoo, and her inability to see over the counter in the Big Blue shop. Not something you can work on at her age- and no-one will lend her a stool due to the aforementioned hairy toes. Nicknamed prawn because of her uncanny likeness to the bad or good guys (Can't remember which) in the film district 9. If you ever want to know how Gulliver must have felt, come to Big Blue and seek out the prawn to take you diving, just don't pull off the head and throw away the shell until after your fun dive!

Carly

“Loved it!”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 5 October 2013- I chose Big Blue as my diving school because of the reviews on trip advisor. After signing up I could start the same day with my open water course. At first I was struggling with the breathing under water (lets be honest, breathing under water, that's just weird), but due to the patience and professionalism of our instructor Daisy I soon found the confidence to really enjoy the diving. I enjoyed the diving and the atmosphere at Big Blue after diving so much I also booked my advanced course and some fun dives after that. I highly recommended Big Blue to anyone who is eager to go diving. Either beginner or advanced. The staff are really good, they know what they are doing and are just fun to be around. The diving school and bar are great to hang out after diving which made my stay at Koh Tao the best part of my trip around Thailand. I will certainly come back on another holiday!

Koh Tao dive sites: Japanese Gardens

The Two Islands of Koh Nang Yuan are joined by a thin stretch of beach. On the seaward side lies the dive site Twins, and on the other, between Nang Yuan and Koh Tao lies Japanese Gardens. This is a perfect dive site for teaching beginner divers on their first open water dives, or for anyone undertaking a try dive. It’s named after a cargo ship carrying bonsai tree seeds sank there, which allowed the coral to grow. No wait, that’s that blurred line between fiction and reality that everyone’s talking about. It was actually named because of the ornate arrangement of coral covering most of the dive site. The reason it’s perfect for open water dives is because it is pretty shallow, and there are large areas of sand breaking up the coral, it’s also well sheltered from bigger waves and stronger currents. The shallowest point is zero metres on the beach- you look silly wearing scuba gear and the tan lines are not very attractive. Heading out East towards Koh Tao will get you 12-14 metres before you’re off the dive site.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s only good for novice divers though, the wide range of different types of coral is reason enough to go fun diving there, and you can head North or South parallel with Nang Yuan for a nice little coast dive, and there’s loads of marine life to see. Nudibranchs galore, fusiliers, rabbit fish, a shoals of yellow tails barracuda, the occasional sea snake and porcupine fish, and triggerfish. There’s even lionfish and juvenile harlequin sweetlips to be sought out. You can certainly get your money’s worth there because your air will last longer as you don’t need to dive deep to see all the cool stuff. Definitely worth seeing.

 

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Staff Profiles

What better time is there to introduce you to the best dive instructors, divemasters and land-based staff the dive industry has to offer than now I hear you ask, there isn't, obviously! So over the next few weeks i'll be humiliating, I mean highlighting our best asset; the people that work here. Maybe one, two or three per day, on top of any other news that pops up- I just love making work for myself, but get used to it, it's happening- I was talking directly to my colleagues there.

Alphabetically from the top, meet Ami Bignell, (pictured in the red t-shirt), she's from Bristol, or Brissle as they like to say. SSI instructor, consummate professional during work hours, Judo killer on high alert at all other times, she used to compete at a high level in her youth apparently- mention Austin Powers "Judo chop" and she'll hate you forever, mention Tai Otoshi- a deadly leg sweep and she'll love you forever, but be prepared to be bored to death by endless tales of how she "could have been a contender" as an expert in the "gentle way"- just make sure you yawn with your mouth closed, it'll make your nostrils flair, but no-one will ever admit to staring at another person's nostrils. Trained as a divemaster and instructor at Big Blue, Ami got all uppity and worked briefly for a different dive school. Luckily for us we realised that was a bad move and bribed, blackmailed, or threatened her to come back and work for us (depending on which version you hear). Wise decision, she's cool as a cucumber underwater, knows her stuff and is not afraid to use it to produce competent divers every time. Just don't ever mention why there are never any cats or dogs around whenever she talks, she has the highest pitch voice ever known by science, estimated to be 200 octaves above middle C. So much so that she moonlights for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), in order to be able to communicate with any space dolphins that may be roaming the solar system, should they decide to attempt to make contact.

