April (11)


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.



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!

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.




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.





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!

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!





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!




Sawatdee Pee Mai Kap!
songkranThe fact that all the shops in Koh Tao have recently been selling water pistols can mean only one thing. Today is Songkran! Songkran is the traditional Thai new year, and they sure know how to celebrate in style. Thais roam the streets with containers of water or water guns. All along the streets, people will have small bowls of beige colored talc sold cheaply and mixed with water, which is then smeared on the faces and bodies of random passersby as a blessing for the new year. Sometimes this talc is mixed with menthol, just in case you would otherwise smell like a wet dog. What this all means is that, no matter where you go today, there will be no escaping the fact that you will be doused, squirted, showered, and sprinkled, with water- most of it ice-cold. Everyone gets involved, and I mean everyone.
By around 10am, Big Blue will be transformed into a water park (minus the height restrictions on the rides), with customers, Thai staff, Burmese staff, shop girls, instructors, divemasters, tech divers, freedivers, and divemaster trainees all getting a piece of the action. It's really not a good day to be walking around with your backpack on, or to have anything electrical like your smartphone in your pocket. It's also not a good day for feeling grumpy and getting annoyed with being doused with water everywhere you go- ocassionally there is the odd hapless tourist that hasn't read anything about Thailand before visiting, who is caught unawares by it all and just can't get into the spirit of things. Maybe it would be better for them to stay indoors for the day and let everyone else have all the fun.
Though this will be my 4th Sonkran, the details of the preceding 3 are, to put it midly a little sketchy, as the Big Blue bar is also open in the morning and throughout the rest of the day and night! It's the biggest day of the year on Koh Tao, way bigger than Christmas, and it's a great opportunity to let loose and have some fun. But for everyone out there enjoying the festivities, please be careful and leave your bikes at home. Sawatdee Pee Mai Kap!!!!

Songkran- why water?
So why is it that the entire festivities at Songkran revolve around dousing people with water? The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this "blessed" water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. Among young people the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand (temperatures can rise to over 40°C). This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles.
Nowadays, the emphasis is on fun and water-throwing rather than on the festival's spiritual and religious aspects, which sometimes prompts complaints from traditionalists. In recent years there have been calls to moderate the festival to lessen the many alcohol-related road accidents as well as injuries attributed to extreme behavior such as water being thrown in the faces of traveling motorcyclists. The water is meant as a symbol of washing all of the bad away and is sometimes filled with fragrant herbs when celebrated in the traditional manner.
Besides the throwing of water, people celebrating Songkran as a Buddhist festival may also go to a wat (Buddhist monastery) to pray and give food to monks. They may also cleanse Buddha images from household shrines as well as Buddha images at monasteries by gently pouring water mixed with a Thai fragrance over them. It is believed that doing this will bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year. In many cities, such as Chiang Mai, the Buddha images from all of the city's important monasteries are paraded through the streets so that people can toss water at them, ritually 'bathing' the images, as they pass by on ornately decorated floats. In northern Thailand, people may carry handfuls of sand to their neighborhood monastery in order to recompense the dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the rest of the year. The sand is then sculpted into stupa-shaped piles and decorated with colorful flags.
Some people make New Year resolutions - to refrain from bad behavior, or to do good things. Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal. Besides washing household Buddha images, many Thais also take this opportunity to give their home a thorough cleaning. On Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Songkran lasts officially 1 day. In Bangkok it is around 3 days, but in Chiang Mai it goes on for a staggering 7 days!




