Perfect diving at the moment
open-water
The diving on Koh Tao at the moment is fantastic. Having just finished teaching a SSI open water course, my group were treated to four amazing dives where the conditions were absolutely perfect. White rock was calm, the Sun was shining, and the underwater visibility was around 20 metres. On top of all that, the ocean is like getting into a warm bath- 29 degrees Celsius! The sea in front of Big Blue is like looking at a mirror; flat calm. Chumphon pinnacle was also amazing, and again the visibility was around 20 metres. Once we'd descended to the pinnacle it seemed like rush hour for all the marine life, there were huge groupers all over the dive site, big shoals of fusilier and barracuda on the North, and pickhandle barracudas on the aply named barracuda rock to the Southwest. There were also a lot of golden trevaly hunting their prey, darting around at ludicrous speed hoping to catch a quick snack. To top it all off there were a few pretty big Spanish mackerel hanging around. Not a bad way to introduce diving to some enthusiastic open water students! We have the feeling that we'll be seeing whalesharks at Chumphon soon, they seem to be around again, with one showing up at Chumphon marine park on the last full day trip, and another one swimming with our divers at Southwest pinnacle on Tuesday morning. A whale was also spotted at Chumphon on Tuesday morning, followed by cries of incredulity by everyone (it was April fools day), until they saw it spouting at the surface in the background of an open water video! On the open water course we will take you to the best dive sites that Koh Tao has to offer, on the best dive boats, with some of the best dive professionals in the world. With the conditions being as they are at the moment, and the abundance and diversity of marine life on every dive site, you'll realise exactly why it was that you wanted to learn to dive, and want to do more and more and more diving. Don't bother with Koh Samui, and Chiang Mai can wait. Come to Koh Tao and let us teach you how to dive. Book your open water course on our website and we'll see you soon!

Restaurant boycott in Koh Samui
Some sad news from Koh Samui. A member of Marine Conservation Koh Tao recently saw shark being sold at a number of restaurants. Apparently much of it was caught in Koh Tao. We probably don't need to tell you that sharks are being taken from the ocean in huge numbers, and this practice needs to end. On Samui, the restaurants selling shark include Smile house, The address, and cococabana. I would urge you to avoid eating in those places and if you feel brave enough, explain to them why you will be going elsewhere. If you see sharks for sale in other places please take a photo and email it to Lizzie at Big Blue Conservation, so that we can help raise the profile of this awful practice. You could also go on their trip advisor pages and leave a review as to why you chose not to eat there. If they can't be persuaded to stop, we can make them stop by hitting them were it hurts the most- their wallets.

 

 

 

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Big Blue Boffins
big-blue-boffinsWe've been working hard behind the scenes on something big over the last couple of years, and it's been frustrating not being able to say anything about it. But i've now been given the go ahead to shout it from the rooftops. So today i'm very proud to announce the grand opening of Big Blue Boffins- a brand-new part of the business dedicated to conducting scuba diving research. Now it's going to take time to get off the ground, but we're fully intending to revolutionise the diving industry and make it easier than ever for people to enjoy diving.
We're currently working on a number of revolutionary inventions. One example is synthesising sea cucumbers to excrete treacle, so that over time the ocean will become more and more viscous. So if you accidentally inflate your BC to go up, no problem, you'll still ascend nice and slowly! Plus, if you accidentally swallow a bit of water it will just make you crave pancakes! We also think it's pretty wasteful to have to put air in your BC from your diving cylinder to make yourself neutrally buoyant. So we're developing a kind of reverse-regulator to attach to your underpants, so that you can add air to your BC by utilising air from your bum. The first-stage will take the low pressure air from your bum and increase it to an intermediate pressure. The trials are going well, but we're going to have to spend more time on oral inflation at the surface- you don't want to be leaving your finger on the deflate button as you blow air into your BC! We'll let you know when it's ready to hit the shelves but we think we're onto a winner.
But perhaps the most important developments will involve looking at the bigger picture. We're currently in top-secret talks with the descendants of Robert Boyle, Archimedes of Syracuse, William Henry, John Dalton, and Jacques Charles, to gain permission to change the laws of physics relating to diving, as inspired by Willy Wonka. If we can re-arrange all the formulas, then it stands to reason that the underwater world will also change. Imagine if an increased partial pressure of nitrogen just made you a bit peckish instead of getting you narced! But don't worry, none of this will go to our heads when we receive the Nobel prize. We'll still take you diving to the best dive sites in Koh Tao, but it might be on a dive boat powered by Barracuda poo, with an in-built flux capacitor in case you missed the whaleshark.
So, just to summarise, Big Blue Boffins, as launched today, April 1st 2014.... you fools.

