Changes at Big Blue Tech

Big-Blue-Tech-Rick--DonnyWe are proud to announce that we have new management in place at Big Blue Tech. Instructors Rick and Donny will be taking over from the 25th May. They are both pretty weird people, and we're not sure whether putting them together will cancel out the weirdness or make it much worse. Donny is on the right in the photo, looking pretty special, and Rick is the one looking like Brick Tamlin in Anchorman 2 when he realises he's not actually dead.
Regardless, they are both really passionate about technical diving, and all joking aside want to get people interested in tech diving, and show recreational divers that are already aware of it that the impression they may have of what it's all about is probably wrong.
People have many different reasons for going diving. Most just want to see the marine life that's out there. Some want to get into marine biology and see diving as the perfect way to study ecosystems and fish. It might surprise some of them to know that some of the most prolific and famous marine biologists are also technical divers who found a niche to study> Richard Pyle is a very well respected marine biologist who dives beyond the photic zone and collects fish that live at depths of 70 and 80 metres. He's identified numerous species throughout his career, and he couldn't have done it without being a technical diver. Others study life in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, and need to become technical divers to allow them to do that. These are just some of the things that Rick & Donny will be engaging divers about over the coming weeks and months. They'll also be announcing some enticing offers for technical diving courses such as the entry level course- TDIs intro to tech. 
They are currently going through a handover process with outgoing manager James Foheler, who has decided to move on to another adventure, and Ian Jordan, who will be continuing to teach at Big Blue. Big Blue would like to thank them for all their hard work over the last two years, and wish them well in the future.If you'd like to find out more about technical diving, have a look on the Big Blue Tech website, or pop in to the tech shack to have a chat with the weirdos that dwell there.

Aquatic Lizards

I saw a recent photo on facebook the other day of a monitor lizard walking along the rocks at about 6 metres depth at Mango bay. I had no idea that they could dive and for a minute thought it was a bit of a hoax, but no, it turns out that they really do partake in a bit of freediving from time to time. Their apparent ability to stand on two legs and "monitor" what's going on around them is apparently where their name comes from. But what makes them go for a bit of a duck-dive? Well it's all to do with the fact that they are cold-blooded. All cold blooded reptiles need the heat of the Sun to allow them to get warm enough to allow their muscles to work so they can move around and hunt for prey. Now seeing as April and May are the two hottest months in Thailand, especially in Koh Tao, it can easily go the other way and they can find themselves overheating. Sometimes the shade just isn't enough, so a nice refreshing dip in the ocean makes perfect sense. But they must have been listening in on the freediver's yoga sessions to learn how to hold their breath for, wait for it... up to 30 minutes at a time!

 

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Staff birthdays
birthdaysIt seems that May is the month for the vast majority of dive professionals to be born. This past week we have had what can only be described as a lot of staff birthdays, with more to come! The 3rd of May saw SSI instructor trainer Simmo celebrating whilst on his holiday in Morocco- wherever that is. May 11th was former instructor and current clown Anke's, May 14th was Daisy and outgoing Big Blue Tech manager James's. May 15th saw Neil and incoming Big Blue Tech manager Rick's. But the month is not over yet. On the 22nd it's divemaster trainee mentor Rich's, and the 27th is Rod's 30th.. blimey.
If we had any sense, we'd just have one monumental party. But no, we're way too greedy/hedonistic for that. We have to have about 10 instead, you know, because living on a tropical Island doing something we love for a living is not a reason for celebrating in itself.. Anyway, happy birthday to all of them, some much much older than others (James). We hope you had and have a great day, and don't remember any of the night!

Shark repellent
Some pretty clever people have come up with a different approach to repelling sharks. Marine biologists Professor Shaun Collin and Professor Nathan Hart have been studying shark vision, and have made some fascinating discoveries that have potential real-world applications. They discovered that sharks see in black and white, and also that, in spite of them using their mouths to sense the world around them by biting stuff (not good for humans), vision is also crucial to being able to understand whether something is potentially prey or not. This has led to the initial development of wetsuits that are designed to either convince a shark that the wearer is dangerous or unpalatable to eat, or just very difficult to see in the first place. The wetsuits are striped black and white. Lets hope that sharks don't like zebras much.
The simple idea could be used for wetsuits, scuba tanks, kayaks, surf boards, water skis, and anything else that involves humans potentially coming into contact with sharks. It will be fascinating to find out more about their effectiveness once more people are applying the concept.

