What where why when how who who what!
giant-strideSince the last blog I was hoping that some new underwater hand signals would have been developed, that our instructors and divemasters can impart to our open water students and fun divers. But no. Living on a hot tropical Island means that the people of Koh Tao have better things to do, or are too lazy, or both, or neither. So I guess I'd better write about something else instead then!
So, you've just booked to do your open water course with us, probably because you want to see what the underwater world is like, but also maybe because you like to learn new things and potentially challenge yourself. So what kind of student are you? Are you the type of person that needs to be pushed into doing everything? Are you incapable of doing anything without being shouted at? Maybe you're the student that, on the morning of the first day of the open water course has already read the manual twice, finished all the study guides and you have a list of questions for the instructor. At the other end of the spectrum maybe you'll turn up late having done none of your study guide, ansd are struggling to stay awake whenever the instructor opens their mouth (in which case really what are you doing there?). Do you need to be shown something once and that's it, you've got it? Or do you need to be shown 20 times before your brain has even the vaguest idea of what just happened? Are you a visual learner or do you prefer to be told?
One thing is for certain, you will not be shouted at by any Big Blue instructor. You're the customer and you're on holiday. But having signed up to learn how to dive, you do need to be receptive to learning. Given that you may be in a group of people that are all travelling on their own, and all of those people will have different ways of taking in information, how the hell can we teach you all effectively?
Well it all boils down to your instructor. Just about every one of our instructors has a different style of teaching. They all impart the same information, and they all have to follow the same timetable, i.e. the pool on day one and the sea on days two and three. But how they get across that information can vary quite a lot, and it all depends on you and the rest of your group. We are very good at amending our teaching so that everyone on the course gets the most out of it. If there is a student that's not quite picking it up as fast as everyone else, they'll never be made to feel stupid or told that they're holding up the rest of the group. We can make extra time for that person and teach them one-on-one if that's the best way to get that person up to speed.
We're also pretty good at reading people. Some people like the limelight and speak so much it's a miracle they stop to take a breath. Some people are really quiet and would rather blend in. We meet different people every day and are pretty good at steering the social dynamic of a group so that everyone is happy.
So it really doesn't matter what type of person you are or what type of learner you are, as long as you are prepared to listen, watch, and learn, you will get a lot out of the open water course, and once it's completed you'll never look back, as, quite literally a whole new world will have been opened up to you.
So get on our website, book your course and accommodation, and make the most out of your holiday!

Sitting on the beach under a tree today, a coconut fell down and almost hit me on the head, and it got me to thinking about coconuts falling out of trees and hitting people on the head. Now one thing Koh Tao has in abundance is coconut trees. They're everywhere. Most people don't really notice them unless they make a point of looking up. But when they do they'll immediately be alarmed at the likelyhood of playing chicken with a high velocity coconut. Make no mistake they fall a long way and, being full of coconut milk are pretty heavy. If one of those connects with your bonce it can kill you. I've often wondered what it must be like to attend the funeral of someone who was killed by a falling coconut. It must be a pretty surreal experience, I mean, there's no shame in it, but there's no glory either. Here lies ......, he was killed by a fruit.
But we do have one saviour on Koh Tao, a Thai man periodically wanders the Island with a pet monkey, who's job it is to scale the coconut trees and remove any coconuts that are ripe enough to fall off. He can regularly be seen in Sairee, and he keeps the monkey on a very long leash. I hope one day it doesn't lose it's footing, as the only thing weirder than being killed by a falling coconut, is to be killed by a falling monkey!