Giant groupers
Seeing as Chumphon and White rock seem to be covered in giant groupers at the moment, how about some lovely facts about these amazing lazy predators:

- The giant grouper is the largest bony fish found in coral reefs. It’s also known as the brown spotted cod and the Queensland grouper. In fact, it is the emblem of the state of Queensland, Australia. Groupers are a large family of fish and the giant grouper is one of the biggest in the family.
- It’s found throughout the Indo-Pacific area except the Persian Gulf. They’re a huge species and can grow as large as 2.7 m long and can weigh up to 600 kg. There are rumors that even larger groupers have been found but these are unconfirmed.
- The giant grouper is found commonly in shallow waters and feeds on a range of other marine life including small sharks, crustaceans and young sea turtles. Its favorite sea food is the spiny lobsters. Like other grouper species, it changes color as it ages.
- It has an extremely large mouth and a round tail. The young have uneven yellow and black markings whereas the adults are green, brown or gray with only a faint mottling. They also have a scattering of black spots on their fins.
- These giants can live up to fifty years in the wild. They are fully protected as their numbers are dwindling. They breed between May and August and like many other fish they are hermaphrodites.
- They are a specific type of hermaphrodite known as the protogynous hermaphrodite meaning the young are predominantly female but turn into males as they develop. When young they’re believed to grow over 1 kg a year. When they reach around 10 kg they turn male and the male grouper has a harem of up to fifteen females. If there is no male in the group, the largest female will turn male to satisfy their reproductive needs.
- The giant grouper preys upon other sea life but rather than chasing after its prey, it prefers to lie in wait and catch any prey unaware. But this slow-swimming, sluggish behavior isn't good for them if there are spear fishermen around. - Another threat is that their habitat is being destroyed by excessive fishing and its prey being wiped out. Similarly, the explosive devices used in reef areas have led to a decline in their population.

 

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Drifting along nicely
drift-by-big-blueThe Big Blue retail shop has been open a good few months now, and it's doing really well. This isn't because we have really pushy sales people harassing you into buying stuff, far from it. The manager Robin is about as honest, genuine and friendly as it's possible to be. It's been successful because we really offer something different to anywhere else on Koh Tao. We have a fantastic display of all kinds of diving masks, snorkels, fins and wetsuit boots that you can try on to your heart's content. There's an area dedicated to all the little functional diving gadgets such as alternate air source holders, bottle openers, slates, DSMBs, reels, clips and god knows what else. We have a wide range of rash vests, with sharkskins proving to be a very wise purchase if you want thermal protection to last a long time. We sell compasses, dive computers, knifes, torches, dry bags and isaw underwater video cameras.
But the thing that really sets us apart is that we have our own clothing range; drift, by Big Blue. This includes board shorts, bikinis, t-shirts, singlets, polo shirts, and even dresses. Very stylish they are too. I know a few instructors and divemasters (myself included) that went in the shop when it first opened to have a nosy, and ended up walking out with 3 pairs of shorts and 5 t-shirts!
If you are doing a course with us, you will receive a 10% discount on most items. But even if you're passing by, you'll still be getting a bargain no matter what you walk out with. Plus, watch this space as we are finishing off the final touches of putting the shop on-line so you can buy what you want without even coming here. In the meantime, have a look at the drift facebook page. We update it regularly.
The way it's going at the moment, it won't be long before we become for diving what North Face is for outdoor gear. So if you're coming to Big Blue, pop in and have a browse, but be prepared to have a complete new summer wardrobe that you know no-one else back home will have, so leave plenty of room in your suitcase!

