Serious fun
dmt-specs300x225It's been a busy week for the boys at Big Blue Tech. Ian and James have been teaching our divemaster trainees (DMTs) their SSI deep, wreck, and nitrox specialities, and James is now teaching the TDI advanced wreck course with intern Blake. Great fun to teach, and be taught, the SSI specialities are really useful for recreational divers, and essential for anyone training to beccome a dive professional.. just like our DMTs! Being certified to dive to 40 metres will leave nowhere off-limits to you as a recreational diver. There are't many things more annoying to a fun diver than being told there's a lion fish that lives at 35m on a dive site, but you're unable to go because you are an advanced diver, certified to dive to 30m. The deep speciality provides you with knowledge and experience on diving deeper and staying safe, and goes into more detail on proper ascent practices.
Nitrox is a breathing gas that has a higher percentage of air compared with conventional air in a scuba tank. This also means that you can stay deeper for longer than on normal air, but you need to be trained how to use it safely. The wreck speciality is useful because wrecks are quite simply very cool.. do you need anything more than that!?
The SSI wreck speciality will teach you how to dive safely around a ship wreck and get the most out of any wreck dive. There's nothing like descending down the line and suddenly out of nowhere the HTMS Sattakut appears in front of you, covered in marine life, dying to be photographed!
advanced-wreckIf you get the bug for wreck diving, then technical diving may be the next step for you. As hinted in the name of the course, it gives you advanced techniques for navigating around and inside wrecks, and teaches you how do deal with issues you may encounter such as zero visibility, entanglement and entrapment. Pretty serious stuff. You would need to have done some prior technical dive training, but we can provide that for you too!- Intro to tech, advanced nitrox, and decompression procedures. Of all the TDI courses though, advanced wreck is the most fun. Blake, our current intern is really testing himself, but also having a lot of fun along the way. At the end of the course he'll know all the dangers involved with diving wrecks, know how to avoid or minimise them, but crutually, also know how to deal with them. For more information about recreational specialities, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information on technical dive training, including advanced wreck, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

Thailand-eshark-project300x188Shark monitoring project in Thailand
Shark Guardian is asking for help from all Thailand-based dive centres to get their staff and customers involved with a shark surveying roject. From November 2013 until 30th Aptil 2014, they are asking that people undertake the following easy steps:

Step 1: Dive, snorkel and explore the reefs of Thailand
Step 2: Report your shark observations to the eShark database, even if no sharks were observed!
Step 3: If possible, report all your past Thailand dive logs into the eShark database including your shark observations
PLEASE NOTE: No shark sightings is also very important to record!

The information will then be collated and used to raise awareness of declining shark populations in Thailand, to the general public, Thai government and the Department of Marine Coastal Resources (DMCR) of Thailand. Additionally, to help improve protected marine parks with the aim of creating shark sanctuaries. The identification of shark species and areas is also an important step in determining the best method for recovery and protection.
So it would be great if all dive resorts in Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan could get involved and make it easy for their fun divers to record what they do or don't see. For more information have a look at the Thailand eshark project's website here.



Good internet karma
trip-advisorLiving in the modern world can be a pretty complicated affair and travel is no different- so much choice, with reliable information being hard to come by. Whether you're planning on going away for a holiday or are travelling to multiple destinations with all your worldly goods in your backpack, it's really handy to be able to consult the internet about where to go and what to do. Although there are numerous travel review websites, people seem to consult Trip adviser way more than any other. Trip advisor can give you a really good feel for whether you think you might have a fantastic or terrible time at a restaurant, hotel, or (especially for Koh Tao) a dive resort. Here at Big Blue we are very proud of our reputation on trip adviser and more people that come to dive with us tell us that they did so because they read about us on there. We also get a lot of people coming here through word of mouth. Khao San road in Bangkok is a melting pot of travellers, and large groups of strangers getting together over a few beers seem to pass on their recommendations of having dived with us all the time.
There's also another way of finding out about us before you get here, it's a website called scubatribe and we're getting great reviews on there too. Similar to trip advisor, scubatribe contact customers and invite them to review their experience of a dive resort. It then ranks them in terms of terrible, average, good, or amazing. We're in the amazing section of course!

scubatribeThe reason for our good reputation is quite simple. We hire good people with a strong work ethic that not only care about teaching a safe and thorough diving course, but who also care that you're enjoying your time with us. Too many dive resorts treat you as a commodity and want to get you in and out ready for the next group, or cut corners in ways you wouldn't always be aware of to try and claw back money. We really like diving and want you to like it to, and teaching you properly or making sure you get the best fun diving possible is central to that. Time and time again we get reviews saying how our instructors and divemasters were happy to sit with their students and fun divers after a days diving, simply because they enjoyed teaching them and showing them cool stuff underwater. It clearly counts for a lot.
So once you've been to Big Blue and had a whale of a time, we would be really grateful if you could spend a few minutes writing a review on trip advisor or scuba tribe, or tell anyone and everyone wherever you are about us once you've left, or by going on facebook, liking us, and writing a short review about us in places.. whatever that is. Doing all four would make you a bit of a stalker, but we'd still love you- and we didn't even mention following us on twitter or adding us to google .... oops.