Sign language
hand-signalsFor those of you that have never been diving, you may think that we just speak to each other as we would on the surface, like the presenters in those fancy BBC diving documentaries, wearing full face masks that allow them to have a full-on chin wag underwater. Unfortunately full face masks are pretty expensive items of equipment and require additional training, so you can't just strap one to your face and jump in the water.
Instead we have to go old school and use hand signals to communicate. It's basically underwater charades without the eggnog. Now there are some obvious hand signals, like asking how much air your buddy has, asking whether your buddy is ok, or saying that you want to end the dive. But there are many more that aren't as obvious, but they allow you to dive safely as a buddy team, whilst staying on the same page with minimum fuss. Now, as most people go diving to see marine life, it's good to be able to communicate what you're looking at in addition to sharing information regarding your dive parameters, and this is where the possibilities begin to be endless. As long as you confirm with your buddy before the dive what the sign for this or that fish will be, you can make up whatever signals you like. For example, the sign for an angelfish is to draw an imaginary halo with your finger around the top of your head. But it could also mean that you just saw Jesus behind the brain coral. It would be interesting to see your buddy try and communicate that they disagreed that it was Jesus and thought it was actually Captain Birdseye. Maybe after all that you really saw an angelfish behind the Bryan coral.
One of the weirdest hand signals I know is used during the open water course when a student doesn't quite get a skill right in the pool or ocean, so the instructor uses it to indicate that they want them to do it again. The only way I can describe it is by imagining that your right-hand is an aeroplane and you are going to crash it into the palm of your other hand in a curve-like motion. It makes about as much sense as if someone wanted to beckon you over to them from afar, and instead of gesturing with their hand they just started moonwalking sideways. So I obviously use my own hand signal to ask someone to repeat a skill. What I do is arch my back, puff out my chest, put my hands over my eyes, and then just allow myself to fall sideways and just lie there in that position on the bottom of the pool, motionless... works every time.
If you haven't learned to dive yet, you'll need to learn the hand signals that your instructor teaches you. But once you're qualified, providing your diving with someone you know pretty well, make up some of your own between you. You never know, some of them may even catch on and become diving industry norms.

You're in a tropical country, there are insects everywhere, get used to it. You may as well learn something about them:

- If a man could run as fast for his size as an ant can, he could run as fast as a racehorse.
- Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight.
- With their combined weight greater than the combined weight of all humans, ants are the most numerous type of animal.
- An ant brain has about 250,000 brain cells. A human brain has 10,000 million. So a colony of 40,000 ants has collectively the same size brain as a human.
- Ant brains are largest amongst insects. An ant’s brain may have the same processing power as a Macintosh II computer.
- The average life expectancy of an ant is 45-60 days.
- Adult ants cannot chew and swallow solid food. They rely on juice which they squeeze from pieces of food.
The abdomen of the ant contains two stomachs. One stomach holds the food for itself and second stomach is for food to be shared with other ants.
- There are over 10000 known species of ants.
- Some worker ants are given the job of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it outside in a special rubbish dump.
- Some birds put ants in their feathers because the ants squirt formic acid which gets rid of the parasites.
- If a worker ant has found a good source for food, it leaves a trail of scent so that the other ants in the colony can find the food.
- The queen ant lives up to ten or twenty years.
- Some colonies may contain millions of ants, all produced by a single queen.


Oxygen tanks?
scuba-cylindersQuite often when teaching an open water course, students refer to the diving cylinder as the oxygen tank. Not really that surprising as we need oxygen to survive, but walking around in our day to day lives we don't breathe pure oxygen. We breathe air, which is rounded up to be 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. The gas you breathe when you go diving is the same air as you are breathing now (unless you are somehow reading this on mars), it's just compressed into a cylinder that you breathe from during your dive. So here's a few facts about the thing that enables you to be underwater in the first place.
You may have dived all over the world, and used cylinders of varying sizes and shapes. But could you tell the difference between them? There are three types of cylinder; Steel, aluminium, and carbon fibre. You'll never ever see a carbon fibre cylinder as they are very expensive and pretty new. Dive resorts could never afford them and they'd have no need to use them anyway. Steel and aluminium are the types you'll always encounter. Steel is heavier than aluminium, but it's also stronger so the walls of the tank are slightly thinner. Because steel is stronger, air can be compressed to a higher pressure. So you can have a smaller cylinder, such as the so-called stubby. Steel is more liable to corrosion than aluminium, so steel cylinders have to be painted, and re-painted due to their exposure to saltwater. In tropical areas such as Thailand, you'll only find aluminium being used; they are less affected by saltwater and cheaper than steel.
The standard cylinder as used by recreational divers is the AL80. The AL stands for aluminium and the 80 means that it can hold 80 cubic feet of air. Things can get a little confusing as cylinder sizes can be described by internal volume of gas or water capacity (how much water it can hold), or by the nominal volume of gas stored. Being all fancy we use metric everywhere except the US, so it's common to describe an AL80 cylinder as an 11 litre (10.94l to be exact), that is rated to be filled to 210 bar of pressure. Tanks need to be periodically inspected to ensure that they are fit for purpose. A visual inspection involves looking inside the cylinder for corrosion, metal fatigue, and especially corrosion around the neck of the cylinder where the threads that house the valve live. A hydrostatic test is a pressure test, undertaken to determine that the metal is not fatigued (metallurgists call it creep or cold flow- I used to be one- a metallurgist, not a creep).. Cylinders are stamped with the latest hydro test date, and when they need to be performed depends on where you are in the world. In Thailand it's every five years.
In recreational diving, as a fun diver using a dive resort's cylinder you don't really care too much what type of tank you have, as long as it will give you a decent dive time. But with technical diving we need to know exactly what we're dealing with, as we plan our dives using software and have to calculate the gases that we will need. Anyone who has done a course with Big Blue tech will be able to tell you that 11 litres at 200 bar equals 2,200 litres of air. As tech divers have two tanks on their back that's 4,400 litres (not as is commonly thought, two tanks equalling 400 bar!). By calculating your Surface Air Consumption (SAC) rate, you can determine exactly how much gas you will need on a given dive. This means two things, tech divers clearly have OCD, and you can tell a tech diver out on a recreational dive as they'll be sat on their own in a corner of the boat, rocking back and forth with a calculator in hand, trying to look busy to hide their lonely tears.
As a customer of a dive resort you don't have to worry too much about diving cylinders. It's probably a good idea to check that they are within their hydrostatic test date, the valve is in good condition and the o-ring that will create the seal with your regulator is good to go, and generally that the clyinder and valve don't look they were recently purchased from an antiques shop. Apart from that, don't pick them up by the handle.. yes that means you divemasters, instructors and DMTs, don't bash them about, and never let them get completely empty (water can then get in and corrode them). Just connect them to the breathy thing and your air-filled diving cardigan, and away you go.
If your interested in learning more about diving cylinders, regulators, BCs and other diving equipment, Big Blue Tech runs regular equipment service technician courses. Have a look on the Big Blue Tech website and get in touch to find out more.