Marine litter facts
Given that we had a really successful beach and underwater clean up yesterday on Sairee beach, here's a few facts about where marine litter comes from, and where it goes in the oceans. If you're coming on holiday to Koh Tao, Koh Samui or anywhere else in Thailand, please be responsible and dispose of your rubbish responsibly.

- Marine litter (debris) includes all objects that do not naturally occur in the marine and coastal environment but are nevertheless found there.
- Marine litter is the collective term for any man-made object present in the marine and coastal environment.
- It consists of articles that have been made or used by people and, subsequently, deliberately discarded or accidentally lost. In most cases, it is the result of careless handling or disposal of items of solid waste, including containers of liquid waste. However, it can also be material lost at sea in hard weather (fishing gear, cargo).
- Marine litter consists of mostly very slowly degradable waste items — items made of persistent materials such as plastic, polystyrene, metals and glass — from a large number of different sources.
- Marine litter can blow around, remain floating on the water surface; drift in the water column; get entangled on shallow, tidal bottoms; or sink to the deeper seabed.
- Marine litter are items and material that are either discarded directly (thrown or lost directly into the sea); brought indirectly to the sea with rivers, sewage, storm water or winds; or left by people on beaches and shores.
- Marine litter is found everywhere, around the world, in the marine and coastal environment.
- Marine litter is found floating on the water surface. Almost 90 per cent of floating marine debris is plastic.
- Marine litter is found on the seabed. It could be that as much as 70 per cent of the entire input of marine litter sinks to the bottom and is found on the seabed, both in shallow coastal areas and in much deeper parts of seas and oceans.
- The main sea-/ocean-based sources of marine litter are from merchant shipping, ferries and cruise liners, fishing vessels, military fleets and research vessels, pleasure craft, offshore oil and gas platforms, fish farming installations.
- The main land-based sources of marine litter are from municipal landfills (waste dumps) located on the coast, riverine transport of waste from landfills or other sources along rivers and other inland waterways (canals), discharge of untreated municipal sewage, including storm water (including occasional overflows), industrial facilities: Solid waste from landfills, and untreated waste water, and tourism (recreational visitors to the coast; beach-goers).

 

 

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Mini-antPlimsoll
Occasionally, inspiration for a blog post is staring you in the face the whole time. Conversing with my colleagues over a beer last night, I mentioned that I needed to go home to write the blog. I was then bombarded with ideas of what to write about. SSI instructor Anthony Edgely, AKA mini Ant, AKA Plimsoll, AKA Ant 2, came up with an idea so completely forgettable, that I decided there and then that I would dedicate an entire post to him instead. There is reason behind the madness. Ant is the living embodiment of someone that decides that they are so sick of their drab and dreary life that they end up actually doing something about it. In his case, as the circus wasn't hiring tent-pole holders, he decided to become a dive instructor, and luckily for us he chose Big Blue to do all his dive professional training. As far as i'm aware, he never looked back. Not that that would have done much good, because, the Earth being an oblate spheroid, and Thailand being at a different longitude and lattitude to Aldershot in the UK, he wouldn't have been able to see whatever it is that that particular metaphor intimates. But I digress.
In spite of being one of our full-time instructors, he's proved to be quite useful, as, in his previous life he was some kind of architect... he knows a lot about potable water and good drainage.. a real lady killer. But as we are about to start sprucing Big Blue 2 up, Ant was able to draw up the plans. The fact that he did it in 12 minutes on the back of an open water manual fills us all with confidence that we will end up being the proud owners of the first windmill on Koh Tao. We also recently purchased a dive boat we had been renting long term- MV Waverunner. It's currently in dry dock in Chumphon undergoing a complete refurbishment. Ant saunted over there with his tape measure one day and has, we think, accidentally instructed the Thai naval engineers to build the world's first ever floating windmill. I see a pattern forming here.
When Ant's not designing buildings to turn flour into bread, he likes nothing better than to put on his best top shop frock and mime along to his favourite Dolly Parton album (the best of Dolly Parton), probably with clogs on.
Obviously, this is all ridiculous (apart from the Dolly Parton bit). Ant has proven to be a very patient, diligent instructor that really cares about his studentss' development. He's well liked by the rest of the team and it's been great for his SSI instructor trainer mentors Simo and Guy to see him go from open water diver to a highly professional SSI dive instructor. Just think, that could be you, leaving your job, getting the hell out of wherever you live to come and live and work on a tropical Island doing something you love. If you're interested in becoming a dive professional, have a look on our bigbluepro website and contact Simmo, Iain, and Guy for more information. The email address is at the top of their webpage.
Hopefully now Ant has finally got the message not to beg me to stop taking the mickey out of him on the blog!