Junkyard part deux
junkyardJunkyard is a fantastic place to go diving. Located on Sairee, it's an artificial dive site made up of, literally, junk. The whole area is pretty shallow, 7-12 metres deep, and is all sand. Objects that have been placed there include a bunch of toilets, a weight bench with some free weights on a, er, i guess you'd call it a weight shelf!? There's a replica of the Sydney harbour bridge complete with model cars, a Jeep slowly being eaten by the ocean, and there are wire scaffolds for marine life to adhere to, all over the dive site.
Now, outside Big Blue on Sairee reef, we also have loads of sand, and it ranges from 6 metres all the way out to 15 metres where our boats moor up. We already have our coral nursery out there, but how about we do something similar to what's been done at Junkyard? It would be great to have our very own area full of inert inanimate objects, but if we were to do it, what would we put there?
In an ideal world, it would be fantastic to just build a proper dive site. Get some huge granite boulders, put them on a barge with a crane on it, and lower them over the side in a big stable pile on the sea bed, then just watch the marine life grow. After all, what are dive sites? They're rocks that jut out of the sea bed that allow coral to grow on, and attract all manner of marine life. What is the geology of Koh Tao? Granite. What rocks are the dive sites made out of? Granite. The geologist in me will tell you that granite is made up of the minerals biotite, feldspar and quartz. It's a very hard igneous rock (formed by volcanic activity at the surface of the Earth), and marine life just seem to love living on it. But creating a dive site in this way would be a pretty costly exercise without gaining sponsorship from the Thai Government and large multinationals, such as oil companies. So what could we use instead? Junkyard has lots of interesting marine life all over it, pufferfish, nudibranche, and all the usual suspects that live on the shallower dive sites. There may not be a lot of coral growing on the items, but marine life would certainly find shelter in some of it.
It would be great to get your ideas on realistic and affordable ways to take the junkyard idea further. Plus, it would take a little pressure off junkyard and the other dive sites if there was an additional place to take our divers. So get busy on our facebook page and come up with some ideas. If we get an amazing idea, we may even give some fancy prizes away. You can post on the article for this blog here.


Beer float
It's getting to that time of year when the tide is quite far out in the afternoon on Sairee beach. This means only one thing. Hoards of people up and down the beach lying in the shallow water drinking afternoon beers in the tropical Sun. Tough life I know. The downside to this practice is that if you're a quick drinker you'll have to keep getting up to go to the bar. The upside is that you won't need to keep getting up to go to the toilet! If you're feeling really fancy and are a diver with your own dive gear, you can wear your BC fully inflated, which means you can float all day long getting sozzled. Last year at Big Blue we got around the getting a beer problem by setting up a bar in the sea, with an eski brimming with beers. So maybe we'll do it again this year as it seemed to be pretty damn popular. Just remember though, you don't need to have your mask on and snorkel in, as that would give you some seriously weird tan lines!





Photography winners
photo-competition-winnerAfter a lot of pacing up and down, head scratching (which doesn't fully explain his lack of hair), and a little bit of repetitive strain injury on his eyes, manager of Big Blue Movies, Wayne, finally managed to choose a winning photo as submitted to our photography competition. The standard of pictures was really high and we received a lot of inspiring photos with some great conservation captions, but in the end we could only pick 3 winners. 3rd prize goes to Sebastian Åkerblom of dive4photos, for his photo of the jeep taken at junkyard, surrounded by marine life. 2nd prize goes to Big Blue videographer and SSI instructor James Emery, for his beautiful shot of a saddleback anemonefish taken at Sairee reef, with the caption "I don't need a circle to stay healthy". This highlights the contention in having an artificial stone circle at dive site twins to protect a solitary anemone, which many people believe is doing more harm than good.
But 1st prize goes to our very own divemaster Phil "fishlad" Smith, for his photo of a nudibranche doing a little tightrope walk on a fishing net, taken at Southwest pinnacle. Phidiana Militaris for those of you down with the latin names of these beautiful sea slugs. His caption was "not all fish cages destroy life", which is probably rubbing it in a bit if you're a talking nudibranche sitting on the outside of a cage looking in at the poor fish on the inside, plus you're gloating that you, as an underwater gastropod are actually able to understand English! Pretty clever caption actually as there are abandoned fishing nets all over the ocean, and it just shows that the rope will begin to harbour life given enough time.
So phil wins a free place on one of our full day trips to Chumphon marine park (we may even allow him to fun dive), James wins a free coral workshop afternoon with Big Blue Conservation, and Sebastian wins a Big Blue Conservation bag for life. Congratulations to you all!
The photography competition was a huge success, so much so that we will run another one in the future. All proceeds to the competition will go to Swim4sharks 2014, to raise money for various shark conservation projects in and around Koh Tao. If you'd like to view the winning 3 entries, go to our facebook page here.

