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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Swim for Sharks 2014

swim-for-sharks-2014One of the biggest days on Koh Tao is almost upon us- Swim for Sharks, which is a charity event held every year. It's a huge day for residents of the Island, and is open to anyone and everyone to get involved and raise some money for shark conservation.
The event itself involves a competitive swim around the Islands of Koh Nang Yuan, which, lets face it is pretty hardcore as the competitors are onlyt allowed to wear goggles and swimwear! But, as with other events like the London marathon, there is a fun swim, whereby people take a far more leisurely pace and are allowed to wear a mask, snorkel and fins. This year there is also a team swim.
The prize for the craziest person that wins each of the catagories is a sharkskin rashvest; the most sought out of all aquatic clothing. There isn't an official 2nd, 3rd or 4th prize, as organisers clearly thought that participants being thankful that they made it around in one piece should suffice.
Once the event is over, there will be a presentation and a raffle at Big Blue bar, followed by a disco, conveniently at the same venue. The last few years saw men and women organise a "shave for sharks" event at the bar, which was great fun, and thankfully only involved hair being shaved, styled and cropped from the cranial region. It'd entirely up tp you if you're happy to look ridiculous for the following few weeks.
So if you're around on the 2nd August, get yourself signed up for the event at Big Blue Diving at 9:30. Bring your trunks and a packed lunch.. it's going to be amazing!

How it all began
Like with most great ideas, Swim for Sharks was formed via a conversation in the Big Blue Bar. They must have thought it was a great idea to swim around Nang Yuan, but I bet they didn't give it a test run the next day.. Once the event was finalised, 19 people took part and raised 19,000 Baht for shark conservation. Last years event had 61 swimmers, who raised 120,000 baht! The event on the 2nd is expected to be the biggest by far. 

 

 

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Angthong Marine Park trip
Angthong-marine-parkBig Blue Dive Club's first ever diving expedition was a resounding success, with some seriously happy customers arriving back at Big Blue after a 3-day jolly, I mean trip to Angthong Marine Park. The trip was open to anyone and we had a mixture of Big Blue instructors and divemasters, customers from the UK, and divemaster trainees from other dive schools on Koh Tao all taking part.
We departed on the 4th July and managed to fit in 2 dives at an amazing dive site before heading to the accommodation on Ko Wua La Tap, which is where the headquarters of the national park is based. The Island was stunning (pictured)... beautiful sandy white beach, friendly staff, and simple and clean accommodation. A hike to the top of the Island was available to those hardy enough to attempt it, with viewpoints at various heights offering incredible views of the entire marine park.
After a long day everyone was ready for bed in anticipation of the next day's diving.
Day 2 saw an early start to head out into the park to look for new dive sites. It has to be said that the underwater visibility in the middle of the park was not amazing, but that didn't matter as the whole idea was about exploring and looking for new dive sites. So we headed up to the North of the park and found some great spots to dive, and the marine life was incredible; huge shoals of barracuda, trevaly, a sea snake, Stonefish, baby boxfish, cuttlefish, pipefish, huge snappers, lionfish, and numerous adult and juvenile blue-spotted rays. We then headed back to the accommodation and started a barbecue and fire on the beach... burgers, bangers, jacket potatoes and sweetcorn.. all washed down with a few cold beers whilst watching instructor Steveo have a good snore! Not a bad way to end the day )apart from the snoring), and all included in the cost of the trip!
On day 3 we headed out to some more dive sites for 2 last dives, before heading back to Koh Tao, tired but happy with our little adventure. Everyone had an amazing time and Big Blue Tech is already busy planning the next trip to Chumphon Marine Park in August. If you're interested in coming on one of the trips, follow Big Bue Tech and join the Big Blue Dive club on facebook for updates.

Mini-facts about Angthong Marine Park

  • The Marine Park consists of 42 tropical Islands!
  • The name in Thai is Mu Koh Angthong National Marine Park.. don't ask me what that stands for!
  • The Park is around 102 km² in size, with about 82% of it being water.
  • It lies in the Province of Changwat Suratthani
  • Although much of the filming actually took place in Koh Pi Pi, Angthong Marine Park was meant to be the setting for the film the Beach by Alex Garland.

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Job Opportunity
turtleAttention job seekers and beach bum wannabees, Big Blue Diving is hiring! We are looking for a new manager to take over Big Blue Conservation, as current manager Lizzie has decided to up sticks and go back to the UK to "study" at University. The ideal candidate needs to be prepared to commit to a 6 month- 1 year contract, full-time, to start in August.
Managing the conservation department at Big Blue is a big responsibility, and involves ensuring that the dive school as a whole is operating in an environmentally friendly way, including recycling of waste and water use. A large part of the role involves educating divers and the local community about marine conservation, along with organising, arranging and teaching conservation courses and internships.
The ideal candidate should have a passion for marine biology and marine conservation, and preferably have a degree in a related subject. They should also be a dive instructor in active teaching status, from any of the major diving agencies (BSAC, SSI, PADI etc). It would also be desirable but not essential that they be experienced in teaching and/or managing conservation projects.
If you are interested in applying for the position, or would like more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive a full job description.

The 10-point plan to become more eco-friendly
1. Make a conscious effort to reduce your Carbon Footprint- All the common sense stuff really, Turn lights off, get your home insulated, walk instead of driving short distances, use compact fluorescent bulbs, turn the heating down by 1 degree.

2. Eat only Sustainable Seafood- Global fish populations are effectively being wiped out because people are eating them in much greater numbers. This is of course completely unsustainable and we will end up with a dea lifeless ocean if we carry on. So when you are shopping or eating out, help to reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable.