Having said all that, it's still really nice when we receive old fashioned emails from customers, thanking us for the great time they had. Such as this one from Maggie:

"Hi Wibeke,
I just want to say thanks to you and to the rest of the Big Blue team (especially instructors big Ant and Tim and DMT Molly) for an amazing time in Koh Tao. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcomed me into the Big Blue community, starting with your emails before I had even arrived. The Open Water course itself was well organised and the small class size created an effective learning environment. I loved every second of my stay with you guys and I will DEFINITELY come back to Big Blue soon to dive again.

Thanks Maggie, we're glad you had a great time and hope to see you again soon!

Triggerfish facts
The nemesis of many a diver, triggerfish have a reputation for being a little grumpy on Koh Tao, especially when they are nesting. But their barck is worse than their bit. Many a divemaster trainee has found themselves being "attacked by one" and gotten in a bit of a flutter, when in reality they are just defending their territory and will only headbutt your fins.

1- Unusually, they have the ability to learn from previous experiences.
2- The latin name for the Titan triggerfish is Balistoides viridescens.
3- When mating, they engage in polygyny- males will mate with more than one female, or as many that enters their nesting territory.
4- They eat slow-moving, bottom dwelling crustaceans, mollusks, sea urchins and other echinoderms, generally creatures with protective shells and spines.
5- Spawning is timed around the lunar cycle, with eggs being formed 2-6 days before a full moon, and 3-5 days before a new moon.
6- Titan triggerfish are ciguatoxic, meaning their flesh is contaminated with toxins and should not be eaten!
7- Females will blow water onto their eggs to oxygenate them- bet you can't do that!
8- Females guard their eggs after spawning and males swim above guarding the females! Green rock!
9- They have a field of vision extending up towards the surface.
10- They have a trigger dorsal fin that becomes erect when they feel threatened- hence the name!



Shop staff Wednesday!
Yesterday you met the best boat captains in all of Thailand, and now you're obviously wondering "how can you possibly top that?" Well, wonder no more.. today it's the Big Blue shop girls' five minutes of infamy!

Big Blue 1 office- JessThe epicentre of Big Blue operations, this is where the divemasters and shop girls live. Headed up by Vera Duckworth sound-alike and fluent Thai speaker Jess, we also have A1 and A2, Thai staff with names so complicated we had to reduce them to map co-ordinates. Armed With big smiles (and tasers), the girls will help you settle your bill, make sure your room is ready, book your Lomprayah ferry ticket, sell you dry bags and dive accessories, and handle accommodation for online bookings.
Make no mistake, this is Jess's domain; many a time a stray instructor has wandered in off the street, asking how many advanced adventurer students they have when it's clearly written on the board. If they're still undeterred by the divemaster scolding technique (patent pending), Jess will intervene and apply her tried and tested (and fully patented) Bet Lynch thousand-yard stare, which is enough to make them run straight into the sea. Jess loves technology, and you'll never see her far from her pink ipad, updating her website about cats in bomber jackets. She once appeared on mastermind, with her specialist subject being "Frocks of Hilda Ogden" (big coronation street fan this one). She got through to the second round but was disqualified for drinking on set and offering Magnus Magnusson outside for an arm wrestle- which she won.
A1's main responsibilities include hiding her dog underneath the counter, and beating A2 at farmville. A2's main responsibilities include hiding behind the rash vests in the corner, completely undeterred by her legs being visible, beating A1 at farmville, and shouting "divemaster!!!" at 600 decibells whenever the phone rings.

Big Blue 2- GuunAltogether a more civilised area to call your workplace, we have lots of accommodation here for our diving guests, and it's where you will be taught open water academics and go into the pool to learn all the skills you need to know to be able to dive safely. The reception is manned by two lovely Thai ladies without map co-ordinates for names; Guun and Nam. They will check you in and ensure your room is ready for you, let you pay for your course in cash, and generally help out as much as they can. Their English is very good, well, better than Jess's, and they must have the patience of a saint to have to deal with all those instructors cluttering up the place.  
As far as we know, Guun and Nam have yet to discover farmville, so please don't mention it to them when you check in. They do however have an obsession with Thai soap operas on youtube. If you've never seen one they will change your life in ways you can't currently comprehend. To the point where you'll think sorcery is an everyday part of Thai life, in between domestic neighbourly disputes over garden furniture and teenage children.