 

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Big Blue Wedding!
Luke-whiteYou may have noticed that it's been a little quiet at Big Blue over the last week or so.. not because we haven't got anyone diving with us, but because half of the instructors dissapeared on a jolly to Udon Thani to watch PADI and SSI instructor and Big Blue hearthrob Luke White get married. Sorry ladies, he went through with it, and the man previously known as the Grimsby platinum bruiser shall henceforth be known as the Grimsby newlywed schmoozer. There was a little bit of merriment in Bangkok, some poker playing, hours of trying to find the perfect shoes for instructor Neil Draycrott (we went with acceptable instead of perfect in the end- and I use the term acceptable loosely), and even a Thai Ska band thrown in for good measure.
The day itself went like clockwork, the ceremony was really interesting but baffling, as it was delivered in a local Udon Thani dialect. Not that I would have understood any of it if it was in standard Thai either! After the ceremony it was on to the reception for a bit of a Thai feast and quite a lot of whisky. Perhaps the most memorable part of the day was a powerpoint slideshow that Luke's dad had prepared, showing pictures of him as a baby and teenager, which was a bit of a shock as we all thought Luke was fully formed when he came out of the lab.
So now we're all back at Big Blue and expecting it to get even quieter now that the ladies know that Koh Tao's most elligible batchelor is off the shelf and fully taken.
Anyway, from everyone at Big Blue we'd like to wish Luke and Pekky all the best for the future, and, as Pekky's uncle said immediately after the ceremony, when will we see the little Lukes?

Marine Protected Areas
Here's a statistic that's pretty scary- only 2% of the world's oceans are covered by some sort of Marine Protected Area (MPA). What's a MPA I hear you ask. Well, it's an unbrella term for ocean sanctuaries, marine parks, and no-fishing zones, which are places where marine life is supposed to be left alone to allow it to thrive, free of human interference (or, at least, subject to limited human interference). There are around 5,000 MPAs in the world, and they include well known sites like the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands, but they can also simply be areas where either fishing is not allowed, or greatly limited.
We clearly need many more of them as the oceans have never been under greater threat from human activities than they currently are. But there are encouraging signs. Forward thinking countries are starting to realise that preserving their territories and opening them up to scuba divers and tourists is worth more money than opening them up to commercial fishing. However, this still leaves 59% of the open ocean available to commercial fishing. But even the UN is starting to loko into the feasibility of closing this down, in order to allow stocks of migratory fish like bluefin tuna to recover. Let's hope that actual action is taken to make this a reality!

 

 

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Waverunner refurbishment almost done
waverunner-refurbGood news for our fleet of dive boats, MV Waverunner, our newest aquisition, is almost fully refurbished and will be ready for action in the next few weeks. This means that we will have FIVE boats flying the Big Blue flag.. FIVE!!!
We have rented waverunner on and off for a number of years, but decided last year to actually buy it. It's been a big help during busy periods, helping to ensure that the other boats weren't overcrowded. However, it had seen better days, and to say it was looking "rustic" would have been an understatement. So the decision was made to take it into dry dock, strip it back to the hull, and re-build the thing exactly how we want it. There was lots to be done, and it has taken a while, but by god it will have been worth it when it comes back. It will be one of the biggest dive boats on Koh Tao, and will have a huge area for divers to set up their equipment. There will also be a large area upstairs for people to relax in between dives, and it's pretty damn nippy in the water too.
There isn't a divemaster, divemaster trainee, instructor or tech instructor that isn't excited to see it in it's final glory. But i'll bet the day it comes back, when it finally moors up in front of Big Blue on Sairee Reef, not one person will recognise it until it's pointed out to them what it is! The captain, P-Choi, will probably be the proudest captain the world has ever seen, and he may even wear a different coloured singlet to mark it's maiden voyage with divers on board, but it's hard to tell with him.. he may just stick with his "I love Thailand" one.
Anyway, watch this space when she finally arrives, we'll be showing her off to anyone and everyone, and she'll take pride of place alongside our other boats- Ao Meung, MV Banzai, Big Blue, and Porponawa (our fundiver only boat).