Rainbow runners
Diving along the top of Chumphon pinnacle this morning, I saw a rainbow runner hunting and eating some little fishies. It was pretty amazing to watch as it herded the shoal and finally went in for the kill. So what are rainbow runners? Some facts for your brain:

- Elagatis bipinnulata, also known as the rainbow yellowtail, Spanish jack and Hawaiian salmon, is a common species of pelagic marine fish of the jack family, Carangidae.
- The species is widespread throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the world, inhabiting both coastal as well as far offshore areas.
- It is a fast swimming predator, taking small fish, cephalopods and a wide variety of planktonic crustaceans.
- The species reaches sexual maturity at around 60 cm (24 in), and spawning takes place at different times, with some populations spawning year round, while others only spawn at certain times of the year.
- Rainbow runner are also one of a number of pelagic fishes that prey on open-ocean species of sea-skaters- a type of insect which rest on the surface of the ocean.
- Rainbow runner themselves are important prey items for a number of larger species, with positively identified predators being Fraser's Dolphin, and a number of seabirds of the family Laridae.
- The fish is oviparous, producing pelagic eggs and larvae.
- Rainbow runner are not a major commercial species like tuna or herring, but are taken in large quantities as bycatch. Their flesh is said to be of fair to excellent standard, depending on personal preferences, but generally fetch a low price at markets because they are relatively unknown.
- There is a minor recreational fishery for rainbow runner in parts of the world. Often they are taken while trolling for other species such as tuna and mackerel, but are often targeted inshore by anglers on the west coast of the Americas using surface 'popper' style lures.

 

 

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Rave reviews
buddy-teamAnyone planning a holiday has it relatively easy compared with the olden days. Before the 90s it was a case of going to a travel agent to book your holiday and then hoping for the best when you arrived at your destination. There were plenty of TV travel shows that highlighted the plight of many a holiday maker, who was enticed into booking a holiday to Mallorca by the glossy brochure, only to discover a building site next to their "sea-view villa" when they arrived. Nowadays, it's a little different. The internet has made planning a holiday much easier, and people can be way more picky and thorough than ever before. 
Trip advisor has, and continues to be by far the most popular planning tool used by travellers to decide where to go and what to do on their travels. It has also benefited resorts that strive to provide a great experience for their guests, and also highlights and shames the ones that are obviously and consistently lacking. Big Blue has benefited no end from trip advisor. We have over 1,100 reviews to date, and the vast vast majority are excellent. Now, we are not perfect and don't always get it right, but we do listen to valid criticism and strive to give our customers the best experience possible. However, it's also fairly evident when reading negative reviews that some people are never happy unless they are moaning. We've actually had people come to Big Blue because they said they read the small number of negative reviews, and couldn't believe how ridiculous they were! Thank heavens for intelligent people. 
Most of the people that come to dive with us say that they did so because of our trip advisor reviews, and we continue to get excellent reviews from people who either learned to dive with us, or came to fun dive.
But as with any business, trip advisor has competition. There are other ways to scope out a dive resort, or give your thoughts on your experience of having dived with them. You will get more information from many of them than with trip advisor, especially if you are already a qualified diver. If you're an experienced diver you can also gain an understanding of the diving conditions in Koh Tao and read about the type of marine life you might see at the dive sites. The most popular review sites are world diving review, tangareef, scubadviser, and divezone. You can obviously also leave a review on our facebook and G pages.
If you're thinking of coming to Big Blue, have a look at them. If you've already been to Big Blue, we would be really grateful if you could spend the time to write a review of your experience with us on one of those sites (or just copy your review to all of them!). If you had a great time, brilliant! Thanks for telling the world. If there was something that we didn't quite get, your feedback is important, we will listen, and we will work to improve.

