Movember time
MovemberIt's that time of the year again when every male divemaster, instructor and divemaster trainee (DMT) slowly, over the course of the month look ever more ridiculous. Of course, it's Movember. It's still early days yet and the majority of participants have yet to reveal the look they are going to go for this year. As they look for inspiration, the beards will keep on growing. It's always difficult to commit to a particular style in case your face can't quite pull it off, or you just completely mess it up, but it would be great to see some proper pork chops, a few Clark Gables, and a full-on handlebar would be rather spectacular! The winner thus far has to be SSI instructor Rod (pictured), who has been sporting a very fetching Magnum P.I. lip tash. But that wasn't enough for Rod, oh no, he also had to shave his head to look like a grandad. I think it makes him look younger- how old do you think he looks? I reckon about 39. He does look a bit like Alf Stewart from Home & Away now, and he is Australian.. you never see them in the same room together i suppose.
Of course, Movember does have a serious side to it, the whole point is to raise awareness of testicular cancer, and generate some cash for testicular cancer charities, so that they can get the message out and commit funding for further research into this horrible disease.
Maybe it would be a good idea to hold a tash-off competition, or have a divemaster challenge where we humiliate for fun the people voted to have the best face fur. So far the most elligible contenders for the award of best hairy head are instructors Rod, Rich and Simo, and divemasters Phil and Nick. Though I reckon if Carly put her mind to it she would give them all a run for their money.. she must be sick of shaving her face by now.  As for me... roll on Fanuary.

You can make a donation to Movember here for the UK, here for Canada, and here for Australia.

Getting mobile on Koh Tao
Can't help but notice recently a big increase in the amount of push bikes available for rent on Koh Tao recently, which is great news for the environment, and people's health, but also reduces the amount of motorbikes and quad bikes on the Island. It's not as if we get traffic jams here, far from it, it's solely an issue of safety. The single best way you can ruin your holiday would be to rent a motobike, even though you've never ridden one before, and find yourself in a crash because of an overzealous throttle, bad balance, complete panic resulting in forgetting where the brakes are, or sandy concrete. God forbid, if this ever were to happen, hopefully you would come out of it with only a few minor scrapes, but the damage to your wallet would be severe when you take the scratched bike back to the rental company. They just love adding to your bill for new fairings, and they always seem to be way more expensive than you could ever imagine.. funny that.
By renting a push bike you will be safer. You will be travelling slower, so if you did come off, the damage would be less severe- especially if you're wearing a helmet. You will also be reducing the amount of motorbikes on the road, which in turn will reduce the likelyhood of crashing into one. You'll still need to ride defensively and watch out for cars, motorbikes and quad bikes, but you'll enjoy getting around much more.
So in summary, don't even think of renting a motorbike, and especially not a quad bike- they are even more dangerous as they instill a false sense of security into people and they tend to ride them faster- and they are very prone to flipping over on corners. Get on your bike instead. If you do completely ignore the above and rent a bike, please wear a helmet. Don't follow the lead of all the idiot locals. You can't retrospectively buy a new head, even if you kept the receipt.

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Longtail drivers
Yesterday I talked about the boys that work in the equipment room to keep everything running smoothly. Today why not give a mention to the three musketeers.. kind of, that drive our luxurious (compared with other dive schools) taxi boats; Win, Bang, and Sea.