Fashion show
There was a fancy swimwear fashion show held on Sairee beach the other night, in part to promote a new range of swimwear from one of the shops in Mae Hadd, but mainly so that people can ogle some of the local hot men and women as they strutted around and showed off their hour glass 6 packs. Big Blue instructors Denja and Daisy power-walked their way down the catwalk and did us proud. Actually not a bad idea for Big Blue to do to promote our own range of beachwear- Drift, by Big Blue, as sold in our retail shop in Sairee village. I can only imagine the horror if instructors Neil, Luke, Alex and Ian decide to show us what they're made of. Maybe we can hold off until we launch our monsoon range of wetsuits instead!!

 

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SSI videography course
nemoGet your reading glasses on and look at the photo to the right. I'm no expert in photography by any stretch of the imagination, but i would immediately assume that it was shot by a seasoned underwater photographer, wouldn't you? But we'd both be wrong- it was actually taken by a student undertaking their SSI underwater videography course with our resident expert instructor, James Emery.
This is an amazing course that is very high on my list of "want it, need it". It's designed to give you all the tools you need to be able to take stunning underwater photos and video. The package includes dives to improve your buoyancy- after all, what's the point in having a camera underwater if you can't keep it, or yourself still? Once you've got the hang of that, then you can focus on learning all about how to take the shots you want. You'll learn all about composition, lighting, framing, exposure rates, shutter speeds, infinity settings, use of filters, and all manner of other stuff that I know nothing about!
Then, once you've had a bit of experience in recording video clips, you'll learn how to use editing software, so you can get all that raw footage into something spectacular. Once you know what you're doing and get your qualification, you can work as an underwater videographer, and get paid to do something that you love!
If you want to find out more about the SSI videography course, get in touch with us.. the email address is at the top of our homepage.

UNESCO gets tough
Interesting news about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Unesco has threatened to list it as a World Heritage in Danger site, due to controversial plans to allow dumping of dredged sediment within the reef. The dumping plan arose because Tony Abbott's Government wants to build one of the world's largest coal ports. But scientists have warned that any sediment could poison or smother coral in the area, which could have disastrous effects to marine life, and also a knock-on eceonimc effect in terms of loss of tourism.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral structure, rich in marine life. It stretches for more than 2,600km (1,680 miles) along Australia's eastern coast. The proposed area for dumping sits just 16 miles to the East of the planned coal port, which lies within the marine park!
So hopefully, sense will prevail, and UNESCO's rhetoric will highlight the utter stupidity of dumping waste materials so close to one of the most incredible places on the planet. Let's see how it unfolfd with fingers crossed.

 

 

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Busman's holiday
DMT-liveaboardSome of our divemaster trainees (DMTs) have just come back from a 4 day jolly to the West coast of Thailand to dive with Big Blue in Khao Lak, on one of our luxurious liveaboards. By the looks of the photos they had a great time! Some of them finished off their deep speciality course, which qualifies them to dive to 40 metres, but the rest just went fun diving. There's probably not enough room on the website to fit in all the marine life they saw, but the highlight has to have been manta rays, lots of manta rays!
Because Big Blue is located in both Khao Lak and Koh Tao we were able to give them a heavily discounted rate for the trip, which is probably enough of a reason to sign up to do your divemaster in itself! With DMT mentors Rich & Nick, and Big Blue Tech manager James Folehereherherher also on the trip, the DMTs couldn't have been in better hands to help them improve their diving and find new and exciting marine life. I would say having that many DMTs on one boat should have meant that in the evenings the boat would have been transformed into a booze cruise, but with four dives a day on offer they were probably all tucked up in their cabins by 9pm.
The DMT program at Big Blue trains people up to be professional divers, which means they get to spend their days diving in tropical waters, looking at incredible marine life and showing people around a variety of dive sites. They are also able to assist instructors on diving courses, and are elligible to become dive instructors themselves. It sounds too good to be true but it really isn't. All you need to do is decide to jack in your boring job, hop on a plane and go diving, as many times as you like! You'll have an amazing time and meet some fantastic new people, and you'll be completely addicted to diving. If you like the idea of becoming a dive professional, have a look on our website and get in touch with us. If you've already got your heart set on it, and you know you want to work in the diving industry, consider doing some technical diving courses in conjunction with your DMT with us. It will help a lot with your DMT, and allows you to take your diving even further. It will also look good on your diving resume if you want to stand out from other dive professionals. Have a look at Big Blue Tech's website here.
Or you could just carry on with the rat race, running round and round in the wheel that goes nowhere... Gee, let me think...