So when you come here, say hi to the shop girls and give them a big smile. They do all the work and the instructors take all the credit!

Exciting dive school opportunity
A new, high end dive school is looking for a number of enthusiastic, motivated, and experienced PADI IDC Staff Instructors, MSDT’s, Specialty Instructors, and Dive Masters to form a new team for a PADI 5 star Dive Center located on a luxury resort in Shark Bay, which will be opening in December of this year. This is an ideal opportunity for long-term and short-term positions at a high-end facility to help further your dive career!
The ability to speak in English plus German, Spanish, French, or Chinese would be an asset. Experience of working with affluent customers, and having 100 certifications or 500 dives required. Must have experience with dive sites around Koh Tao, full set own equipment, proof of valid dive insurance, and basic knowledge of iPad technology. Great incentives for both full and part time positions being offered- please send your complete CV including, photograph, and cover letter detailing additional professional/background experience and education to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Big Blue behind the scenes
Here's a few of the Big Blue staff that work behind the scenes to ensure you have a fantastic time whilst you're with us. You may not even see some of them during your stay here, but without them things would very quickly grind to a halt. So let’s start with some of our boat captains.

big-blue-boatsP'Dum, Captain of Big Blue- The smallest vessel in our fleet captained by the biggest man.. figure that one out. P'Dum (pronouned Dam) has been piloting vessels for Big Blue since he was 17 years old, and we think he may be somewhere between 35 and 85 years old now.. very hard to tell. In that time, he's probably only said about 12 words to anyone other than other captains over the radio and the tech boys, who are believed to have incriminating files on him locked away in a safe somewhere. P'Dum is a keen diver and will go off as often as he can, sporting his stylish skin-tight rash guard to marvel in the underwater world and get a bit of exercise to keep the back fat away. He's also the captain with the least comfy chair- lets call it a plank of wood because that's what it is! He'll sit cross-legged quite happy, whether it's all day on an exploration trip to Ang Thong marine park or just a short trip over to the HTMS Sattakut with the freedivers.

P'Choy, Captain of Waverunner- Very little is known about this man apart from the fact that he looks like a pirate. But as far as we can tell he's never been to Somalia so big sighs of relief all round! Sporting his bandana and "I love Thailand" singlet, he'll chat to you all day long. Unfortunately for you it will only be in Thai! He probably has the most challenging job out of all our captains as Waverunner is not what you would call a small boat. It takes some skill to moor it up on a dive site without any wing mirrors. Personally I think he speaks perfect English but just enjoys baffling people as a hobby!

P'Piak, Captain of Banzai- You can't miss this one. Though he isn't, nor never has been a pirate, he does only have one leg. Like P'Dum he also likes to go diving, but in his own unique way. With a tank under his arm and one fin on, you'll probably get quite a shock if you see him underwater. He only tends to go when there's a whaleshark about nowadays. For the rest of the time you'll find him at the back of the boat, gently encouraging you to take your fins off and get up the ladder. Sometimes smiley, sometimes grumpy, definitely a unique character.
captain-nittipongNittiPong, Captain of Ao Muang- As soon as you climb aboard Ao Muang, you'll recognise him instantly as, apart from being the person driving the thing, he'll be the smiliest person on board. He's only 26 years old, which shows how smart he is to become a captain at such a young age. In Thai society, boat captains are very well respected, in which case you'd expected there to be a few heirs and graces when in their company. Not Nittpong though, he's a dude, chatty, friendly, helpful and very capable. I think we struck gold with that one. If you get the chance, ask him how he came to spend a few days in the UK. I'll leave it at that! We've been trying to pursuade him to let one of our instructors teach him how to dive, but considering he spends most of his time on the water, he has absolutely no interest in going beneath it! The only captain that might let you sit in his cabin and move the steering wheel as if you know what you're doing, he's quite simply a legend- except for this taste in music. If you've ever seen or heard Thai Kareoke you'll know exactly what I mean by that. If you have knowledge of how to disable stero systems on boats, please contact us urgently!

Captain of Porponawa- I think he used to be a spy as no-one seems to know his real name! A fun captain for the fun diver boat. This man single handedly brought stay-press action slacks back into fashion, and is far too relaxed to be driving the fastest dive boat probably the world has ever seen. He navigates the Gulf of Thailand far and wide, as Porponawa is the only boat on Koh Tao that is fast enough to allow us to run full day trips to Chumphon Marine park. Be warned though, if you need to borrow a cigarette lighter, don't ask him- he'll happily give you one then laugh his head off as you get a mild electric shock.. charming!