3. Use less Plastic- Plastic often ends up as ocean debris, which hugely contributes to habitat destruction and entangles and kills tens of thousands of marine animals each year. To help reduce this, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in nondisposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible.

4. Keep the Beach clean!- Whether you're a diver, surfer, or just like to lounge around on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups.

5. Don't Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life- Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products.

6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner- Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.

7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean- Many institutes and organizations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organization and consider giving financial support or volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home.

8. Influence Change in Your Community- Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects. Consider patronizing restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood, and speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter.

9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly- Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life- All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health—then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others.

 

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Shark Conservation Presentation
shark-guardianKeep your diary free if you think you will be on Koh Tao on the 28th June, as we have some shark experts coming over to give a talk on shark conservation. The talk will be given by Brendon Sing and Elizabeth Ward-Sing, who are professional scuba divers and also shark divers and researchers.
They work for an organisation called Shark Guardian, which is dedicated to the conservation of sharks through education, promotion of research, and protection and sustainibility of marine ecosystems. The shark guardian presentation is designed for people of all ages to highlight the plight of sharks and reinforce how vital they are to a healthy marine ecosystem.
You will learn a lot from their presentation, even if you already know a fair bit about the subject area. You'll also be inspired by their passion for sharks to do all you can to help them and raise awareness. The presentation will take place at 7pm at Choppers bar in Sairee.

Why Sharks?
So why are sharks important in the oceans? After all, the media would have everyone believe that they are just mindless killers, and that it would be great if we got rid of them all.. Wrong! They have been around for 450 million years and are key to maintaining the right balance between predators and prey.
If all the sharks are gone, the population of the fish they eat would explode, meaning that any food lower down the food chain would dwindle, which, in turn would then reduce the populations of the very fish that were eating them. Before long the entire ocean habitat would be a ghost town, and on a large-scale, we would be looking at a lifeless dead ocean. Now isn't that a cheery thought!

 

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Loose Feet
Save-Koh-TaoThe dance rehearsals are currently in full swing for the Save Koh Tao festival in a couple of weeks. Big Blue will be on the main stage with a dance rendition of footloose, choreographed by our head of marine conservation Lizzie May, with help from SSI instructor and, as the rumour goes, ex-professional dancer Lotte Niens. There'll be a girls dance, then a boys dance, and then for the ending, everyone together. It's a pretty good turnout of volunteers this year too, with a mix of instructors, divemasters, and divemaster trainees all getting involved. But we will be missing the star performer of the last two years, Neil Draycrott. He'll be too busy watching the world cup to even notice it's happening at all. It's going to be a pretty intense last few days to make sure that they're all ready to nail the actual performance, but they seem to be highly motivated- probably helped by visting the bar whilst waiting to get started each night!
If you're lucky enough to be around for the festival, it takes place on the 17th to the 19th of June, and there is loads of stuff happening, admittedly it will never be as exciting as the father ted episode with the fairground, with rides such as the spinning cat and the like, but there will be lots of amazing Thai food, dancing galore, and who knows what else on the main stage. There will also be things happening in the daytime, such as the release of baby turtles into the ocean.
So if you're around in the middle of June, be sure to go and cheer on the Big Blue footloose dance brigade.. or go and watch the world cup with Neil.

Evening light shows
We're getting some incredible electrical storms in the evenings at the moment. April, May and June are the hottest months of the year in Thailand and, in the Gulf of Thailand all that humidity is the perfect recipe for lightning, which is great news for people wanting to find a nice vantage point to just sit and watch the light show. Not so good however for the dogs on Koh Tao that run for cover at the first sound of thunder! It's probably also an excuse for anyone in a bar on Sairee beach to stay and have another drink in case they might get caught in the rain!

 

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Full Day Trip
sail-rock300x225Yesterday's full day trip was a resounding success, with lots of happy fundivers returning to land following two epic dives at sail rock and one at Southwest on the way home. The visibility was good, the fish were everywhere and the Sun was shining. Not a bad way to spend a day! We run regular full day trips on our fundiver only boat- Porponawa. It takes us wherever we want to go way way faster than any other large dive boat on Koh Tao, and it's spacious enough to enjoy the surface interval between dives, whether that involves a bit of sun worshipping or relaxing under cover. We provide a hearty breakfast and delicious Thai lunch for the trips, and as many soft drinks as you can manage. Plus, on the way home we get the chocolate cake out!
We like to have small groups for fundivers; the maximum group size with a divemaster showing you the marine life on the dive sites is 4. And, if you want to do all of the dives on nitrox, no problem, only 200baht a tank!
We alternate the full day trips between Chumphon Marine Park, Sail Rock and Angthong Marine Park, and Big Blue Tech are now running 3-day trips to Angthong Marine Park, which involves staying on one of the beautiful Islands for 2 nights!
To get on one of the trips, all you have to do is sign up in the Big Blue shop, and then get excited.. in that order!

World Oceans Day
Yesterday was world oceans day, which involved highlighting the awe-inspiring beauty of the oceans and how much we depend on them, and also getting the message across that they are under threat, which means that we are under threat. Many people just don't realise how much rubbish gets thrown into the oceans, and how much they are overfished. Our dependence on them really cannot be overstated. They generate most of the oxygen that we breathe, regulate the climate, drive our weather, provide us with food, and allow potential new medicines to be developed in the form of pharmacutical drugs harnessed from a variety of marine life. Getting people to think about these things and realise the need to conserve the oceans is vital. If more people are aware of the issues, then politicians will be more inclined to take steps to preserve them for the future.

 

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