Ami

Ant Edgely, 44 (pictured holding scissors), did his SSI divemaster at Big Blue with Ami, his instructor course at Big Blue with Ami, and the Judas that he is, defected to another dive school with Ami, before being equally bribed into coming back to work for us full time- with Ami. He now admits that he never really understood or learned from his previous restraining orders... Regardless, we know a good thing when we see it- that may have seemed like an endorsement of stalking, it wasn't really, if you follow.. In a previous life, Ant was the scourge of all carpenters, electricians and plumbers, as he was an architect, designing beautiful buildings that were impossible to build outside of legoland. He's one of the few dive professionals that really enjoyed what he was doing before he decided to become a dive instructor, and has never been able to justify to anyone what the hell he's doing here on Koh Tao! Regardless, he quickly became a top class SSI instructor, in spite of having the unenviable task of being nicknamed "Mini Ant", even though he's not particularly small. He's occasionally also called plimsoll for top secret reasons, and Ant 2- just because we already have an Ant 1. Well liked by anyone he teaches, his laid back approach to teaching is the perfect demeanour for students to feel at ease whilst they get to grips with diving. He's been recently recruited to re-design the interior of Big Blue's latest naval acquisition- Waverunner. I can't wait until it returns from it's refurbishment with massage chairs, Playstation 3s in each seat, and a hot tub. We had to save space by having no compressors, but that's a small price (for Ant) to pay!

Ant2

“Best experience ever”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 3 October 2013- Just finished my advanced open water at big blue, easily in the top ten life experiences! The people are awesome, the diving is fantastic, basically never wanted to leave! Donny our instructer is the man. Heading back next year for DMT training. Can't wait!

Koh Tao dive sites: White Rock
So named because many moons ago an Italian diver discovered three dive sites around Koh Tao and named them after the Italian flag, White Rock is a stunner of a dive site. Close to the Island of Nuang Yuan and Sairee Beach off the West coast of Koh Tao, it's larger than its sometimes given credit for, or smaller, depending on how far away from it you are, and whether you have any kind of underwater spatial awareness. It contains a stunnning diversity of marine life, and that's stunnning with 3 Ns. Split into two main pinnacles running North to South and separated by a patch of sand full of goby fish and prawns, it's a very popular site for open water dives 3 and 4, advanced courses, and fun diving. It ranges from 6 metres in the middle of the North, to just over 20 metres on the far South. You will see on any dive the usual suspects of butterfly fish, longfin bannerfish, rabbit fish, triggerfish and squirrelfish. But it's also home to a number of scribbled filefish, nudibranchs, porcupine fish, and chevron and yellowtail barracuda, along living in and amongst a wide variety of different corals.

white rock map

It’s the dive site of choice for night dives as it seems to be a school canteen for great barracuda, and diver’s torch lights appear to fulfil the role of dinner lady. I've briefed my SSI advanced adventurer and PADI advanced open water students about how they should keep an eye out for great barracuda as I hadn't seen them for a few dives preceding, only to look down and see one about half a metre below me matching my every turn like some kind of surrogate remora, or mini Ant in his pre-restraining order days- they're very intelligent and use diver's torch light to help them hunt, but they won't share their catch with you. You'll also see lots of blue spotted ribbon tail rays and blue spotted stingrays out on the hunt at night, which are always mesmerising. There's always a chance of seeing a turtle in the daytime on the Southern pinnacle or, somewhere on the NE portion of the Northern pinnacle. But at night there is a turtle that likes to sleep in a small cavern on the Northern Pinnacle, just be very careful not to shine your torch into its eyes so you don't wake it up and force it to head to the surface for air- what are you, some kind of heartless monster? Remember to wave your hand around like a maniac with your torch on your chest too, the bioluminescent plankton is amazing. But also be mindful that it only works at night, no-one is impressed by air traffic control signals in the middle of a dive.

Big Blue goes to White Rock regularly, and each divemaster has their own particular way of finding resident marine life. You can pop into the shop at Big Blue 1 or Big Blue 2 reception to sign up for fun dives, no later than 11am for the afternoon boat, and no later than 5:30pm the night before any morning boat.

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Marine Conservation course- 8th October

Whether you're just beginning your new hobby as a scuba diver, or you've been fun diving for a long time, how do you fancy learning more about the underwater realm that you love exploring? Big Blue Conservation is about to begin another BSAC marine conservation course on the 8th October. This amazing 3 day course educates divers in marine biology and ecology, and provides an excellent background to the dangers currently facing coral reefs, such as the effects of overfishing, shark finning, climate change and bad diving techniques. You'll understand how individual processes such as ocean chemistry and plate tectonics interact to shape the oceans and enable life to thrive. You'll gain practical experience on how to improve your buoyancy and air consumption (read Big Blue Instructor training's blog from yesterday to read why this is important), and learn practical conservation skills so that you can contribute to reef conservation projects. The course only costs 7,000 Thai Baht (4,000 for divemaster trainees). Sign up in the Big Blue shop, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at Big Blue Conservation to secure your place.