Lowest of the low
Continuing the theme of creepy crawlies, here's some facts about every tourist and restaurant owner's nemesis, the cockroach:

- Cockroaches could survive a nuclear war. For humans, a dose of 800 or more rems would be lethal. The lethal dose for the American cockroach is 67,500 rems and for the German cockroach it is between 90,000 and 105,000 rems
- A cockroach could live a long time, perhaps a month, without its head.
- Number of legs on a cockroach: 6
- Number of knees on most cockroaches: 18 at least
- Number of minutes cockroaches can hold their breath: 40
- Time that cockroaches spend just resting: 75%
- Cockroaches can run up to three miles in an hour.
- Male cockroaches transfer sperm to females in a “gift-wrapped” package called a spermatophore. Some males cover the package in a protein-rich wrapping that the female can eat to obtain nutrients to raise her young.
- The New Zealand Y2K Readiness Commission gave out a recipe for cockroaches in case the world ended on New Year’s Eve, 1999. “Simmer cockroaches in vinegar. Then boil with butter, farina flour, pepper and salt to make a paste. Spread on buttered bread.”
- Cockroaches can make up to 25 body turns in a second – the highest known rate in the animal kingdom.
- Cockroaches can respond remarkably quickly – after around 29 milliseconds – to the sensory cues that their antennae deliver.
- Blinded and deafened cockroaches were able to navigate completely normally, even if their average speeds were lower than their sighted and air-current-sensitive counterparts.
- Female cockroaches prefer males at the bottom of the social pecking order, and dominant males try and stop them from having their way. But when females do get the low-ranking man of their dreams, they produce fewer sons, apparently in an effort to avoid passing on his wimpishness.
- Scientists claim some female cockroaches prefer weaker partners because they like gentle sex. A University of Manchester team has concluded stronger male cockroaches are too aggressive and often injure their partners.
- Most species give birth to live young — highly unusual for insects — but a sure way to prevent other critters from feeding on their eggs.
- If food is scarce, adolescent cockroaches can live on a very reliable resource — their parents’ feces.