Whaleshark drawing
whaleshark-drawingNo story this time, no factoids about Thailand, Koh Tao, Koh Samui or anywhere else in the Gulf of Thailand. I just saw a photo that I thought was utterly amazing, and I'd love to see this type of art permanently drawn onto pavements all over the world. If you know who it was that did this, please let us know. He's amazing and he needs to be told! Pretty accurate in dimensions of the whalesharks we get here, but our boats are a little bit bigger!

 

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Dive professional training with Big Blue
dmtsIf you're utterly fed up with your job at the moment, this is the article for you. I've been there before, the long commute surrounded by what feels like millions of other people, no-one smiling, getting to work with the knowledge that you have to sit in front of a computer screen or sit on a production line for the next 8 hours. But the worst of it is knowing that you have to do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
If you're getting itchy feet and want a bit of adventure, but don't quite know how to get it or what to do, we have the answer. If you do it, you won't regret it, once you're doing it, you will look back and wonder why you tolerated your previous life for so long. Come to Big Blue and learn to become a dive professional! We can take you from zero to a fully qualified divemaster or dive instructor. All you need to do is have a great time in the process! We'll teach you how to dive from scratch, take your diving further by becoming an advanced and then a rescue diver, then you can enrol on our divemaster training program. You will dive in tropical waters every day, getting to know the dive sites, assisting instructors on courses, learning about the marine life in the ocean and building up to taking people on tours of the dive sites. This of course is in between enjoying living on a tropical Island, eating great food, having all your laundry done for you, and getting to know lots of different people in the bar.
When you're ready, we can teach you to become a SSI dive instructor. Your office will be the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, your commute will be sitting in the sunshine on a dive boat, your shift will include teaching people how to scuba dive safely, which can be very rewarding. Once you're up and running as a qualified dive professional, you can start earning money doing something we guarantee you will love, and you will have the choice of working in a thousand idyllic locations around the world.
Sounds almost too good to be true doesn't it.. it's not. All you have to do is make the decision to go for it and get that flight booked! For more information have a look on our website, go to bigbluepro, and contact the team. The email is at the top of the bigbluepro website.

Sea cucumbers under threat
Sea cucumbers are the less glamorous cousins of starfish and sea urchins, occurring in all of the major oceans and seas. They are aten in China and other southeast Asian countries, and have been for centuries. They are appreciated for their soft texture, and dietary and so-called medicinal properties. But as China is becoming more affluent, they have become a sought after delicacy for festive dinners, and can sell from anywhere between US$10 and US$600 per kilo in Hong Kong and mainland China. One cold-water species farmed in China and Japan sells for up to US$3,000 per kg dried.
But as with anything that is over-fished, the rest of the ecosystem suffers. Cucumbers play a significant role in their local marine environment. They help turn over sand in reef lagoons and seagrass beds. By feeding on dead organic matter mixed with sand and mud, the nutrients they excrete can be again taken up by algae and corals – a pathway of nutrient recycling on reefs. So, they may not incite as much emotion in people as shark finning, but their reduction in numbers will have as significant effect on the oceans. No doubt we will be hearing more about their loss over the next few years. So far on Koh Tao, they are being left alone, and Big Blue conservation will work hard to keep it that way.

 