BSAC marine conservation

“Made my holiday!”

4 of 5 stars Reviewed 29 September 2013- After doing ALOT of shopping around I went with big blue dive school. First day instructor G made us all feel very welcome and excited! First day of course I meet my instructor Thelma. She instantly made us all feel relaxed. To sum it all up these 3 days were just amazing. The element of fun these guys bring into the dives and the amount of passion they have for the sport shines through so bright. Thelma even took time to have dinner and beers with us a couple of times after dives which as a traveler on my own was so lovely. So thanks Big Blue and thanks so much Thelma for MAKING my holiday x

Koh Tao dive sites: Twins

Partially inspired by reading other dive resort's woeful descriptions of Koh Tao's amazing dive sites, Big Blue's middle name is "If we can't do it better than anyone else, why bother even trying".. absolute nightmare introducing yourself at dinner parties.. So lets have a go at describing all the dive sites that we regularly visit that go a little beyond an ordnance survey audiobook. Twins quite simply has everything. It's perfect for any kind of diving, shallow and tame enough for try dives and open water dives one and two, but also interesting enough to keep even the most attentive and obsessive fun diver very happy.

The geology of the dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand can be summed up in one word; granite. For any non-geologists that's a felsic igneous rock comprised of quartz, mica and feldspar. I apologise for the last sentence, it's been 11 years since my last geological confession. Bizarrley if you google "granite coral reef" you get a lot of hits on kitchen worktops. Ok, back to Twins... the dive site runs from East to West, with the shallow pinnacle nearest the beach at Nang Yuang Island ranging from 6 metres to around 11 metres in depth. A lovely but small slab of.. yes, granite, seperates the shallow and middle pinnacles at about 12 metres, and is worth mentioning as there may be the occassional scorpion fish residing on it. Heading westward 20 odd metres from the shallow pinnacle, the middle pinnacle is the largest part of the dive site, and ranges from 8 to 13-ish metres depending on whether you're diving around the edge of the westward side, or hovering above the middle bit. Just off this pinnacle to the Southeast is the nemo circle. Basically it's an area where anenome fish live, not surprisingly on some anemome, and divers have been kind enough to put a load of stones in a circle around it to ward off evil divers. Always worth a quick look, but also the closest you'll probably come to anthropomorphising a fish just because you've seen finding nemo.

A small pinnacle on the far West 10-15 metres further is the third pinnacle, known as the "deep" pinnacle; it sits at around 14-16 metres... Head West beyond this point and you are heading out into the blue, and a long swim back to the boat. You can find all sorts of marine life over the entire dive site, from the typical butterfly and banner fish, to the less common crocodile fish. There does seem to be a lot more batfish here than on most other dive sites, which is never a bad thing. You may be lucky enough to see puffer fish, moray eels, blue-spotted stingrays, 6 banded angel fish, pipe fish, scribbled filefish, nudibranchs, sea snakes, the odd turtle, and even the occassional whaleshark passing through.

One thing I love about twins is that just 20 metres to the north of it, lots of weird and wonderful items have been sunk with the intention of either aiding divers buoyancy, or providing artificial reefs for marine life to grow on. It's probably going to blow your mind to learn that this is known as buoyancy world. We have a concrete lizard, octopus and shark, a weird gallion ship like structure, and a forest-like area of poles for coral to grow onto, all sunk in 2010 as a Save Koh Tai project. Ask instructor Richard Todd about the concrete shark, he had an open water student burst into tears before a dive as they could see the shark from the surface because the visibility was so good. I think his name was butch and he was a shipyard welder from Glasgow, but that's another story. Buoyancy world is also perfect for teaching open water courses and advanced courses as there's no coral to accidentally bang into, it's all just sand. Of all the dive sites on Koh Tao I think it's fair to say that most Big Blue instructors and divemasters rate twins as being one of their favourites. I could go on but i'm pooped after all that, must be the virtual silent bubbles. One final but important point though- the Sergeant Major fish on the picture below are not to scale...