Quick tips on how to get the most out of your time on Koh Tao
1- When travelling down from Bangkok or anywhere else, relax! Trains and buses are often late and there's nothing you can do about it. Blowing your top contradicts the very reason you went on holiday in the first place!
2- English is widely spoken on Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, and the travel companies will make things easy for you, so don't panic that you haven't become fluent in Thai in the last few days before your holiday!
3- Travel light. Do you really need the hair dryer, curling tongs and 8 pairs of tights for a tropical country, especially as you are a man!?
4- In busy season it's highly recommended that you book ahead, but in low season you'll have no problems finding accommodation here.
5- Eat the local food! Why did you come to Thailand to eat McDonalds? Koh Tao has incredible local food everywhere, and don't be afraid to try the street food, it's amazing.
6- Ice is made in factories from filtered water, but don't drink tap water.. ever.
7- Banana pancakes and vodka redbull buckets are not really part of a balanced diet. The latter also really does not go well with diving.
8- Laughing gas baloons are actually illegal here, and even if that doesn't stop you, it's a really really really bad idea to do it after diving.
9- Be respectful of Thai culture. You're a visitor remember, so please take off your shoes in shops, and cover up when asked to. Speedos are not considered acceptable in Europe, so why Asia!?
10- Don't bother renting a motorbike. Even taking pictures of it before renting is no guarantee that they won't try and charge you silly money for damage you didn't do, and there's nothing like a good bike crash to completely ruin your holiday. Everything is walkable, and if you do want to explore other parts of the Island, take a taxi or hire a kayak.
11- Go diving! Why else are you here!? Learning to dive is amazingly satisfying and fun. If you don't have the time, do a try-dive. If you're already qualified, you can see the best dive sites we have such as Chumphon pinnacle and sail rock.


Great diving deals for British forces personell and dependents
british-army-300x169Here's an amazing deal for you, If you are currently in the British armed forces, have previously served, or you are a dependent of someone currently serving, then Big Blue are offering a 10% discount on our courses and fun diving! Even better than that, if you are arranging a group trip for military personell and their families to come diving with us, send us an email with your requirements and we'll offer an even greater discount to the person organising it.
Maybe you are about to leave the armed forces and get back into civvy street, but haven't yet decided on what you want to do once you've left. We can help you to start a new career as a dive professional. We offer PADI, SSI and BSAC divemaster courses, and can train you all the way to become a SSI and BSAC diving instructor. We can offer discounts on this too! One of our instructors recently left the RAF after years of service, and is now happily working as a dive instructor. That could be you, waking up to sea views, having a 5 minute commute to work, and having tropical coral reefs as your new office. Lets face it, after years of having your meals cooked and washing done, why change the habit of a lifetime? On Koh Tao it's no different, just without being shouted at! You eat out all the time as it's so cheap, and laundry costs 40 Thai Baht per kilo! You won't need to polish your shoes either, as no one here would notice your shiny flip flops. For more information on any of the above, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dive site Mooring line installations
buoy-linesOver the last few weeks a number of dive sites on Koh Tao have had new mooring lines installed. Organised by the Save Koh Tao Marine Branch in conjunction with the Thai Government, these lines are attached to concrete blocks on adjacent sand instead of being tied directly to rocks on the dive site. This has a number of benefits for preserving these beautiful diving spots; When boats are tied up and under strain from currents, they won't impact on any marine life that has attached itself to rocks where the rope is tied through abrasive moevement of the rope. Additionally, divers that descend from the surface down towards the dive site will not be able to accidentally kick any anemone or coral when they get to the bottom. This has previously been an issue when people undertake try dives or on dives one and two of their open water course, where they are still getting to grips with buoyancy control.
Sites were the concrete blocks are been deployed so far include Twins, Buyoancy world, No Name, Ao Leuk, and the wreck (HTMS Sattakut). Although there has been initial confusion from divers descending down some of these lines as to where the dive site is, they are just teething problems. It's great news for Koh Tao and will really help tp keep these pristine dive sites in healthy condition, so that divers can experience the incredible marine life that the Gulf of Thailand has to offer, now and in the future.




Out with the old, in with the slightly older
Good news and bad news today. The good news is that full time divemaster Darren is leaving us, the bad news is that Nick has been employed to replace him. I think that's how it works.

darren-milsonDarren has been with Big Blue for almost two years, and in that time no other human being in history has had to endure as many PC plod jokes as he has. He used to be a police woman you see. That, or he was once an extra on the bill. He came to Big Blue to do his divemaster training and fully intended on going home, but like 99.99999% of all humans that come to Koh Tao, he fell in love with the place and we couldn't get rid of him. He's been a valuable asset in that time, keeping the boats running, showing fun divers the best marine life in the Gulf of Thailand, ensuring that all boats have the right amount of tanks, regulators, masks, weights etc, and generally babysitting dive instructors on a daily basis! nick-tringham-225x300He's moving on to start a new life in New Zealand. He was offered a job as a boner, but didn't take it as it required previous boning experience.. chicken and fish of course.
Always smiling and making time to chat to anyone, he will be sorely missed. We wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life as long as he promises to keep in touch and send care packages of chocolate every week.
Nick- the new Darren, is an ex banker who, legend has it once spent £4,000 on a couch.. ouch.. In spite of his preference for wearing pin-striped suites and taste for Moet Champagne, he managed an effortless transition from the high-flying life of a professional gambler to become an SSI dive professional. It's certainly paid off as we don't just employ anyone you know! He's been working as a divemaster for a while, and the competition for the job was pretty fierce, but he particularly impressed us with his knowledge, professional approach and enthusiasm for diving. 
Congratulations Nick and welcome to the team. Now, get that compressor fixed and order the lunch for the full day trip, double time man step to it!