On a tropical Island far far away
scuba-warsThis may be the weirdest blog in a while (and that's probably saying something), but recently I was asked to write a post comparing staff at Big Blue with star wars characters. Of course it was a conversation in the bar, but i'll give it a go. Now, not being a huge star wars fan even though I grew up with the original three, there may be some confusion with star trek and spaceballs in there somewhere. But unlike the films, all characters appearing in this work are real. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is because they do resemble them.. kind of.
Instructor Guy- divemaster trainee mentor and professional Moby assassination double. He's mentored a number of instructors that ended up working at Big Blue, which is either extreme cronyism, or they were well trained. Two such people are instructors Oli and Alex. They look up to Guy in a weird worther's originals kind of way, so, if Guy was luke Skywalker, which is about as far, far away from reality as you can imagine, then Oli would have to be C3PO, as he's Skywalker's slave.. I mean companion, and he exudes a camp lankiness that you could probably only get in space.. all that metal needs lubricating after all. Now, comparing instructor Alex to an Ewok would be lazy if you've met him, so Alex would have to be an Ewok, as Ewoks tend to hang around with C3PO and are squat, hairy and cuddly (and probably play rugby in their spare time). I think that's were the similarity ends, because they're both vying for Guy's fatherly affections, but as far as I remember, Ewoks just thought Skywalker was just some important dude with a long glow stick, and actually worshipped C3PO. Good job the comparisons end there, because it would mean that Alex would have a shrine to Oli at his house, and Guy would have to be pretty handy with strip lighting, have hair, and be quite adept at moving objects with his mind (that much may be true).
But Guy does have a girlfriend that I think once attended a fancy dress party dressed as princess Leia. Though I don't think Big Blue instructor of the year Petra is his sister, but it wouldn't surprise me if she was.. the sicko.
PADI and SSI instructor Luke White is obviously Jabba the Hut because he likes to eat gekkos, moan a lot, and probably has a big pit under his house. Chewbacca roams the earth in the form of divemaster Steven, as he looks like one, and Chewy's language was loosely based on Geordie. Obi Wan Kinobi would have to be SSI instructor trainer Simmo as he's wise and old and hangs around young boys, and Jess would be R2D2 as she always fixes the messes that everyone else gets into... and probably bleeps a lot.
Instructor Donnie would be Hans Solo because he's got similar hair, used to be a carpenter, and must have, at some point in his life been frozen in carbon. But who's going to get the honour, or own up to being Guy's father Darth Vader? Tosh doesn't work for us any more and he would have never fit into the costume (apart from his head). And who would be unfortunate to be compared with Jar Jar Binks? Our fun diver boat Porponawa is obviously the millenium falcon as it's the fastest boat on Koh Tao, and we do see the occassional death star on the dive sites... 
I think i'll write the next blog post about scuba tanks, just to make the point that reality has resumed and we are in fact a dive resort!

Noisy little critters
Now that we're out of monsoon, some little insects have come out to play that are the bane of any dive instructor's open water academic session- Cicadas. They make a hell of a racket and we're well and truly stuck with them. So here's a few facts about them that you're all dying to know:

- Adult cicadas live 2 to three weeks, but some live only for a day or two or less.
- The male cicada makes the loudest sound in the insect world; they have their own built-in sound system. The sound can carry for up to a mile.
- The sound is made by vibrating the ribbed plates in a pair of amplifying cavities at the base of the abdomen.
- Each species has its own distinctive call and only attracts females of its own kind, even though rather similar species may co-exist.
- A female cicada lays her eggs in the twigs of trees and shrubs. She places the eggs in small holes that she makes with a sawlike organ near the tip of her abdomen.
- The female cicada can lay four hundred to six hundred eggs.
- After the adults have mated, both will die.
- Different species can be heard at different times of the day. While some prefer mating during the day, others prefer the evening hours.
- Cicadas have large compound eyes situated one on each side of the head They also have three very small glistening simple eyes (ocelli) on the top of the head.
- Cicadas feed by piercing the surface of plants with their mouth stylets. They then suck up the sap through a tube formed by the concave surfaces of two of the stylets. They also suck water out of moist sand on the banks of streams.
- Male cicadas have been seen to attempt to mate with other males as well as with dead females.



Planning ahead
SSI-advanced-wreck-diveI finished an SSI open water course yesterday with a lovely group of people- A pair of Englandonians, two Chileeeeans, and a brace of Netherlandarians. I made a point that, for their first two open water dives they would see some marine life, but they would be diving over sand and needed to concentrate on what they were doing in order to get to grips with buoyancy control and moving efficiently through the water. However for their last two open water dives we took them to some really nice dive sites- white rock and twins, to take in the huge variety of different marine animals pretty much everywhere they looked. By dives three and four they knew what they were doing and were comfortable enough in their abilities to be able to relax and take in the dive site. This was the reason they wanted to learn to dive in the first place.
Unfortunately they all had to leave Koh Tao straight after the course, and it prompted me to advise any would-be Big Blue divers out there of two potentially important things to consider before travelling to Koh Tao.
First, if you want to come and dive with Big Blue, BOOK ONLINE BEFORE YOU ARRIVE.. I cannot emphasise this enough. At the height of busy season, i.e. now, the Island gets pretty crazy, especially after the full moon party on Koh Panghan. If you want to be sure that we can provide you with accommodation whilst you are diving with us, ensure that you go on our website, decide the type of course you want to do, and then use the online booking form to reserve your room. People do end up sleeping on the beach when the entire Island is full; don't be one of them.
The second bit of advice would be to not come to Koh Tao at the end of your trip. Make it the first place on your travel itinerary. The reason for this is that 99.9999999999% of people that learn to dive with us fall in love with diving and just want to do more and more. The next natural step for anyone who has completed their open water course is to do the advanced course. It's an absolute no-brainer. After five more dives in only two days, you'll be a much more confident diver and you'll really know what you're doing. It's great fun and is easily the cheapest place in the world to do it. You'll be certified to dive to 30 metres instead of 18, you'll be able to night dive, your buoyancy will be much better, you'll know how to use a dive computer and compass and we'll even throw in a world war two wreck dive. Oh yeah and we'll take you to one of the best dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand- Chumphon pinnacle. Surely you don't need any more convincing than that!!
All you need to do is allow an additional two days after completing your three-day open water course to complete the advanced course. So, five days altogether. But remember that you cannot fly within 24 hours after diving, so factor this in as well.
Unfortunately, there is no such organisation as divers anonymous to help you control your newly found addiction, so until then I guess you'll just have to keep diving!