longtailThey probably work the weirdest hours out of anyone else at Big Blue. They have to be up early to wade out to sea and untether the taxi boats from their moorings, then sit around waiting for the instructors and divemasters to get organised and ready to head off for their dives. Then they spring into action like some kind of, er, taxi boat driver, and occassionally wait for everyone to get on board before heading off like the stig to one of our five dive boats. Win has been at Big Blue for years. In fact, rumour has it he was sitting on Sairee beach for a long time waiting for Big Blue Diving to be formed as a company. Bang has played Burma-Koh Tao tennis more than most of our staff, and has held a number of jobs with us between going home. Now he's back he drives the biggest and newest of our taxi boats.. lets call her Shirley. Our third driver, Sea, is possibly the most helpful human being on the planet, and if we could clone him we would probably be bigger than Apple right now. It also runs in the family, his brother doesn't speak a word of English but will fill your tank on Ao Meung before you even knew you'd used it up.
Once the morning boats have gone out, you'll not see any of them for dust until 11am when the boats come back and everyone needs to come back to land. Then again they mill around waiting for the afternoon divers to ready themselves to be taken out to the dive boats. 5pm and it's back out to pick them up on their return from the dive sites, then Bang and Win moor up Shirley and, er.. Ermentrude, whilst Sea usually gets the short straw to take the divers out on their night dive.  For the instructors and divemasters at Big Blue, it can be pretty easy to take them for granted, but just when that's in danger of happening, the weather turns bad and these guy's skills come out to play. In choppy weather (which is never really that bad on koh Tao), they know exactly how to handle their boats safely to negotiate the coral near the beach, ride over the waves, and pull up alongside the dive boats and hold them in place whilst people are loaded on and off.  They also know how to have a bit of fun, adding just the right amount of throttle to make an instructor blocking their view almost fall over, or let a big enough wave soak them and wake them up properly in the morning! Next time you're on board on our of longtails, say Mingalabar and give them a smile.

We didn't come up with a name for Sea's taxi boat... post your suggestions on our facebook page, and the best one will receive a Big Blue keychain. I vote to call it Baxter. Steven wants to call it Bertha, lovely Bertha (sometimes I think you're a dream). You had to be there...
 
Non-diving things to do on Koh Tao
What if you come to Koh Tao with the intention of diving, but for whatever reason you can't, or maybe your other half is obsessed with the idea of learning how to dive, but you have absolutely no intention of putting on those flippers and goggles? Well there are other things you can do. Lets ignore the bars on the Island, anyone can get drunk anywhere at anytime nowadays. I'm talking about productive, educational and fun things to while away the day. How about a bit of 10-pin bowling and mini golf? In Mae Hadd we have the weirest bowling alley in the world, with the aim being (depending on your point of view) to throw the ball at the man behind the pins, or avoid hitting the man behind the pins. Whatever you knock over, they put them all back neat and tidy ready for the next shot. You don't get that back home. It's also open in the evening so you don't get heat exhaustion whilst trying to negotiate the crazy golf range. You can learn Muay Thai. A lot of the people that live here do it, mainly for the exercise- they've never hit anyone in their lives. They can tailor the classes to suit your level of fitness and comfort with sparring. I've done martial arts for 20 years and the only reason I never did it was a fear of getting too into it and breaking my leg. Not good for a diver.. then I went and broke my knee anyway! There are a few classes all over the Island, one in Mae Hadd, one in Sairee up towards Jitson. There are also occassional Muay Thai fights that you can go and watch, with men handing out flyers all over the place so you can't really miss them.
Thai cooking classes are available in quite a few different places, and you can learn to cook a few authentic Thai dishes so you can wow your friends back home when you have them over for dinner. Should be high on the list of things to do here.
Yoga seems to be pretty popular at the moment, with classes being held at all times of the day anywhere and everywhere. There's also a pilates class, whatever that is!
You just missed the best time of year to learn this when the winds are high, but wakeboarding if quite popular in September and October on Sairee beach. It's getting to the point where the idea must be to stay on the board and avoid other wakeboarders! The beach dogs will hate you and chase you up and down the beach barking their heads off for no apparent reason, but luckily they all hate water.
Rock climbing- It's not going to be like scaling El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, but there are some good spots to learn how to rock climb, and there's a company that will teach you and provide all the equiment you'll need. What else.. oh yeah, snorkeling- loads of nice beaches around the South and East of the Island, Ao Leuk, Shark Bay, Tanote Bay, Freedom beach. For any of the above activities ask any of our staff and we'll be able to point you in the right direction.