Why is the Gulf of Thailand so renowned for diving?
gulf-of-thailandJust to make Darren even more regretful of leaving us, it's a great time to ask exactly why it is that Koh Tao is such a great place to go scuba diving. The amazing diving that we get here is partly because of our proximity to the equator, which enables warm sea temperatures, but also because of the nature of the Gulf of Thailand itself. Bordered by Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, it extends roughly from the Bay of Bangkok to an imaginary line running from the bottom tip of Vietnam to the Malaysian city of Kota Bharu, covering a total area of 320,000 square kilometres.
The Gulf is pretty shallow, with a mean depth of 45 metres- perfect for recreational scuba diving. The maximum depth is 80 metres- perfect for technical diving! Because of the shallow depth, water exchange is relatively slow. The Gulf formed as the last ice age receded, which raised sea levels. This allowed coral reefs to form, building upwards as the sea level gradually rose. Because of the shallow depths of the Gulf and warm temperatures of the ocean, coral reefs exist in abundance, especially in the waters around Koh Tao, but also to a lesser degree Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Coral reefs harbour 90% of all marine life in the oceans, so diving in koh Tao will not dissapoint. The bays around the Island are perfect for learning to dive- shallow and sandy but still with loads of marine life. For qualified fun divers the diving is even better; dives sites like Chumphon pinnacle are bursting with coral, which bring in all kinds of different species of schooling fish such as scad and fusiliers. Where there are shoals of fish, you'll also find predators, queenfish, trevally, barracuda.. amazing, but then add whalesharks into the mix and you'll never tire of diving here.


Whalesharks- Everywhere!

Things seem to have gone a little bit crazy in the whaleshark department- that's an expression by the way; we don't have an actual whaleshark department at Big Blue, unless you count Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation, in which case, we have a whaleshark department.

whalesharkWe've had loads of sightings of whalesharks in the last week. Yesterday alone, one appeared at Green rock. Then in the afternoon the dive boat captain's radios were all a buzz with talk of one cruising around at King Kong of all places! The day before yesterday we had one at Chumphon pinnacle all day. So they're definitely around. I'd love to know how many times one swims past a dive site and no-one thinks to look out into the blue and misses it. Probably a lot. This is of course great news all round though, our SSI and PADI open water students have been lucky enough to see one on their third ever dive, and those that had the time to stay on an extra 2 days to undertake their advanced course managed to get a second sighting, and the ones that decided to rent an underwater camera for the course will now be taking home evidence of their close encounter with the biggest fish in the ocean.
So if you're coming to Koh Tao in the next few weeks, get yourself down to Big Blue. Why you say? We have a dive boat dedicated to fun divers only, which can quickly move to any dive site around the Island as soon as there's talk of a sighting over the captain's radio- they like a good gossip you see. If you're learning to dive, the SSI open water course gives instructors some flexibility compared with PADI. So if you're heading out to do your last couple of open water dives and a whaleshark is sighted, you can still go and see it (with PADI there is no flexibility in moving skills between dives), and lets face it there aren't many things worse than kneeling in the sand having to do your skills when you know a whaleshark is circling the rest of the dive site! Probably also time to start a petition to get Koh Tao renamed from turtle Island to Whaleshark Island!

Plane wreckage to become artificial reef in Koh Samui

Koh-Samui-plane-crashYou probably never heard about the Bangkok airways plane that crashed whilst landing at Koh Samui airport in 2009. The aircraft overshot the runway on landing and crashed into an unmanned air traffic control tower. A number of passengers were injured, and one person was sadly killed. The fuselage of the wreckage has been languishing by the side of a road in Koh Samui ever since, but is about to begin its new life as an artificial reef. It has recently been painted and moved to Nathon, where it will be sunk on the 20th October in Tong Krut. Hopefully it will be anchored sufficiently enough to prevent it being swept away by any strong currents. Definitely something for our fun diver boat Porponawa to check out on the next full day trip to AngThong Marine Park.