Manta Ray facts
Here's a few interesting facts about the beautiful manta ray. Because that's all the DMTs will be talking about in the Big Blue bar for the next few days!

1. Mantas are not generally very social animals unless they want to mate. Though you will often find them in the same place as long as there is plenty of food.
2. They spend a lot of their time at so called "cleaning stations", where they sit still as if getting their hair cut, whilst fish eat the bacteria off their bodies.
3. Mantas only give birth every two years. They usually have only one pup, or two smaller pups that come out looking like they've been introduced to a rolling pin.
4. Mantas have a tendancy to leap completely out of the water, though why this is is unknown. It may be to impress a female, to get rid of parasites, or it may even be an elaborate form of communication.
5. They can be up to 8 metres long from one wingtip to the other, and are thought to live for up to 25 years.

 

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Vacancies at Big Blue!
JamesbbtWe have two new vacancies for full time staff members at Big Blue. First, Big Blue Tech needs a new Manager! The last one will be exploding come the end of May so we’re going to need to replace him!
If interested in taking on this very exciting & challenging role managing one of Thailand's leading Tech Dive Centres you will need to submit your CV & put together a brief proposal listing ideas as to how you feel you can contribute, grow & better our already extremely successful Tech Diving operation. Please submit all applications to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The boss Jim would also like to take this opportunity to thank James Foleher for his contribution to Big Blue Diving & especially Big Blue Tech over the last 4 years, and wish him every success in his new chosen path. Our loss is the Koh Tao Cabarets gain! All the best James Foleherdyher.
The second position is for a full-time divemaster. This role will be highly sought after by any divemaster worth their salt. You'll get the opportunity to work with some of the best divemasters in the world, at the best dive resort in the world.. period. We have extremely high standards at Big Blue in terms of professionalism, customer service, prepping the boats and ensuring that our day to day diving operations run smoothly. The job is pretty demanding but also very rewarding. We have an amazing team of divemasters and instructors here, and the successful candidate will have the opportunity to be a part of that. As with the tech manager position, to apply, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., with a cover letter and CV. The cover letter should include a summary of your experience within the diving industry, and an outline of what you think you can bring to the role that would make you stand out from anyone else.
Good luck!

Razorfish
Teaching a TDI decompression procedures course the other day involved diving to 45m at Chumphon pinnacle. Heading back to the pinnacle I came accross my favourite fish, the razorfish. These cool looking fish swim vertically with their heads down. So in homage to them, here are a few facts about the fish with the best underwater balance:

- They swim vertically, in sychronised groups, with their long snouts pointing down.
- The term razorfish can refer to five species in the Centriscidae family, and most species act in a similar manner.
- The razorfish is closely related to pipefish and the seahorse.
- They can vary in colour depending on their habitat, but are generally light silver with a red or greenish-yellow stripe along the top and bottom of their bodies.
- Razorfish tend to hide in the spines of sea urchins to gather food and protect themselves.
- They are characterised by an extremely thin or flattened and almost transparent body, which is encased in an integument of thin, sutured plates, whatever that means!
- They are capable of rapid bursts of horizontal swimming when chased by a diver or predator.
- They are restricted to the tropical Indo Pacific region and contains two genera and four species, 3 of which occur in the East Indian region.
- Their diet consists of a variety of zoo-plankton and minute crustaceans. When in captivity, they are fed bait shrimp and a variety of small, live marine food. They swallow their food whole.
- This fish, like its closest relative, the seahorse, is toothless. As a young fish, it is prey to many larger fish. As an adult, however, the fish is thought to have little, if any, predators. This is thought to be because of its great camouflage and its “armor”. The life span of the fish, unlike the reproduction method, is unknown.
Their maximium size to about 14 cm.