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Equipment room boys
equipment-boysAny dive resort is only as good as the people that work there. Big Blue is no different, and there are a lot more people involved in the smooth day to day running of the place than the divemasters and instructors that you'll see the most during your time with us. The land-based staff play a vital role in keeping things tickety boo. Headed up by Mae, the team keep the equipment room clean and tidy, wash all the regulators at the end of each morning or afternoon of diving, fix broken regulators, BCs and tanks, fill any tanks needed for the pool, and make sure everything is packed away properly at the end of each day. Dive equipment is very reliable these days, and when it does break, it's only minor things like small bubbles coming out of an air gauge, or a slowly filling BC. Mae ensures that these problems are fixed quickly, so we have that piece of equipment back up and running and working as it should for the next diving day.  
At 5pm each day you'll see a few of the boys playing hackey sack (pictured), or whatever it's called, and at other times of the year they'll be guaranteed to be playing a game of football on the beach.. I think it's fair to say the Burmese love their football. Mae also manages the best Korean barbeque restaurant on the Island in Mae Hadd (no relation). When he's not working, I'd love to tell you that he enjoys knitting cardigans with huge pictures of wolves on them, and that he was once a stars in their eyes Regional finalist, singing as Neil Diamond.. maybe it's true, but I can't prove it... yet. When the rest of the staff aren't working or playing football, they seem to enjoy kareoke.. a lot!
The boys work long hours but are always smiling. If you come diving with us you'll have to wash your fins and BC when you get back to land. When you hand in your BC to Mae or one of the other boys, fully inflate it so it has a chance to dry inside and out. If you want to make Mae laugh, ask him why it doesn't inflate when you press the button!

Getting to Koh Tao
Back in the days before Koh Tao was on the backpacker's map, it was a real adventure trying to get here. Now it couldn't be any easier, there are so many options to choose and you don't have to come from one particular place anymore. If you are in Bangkok, you can get a VIP bus with aircon and legroom that will take you to Chumphon (takes around 7 hours), then hop on a ferry- all in one ticket. Or you could take the night train, which has first, second and third class- again, all in one ticket. Don't bother with 3rd class, it's just a seat you'll sit in for 12 hours, trust me you will regret it! Go 2nd or 1st class (for around £20!) and have your own bed so you arrive in Chumphon fresh as a daisy the next morning after a good nights sleep- but be sure to book ahead. If you're feeling really fancy, you could fly from Bangkok to Chumphon or Bangkok to Koh Samui, then get a ferry from there. It's way more expensive than travelling over land but saves you a lot of time. Just be mindful of your return trip back; if you've been diving you cannot fly on a plane for at least 24 hours. Once you're in Suratthani or Chumphon you will get to Koh Tao by catching one of the ferrys. The Lomprayah is the fastest but also the busiest. It takes around two hours from Chumphon and Koh Samui. You can also get the Seatran, which is slower but not as crowded. If you're really on a budget you can get the Songserm, which takes even longer, and isn't the most modern boat the world has ever seen but it's super cheap. I wonder if anyone ever took a taxi from Bangkok to Chumphon, and how much it cost, and whether they were still sane after listening to the taxi driver's Thai muzak for 7 hours!

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Cobweb cleaning brainstorming retail shop opening season
big-blue-shopAs I mentioned a few days ago, this is the time of year when we take advantage of it not being as crazily busy as the rest of the year, so we can do a bit of spring cleaning. The first of our five boats has gone to Chumphon for it's annual facelift.. actually waverunner is having a little more than just a splash of paint. But other stuff is going on too. We're having all our tanks visually and hydrostatically tested to make sure they're in good working order. James and Ian at Big Blue Tech are servicing all our regulators and tank valves for the same reason. We did a full stock take a couple of days ago to see what we might need to replace to keep our fins, wetsuits, masks and weightbelts in tip top condition, and our Divemaster trainee (DMT) mentors are looking over all our training materials with a fine toothe comb to see what needs tweaking, so we can offer the most effective dive professional training possible. But the biggest thing that's about to happen will be the highly anticipated opening of our new retail shop. We'll be selling all sorts of dive equipment, and have our own range of Big Blue branded clothing, such as bikinis, board shorts, t-shirts, singlets and speedos.. ok no speedos, just mankinis. We will also be selling some exciting underwater photography equipment, and the list of what else is growing by the day. All you need to do is watch this space as there will be a dedicated blog post to mark the official opening... soon! This all equates to a diving resort that is constantly looking at itself in order to improve and evolve, so that we can offer you the best diving experience possible, by a looooong way.