Meet Neil and Luke

Unable to enjoy a beer in the Big Blue bar without someone or other harassing me about instructors Luke and Neil not having their own staff profiles on the blog, I can’t take it any more. So let me introduce you to two members of staff that will make you wonder about the future of mankind, yet thankfully make you glad you decided to learn how to dive.

neil-draycottNeil Draycott-
 The best of boast worlds, Neil is literally “the most fun you can have while diving”. Having spent a number of years battling with toblerone addition, he once drove to Dundee in his bare feet, shouting “no way” into his rear view mirror whilst cutting up anyone that dared attempt to overtake him. But he’s bounced back from all that and now sports bare feet on purpose, even though they remind him of gammon. Back in the UK, Neil used to be a roadie for some kind of band with a brass section, which apparently did pretty well as long as it didn’t interfere with his anger management sessions. But he decided his future lay elsewhere, and ended up living in Koh Tao- drawn as he was by a deep seated urge to live in a static home. He probably sets the benchmark at Big Blue on how to teach a thorough PADI or SSI open water course, and is a sought out instructor for divemaster trainees to learn from. When the course is over, he’ll happily talk about diving for hour after hour, and I would encourage anyone that sees him in the bar to approach him and do exactly that, especially if you’d like to know how to save a choking cat.


luke-whiteLuke White- An absolute fitness fanatic this one, when he’s not teaching people how to dive you’ll find him in the gym destroying cereal with his bare hands. Obviously a people person, Luke was born to teach diving. His infectious smile and chiselled features win over anyone. Once the open water course is over they just can’t wait to sign up for their advanced course. Before he came to Koh Tao he was a bit of a celebrity in the UK, as he used to present promotional videos on boating holidays in the Norfolk Broads, and in no way whatsoever riled the local farming community to a point where he had to leave the Country. Outside of work his main hobby is organising his forthcoming wedding. So dedicated to ensuring it's the perfect day, he can often be heard saying “I can’t go to the bar tonight, I’ve got to go home and look at catalogues on fingerless gloves”.. pretty cutting edge stuff, wedding-wise. The highlight of the wedding will be the first dance, which is almost definitely going to be Cliff Richard- “wired for Sound”. Anyone that does a diving course with Luke automatically gets an invite. The only thing missing is a bride.


The future of diving?

Answer me this, how many times have you been diving along, happily navigating around the dive site, and then all of a sudden you've got absolutely no idea where you are? There are no rocks that you remember, the visibility is worse that terrible, and your brain recoils in horror every time you look at your compass and realise that you have absolutely no idea where you are. Happens a lot as a divemaster trainee, and the occasional divemaster or instructor gets caught out too. Now imagine that you descend anywhere on the dive site, and all you see is blue water with no reference point anywhere to be seen. But you're not stressed out because you look at your dive computer and not only do you have a map of the dive site on your display, but you have a little icon that tells you where you are.. underwater GPS! Science fiction? Laziness? Call it what you will but maybe one day in the future it will be the standard way of diving.

Researchers at Buffalo University in the US are developing an underwater wifi system that uses sound waves rather than radio waves to send and receive data. Technology often tries to imitate nature and this is no exception. Radio waves are more readily absorbed by water compared with air, but whales have no problem communicating over large distances via sound. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) already use acoustic buoys to send data from tsunami sensors on the sea floor to buoys on the surface. But the aim is to use a standardised system so that different agencies can communicate their data with each other, hence the research. The aim is to create more reliable tsunami warning systems, but these kinds of technologies always have offshoots- did you think diving would have become so popular if you still had to wear lead shoes and don helmets with surface supplied air!? After all, the amount of people that still rely on paper maps when driving compared with people using satnav is tiny. Luddites the lot of them!



Anatomy of an advanced course

Yesterday's blog gave a brief overview of how we run an open water course at Big Blue. Today it's the turn of the advanced course.

Big-Blue-advanced-course300x225-15-10-13If you just finished your open water course with us and signed up to do the advanced course, you'll be pleased to know that it starts at 10am, so you get a little bit of a lie in after celebrating becoming open water divers... hurrah! First off you'll meet your instructor, who'll go through the paperwork and give you the choice of dives you can do. The advanced course is five dives, and you'll need to do the deep dive and navigation dives, but then you can choose the other dives you want to do, such as a wreck dive, fish identification dive, buoyancy dive, night dive, or photography dive. Generally, weather permitting, we would recommend you choose the buoyancy, night and wreck dives to get the most out of the course. Once you've chosen, you'll be given a dive computer to be used on each dive, and a compass for the navigation dive. The instructor will show you how they both work, and then you'll spend some time walking on the beach like a zombie getting to grips with how to use different navigation techniques. If you haven't got any equipment we can get you set up with everything that you'll need, then it's lunchtime woo hoo.