 

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Coral sex!
CoralIt's all happening at the dive sites off Koh Tao at the moment. The coral is getting a bif frisky and is fit to burst in a sexual crescendo of epic proportions apparently. It's really not something that i neither know, or would pretend to know about- Big Blue Conservation are the people for that. Over the last two days, head honcho Lizzie has been taking interested fun divers and DMTs to some of the dive sites in the hope of seeing this x-rated undersea event. It's a pretty rare thing to happen, and even rarer to actually catch the coral in the act, but if you don't get out there and have a look you'll never see it!
Like most perverted things, coral spawning happens at night, so even if they don't manage to catch the coral in the act the divers will still get to see some of the dive sites in the dark, where all the colours are more vivid because of the torch lights bringing back the colours that normally fade with depth.
I can only presume that the coral took itself out to dinner and got to know itself a little bit, before taking things a step further and having a bit of a smooch with itself. The point of spawning must be when it invited itself to sleep over for the first time.
Big Blue Conservation is always running projects and events to either just go out and see some cool stuff happening underwater, to educate and inform divers about the need to be responsible and considerate divers with regard to the environment, or to engage people to actually help maintain the ocean environment, such as building and sinking objects for coral to adhere to, or introducing baby sharks and turtles back into the ocean. They also work hard to keep the dive sites and beaches clean of debris and rubbish, and run regular clean up days. If you'd like to get involved in any of the above, contact Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation here.

What is coral?
Hot on the heels of the coral sex, it kind of begs the question, "what the hell is coral anyways?". So here are some coral facts for your delectation:

-Coral organisms, called polyps, can live on their own, but are primarily associated with the spectacularly diverse limestone communities, or reefs, they construct.
- Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms related to sea anemones and jellyfish. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs. Reefs begin when a polyp attaches itself to a rock on the sea floor, then divides, or buds, into thousands of clones. The polyp calicles connect to one another, creating a colony that acts as a single organism. As colonies grow over hundreds and thousands of years, they join with other colonies and become reefs. Some of the coral reefs on the planet today began growing over 50 million years ago.
- Coral polyps are actually translucent animals. Reefs get their wild hues from the billions of colorful zooxanthellae (ZOH-oh-ZAN-thell-ee) algae they host. When stressed by such things as temperature change or pollution, corals will evict their boarders, causing coral bleaching that can kill the colony if the stress is not mitigated.
- Corals live in tropical waters throughout the world, generally close to the surface where the sun's rays can reach the algae. While corals get most of their nutrients from the byproducts of the algae's photosynthesis, they also have barbed, venomous tentacles they can stick out, usually at night, to grab zooplankton and even small fish.
- Coral reefs teem with life, covering less than one percent of the ocean floor, but supporting about 25 percent of all marine creatures. However, threats to their existence abound, and scientists estimate that human factors—such as pollution, global warming, and sedimentation—could kill 30 percent of the existing reefs in the next 30 years.

 