Koh Tao animal clinic
koh-tao-animal-clinicVisitors to Thailand are often struck by the amount of stray dogs and cats wandering around, pretty much everywhere. Koh Tao is no different; some of them were born in the jungle off the main roads, whilst some were adopted by westerners who then abandoned them when they decided to move on- a sadly common occurance. A lot of the dogs suffer from, skin infections, fleas, or mange, and all are trying and stay alive by scavenging wherever they can. The koh Tao animal clinic was set up in 2002 on a temporary basis to try and do something about it. 11 years later it's still going strong, and now has a resident Thai vet, Dr Jae Intaraksa and a clinic assistant, Nai. The clinic has a number of aims. These are:

1- To establish a permanent vet clinic on the island of Koh Tao.
2- To introduce a neutering programme to bring the animal population under control.
3- To introduce a vaccination programme including mange and flea control to maintain a healthy animal population.
4- To introduce an education programme for visitors to the island to reduce casual feeding of the animals by tourists, and encourage support of a properly managed programme through the vet clinic.
5- To introduce an education programme for the islanders in good animal management.

They are working really hard to achieve these aims, and are making a lot of progress, but the clinic is funded solely by donations made by members of the public from all over the world. If you're in koh Tao, please consider making a donation, even if it's just the cost of a beer. It all adds up. If you are a vet spending some time travelling and find your way to Koh Tao, you may be able to offer your services to the clinic, but you'll need to have at least two years experience and be able to provide two references (one from your current employer). You'll also need to present a copy of your graduation certificate. If you really want to donate money and get something in return, you can pop into the clinic monday to friday and buy one of their snazzy t-shirts- you can guarantee that no-one back home will be wearing the same clothes as you! All money donated goes directly to the upkeep of the clinic and helps pays for medication, which is notoriously expensive. They are based opposite the Save Koh Tao office in Mae Hadd, easy to find if you ask someone. For more information, visit their website by clicking here.

 

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Hard life becoming a dive professional!
similans-sunsetIt's been a lot quieter on Koh Tao over the last few days, and for good reason- SSI instructor trainer Simon Garrity, and his sidekick- divemaster trainee (DMT) mentor Nick Bufton, somehow managed to escape Big Blue and head for the Similan Islands on the East coast of Thailand to go on a 4 day and night jolly, I mean diving liveaboard. To top it all off they managed to pursuade 8 or so DMTs to go with them! Four dives a day and the option to go night diving, all topped off with great food. Alright for some eh! All that diving makes you tired and they'll probably want to have a holiday from their holiday when they return. But something tells me Nick and Simon will be pretty busy, as we have a record number of DMTs training with us at the moment. This is great for the DMTs as it means they'll make lots of new friends, and can help each other out during their training. It also makes the bar that little bit livelier! Every dive they do makes them that much more confident in their own diving abilities, and hones the skills that they will need to be signed off as dive professionals. Once they've graduated they can work as a divemaster, leading fun divers around dive sites, and assist instructors on training courses. They will also have the option to take their training further and become dive instructors themselves.. something no doubt Simon will have been chatting to the captive audience of DMTs on the liveaboard about! If you would like more information on dive professional training, click on the email at the top of our homepage.