 Afternoon, day one- You'll meet up again and go out on the boat at around 12:45pm to do the buoyancy and navigation dives. You already learned how to control your buoyancy on the open water course, but you'll be give lots of tips on how to fine tune it, with the whole dive being dedicated to allowing you to practice. Once you've had plenty of time to do this, the rest of the dive is spent seeing what's on the dive site. Remember, you can use what you learned on every subsequent dive you do. After an hour on the boat sunbathing, you'll head back into the water at a different dive site to do the navigation dive. You'll already have been taught how to use your compass on the beach, but underwater is a whole different kettle of fish, you have to keep track of where you're going, think about your buoyancy, think about your buddy, keep the same depth, avoid other divers, and any other obstacles you come across! We'll also show you how to use features of the dive site to help you with navigating, so called natural navigation. It's great fun and you'll probably never want to dive without a compass again!
Evening, day one- At Big Blue we run night dives every other night, but if you have to leave the next day, we can usually fit one in for you on the first day. The night dive is the closest you will come to being in space without being a billionaire able to hitch a ride on a Russian rocket. It's amazing! Not unsurprisingly, you'll need it to be dark, so we go out at around 6pm, and you'll begin the dive as it's still getting dark, just to let you get used to it before it goes completely dark. Oh yeah, and you'll be given a torch! The fish you see in the daytime tend to hide at night, and the fish that sleep in the day come out to hunt, such as barracuda. You may also see crabs, blue-spotted stingrays, and the occassional octopus. There's always a chance of seeing a sleeping turtle too! If you've seen the Leonardo Di Capprio film the Beach, you can also see the bioluminescent plankton- unforgettable- the plankton, not the film.
Day two, morning- Early start again (so soon after dives three and four of open water!?), but well worth it, this is the deep dive. Your instructor will take you down to as close to 30 metres as you're comfortable with, and teach you deeper diving and ascent procedures. Then as you shallow up, you'll use the rest of your air to fun dive around the dive site to see what amazing marine life is around. You'll end up much more confident in your own diving abilities, and with any luck be asking if anyone else saw that "massive whaleshark"! After an hour's surface interval on the boat, you'll head over to the wreck for the fifth and final dive of the course, the wreck dive. We're very lucky on Koh Tao, we have a wreck that was purposefully sunk as an artificial reef. It's an old US Navy landing craft infantry boat, bought by the Thai Navy and donated in 2011. Called the HTMS Sattakut, it sits at between 27 and 30 metres, and has a big gun at the bow (that's the front..), and a smaller gun on the stern (the rear..). A host of marine animals have made it their home, and it's an incredible experience seeing this huge rusting metal thing underwater that you're so used to seeing on the surface. A little bit of history too, Very cool.

So that's it, you'll finish at around 12pm on the second day. If no-one is in a hurry to go home the night dive may be at 6pm that night, but generally it takes a day and a half to complete. Given your card at the end of the course, you'll be certified to dive to 30 metres and certified to dive at night. You'll feel like you're starting to really get the hang of this diving malarky and be hungry for more, and more, and more. Did you know we do fun diving as well!? For any more information on the advanced course, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

How much do you know about Koh Tao? Some facts for your eyes

1. Koh Tao means Turtle Island. Not because it looks like a turtle from above, but from the shape of the land as seen from neighbouring Koh Phangan.
2. It’s pretty small- 21 square kilometres.
3. On June 18, 1899 King Chulalongkorn visited Koh Tao and left as evidence his monogram on a huge boulder at Jor Por Ror bay next to Sairee Beach.
4. Between 1933 and 1947 it was used as a political prison.
5. In 1947 Khun Uaem and his brother Khun Oh reached Koh Tao from Koh Phangan and started farming coconuts, fishing and growing vegetables.
6. In 1980 overseas travellers began visiting the Island, and thus beginning tourism on the Island. The population grew steadily from there.
7. It’s the cheapest place in the world to learn how to scuba dive.
8. It’s an important breeding ground for Hawkesbill and Green turtles.
9. Known for being a good place to learn how to dive, it also has some of the best dive sites in the world- Chumphon pinnacle and Sail rock.
10. If you come here, you’ll really be loathe to leave, probably cancel your flight and become a dive professional.. that’s what everybody else does!



Anatomy of an open water course

If you're planning on coming to Big Blue to learn how to dive, how do we teach you? What do you do on what days? Here's a brief overview of how it all works. When you arrive at Big Blue, hopefully you will have made a booking online through our website, especially when the Island is at it's busiest (after Full moon parties on Koh Panghan, or December- March and July- October).

Open-water-courseIf you haven't, don't worry we'll do everything we can to accommodate you whilst you dive with us. Stepping off the ferry in Mae Hadd you'll find the Big Blue taxi waiting for you to give you a free lift to the resort on Sairee beach- a 5 minute drive away. One of the instructors will meet you, ply you with free orange juice, sit you down and give you a brief outline of the course. Once you've filled in a checking in form, you can wander off to your accommodation and relax until 5pm. Then you'll do a short orientation session, which involves filling out the course paperwork, getting started watching some the videos and being told more about the course- only takes about 2 hours. Then you can wander off, eat, sleep, get a massage, or whatever it is people do to relax on a tropical Island. Hopefully you'll be fresh as a daisy for the next morning.