It's a gas
I've heard that the police have been clamping down on bars that sell laughing gas over the last few weeks here on Koh Tao, which sounds immensely sensible to me. Laughing gas is illegal in Thailand, but on Koh Tao it has become the latest money spinner for bars to sell to those customers that fancy a quick high. Laughing gas is nitrous oxide, and in the olden days it was used as an anaesthetic, and is still used to some degree in conjunction with other anaesthetics. The reason it is particularly bad on Koh Tao is that it’s really not a gas you want to be breathing after you’ve been scuba diving. During a dive your body accumulates nitrogen in your tissue. When you get back to the surface you circulatory system will be working hard to get rid of this nitrogen. If you then decide to do a laughing gas balloon, you are loading more nitrogen into your body. Whilst laughing gas has a very short half- life, it is much more soluble in your tissue than nitrogen or oxygen in isolation. Therefore it can put you at risk of developing symptoms of decompression sickness, even if you didn’t have any before. Furthermore, laughing gas is pretty bad for you if you have a little bit of trapped air in your ears or sinuses, which can be commonplace after diving- the gas will usually work its way out in its own time. Laughing gas can cause the trapped gas to expand, which will cause more pain and potentially damage the ears.
So the sooner it’s eliminated from Koh Tao, the better.



Come on you blues
Big-blue-dolphinsAnother massive victory for the Big Blue instructor, divemaster, and DMT football team yesterday morning; 3-1 to the "Big Blue dolphins" no less. It was a very local Derby as their opponents were the Big Blue restaurant and equipment room boys. I wasn't present at any point of the game, but I'm pretty sure there would have been lots of friendly advice from the players and fans along the lines of "play it wide", "keep it", "to me, to you", and "you're on my team you idiot". Pretty technical stuff. Instructor Andy was snapping away with his camera from the sidelines and grabbed some lovely shots of the action, which you can see on our facebook page. Most endearing photo of the game goes to PADI and SSI instructor Neil, who, after probably running around for a whole 3 minutes, duly substituted himself for a nice refreshing smoke break.. lovely stuff!
The players have received a bit of a psychological boost recently by having some very fetching kits made up. Blue shorts (of course), blue tops, nicknames on the back and a lovely big dolphin on the front. A few of the players have also invested in proper football boots and shin pads, and I think there will probably be a team masseuse standing by before the next big match. The team bus has also apparently been ordered. But before they go on a national tour there'll be lots more local friendly games to enable them to further hone their craft. Of course the best bit of the entire day was having a celebration breakfast at Greasy Spoon- a local health food cafe in Mae Hadd.
So well done Simo's giants.. the weirdest line up of humans the world has seen since Sylvester Stallone's team on the film Escape to victory! 

Bacon blues
I would love for someone to explain to me why it is that the bacon on Koh Tao tastes really weird. Never anywhere on the Island have I been able to have a lovely bacon sandwich and enjoy it with a bit of Daddy's sauce or ketchup, it just tastes wrong. Yet if you go to Koh Samui bacon actually tastes normal. I often stay at a lovely hotel called Cocooning in Fisherman's village, run by ex-Big Blue instructor Dave Gatty, and you can enjoy your morning coffee with a lovely bacon butty. It's just a complete mystery why this isn't the case on Koh Tao. If anybody knows why it tastes so bad can they please inform the local butcher what they're doing wrong, as i'm dreaming of bacon way too much lately. Someone please send over a packet of frazzles from the UK!