maps

Picture courtesy of Koh Tao Dive guide

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The boss is back... eeek!
Big Blue staff are running around like maniacs today trying to get the place back into some semblence of order after trashing the joint whilst the boss Jim was away. He's been gone for a month visiting family in Europe, wherever that is. So, like teenagers that decide to have a house party when the parents are away, it's time to cover up the cigarette burns on the carpet, erase the moustaches drawn on the expensive paintings, and buy some new goldfish for the tank as the previous ones weren't fed and had to be flushed down the loo, i mean placed in the bin so the toilet doesn't block. At this rate, the place will be spick and span before the Sun sets and he'll suspect nothing, unless he reads this blog of course, but i'll just say we've been hacked by the NSA as part of their covert anti-scuba campaign (think they spelt Cuba wrong and just went with it). Time on Koh Tao does seem to move at a different pace compared with the normal world though, and it's actually quite difficult to think of what has actually happened in the last month! One of the Big Blue taxi boats has had a makeover and returned to service looking mighty fine, Flavia has become an SSI freediving instructor trainer, we've had a new influx of really enthusiastic and friendly divemaster trainees, we had another 100% pass rate for September's SSI instructor training course, Big Blue Tech is still supplying the rest of the Island with Nitrox and turning recreational divers into technical divers, Tosh has abandoned us, Steven just gets weirder, Rick's broken knee has gotten slightly better and his limp has gone from "leg definitely not working" to "leg almost working- when can I stop teaching EFRs". Emergency First Response courses have gone from strength to strength, ahem.  The new website is looking good, we're now on G and twitter, and Big Blue facebook is being more "liked" than ever. I think Jim can rest easy, good choice leaving Big Blue in Guy's capable hands (and HAL-like brain). We're still the most fun, friendly, professional dive resort in the Gulf of Thailand, and no goldfish were harmed during the making of this blog. Welcome back Jim!

Big Blue diving warning sign

“Thoroughly recommended”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 3 October 2013- I came to Koh Tao to see what all the fuss was about, and to do my open water diving course with Big Blue. I Ioved it so much that I stayed on four more days to do the Advanced course and then some more fun dives! The island is gorgeous, and the atmosphere at Big Blue is very welcoming and friendly. Dave was a great instructor and teacher. He made us feel very safe underwater and gave us confidence. Our group of 4 had not dived before and some were very nervous, but once we were out in the ocean we were absolutely fine. There is a lot of emphasis on teaching safety and the proper way to dive, so I now feel confident diving anywhere else. We got free accomodation on dive days, and the restaurant was very good. Sairee also has some great restaurants for alternative dinners. I also did a day-dive, when we went out on the boat for the whole day to a far-flung dive site closer to Koh Phagnan, and all food and drink was provided. Our instructors (Dave and Steve) made sure we made the most of this experience and showed us a lot of the interesting underwater creatures that I would have missed otherwise.

Underwater robots to repair coral reefs
Are there no limits to the amazing-ness of technology and it's ability to get us out of the jams we get ourselves into as a species? Boffins at Heriot-Watt University in the fair city of Edinburgh, Scotland are currently developing a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that is designed to work together in small groups (akin to ants apparently), to repair damaged coral! Known as "coralbots", these ingenious devices will be able to go much deeper than even the most crazy technical diver, beyond 200 metres, to repair coral in a matter of days and weeks instead of years. Currently, if coral is damaged, divers can sometimes re-cement the fragments together, which helps them to grow again, but it is a painfully slow and ineficient process. A quarter of all marine life inhabit corals, so it's pretty damn important to try and look after them! If they get the required funding, the scientists are hoping to put them into service within a year. Maybe we can get one for Koh Tao, then we can send our fun divers out to look for the famous "robot fish"! 

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Big Blue Freediving becomes an SSI Instructor Training Facility

Congratulations to Big Blue Freediving's very own Flavia Eberhard on becoming an SSI freediving instructor trainer! Travelling all the way to the Phillipines to undertake the gruelling seven day course (she swam there underwater on one breath apparently), she passed with flying colours and is now able to teach freediving at all levels, from beginner to instructor. That's pretty amazing considering that Big Blue Freediving only opened for business this year! Flavia and Pepe have worked tirelessly to get it off the ground and it's worked-  a lot! People are coming from all over the world to train with them; they are highly respected within the freediving world, both holding records from their respective countries. They're also both involved in the judging side of AIDA freediving world record attempts, with their services being regularly called upon. I probably don't need to tell you that Flavia is the one pictured on the right, proudly displaying her new card; the modelling world's loss is definitely our gain. We did consider naming Big Blue Freediving "The Flavia Eberhard centre for kids that can't hold their breath good", but you know what those brand alignment people are like. Maybe it'll work now- "The Flavia Eberhard centre for people that want to teach people who can't hold their breath good to now hold their breath good"? If you've never seen the film Zoolander then I apologise for the last sentence being absolute gibberish! If you have, then you'll know how dazzlingly funny I am. If you're interested in trying free diving, gaining a freediving qualification, or even or becoming an SSI Freediving professional, contact Flavia and Pepe here.