Day one- You'll meet at 8:30am and be introduced to your instructor and the rest of the group you will be learning with. You'll be shown all the diving equipment you will be using, taught how it works and is set up, and we'll give you a little bit of dive theory. Then you'll do a pool session. This is designed to teach you the skills you need to learn to be able to dive safely, and it's all very gradual and done at your pace, designed to build up your familiarity and confidence. We start in the shallow end, then when your ready move on to the deep end. The length of day one varies but you should be finished by 5pm at the latest. Then you can relax again for the evening.
Day two- Begins by meeting your instructor at 8:30am to go through some more dive theory and get you ready to do your exam. Great, you come on holiday to do an exam... it's 50 questions multiple choice, and aimed at a 10 year old. I think you'll be fine! Once you've passed with flying colours (and you will), you break for lunch and meet your instructor at 12pm to get the equipment you'll be using. You'll then get onto one of our taxi boats at 12:30 and head out onto one of our big dive boats for your first two open water dives. We'll take you to a shallow, sheltered bay somewhere on the Island that will be flat calm and hopefully bright sunshine. You'll be given a dive briefing, get into your equipment, and be shown how to get into the water. Ready for dive one? Good, way better than the pool, you can really get to grips with your buoyancy and the feeling of being underwater in the sheltered ocean for the first time. Still reeling in disbelief about how amazing dive one was, and also annoyed at yourself for not doing this ages ago, you can stuff your face with fruit and biscuits that we provide, and chill out for a bit, hopefully minus a wetsuit tan. The boat will then move to a different dive site, ready for dive two. Dive two gives you the chance gain more confidence with your buoyancy and become more streamlined in the water as you learn to kick nice and slowly. You'll also recap on some of the skills that you practiced in the pool. When you get back to land it's important that you learn how to rinse your equipment properly- you may own your own someday, then you can sit in the restaurant with your instructor and log the dives. You'll be back on land around 5pm.
Day three- Early start... eek! We'll take you to some of the best dive sites for dives three and four. By dive three you will feel more confident and know what your doing more, so we'll take you a little bit deeper than you went on dives one and two. We'll also show you some of the incredible marine life that Koh Tao has to offer. Again you'll have an hour on the boat and then get straight back in the water at a different dive site for your fourth and final dive of the course. After recapping another couple of skills from the pool, you can spend the rest of your dive practising what you learnt on the course and enjoying what you see down there. When you get back to the surface- congratulations, you're an open water diver; qualified to dive to a depth of 18 metres for the rest of your life! Back on land at around 11am, After washing your equipment and logging your dives, your instructor will debrief you on the course, give you your certification card, and tell you what comes next if you want to gain any additional diving qualifications. Now you can relax and celebrate!

After the open water course, the advanced course is the next natural step. No theory, just five dives with a different theme to each one, run over one and a half days. It introduces you to things like underwater navigation, how to dive at night, tips for fine-tuning your buoyancy, and depth experience. You'll end up being certified to dive to 30 metres, which opens up a lot more dive sites around the world to you, and be a much more confident and competent diver. It also gives you another chance to celebrate in the bar! So, what are you waiting for?

Things that kill more people than sharks every year:

Vending machines- Topple over onto 13 stupid, I mean unlucky people every year.
Falling out of bed- 450 per year in the US alone. Ban bunk beds?
Electrocution by toaster- 791 bright sparks per year.. see what I did there? Probably not a good idea to put a knife inside to get the toast out.
Having a bath- 340 people per year- though it's unclear how- presumably drowning, or slipping. Don't think eating the enamel would be too good for you either.
Mosquitos- kill 655,000 people per year!
Obesity- Figures range from 30,000 to 100,000 people per year- put the cake down!
Deer- 130 people meet one of these up close and personal on the bonnet/hood of their car each year!

Sharks kill 5 people per year on average, with most events believed to be a case of mistaken identity. Our perceptions of sharks are changing fast. Previously thought of as mindless killers, they are actually now known to be curious but cautious of humans, and pretty tolerant of us when in their domain. Key point there, it's their domain, not ours. It's always good to have a healthy respect for sharks, but there are videos on youtube of people freediving with great white sharks, which debunks a few myths about them! The more we understand about sharks, the more we realise that we are far more of a threat to them than the other way round, through shark finning, longline fishing and our previous attitudes towards them. If you want to get involved in shark conservation and do your bit to help preserve these beautiful animals, talk to Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation. You can contact her This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.