Happy buddy day
buddy-systemI guess I can't completely avoid the fact that it's Valentine's Day, but this is a diving blog so I’m hardly going to drone on about Christian Martyrs or Al Capone. But if I were to relate it to diving, the closest thing that springs to mind is the buddy system.
When you learn how to dive, one of the most important things you learn as that you never ever ever ever ever ever ever dive alone. Why not? You can't talk underwater so who cares whether you go for a nice little dive on your lonesome? Well, there are numerous reasons why not. First of all, being allegedly a social species, it's always nice to go for a dive with someone else so you can see the amazing-ness of the underwater world and relate it to someone who had the same experience. Secondly, it’s always nice to have someone looking out for you, after all, some people are more absent minded than others and easily distracted from such mundane tasks as monitoring their air supply, or wandering way off the dive site. But also, with your scuba gear you have one cylinder of air. Although scuba equipment is very reliable, you don’t want to have a problem and have to deal with it by yourself. I mean, you might get in a huff with your equipment and start sulking, and refuse to help yourself, because that regulator just has to learn... Diving with a buddy means you have two cylinders of air, two pairs of arms and legs, four regulators, two dive knives, and hopefully two brains. Always nice to have a back-up.
So the next time you go diving and your buddy just disappears off to explore , and you spent the entire dive just keeping an eye on them and trying to keep up with them, you might want to think about making friends with another diver. Just don't get carried away when you meet them and open the conversation by asking if they want to join the 10 metre club..

Table for two
It’s that time of the month again where Koh Tao winds down a little in preparation for the incoming hoards of people after the full moon party on Koh Panghan on the 15th. The timing may be perfect for those couples on Koh Tao that haven’t been very organized with regard to Valentine’s Day; they may actually get a table at the restaurant they want to eat at. Personally I’d rather go out for dinner on any other night of the year where I won’t be surrounded by other couples staring into each other’s eyes, just because the calendar has spoken.
But no doubt there will be all sorts of marriage proposals in between the poppadums and Chicken tikka masala. Maybe even without mango chutney being stuck in anyone’s teeth. Someone will usually propose marriage underwater via sign language or slate, and there’s always the chance of an underwater marriage ceremony, complete with chairs and marriage register. The usher’s role would probably be different though, there will always be an air pig in the audience so they’ll be ascent escorts so as not to disrupt proceedings. Of course this will all change if SNUBA diving ever finds it’s way onto the Island. But I digress. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all. Hopefully they said yes!


Big Blue photography competition
big-blue-photography-competitionNational Geographic stand aside, there's a new photography competition in town, to be hosted by.... Us! Many of our fun divers bring their own fancy photography equipment with them when they dive with us, and some of the pictures they produce are amazing. So we thought why not showcase the best ones and raise some money for marine conservation at the same time? Some people like to take a standard underwater camera on their dives, and are happy to just snap away in the hope of capturing something worthwhile. Others are already very accomplished photographers, and have clearly spent a lot of time and money combining photography with diving. If you put little wheels on some of the cameras they have, they could easily be mistaken for the Mars rover! These guys know exactly what they're looking for to get a great shot, and with the help of our divemasters, they will also find it, whether it's a nudibranch, or a school of barracuda.
The theme of the competition is Koh Tao Island, and photos elligible for judging must be related to conservation, or have a caption relating to conservation. So even if you're a landlubber that has no intention of even snorkeling, you can still enter the competition.
Now here's the best bit, the prizes... 1st prize will be a free place on one of our full day trips that we regularly run to Chumphon marine park, with incredible diving and no other dive resorts anywhere near (we're the only one that goes there!). 2nd prize is a free half-day coral and coral nursery workshop with Big Blue Conservation. We'll teach you about everything and anything you want to know about coral and coral conservation. 3rd prize is a very stylish Big Blue eco t-shirt and cotton bag for life. Each entry you make will cost 200THB. But you can enter 3 photos for only 500THB! The submission/fee deadline is the 31st March, and final judging will take place on 4th April. Send in your photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or drop them off in our shop (USB, CD, DVD), along with your entry fee. All proceeds from the competition will go to shark conservation and anti-shark finning projects.
I might even enter myself. I'm amazing with a goPro. That is, if you want to see 100 photos of my finger...