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Help prevent the annual slaughter of dolphins
the-coveAnyone that likes to scuba dive will have their own reasons for doing so. Some like the feeling of weightlessness. Some like to challenge themselves by exploring wrecks or by going cave diving. But it's pretty unanimous that anyone that sets foot in the ocean is awed by the marine life that they encounter. The thought of swimming with a dolphin has to be on the bucket list of any diver, bar none. As divers, its important that we do everything we can to preserve the life in the oceans so that we, and anyone in the future can enjoy seeing the incredible variety of life. Sadly not everyone seems to think like this and the slaughter of marine animals is occuring every day at a truly frightening rate. For example, in Taiji, Japan, 20,000 dolphins, porpoises, and small whales are killed each year. The killing begins on September 1st and usually continues until the following March, fishermen herd entire families of small cetaceans into a shallow bays and mercilessly stab and drown them to death.
This annual slaughter would have continued unabated without anyone even knowing about it if it weren't for the organisation Sea Shepherd. They took covert footage of this horrific event, which culminated in the release of the documentary, "The cove". This film highlighted to the world the events that take place in Taiji, and since 2010 Sea Shepherd has an ongoing presence of volunteers standing watch on site at the Cove. They are The Cove Guardians. The worldwide attention that their work receives is helping to put pressure on the Japanese Government, so that they will put a stop to the killing. But their work costs money and they need your help.
Big Blue Diving is committed to marine conservation, and through Big Blue Conservation, we run numerous programs to encourage coral growth around Koh Tao, increase the numbers of marine creatures such as turtles around the Island, and to educate the local Thai residents on how they can minimise their impact on the local marine environment. We also run marine conservation programs and internships, and educate all of our customers on the importance of looking after the oceans.
So we want to do our bit to help Sea Shepherd. So, for the rest of March, if you like Big Blue Conservation on our facebook page, we will donate 10 baht to Sea Shepherd so they can continue their important work. Please take 5 seconds out of your day to do it, and pass the message on to as many people as possible.

Dolphin facts
Dolphins are such incredible animals, most of us would agree. But, apart from the fact that they look like they're smiling all the time, why are they so amazing? Here's why:

1. There are almost 40 distinct species of dolphins. Most live in shallow areas of tropical and temperate oceans, and five species live in rivers.
2. Dolphins are carnivores. Eating fish, squid and crustaceans. A 260-pound dolphin eats about 33 pounds of fish a day.
3. Known for their playful behavior, they are highly intelligent. They are as smart as apes, and the evolution of their larger brains is surprisingly similar to humans.
4. They form part of the family of whales that includes orcas and pilot whales. Killer whales are actually dolphins.
5. Dolphins are very social, living in groups that hunt and even play together. Large pods of dolphins can have 1,000 members or more.
6. Depending on the species, gestation takes nine to 17 months. After birth, dolphins are surprisingly maternal. They have been observed nestling and cuddling their young.
7. A dolphin calf nurses for up to two years. Calves stay with the mothers anywhere from three to eight years.
8. Dolphins have acute eyesight both in and out of the water. They hear frequencies 10 times the upper limit of adult humans. Their sense of touch is well-developed, but they have no sense of smell.
9. Dolphins have few natural enemies. Humans are their main threat. Pollution, fishing and hunting mean some dolphin species have an uncertain future. In 2006, the Yangtze River dolphin was named functionally extinct.
10. Because dolphins are mammals, they need to come to the surface of the water to breathe. Unlike land mammals that breathe and eat through their mouths, dolphins have separate holes for each task. Dolphins eat through their mouths and breathe through their blowholes. This prevents the dolphin from sucking up water into the lungs when hunting, reducing the risk of drowning.

 

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The human teapot
lukeBad news for all you ladies out there that just can't get enough of men from Grimsby. Big Blue PADI and SSI instructor and Platinum Grimsby bruiser Luke White has had a little accident that has put him out of action for a while. This means that he's out of the water and unable to woo you with his Northern charm whilst teaching you how to dive on your SSI open water course- when you haven't passed out from swooning that is.
If you're around Big Blue at the moment, you can't miss him. He's the one walking around like a teapot with his fishing arm in a sling. For those that know him he's a little bit more grumpy than usual, which, on the scale of Luke grumpiness is not actually that different from normal. But don't worry, we will be having a benefit night for him sometime in the next week, just so we can all have an excuse to get drunk and make him that little bit grumpier, but also to help the sweaty idiot get back on his feet.
On the bright side at least he'll get to spend a lot more time in the shop checking customers in and chatting to any prospective divers as they walk by our retail shop. On the down side you'll have to meet Luke when you check in to come diving with us.. sorry about that. Anyway, we all wish him well and hope he has a speedy recovery. God help his fiance.