Big blue freediving instructor trainer
“Highlight of my trip”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 2 October 2013- By far the highlight of my month long trip to Thailand was doing the Open Water diving course in Koh Tao with Big Blue. Diving itself is an incredible experience, and Koh Tao provides the perfect location for people to learn to dive. The water is so warm, there is no need to wear a wetsuit, and the water is crystal clear. Also, when not diving, Koh Tao itself is a beautiful island, with amazing beaches, perfect for relaxing when not diving, and enjoying a beer in the evening. I am very glad I chose to do the course with Big Blue as they are a very professional outfit with excellent instructors and equipment. Diving can be a dangerous hobby if not practised safely and sensibly, and therefore it is very important to go with a school like Big Blue. They also provided heavily discounted, clean, comfortable accommodation. I would also like to particular emphasise how great my instructor, Sophia Reuser was, and if you were to consider a diving course in Koh Tao, to definitely request her! She is really friendly and an excellent teacher. If I had the time, I would have come back straight away to do my Advanced diving course, like my 2 friends did after I had left Thailand.As soon as I have the opportunity, I am coming straight back!

Health of world's oceans in rapid decline

Pretty depressing reading, a report published by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), concludes that the world's oceans are in an even worse state than previously thought, due to a multitude of threats. They are being warmed by climate change, suffering from overfishing on a momumental scale, and increasing in acidity as they absorb greater quantities of CO2 produced by man-made emissions. The report also states that the number of so-called "dead zones", caused by fertiliser run-off are also increasing. The report continues: "We have been taking the ocean for granted. It has been shielding us from the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess CO2 from the atmosphere", and that "public and policymakers are failing to recognise- or choosing to ignore- the severity of the situation". Just read that last sentence again.. it's astonishing that things have gone this far. For divers on Koh Tao and any Island in the Gulf of Thailand, this is going to have huge ramifications if something is not done soon. Coral reefs will suffer from higher ocean temperatures and the effects of acidification, which will have a knock-on effect on the eco systems that depend on the reef. In many areas over fishing and bad fishing practices, along with pollution also weakens reefs. There's not much point in going diving if there's nothing to see! Save Koh Tao, the Thai Government and Big Blue Conservation all work together with local fishermen to ensure that the oceans are not overfished and the dive sites are left alone, as well as educating divers and locals about climate change and its impact on the ocean. But we seriously need international action before it's too late. If this frustrates you as much as us, get involved; follow Big Blue Diving  and Big BlueConservation on facebook to find out what we're up to and see how you can help.

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DMT pub crawl
People will talk about last night for years to come.. ok days to come... The inaugural Big Blue divemaster trainee (DMT) pub crawl was fully expected to be a night of absolute alcohol induced carnage, and yet, until very late on it was actually a pretty civilised and hilarious affair with some very clever games that worked perfectly in breaking the ice with all the new DMTs, so that they got to know each other and the instructors and divemasters at Big Blue. Of course by the time they reached the last bar the DMTs had to be released back into the wild, as herding cats can be very time consuming! The evening began at Big Blue two, where almost immediately SSI instructor mini Ant managed to lose his keys through the slats of the decking not once, but twice in as many minutes! After the Rules of the night were read out, such as whoever's name was drawn out of a hat had to stand on a stool and sing a song chosen by a Big Blue mentor, or whoever was shown a particular playing card had to then spend the next ten minutes conversing only in mime, the evening commenced. Great fun. Everyone had a jolly marvellous time walking their merry way along Sairee beach until the last bar was reached (or not!). In the grey, corporate, office block world they call it a "team building exercise", but we just call it a good excuse to get to know the people we will be moulding into dive professionals.. Such a burden I know but it's a price we're willing to pay to forge the next generation of instructors and divemasters!

“Magic! ”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 October 2013- My boyfriend and I travelled to koh tao last month. I had been previously and done a try dive at a different resort and I was not looking forward to diving again. We turned up at big blue on a recomendation from our friends and it was excellent from the start. We were met by Steve, a big lovely northern bear of a man. Immediately we both felt in safe hands. We booked in to do our SSI open water course. The accomodation was basic, but it was clean and everything worked, it was quiet and just right for our needs. Steve was our instructor for the next few days, he was patient, attentive, thorough and a very good teacher. After the skills session in the pool our first reef dive was challenging but wonderful. At every sticking point steve was there with reassurance. By the final day we both got the diving bug and not only that we were lucky enough to swim with a whale shark! Big thanks to steve who really made our stay at big blue.