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FUN diving!
fundiving225x300If you're coming to Big Blue, you will at some point meet one of more of our full-time divemasters. You can't miss them in fact, as they take turns to man the shop on the days they aren't diving. We have, in order of the amount of facial hair- Nick, Phil, Carly, and Steven. They are really good at knowing where things are, and taking you to see them. By things I mean marine life, and by taking you there I mean leading fun divers around all the fantastic dive sites that we have in and around Koh Tao. Oh yeah, and they also keep the place running on a day to day basis. They decide which instructors and divemasters will go on what boats for the morning, afternoon, and night dives. They ensure that there are enough full diving cylinders, regulators, masks, weights, weight belts, plasters, mask straps, and yes, pineapples on each and every boat that goes out from Sairee reef. They manage how many cylinders will be needed for the open water course pool sessions. They organise when and where the next exclusive full day trip is, what mood the captain will be in, and what kind of washing he should have drying on the boat when customers are on board... (underwear only). They even go so far as to bunch fundivers with the same divemaster based on how good their air consumption is.. which is pretty damn cool. These guys are the best at their profession that you will ever see anywhere in the world. If you want to go diving, see some amazing things and also have a great time in the process, then these are the guys to do it with. But like anything in life, you can't have everything; Phil used to be a horticulturalist and still randomly recites latin names of plants for no reason whatsoever, Nick used to be a banker and yet still claims to have morals, Carly used to be a man (and still is in many ways), and Steven reckons that he has a wooden leg but a real foot.. ?
We are obviously biased in thinking they are great, but we do know that you simply cannot have a better time on Koh Tao than to spend time with these guys on our fun diver-only boat, whilst they get all excited and animated about wanting to show you some amazing marine life, and you know that they really love their jobs.
So get yourself booked in to come and fun dive with Big Blue now.. you really really really really really will not regret it!

Hi-vis
The underwater visilibility is pretty damn astonishing right now. We are getting regular days on most of the dive sites where the visibility is between 15 and 30 metres. Around the Island of Koh Nagyuan it's pretty consistently good, as is Mango bay to the North of Koh Tao, and White rock to the West. It's a pleasure to be working in these conditions, and everyone that works in the industry is loving it at the moment. In Monsoon in November the conditions become pretty poor in terms of visibility, so it makes it especially amazing at the moment, particularly for those instructors that hang around at monsoon and know what it can be like.
So long may it continue. If the whalesharks are around at Chumphon pinnacle then we will be able to see them off the dive site from further away, and all eyes are looking out for exactly that reason when we go there. Lets hope that the school of false killer whales that have been spotted lately will stick around and pay a visit at one of the dive sites that we visit soon!

 

 

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Another amazing Songkran
songkran-simmoYesterday saw pretty much the entire Island of Koh Tao suffering from a collective hangover- literally! Today it's business as usual, but two days ago locals and tourists alike were celebrating Songkran- the traditional Thai new year. This is where people spray each other with water pistols or buckets of water, in order to cleanse and purify the soul from whatever debauchery it accumulated over the previous year. It seems that everyone felt that everyone else needed a lot of cleansing!
At Big Blue it all kicked off at around 10am, with some very civilised light-dousings, interspersed with moderate imbibing of alcoholic beverages. Obviously it only took around an hour for the bar and restaurant to resemble a scene from the hunger games, and it quickly became every man for himself. Most people just wanted to shoot water all day and night, some just wanted to sit and watch it all unfold, but everyone had a great time. At around 2pm, SSI instructor trainer, and part-time brigadier-general Simon Garrity commanded the Big Blue divemaster trainees to raid another dive school, and the bar was temporarily slightly quieter than before. But then they all returned victorious and immediately forgot about their dive school alliance of not 5 minutes prior, and proceeded to turn on each other again! There was also a makeshift water slide going from outside the office to the sea. I've been told that health and safety officers had inspected it and certified it as safe for use, and the rumours that some drunken people thought it would be a great idea to build it were completely unfounded....!
Details of the day became more and more sketchy, but what is recalled is that the whole day and night was all very good natured and everyone seemed to have a great time. Songkran is easily the best day of the year for people who live here, and it must come as a big of a shock for people who find themselves staying here when it all kicks off! Ah well, only 363 days until the next one..

Star watching
Living in a city, it's easy to forget that you can't see anywhere near as many stars as you can in places where there is little or no light pollution. In Koh Tao, as long as the squid boats are not out in force, it's pretty damn dark outside of Mae Hadd and Sairee village. So you can get a bit of stargazing in. This month is particularly good for planet spotting; last night I could see Mars next to the full Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter. Pretty amazing. Electrical storms are also common at this time of year, as we approach the hottest time of the year and the warm and cooler air battle it out. The light shows can be mesmerising and you can easily find yourself watching them for hours. So the next time you stumble home from your night out, remember to look up!

 

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