Whales of blue
Here's a few facts about the blue whale, as supplied by onekind.org You may have heard some them before, but they are so mind boggling it never ceases to amaze me when I read them.

blue-whale-big-blue- The Blue Whale is the largest creature ever to have lived on earth.
- Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant. Their hearts, as much as a car.
-Amazingly, however, this giant of the ocean feeds on some of the smallest marine life – tiny shrimplike animals called krill.
- A single adult blue whale can consume 3,6000kg of krill a day.
- They mainly catch their food by diving, and descend to depths of approximately 500m.
- The whale’s mouth has a fascinating row of plates fringed with bristles to help it filter its’ main source of food – Plankton from the water. There is what looks like a moustache of long bristles on the end of each plate to help it hold the minute prey. With each mouthful, the whale can hold up to 5,000kg of water and plankton. Having forced the water out of its mouth, the whale licks these bristles with its fleshy tongue.
- Although the blue whale is a deep-water hunter, as a mammal, it must come to the surface of the sea to breathe. When it surfaces, it exhales air out of a blowhole in a cloud of pressurized vapour that rises vertically above the water for up to 9m.
- Blue whales occasionally swim in small groups but usually alone or in pairs. They are thought to form close attachments.
- In spite of their bulk, these graceful swimmers cruise the ocean at over 8km/h, and can reach speeds of over 30km/h.
- Though we can’t hear them, blue whales are one of the loudest animals on the planet, communicating with each other using a series of low frequency pulses, groans, and moans. It is thought that in good conditions blue whales can hear each over distances of up to 1,600km. Scientists think they use these vocalizations not only to communicate, but, along with their excellent hearing, to sonar-navigate the dark deep oceans.
- Females breed only once every three years and gestation is between 11-12months. Females usually only have one young.
- A baby blue whale (calf) emerges weighing up to 2,7000kg and up to 8m long. New born whales are helped to the surface of the water by their mothers and are often encouraged (nudged) by other females so that they can take their first breath of air.
- The calf is suckled in the water, drinking more than 600 litres of milk each day and gaining about 90kg every day for its first year.
- Blue whales have few predators but are known to fall victim to attacks by sharks and killer whales, and many are injured or die each year from impacts with large ships.
- It is thought that whales feel emotions.
- Intensive hunting in the 1900s by whalers seeking whale oil drove them to the brink of extinction. Hundreds of thousands of whales were killed. The 1966 International Whaling Commission finally gave them protection, although they have only recovered slightly since then. Blue whales are currently classified as endangered on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List. It is estimated that only 10,000-25,000 blue whales now swim the world's oceans.


That’s heavy man
weightbelt Learning to dive can be an exhilarating and, without sounding too cheesy, for some people a life-changing experience. Taking your first breaths underwater makes you suddenly realize that there is literally a whole new world waiting to be discovered. But before you can dive around with ease, you'll need to learn some fundamental skills, such as buoyancy control and how to move in the water efficiently.
You’ll hear it over and over again that buoyancy is the key to becoming a good diver, and it’s true. But the secret to good buoyancy is also ensuring that you are correctly weighted.
We all have to wear weights when we dive in order to counteract our body’s own buoyancy. Most people will be neutrally buoyant whilst floating naked at the surface; they just don’t get too much opportunity to practice it! How dense your muscles, bones and fat are, combined with the thickness, age, and type of wetsuit will determine how much weight you are going to need when you decide to not dive naked.
Many diving instructors overweight beginner divers so that they don’t float up to the surface easily. After all, they’re going to be easier to deal with if they’re actually underwater! But that student will need to add a fair bit of air to their BC to stop them dragging along the bottom. If they rise up a bit, Boyle's law will take over and they'll have to get rid of all that expanding air. So for a while they'll be like a yo yo- wasting air and making their ears work harder than they need to. So it can take a lot more time for them to understand how to control their buoyancy. I would rather start my students if anything a little light, so that they are not having to add anywhere near the amount of air into their BC. I also brief that they should use their lungs to come back down if they find they are a little “floaty”. If they are consistently finding it hard to stay down I can give easily them an extra weight. The closer they are to having the right amount of weight, the less they will be adding and removing air through their BC, and thus the less they will be moving up and down in the water column.
On the advanced course, a lot of emphasis is placed on using the lungs to fine tune buoyancy, so the quicker the head start a student gets in their open water, the better. However, more often than not, on the buoyancy dive no mention is placed on correct weighting. Some instructors will perform a buoyancy check on a student and help refine the amount of weights they need, especially if they haven’t dived with them before or the student hasn’t dived in a while and can’t remember how many weights they normally have. But that's it.
But weighting is one of those things that the student needs to understand, so they can start to take responsibility for themselves as an autonomous diver. The least weird analogy I can think of would be learning to ride a bike as a young kid. At some point you become adept enough that your parents will take those stabilisers off. But with diving it’s your decision as to when to take the stabilisers off, and you have to experiment. If you’re being led by a dive professional on a dive, it’s always a good idea to discuss it with them, but if you want to experiment with having, for example one less weight just give it a go, your dive leader can always carry an extra weight during the dive.
To know how much weight you need, you have to be able to stay comfortably at 5 metres at the end of your dive during your safety stop. Air, like anything else, has a weight, and as you breathe through your supply, your tank is getting lighter. This can be a 2kg difference from the beginning to the end of the dive. So at the beginning of any dive you will be a little bit negatively buoyant. You don’t want to increase that by having too many weights. Statistics show that most divers that get into trouble are usually found to have been badly over-weighted. Remember, the deeper you go, the more negatively buoyant you become. If you’re a fun diver, you should hopefully be following this article. If you’re planning on learning how to dive and have read this far, hopefully you’ll be a dream student. But don’t worry; your instructor at Big Blue will help you get the weight you need. But remember, if we ask you to carry more weight than your friend, we’re not saying you’re fat!