Save Mauis dolphins

Save Maui's Dolphins
Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation is getting people to sign a petition to highlight the issue of dolphins being caught in fishing nets. Maui dolphins are at the point of extinction, with only 50 thought to be left from a population of 1,800 forty years ago. They are the smallest and rarest marine dolphin species on earth, and are dying as a result of local fishing practices off New Zealand's coast. Fishing using gill nets and trawling are having a devastating effect on them. It's thought that they are only able to cope with one fatality as a result of human activity every 23 years, but the fishing is killing five of them every year. In the Gulf of Thailand we are lucky enough to get pilot whales and false killer whales, but they are not under the same threat as Maui dolphins. Please get the word out and sign the petition. Follow this link.

 

 

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Divemaster Whaleshark Training
It was a busy day yesterday for the new influx of divemaster trainees at Big Blue, up before the Sun for the morning boat so they could learn how the boats are readied logistically for the days diving, assisting customers with equipment, and helping to lug any tanks that were needed- and that's before they even got wet. The morning's training involved SSI instructor trainer and divemaster trainee (DMT) mentor Simon Garrity (Simo as we like to call him), going through a variety of rescue scenarios and then assessing the DMTs on what they learned. They are training to be dive professionals, so being able to deal with anything and everything is an essential part of the programme. A lot of people have started their DMT at the same time, so this week has been similar to freshers week, except that instead of sitting in a dingy pub with sticky floors, they spent most of their time on a dive boat in the Sun with the tropical Island of Koh Tao as their backdrop! The rescue assessments were all finished when word came over the captain's radio that a whaleshark was in the vicinity, at nearby divesite Green Rock, so everyone frantically got in their dive gear and jumped in the water for their first big spotted fish encounter- lucky buggers! It certainly gave them something to talk about in the bar later, as if they needed it! Lovely bunch of people that get on well with each other, they are embarking on an unforgettable experience at Big Blue. All part and parcel of becoming a professional divemaster or instructor. If you're reading this with a twinge of jealousy, maybe you should have a word with Simo. I promise the whaleshark is not animatronic! Contact Simo at SSI dive pro here

 DMTs

“Open Water Diving Course at Big Blue - the best experience throughout my trip”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 October 2013- I did the Open Water Diving Course at Big Blue Koh Tao. I was on my own and a bit nervous - it turned out to be the best experience throughout my trip. My Instructor Ant was very professional and did and amazing job. With his lovely sense of humor and smiling face he made me relax and feel very safe about the diving; breathing and do skills under water. They delivered great equipment and the diving sites were absolutely beautiful. I will definitely recommend Big Blue Diving!

Putting the warrior back into Eco

Bad news and good news- A recent full day trip to Chumphon Marine Park found fish cages; that's the bad news. This method of fishing captures not only the target fish species, but also bycatch including fish that are unsuitable to eat or sell. Use of fish cages is now prohibited in the protected areas of Koh Tao, and they are definitely prohibited in the waters in and around National Marine Parks such as Chumphon and Ang Thong! The good news is the divers that found the fish cage (full of rabbit fish) happened to be from Big Blue Conservation, and, being responsible divers they all carried a cutting device. So they set to work transforming the cage from a tomb to a sanctuary. Now the fish can use it for protection against predators, and leave whenever they feel like it! The incident was filmed and turned into a lovely little video. Watch it on the Big Blue Diving youtube channel here. 

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Fundiving- the reason you learned to dive!
Big Blue is well established as being a fantastic place to learn how to dive, or take your diving further with courses for anything you might be interested in, be it technical diving, conservation, freediving or recreational diving. But we are also really good at fun diving! Here's the thing, too many dive resorts around the world, and especially koh Tao neglect fun diving in favour of more lucrative dive courses. For example, most dive schools on Koh Tao only have one boat, so they have fun divers on the same boat as students doing try dives and/or open water courses. This means that the dive sites are dictated by the schedule of that particular course and may need to be very shallow with lots of sand. So the fun divers are not as free to explore the best dive sites that Koh Tao has to offer. Not at Big Blue! We have four boats, and one of them is dedicated to fun divers only, called Porponawa (difficult to translate from Thai!), we like to call it the Millenium Falcon as it's probably the fastest boat in the known universe! Getting to Chumphon pinnacle in 25 minutes (normally takes 50!) and Sail rock in an hour (normally takes two and a half!). the speed of porponawa also gives us access to Chumphon Marine Park, making us the only dive resort on Koh Tao to go there. We like variety at Big Blue so we go wherever the divemasters decide they want to go. If a fun diver wants to request a specific dive site, even better! Speaking of divemasters, we have four of them working full-time, Steven, Darren, Carly, and Phil, all unique in their own way, but all ridiculously enthusiastic about diving and marine life, and they see it as a personal challenge to show you the coolest things they can find on each and every dive. They also know every dive site like the back of their hand; they really should stop looking at their hands though! We're also going to take advantage of quiet season to get the boys at Big Blue Tech to get out looking for new dive sites. We know they're there, and we know where to look, we just have to find them, then we can take you to even more amazing dive sites- exclusive to Big Blue! 