Whale deaths blamed on discarded plastic
grey-whale-deadI was only talking the day before yesterday about how bad plastic is when it gets into the ocean, and this is all the proof you need. The dead grey whale pictured that washed ashore, was found to have 59 pieces of plastic in its stomach, which was ultimately what killed it. But sadly this was far from being an isolated incident. Over the last 20 years, stories of whales suffering the same fate have become more and more common, and include Sperm, Balleen, Grey and Beaked whales (that have been documented). There may be many more cases that simply never washed up, and no species of whale is immune to suffering the same fate. The whales eat the plastic due to a variety of different factors that depend on what and how they eat in the first place, but once the plastic enters their system it cannot be digested, so it just sits in the intestine. Over time it clogs up the intestine until the whale can no longer process the food it needs to survive. This leads to a slow, agonising death through starvation. Much of the plastic is sheeting used to build greenhouses on an industrial scale, for the purpose of growing tomatoes. But other items such as discarded fishing nets and rope, plastic bags, hosepipes, flower pots and plastic spray canisters have been found inside whale's stomachs.
It's all infuriating, and it's often the usual suspects that are to blame. But you can still do a lot to help directly. Much of the debris that floats around is plastic bags from your local supermarket or mini mart. If you start to reduce the amount of straws, carrier bags, party balloons, and plastic bottles, this will make a big difference in how much of it ends up in the oceans. Indirectly you can lobby your local politician to focus their mind on the scale of the problem. The more people that do it, the more they'll have to listen and respond. If you want to find out more about what you can do, contact Lizzie May at Big Blue Conservation here.

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Try dives with Big Blue
rabbitfishThe vast majority of people that come to Koh Tao do so with the intention of either learning how to dive, or exploring the dive sites as a qualified diver. But there are a growing number of people that just come here to experience the unique relaxed atmosphere that turtle Island is renowned for. But you only have to spend one or two days here to realise that this Island is all about diving. You may well go snorkeling in Mango bay and see divers around and below you, which will hopefully spur you into thinking that you have to try it for yourself. If that's you, then good news! You don't have do a diving course to experience the underwater world; there is such a thing as a try dive that can be done over the course of one afternoon (after a little bit of theory before lunch), 
At Big Blue we run try dives every day and we want you to get the most out of it. You would meet your instructor at 10:30 in the morning to get the paperwork out of the way. The instructor will then teach you everything you need to know to be safe underwater, which really isn't as in-depth as it sounds. Then you'll be kitted out with the dive gear you'll need- all provided at no extra cost, then you'll break for lunch. At 12:30 you'll get in a taxi boat that will take you onto one of our 5 dive boats, there will be a boat especially for you and open water students doing their first ever two dives. The boat will go to one of the sheltered bays of Koh Tao, and you can relax while your instructor sets up your equipment for you. Once we've got you into your dive gear and checked everything is good to go, you'll get in the water and swim together to the beach. The instructor will teach you a few skills, but only in water that's waist deep. Then, when you're ready you'll follow the sea bed from the beach until you get progressively deeper, so you can experience the marine world for the first time. The instructor will be right next to you the whole time and pointing out all the fish that you see, and after what will feel like 10 minutes (but will probably be 35-45), you'll make your way to the surface and reluctantly get back on the boat. 
We have tea and coffee, fruit and biscuits on the boat and you can relax and sunbathe for an hour, then the boat will move on to another dive site and it'll be time for your second dive. You'll probably be dying to get back into your gear by this point! The second dive will probably seem like it lasts a bit longer, as you'll be more attuned to the underwater world compared with the first dive. Then you can explore again with the instructor right beside you the whole way, before again heading to the surface and getting back on board the boat. One more thing we offer with try dives is to have photos of you taken underwater, so you have a memento of your experience; a videographer will tag along on both dives snapping away in the background. Then, back on land at around 5pm, you'll have done something productive, had an amazing experience, and hopefully be taking home photographic evidence to show your family and friends. That sounds pretty damn good to me, but I guess you could always not go diving, and just get hammered and not remember anything.. tough choice eh!? For more information, have a look at the rest of the website. If you have any more questions, send us an email.