Thai factoids
Time for the last 15 dazzling facts about Thailand. That's 35 in the last few days you greedy sods. Enjoy:

21. A century ago, more than 100,000 elephants lived in Thailand, with about 20,000 of them untamed. Now, there are about 5,000, with less than half of them wild.
22. Both the Hollywood movie and Broadway play of The King and I are banned in Thailand. Based on the Siamese ruler King Mongkut and a teacher named Anna Leonowens, the movie is seen as insulting to the king. While the movie depicts him as uncultured, he is believed to be the first Asian ruler to speak, read, and write English fluently. He also is considered highly intelligent, cultured, and well read. Further, he is known as the father of Thai scientists
23. Thailand’s and the world’s longest reigning monarch is Bhumibol Adulyadej, who became King Rama IX in June 1946. He was born in the U.S. in 1927 when his father was studying medicine at Harvard. He owns a patent on a form of cloud seeding and holds a degree in engineering from Switzerland. He also plays the sax and composed Thailand’s national anthem.
24. Tiger Woods is the son of an American father and a Thai mother.
25. Thailand is the world’s largest producer of tin.
26. Each year, around six million foreign tourists visit Thailand. Thailand has also attracted many expatriates from developed countries.
27. The population of Thailand is 67,091,089, which is ranked 20th in the world.
28. Sometimes the SkyTrain will stop for no apparent reason. When any member of the Royal family travels downtown, the trains will stop in a postion so that it is not above the Royal. Essentially your head can not be directly above theirs.That goes for walking on the overhead passes too.
29. At 15 a youth can enter but not drink in a club if accompanied by BOTH parents.
30. In 2008 Bangkok was ranked the best city in the world according to Travel and Leisure magazine
31. Khao San Road is the liveliest and busiest tourist area in Bangkok.
32. Don Mueang International Airport sports the tallest control tower in the world, measuring 132.2m (434ft)
33. Leaving the house without any underwear on is illegal, you can be arrested for it.
34. Bangkok is also called the ‘Venice of the East’ due to its large number on canals.
35. Thailand is the world’s 51st largest country. Russia is the largest. The United States is third largest.

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Eat dive relax dive eat dive relax cake!
chumphon-marine-parkThe full day trip two days ago was another resounding success, with some big smiles on our fun diver's faces as they stepped back on land. This time around the full day trip went to Chumphon Marine Park, which is NOT VISITED BY ANY OTHER DIVE RESORT ON KOH TAO. So that means pristine dive sites that will only be as busy as the number of people on board our boat. A rare treat for any fun diver. The marine life is incredibly abundant, so there is lots to see on every dive, and there is a wreck very similar to the HTMS Sattakut, called the HTMS Prab, with the only difference being that it lies in shallower water, so you get longer to see it. This trip is so amazing that our staff try and book days off to see if they can get on the trip if there are some left over places! But how come no other dive resorts visit there? It's because it's just too far away for them to be able to fit in three dives. But out fun diver only boat Porponawa is ridiculously fast, so we can provide you with three dives. Not only that, we feed you- breakfast, lunch and chocolate cake, plus as many soft drinks as you can manage.
We run full day trips every 3 days, alternating between sail rock, Chumphon Marine Park, and Ang Thong Marine Park (another rarely visited area for diving). So if you want to experience the best diving that the Gulf of Thailand has to offer, get yourself on the next full day trip. Pop into the office on Sairee beach and have a chat with one of our divemasters to find out when the next one will be, and where we will be going.

More facts about Thailand
Following on from a few days ago, here's 10 more interesting and occassionallly downright weird facts about the land of smiles:

11. Thailand is home to the world’s hairiest child, Supatra “Nat” Sasuphan.
12. The full name of Bangkok is- Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. It means “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest. Bangkok is a great city to visit because of its rich culture and diverse history. Tourists wishing to explore a city that is well known and highly recommended should check out Bangkok. The vivacious street life and interesting architecture makes this city a “must see”. Be sure to book your Bangkok hotel in the heart of the city. By centrally booking your hotel allows you to have convenient access to multiple restaurants and entertainment. There is a good reason that Bangkok was recently named, “World’s Best City”. If you are looking to discover a vibrant city in Asia, this is the place to see.
13 The Thai alphabet has 32 vowels and 44 consonants.
14. One-tenth of all animal species on Earth live in Thailand. More than 1,500 species of orchids grow wild in Thai forests. Thailand is the world’s number one orchid exporter.
15. Siamese cats are native to Thailand. In Thai they are called wichen-maat, meaning “moon diamond.” A 14th-century book of Thai poems describes 23 types of Siamese cats; today only six breeds are left. Giving a pair of Si Sawat cats (a type of Siamese cats) to a bride is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage.
16. Thailand is home to what may be the world’s longest snake, the reticulated python. The largest one ever found stretched over 33 feet (10 m) from end to end.
17. Thailand is home to the world’s longest poisonous snake, the king cobra. The cobra can reach more than 18 feet long, and one bite from it can kill an elephant.
18. Swiftlet nests are made from strands of saliva from the male swiftlet bird. Swiftlet nests collected from Thai caves can fetch more than $900 per pound. It is one of the world’s most coveted and expensive food items.
19. The Mekong River, which forms part of Thailand’s eastern border, supports more than 1,300 species of fish. It holds some of the world’s largest freshwater fish, including a giant catfish which can reach nearly 10 feet long and weigh as much as 660 lbs.
20. One of Thailand’s most curious creatures is the mudskipper, which is a fish that is capable of walking on land and climbing trees. It uses its fins to “walk” and can absorb oxygen through its skin and lining in its mouth. It spends most of its time out of the water, eating the algae in tidal pools.

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New SSI instructor trainers
Iain-GuySometime last year, SSI Instructor Trainer (IT) Paul "Tosh" Tanner decided to leave us completely in the lurch and move to Bali to become a monk. It was a pretty groundbreaking event. So groundbreaking in fact, that every member of staff remembers what they were doing at the moment he left, er, sometime last year... it was probably a friday. Our longstanding SSI IT, Simmo, has probably cried every day since Tosh left, but did a good job of convincing everyone that he's just sick of all the wars in the world. However, as more and more people want to be trained up to become SSI dive instructors, it was concluded that there just aren't enough Simmo's in the day to manage it all. So the post was advertised in all the corner shops and classified ads. Everyone at Big Blue was fully expecting one candidate to be chosen to work with Simmo, but no, we ended up getting two! It turns out that the applications from Big Blue divemaster trainee mentors Iain and Guy impressed the boss so much that he decided to hire them both!
I've written quite a bit about both of them previously, but in case you've never heard of them, Iain is Scottish, loves falling asleep at the bar of an evening- literally, and is apparently pretty handy at poker when he can stay awake. Guy is from Yorkshire, has a lovely mane of hair that he'll show to anyone (in old photos), and is addicted to Mills & Boon romance novels. They're both very experienced instructors and have spent the last few years moulding the next generation of professional SSI divemasters. Now they're going to get the chance to mould the next generation of SSI dive instructors.
They are both popular members of staff at Big Blue, and we'd like to wish them the best in their new roles.
If you'd like to live on a tropical Island and have the ocean as your new office, and are keen to find out what you need to do to become a diving instructor, get in touch with Simmo, Iain and Guy at Big Blue Pro. The email address is at the top of their webpage.

Wildlife protection groups join forces
Good news for shark protection. Two leading organisations have recently merged, WildAid and Shark Savers. The work previously undertaken by Shark Savers will now be taken on by WildAid. So, in addition to running a number of programmes to protect endangered wildlife species including elephants, rhinos, and tigers, they will also be campaigning to reduce shark fin consumption and protect manta rays. Shark Savers' 'I'm FINished with Fins' campaign was launched in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan last year with WildAid, National Geographic, and World Wildlife Fund as partners. WildAid launched the 'I'm FINished with Fins' campaign in China in late 2013 building on its ongoing campaign to stem consumption of endangered wildlife. In addition to the 'I'm FINished with Fins' campaign, Shark Savers' SharksCount citizen science program and the overall Shark Savers grassroots campaign to protect sharks and rays will continue within the context of WildAid's Shark program. Shark Savers' Shark and Ray Sanctuaries program will combine with WildAid's Marine Protection Program.

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