big blue boats

“Awesome Instructors!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 29 September 2013- Just had an awesome diving experience with Big Blue Diving. A big thank-you to our instructor, ANT 1 or "Big Ant" who definitely made our diving. Hubby and I found Big Blue through the recommendation of a family member. We originally planned just Open Water SSI but went on to do Advanced Adventurer SSI as we had such a blast. Ant is really knowledgeable about Marine life and passionate about Coral conservation. He made the course really fun whilst providing safe diving practices throughout. He answered our multitude of questions and gave heaps of advice about dive gear and even sites in our homeland (NZ)!. Kate the Australian DMT also accompanied our Advanced course and was a huge help under and out of the water. She is extremely knowledgeable and took great time explaining what we would be seeing and tasks to complete. Both Ant and Kate were really professional and a big laugh on the Island post diving! The water is 30 degrees, visibility is awesome and sea life plentiful! Would recommend the Advanced Course also as the deep dive, night dive and wreck dive were a real highlight.

A-Z of Koh Tao for backpackers
A- Apnea- Big Blue Freediving of course!
B- Big Blue Diving of course!
C- Chang- A delightful Thai beer that redefines the word hangover.
D- Diza bar- Don't ask, just don't ever go there... ever ever ever ever.
E- Elephants- No, that's Koh Chang.
F- er, Big Blue Freediving again?
G- Greasy spoon- Hangover food cafe.
H- Hin Gnam bay- Nice little dive site on the East coast.
I- Instructors; they're everywhere, beware of excessive dive talk and do not feed after midnight.
J- Jitson- small village inland for accommodation longer than a month- nicknamed DMT village.
K- Koh Nang Yuang- Two little Islands next to Koh Tao, great for kayaking to, but not from.
L- Lomprayah- High speed ferry to bring you to Koh Tao.
M- Massage spas- You can't come all this way and not have one!
N- NDL- Twinned with refresher courses if you are a qualified diver but have no idea what it means!
O- Opticians- In Sairee with a big sign in the window that says very precisely- 51.354% off!
P- Porponawa- The fastest boat in the universe.. didn't you read the first news story?
Q- Quinine- Ingredient in tonic water that mosquitos hate. that's the best I could do.
R- Rentals- Motorbikes- don't do it!
S- Seatran- One of the ferry companies that brings you to Koh Tao.
T- Tosh- stray Instructor that went missing- If found proceed with caution, extremely ginger.
U- Unimpeded views- Some great high up viewpoints on koh Tao for your facebook cover page.
V- Venice- I think you may have got on the wrong plane.
W- Waverunner- Big blue's longest boat!
X- Xtreme snorkeling?
Y- Yellow brick road- The road behind Big Blue that goes all the way to Mae Hadd, and back if you're feeling crrrazy.
Z- Zanzibar- Cafe in Sairee, good soup, weird bagels.

 

Come up with your own and post them to Big Blue facebook 

 

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Successful Beach clean up
A big thank you to everyone that participated in the beach and underwater clean up yesterday, it was, er, messy! Organised by Lizzie May at Big Blue Conservation, volunteer holiday makers, Koh Tao locals, divemaster trainees, and whichever instructors and divemasters were not working, walked along Sairee beach in the morning with marigolds and bin bags to pick up anything and everything that shouldn't be there- luckily Neil is not in the country at the moment. In the afternoon an underwater clean up was arranged, this time at Hin Wong pinnacle. Bin bags were swapped for mesh nets, and spring cleaning commenced. It always helps that for those that participated in the clean up the diving was FREE! Thanks again to everyone that volunteered, it was great to see so many people giving up their time for everyone's benefit- especially the fish! We organise monthly clean ups, so If you want to get involved, contact Big Blue Conservation, or just pop in to the Big Blue shop.

beach clean up

“Great diving with an amazing instructor!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 26 September 2013- Picking a dive shop in Koh Tao can be challenging since there are so many but after reading many reviews my friends and I decided to give Big Blue a try. So glad we did, as this was the highlight of our trip! Planned to do the SSI Open Water course and received Nat (Natalie) as our instructor. I had never dived before but her enthusiasm and love for the sport made me want to do it everyday! She is an extremely good teacher and made me feel 100% comfortable in the water at all times. We ended up having such a good time that we decided to extend our trip and complete the Advanced Adventurer course as well which I highly recommend! We got to keep Nat throughout the entire experience which is the main reason I decided to continue on. Overall I have nothing but good things to say about my entire experience at Big Blue! Koh Tao is such a great place to learn how to dive. If you go make sure to request Nat because she is amazing! She made our trip so memorable. Thanks Nat!