Food food food
You know that feeling when you just ate half of your weekly food intake in one sitting? Then you'll know exactly how i'm feeling right now. Koh Tao is all about eating out. It's a social gathering, a treat, and a way of lazily watching the world go by. All in the knowledge that it's costing a hell of a lot less than doing the same thing back home. Sairee is full of restaurants that offer amazing food. There is an Italian, Mexican, French, Japanese, and German restaurant, all within about a quarter of a mile radius. That's not even mentioning all the Thai restaurants ranging from swish and fancy, to simple and super cheap, and I haven't even mentioned one of the best things Thailand has- street food! It's amazing and ridiculously cheap; there's nothing quite like walking down the road and smelling the incredible flavours and seeing the variety of food available. One thing all the restaurants and street vendors have in common on Koh Tao is that the food is very very very good! Now, if you expand that and add Shalock and Mae Hadd into the mix, you'll realise just how spoilt for choice you really are! ok everything is getting a little hazy, I must be in the midst of a food coma!

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What-soon?
chumphon-pinnacleWell, so much for Monsoon, the weather here has been amazing in the last week, just when we were expecting full on rain and windy conditions. The sea couldn't be any flatter than it is now, and the visibility when diving has been incredible in the last couple of days. Holiday makers being the sun-seekers that they are have inevitably clicked onto this, as we are unseasonably busy for this time of year. Lots of other dive schools close for November, thinking it will be absolutely dead here- that's not how it's looking so far. More fool them, we are bustling, our instructors are busy teaching people how to dive, our divemasters are still showing customers the best marine life that Koh Tao has to offer on our exclusive fun diver only boat, and the bar and restaurant still have the same vibrant feel as they usually do. Big Blue tech is gearing up to teach a new influx of interns, and Big Blue conservation is organising beach clean ups, and running an eco-internship. Just as well, as the boss just had his birthday and needs all the good news he can get! November is looking good for Big Blue. If you want to come diving in koh Tao and are pathalogically unsociable, then check out any other dive school on the Island. If you want to meet like-minded people, be taught or led underwater by the best dive professionals in the industry, and have a jolly old time in the bar afterwards... come to Big Blue!

Things to avoid on Koh Tao
If you're coming to Koh Tao on holiday, or thinking of spending a little longer here as part of your travels, there are probably lots of little tips that could help make life a little easier for you. To be honest you can find out about most of those by googling them; Thai customs, restaurant rules on tipping, generic cost of taxis etc etc. Beyond these kind of things, we would like to help you get the most out of your Thai experience by suggesting things that you can do that will also help to preserve this beautiful Island, now and in the future. First and foremost is plastic plastic plastic. this hydrocarbon by-product is evil, full stop. It kills turtles and all manner of marine life if it makes its way into the ocean. If you go to a shop or restaurant anywhere on Koh Tao, please please please refuse a plastic bag and straw with your purchase. If you're getting takeaway food, you should now be getting a container that is not polystyrene, but if it is, please ask for something else and let us know at Big Blue Conservation. Even better, it would help the turtles out if you could just eat at the restaurant instead. At the very least don't take any plastic cutlery home with you, most hotels should have some kind of cutlery you can use.
Secondly, do you really need to rent a motorbike whilst here? Apart from potentially being ripped off left right and centre, you are putting yourself at a high risk of having your holiday ruined by being involved in a crash, sadly all too common. Even if you don't get injured (god forbid), you may end up with a massive repair bill. Rent a push bike instead, or even walk; Sairee to Mae Hadd is a 15-20 minute walk away, which you wouldn't even think twice about doing back home.
Finally, if you do decide to sample the nightlife that is offered on Sairee beach, and fancy a midnight dip followed by a few beers on the beach, enjoy it obviously! But also no matter how sozzled you get, please grab your empty beer bottles, carrier bags, crisp packets and whatever else and dispose of them properly- at Big Blue we have recycling bins for bottles. After all, you came here to walk down sandy white beaches and experience the beauty of a tropical Island, so you're kind of defeating the object of you being here if you just leave everything on the beach.. common sense really.