Turtle traps
chinese-lanternsSo, you come to a tropical Island like Koh Samui or Koh Tao and, as you’re walking along the beach at night a friendly Thai approaches and asks if you’d like to buy a lantern to launch into the air, with a personalized message attached for good luck. Very romantic. But let’s think of it another way. How about a Thai person comes up to you, hands you some metal wire and some paper fabric, then says that you have to get in a boat, travel a kilometer out to sea and then throw it all into the ocean.. Sounds bad? Well that’s exactly what you’re doing if you chose the first experience! I don’t care how romantic or sentimental it all sounds, you’re basically littering the ocean.. So don’t do it!
To top it all off, when the wire mesh falls back into the ocean, it settles on the bottom and turtles come along to investigate it and get stuck. They then find it very difficult to get back to the surface to breathe, and often drown. So now you’ve read this, please don’t even go near the lantern sellers. They don’t understand the effects of what they are selling, they are just trying to make a living, but if no-one buys them they’ll quickly move on to sell something else.


TV show recruiting now!
bangkok-flyer-keo-filmsExciting news for all you budding films stars out there.. sort of. We’ve been contacted by a film production company that is planning to do a TV show, following various people as they visit Thailand, beginning with their arrival at Bangkok airport and presumably ending there too at the end of their trip. They are particularly interested in people that are planning to go diving, getting married, having some kind of medical treatment, taking part in a sporting event (i.e. Muay Thai, but maybe tiddlywinks too), or travelling in search of spiritual enlightenment.
They have asked for our help to spread the word as they seem very keen that at least one of the people that they film comes to dive with us (why would they go elsewhere anyway!?).
So here’s your chance to get your name in lights, handprints on Broadway, get a bit of red carpet treatment or whatever else happens in a documentary these days. One thing’s for sure, if you are picked because you want to learn how to dive, you’ll certainly get the red carpet treatment from us.
So dust off your costumes and get in touch with Keo Films by emailing them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. just don’t forget that your mum and dad may end up watching what you’re up to!
It’s a shame they don’t want to film some of our staff as they go about their day, but then again I think the world is pretty familiar with the likes of David Brent by now. We could throw a few of our staff the film makers way though. It would be the perfect medium for Steven to prove that he really is the best divemaster in Asia (or did he say Asda?), and Guy would finally find a way to put all those financial irregularity allegations to bed. Neil could perhaps prove once and for all that he’s not Elvis, and Nick could dust off his drum & bass vinyls, which may or may not blow his cover as an SAS operative . It would all make for some cracking telly!

Not so bright but early
Getting up at silly o’clock yesterday morning to get the Lomprayah to Koh Samui, I’d forgotten about the stuff that goes on on Koh Tao to keep things running smooth for all the visitors to this amazing place. Eveything we have on the Island comes in from the mainland via the ferries. So at 5am the roads are full of cars and trucks coming off the night ferry, delivering to the local resorts and businesses. Street food vendors are firing up their cooking pans, ready to feed anyone that passes by, and those travellers that are on a tight schedule are waiting to get on the first ferry out of here so that they can fit in as much as possible on their tours of Thailand. I would love to know what is produced locally on the Island, lots of fruit and vegetables, and rainwater is collected on each building, but drinking water, furniture, metal, vehicle parts, diving consumables, household appliances, gases for cooking and cooking implements, I could go on and on. The wifi being as it is I can only assume that the data is delivered daily in actual packets…
Anyway, we’re pretty dependent here, and forget that there is a small army of people keeping everything going behind the scenes. So thanks very much, whoever you all are!