Killer Whale Impersonators
Amazing news from yesterday, divers from Ace Marine Images (who currently do all Big Blue's videography work) were followed by a pod of false killer whales and pilot whales yesterday! Apparently they followed the boat all the way from Liam Thien bay to Lighthouse bay on the East side of Koh Tao, and then swam underneath a group of snorkelers! The apparent highlight of such a fantastic experience was the noises heard when they used their echolocation to communicate; that distinctive clicking noise. False killer whales are protected by the CITES treaty (Convention on the International Trade on Endangeared Species) under appendix II, which includes species that "Are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization incompatible with the survival of the species in the wild". Bit of a mouthfull! but good to know they are afforded some kind of protection. Lets hope these beautiful animals stick around; compared with other species, very little is known about their behaviour and mating habits in the wild, just like Big Blue instructor Luke!

False killer whale

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Conservation Internships

How do you fancy spending a month on a tropical Island learning how to dive, getting to know the animals that reside in the ocean, and understanding the threats that they face? What if we gave you practical skills to help reduce the impacts on these ecosystems, such as coral reef biology, underwater survey training, coral nursery construction and artificial reef maintenance? How about we throw in a few diving qualifications on top? Surely you're sold now!? Whether you're on a career break, about to have a gap year, at University, or you just want to do some volunteer work abroad and improve your CV, a Conservation Internship is an opportunity not to be missed. The main objective of Big Blue Conservation is to help ensure that the island remains undisturbed by the effects of increased tourism, and also to preserve the marine life in Koh Tao for ourselves and future generations to enjoy. But in order to achieve this, we depend on dedicated and trained teams of volunteers to help construct, maintain, monitor and develop the various projects that we undertake. So if you fancy going from never having dived before to knowing how to identify sharks and grow corals, or are already involved in conservation and want to gain valuable experience and improve your CV, contact Lizzie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and show your approval by "liking" Big Blue Conservation on facebook! 

Big blue conservation

“Probably the best place to dive with on Koh Tao”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 25 September 2013- I completed my open water course here in August 2013 and was impressed from start to finish. We pre-booked our course online and were glad we did as the school is very popular, so may not always have onsite accommodation when it is busy. Our room was the AC dorm, which was a bargain and well maintained and clean. The welcome was friendly and organised. Our instructor was Ant who kept us all laughing throughout the course, but also made sure we were competent and confident with our equipment. He knew where to spot to cool stuff as well as being great at explaining the skills we needed to complete to pass the course. His enthusiasm was infectious and two of our group stayed on for the advanced course, I would have done the same had I not already had a flight booked. However I had caught the bug and did stop for a couple of fun dives whilst on KP. All in all a great place to learn in an idyllic location. PS the food and drinks at the beach front restaurant is also good!

Turtle plastic waste

Peanut the turtle

Meet peanut, a turtle that should probably be a lot more famous than she is. I don't think I need to explain how she got her name, but it's quite sobering to see how she got her shape. When she was small she got stuck in a plastic multipack drinks holder- I have no idea what the proper name is but we all know what they are! She was unable to free herself and if she were any other animal than a turtle she would have died, as the plastic would have cut into her as she grew, causing a fatal infection. However, because she has a shell that protects her body, most of it was able to grow, though some of her organs don't function properly. Sadly because the shell is rigid, when the plastic was removed the shell didn't just rebound back into the correct shape, so she has to live with it. Here in the waters around koh Tao, Koh Panghan and Koh Samui, we have a big problem with plastic waste finding its way into the ocean. The Hawksbill and Green turtles that inhabit the Gulf of Thailand get the plastic stuck in their throats or stomachs, and are unable to digest them, so they starve to death. Big Blue Conservation works with local Thai community groups to educate them about waste disposal, and we educate all our divers about keeping the beaches and seas clear of rubbish, and buying goods responsibly such as saying no to carrier bags and straws when buying drinks and other items. We also organise regular beach and underwater clean ups. We don't want a cashew or pistachio famous for being found in Koh Tao! If you want to get involved with conservation in Koh Tao, contact Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation on the email at the top of the page.

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