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Waverunner refurbishment
boatyard-chumphonAs our five boats start to set sail for Chumphon on the mainland for their annual service (not all at the same time), our newest aquisition, MV Waverunner has already gone, and it's getting a bit more than a lick of paint. We've been renting waverunner on a long term basis, but recently the opportunity arose to buy it, so we snapped it up. Now we have full license to get it exactly as we want it.
The whole main deck is going to be completely stripped out, so instead of having a dry room that's not really very dry, or used as a dry room, we can utilise that space for tanks. We're also going to let more daylight in so it's nice and airy. Feng shui is just as important as actual space you know! It's already the biggest dive boat in Koh Tao, so these factors will make it feel really spacious when divers are setting their equipment up.
Some nice little touches will also be going on behind the scenes, such as installing compressor whips the whole length of the main deck. This means that tanks can be re-filled where they are instead of having to lug them to the compressors and back. It also means that a large area of the rear of the deck will be freed up, instead of being allocated for empty tanks waiting to be filled. Upstairs, there has always been good cover from the extreme sun and occassional downpours, but part of it will be enclosed to prevent any above average wetsuit tan lines. The sun deck above the captain's cabin will remain as it is, and unfortunately we couldn't stretch the budget to have some massage chairs installed. But the fluffy dice for the rear view mirror in the captain's cabin has already been ordered, and I hear that the captain may even purchase a new singlet to wear on board once the boat is back in service again. When she comes back from Chumphon with a Big Blue paint job, there will be one very proud and happy captain, and some even happier scuba instructors and divemasters, we can't wait to see how it looks.

Buddhist festival
It was really busy all over Mae Hadd yesterday as local Thai and Burmese buddhists celebrated Kattai. It's a Burmese word and doesn't really have an English translation, but it's a day when buddhists give respect to monks, and donate money to them so they may continue their vocation. Preperation began a few weeks ago, with ornately decorated paper  trees being built to hang money on. These were then taken to the temple as offerings for the monks. Around 200 people walked in a precession all the way from Shalock to the Buddhist temple off the main road to Sairee, with many of them wearing tradtitional costume, dancing and singing along to music. Driving past the temple at 7pm it still seemed to be in full swing, and that was from 9am in the morning! Buddhist festivals don't involve alcohol, but it looked like they were having a wail of a time. Fascinating to watch. 

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Clash of the (not quite) titans
football-matchWhilst everyone was preoccupied with Halloween preparations the day before yesterday, a football match of epic proportions was quietly played out early on Halloween morn. A ragtag bunch of Big Blue instructors, divemasters and DMTs pitted themselves against some of our fittest and finest Burmese restaurant and bar staff. Captained by SSI instructor trainer Simon Garrity, instructors big Ant, mini Ant, Rich, Pal, Iain, Tupac and Alex, divemasters Phil and Stitch, and DMTs Ryu, Bjorn, Carolina, Gretl, Laars, Dwain and Saul redefined the phrase "being run rings around". Rich in goal saved some epic shots and has the cuts and bruises to show for it, Alex ran around like Forrest Gump in no particular direction, seemingly reacting to the rhythms of a completely different game, Simo suddenly remembered the rules in the final 5 minutes, mini Ant spent most of the match trying to memorise people's names so he knew who to pass to, and Iain thought he was playing netball. Shame it wasn't netball, he would have got man of the match. The game ended with the inevitable victory for the restaurant boys, with a final score of 5-1. The diving team's defeat was roundly blamed on the lack of anyone being available to provide oranges at half time, which may or may not be true, but overall the boys were very stoic about their drubbing. After some transfer deals have taken place, another good natured rematch will take place- they're even talking about getting shirts printed!  Good effort team Burma, I mean everyone! Something tells me we're going to need a bigger capacity stadium for round 2!

Halloween done, next stop Christmas!
I think it's fair to say there were a few sore heads on Koh Tao yesterday morning after Halloween, especially considering pretty much the entire Island seemed to dress up for it. Walking along the yellow brick road in Sairee should have been like a who's who of horror movies, but some people never got that memo; I saw Hunter S Thompson and his attourney, some oddly afflicted pregnant brides, quite a few man-babies, a zombie full moon party goer, witches galore, and, I think, a dead transvestite tennis player- apologies if you were actually a lady (Iain)! The only thing missing was Elvis. He must have been working the night shift in Tesco-Lotus in Koh Samui. Shame. All good fun and really good to see so many people make the effort. The whole atmosphere of the Island seemed quite festive. Speaking of which, I guess the next big night on Koh Tao will be Christmas eve... is it nearly christmas already, why did I have to remind you of that? Well just to make you even more annoyed, here in Thailand we don't get bombarded with Christmas music when we visit the supermarket from September until December, and there is actually food in the aisles instead of christmas crackers. Still.. counting down the days!

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Big Blue videography
Big-blue-videographyWe're really happy to be able to officially announce the opening of Big Blue videography! It's been bothering us for a while why we always used another company to film our students and the underwater world for us when we could do it bigger and better ourselves.. so we've decided to go ahead and do exactly that! I'd like to introduce you to Wayne, he's the one in the photo most likely to get a sunburnt head. Wayne is heading up the video and photography team, comprised of David (left), Jolande (the female one) and Barney (you can probably figure out which one he is). Wayne was especially shipped in by air freight to get things moving and head up the team of dive professional videographers. This is an exciting new start for Big Blue diving, and we can't wait to see some weird and wonderful new intro shots of our instructors, divemasters and shop staff. Barney, Jolande and David are raring to go, so lets get started!
If you've previously been to Big Blue, you'll know what we do in terms of filming our open water courses. If you haven't, let me explain. The open water course has four open water dives. Dives three and four have an early start and the boat leaves from Sairee at 7am in order to take advantage of some of the best dive sites we have- weather permitting Chumphon pinnacle, and twins or white rock. The students are accompanied by a videographer, who just hangs back and films them on the taxi boat, getting into their equipment, during their dive briefings, and on their actual dives. Then when the students get back to land, they can relax and sunbathe with their new certification cards, but David, jolande and Barney's work has only just begun. They edit the footage and put it to some modern music that is apparently very in, and then the instructor and videographer meet the students in the Big Blue bar in the evening to celebrate them becoming qualified divers, and they all watch the video together. It's a fantastic end to the open water course, and if the students choose to buy the video, which is very reasonably priced, it's the perfect way to explain to their families what they've been up to in South East Asia.
In addition to filming open water courses, we will be on hand to record try dives. For those people that really want to go diving but either don't have the time or don't really want to commit to undertaking a full open water course, they can do one or two try dives with an instructor over one afternoon. Seeing the underwater world for the first time is awe inspiring and something you'll remember for the rest of your life. Having photographic evidence of that is even better. Underwater shots of you in your scuba gear is a vital ingredient to proving to your friends and family that you actually did it!
We will also have our own youtube channel, which will be regularly updated with short videos highlighting the best of the weeks marine life caught on film, so look out for links to it from our facebook, G and twitter pages. In the meantime get you best frock on, slap that make up on and sign up to do your open water course to get your 30 minutes of infamy!

Shark Finning in Western Thailand
Ranong-fish-marketHere's a photo of a fish market in Thailand, in Ranong specifically, on the border with Myanmar. Absolutely disgusting I hope you'll agree. Shark finning gets lots of press nowadays and rightly so, Hong Kong, the Phillipines and Malaysia are always being highlighted as places were this barbaric practice continues unabated. But to see it on our own doorstep in Thailand is really sad. This photo was taken by Joanna Durakiewicz and Brett Fairhurst, who are undertaking a conservation internship at Big Blue Conservation. Save Koh Tao marine branch will be discussing this with the Thai Government at the earliest opportunity, but in the meantime, why don't you get involved and write an email to one of the director generals of the Thai Department of Fisheries? You can contact them here. They need to know that this is bad for Thailand's image, and ultimately terrible for their tourism industry; who wants to go snorkeling and diving in a dead ocean? These incredible animals are vital to the ocean eco system and play an important role in regulating other fish populations. If they dissapear from our oceans, so does everything else. There are lots of other ways you can get involved too. For more information, contact Lizzie May at Big Blue Conservation.

 

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