You may call them pufferfish, but if we wanted to be fancy then you would say that they belong to the family Tetraodontidae, of the order Tetraodontiformes (Ever learn the classification series- Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species?). There are at least 120 species of puffers in 19 genera. They are most diverse in the tropics, relatively uncommon in the temperate zone, and completely absent from cold waters. They are typically small to medium in size, although a few species can reach lengths of greater than 100 cm.
The puffer's unique and distinctive natural defences help compensate for its slow locomotion. It moves by combining pectoral, dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. This makes it highly manoeuvrable, but very slow, and therefore a comparatively easy predation target. Its tail fin is mainly used as a rudder, but it can be used for a sudden evasive burst of speed that shows none of the care and precision of its usual movements. The puffer's excellent eyesight, combined with this speed burst, is the first and most important defense against predators.
Its backup defense mechanism, used if successfully pursued, is to fill its extremely elastic stomach with water (or air when outside the water) until it is much larger and almost spherical in shape. Even if they are not visible when the puffer is not inflated, all puffers have pointed spines, so a hungry predator may suddenly find itself facing an unpalatable, pointy ball rather than a slow, tasty fish. Predators which do not heed this warning (or which are "lucky" enough to catch the puffer suddenly, before or during inflation) may die from choking, and predators that do manage to swallow the puffer may find their stomachs full of tetrodotoxin, making puffers an unpleasant, possibly lethal, choice of prey. This neurotoxin is found primarily in the ovaries and liver, although smaller amounts exist in the intestines and skin, as well as trace amounts in muscle. It does not always have a lethal effect on large predators, such as sharks, but it can kill humans. known as pakpao in Thailand, they are occasionally accidentally eaten believe it or not as by-catch.
For us divers, they are common all over the Gulf of Thailand, and we see them regularly on the dive sites close to Koh Tao, with perhaps the most common one being the masked porcupine fish.
If you see one, give it a bit of distance and never try and touch it. If it has to puff up, it's a very stressful event for it to have to go through.




Big Blue award winners
big-blue-barWe're all pretty tired at Big Blue at the moment. Not because, you know, we work hard or anything like that. We're tired because we've been hosting some dignitaries. We even had to get the best china out to impress them. No it wasn't Bill Wyman looking for a new wife, or Tony Blair hoping to start a war between the dive schools (and then get a job as an ambassador for peace). It was the top brass from SSI worldwide. They were here on a two-pronged mission; to talk about the future of SSI after its aquisition by Mares last year, and also to recognise and award individuals and dive schools that have excelled in their training of SSI divers over the years. 
A few nights ago they held an event at the Big Blue bar, which was an excuse to provide Big Blue staff with free beer. They also honoured the boss, Jim, by awarding him the Platinum Pro 5,000 diver award- the highest SSI diving certification available. So he joins the ranks of Jacque Cousteau, who also received the award, in basically becoming a human fish. A hufish if we want to be taxonomically accurate. But that was nothing special compared with the free SSI beach towel he received. He also won the informal "sweatiest man of the evening" award, overtaking instructor trainer Simmo by a hair's breadth. Anyway, a good night was had by all, even though the free bar lasted for about 10 minutes. 
But just when we all thought we could get back to reality, we had a SSI conference two days ago. It was held at a fancy resort in Mae Hadd, with no expense spared (apart from the buffet). A few dive schools received awards, but Big Blue basically stole the evening. Instructor trainer Simmo won an award for certifying 500 instructors. Let me explain that in a little more detail. Since working at Big Blue, Simmo has taught over 500 hundred people to become SSI dive instructors- a phenomenal achievement. Big Blue Freediving also won an award for having certified over 100 people in their first year of operation, and divemaster mentor Nick "sloth" Bufton won an award for having certified 1,000 divers! That's 1,000 people that had never been underwater, who are now able to enjoy scuba diving! Again, an incredible achievement. 
The buffet however, was far from incredible. The spring rolls and onion rings ran out in about 30 seconds, so they went with their back-up plan of providing about 12 tonnes of crisps, which was great but the plates we had were essentially teacup saucer-sized; a disaster in finger food terms. 
SSI showed us some exciting developments that are in the pipeline. In a nutshell everything is going digital. You will be able to do your SSI open water academics on a tablet or smartphone app, and it'll hopefully be available at the end of this year. That will make the course a little easier to do seeing as everyone is pretty much living in the internet nowadays. Not sure how instructor Neil will adapt to this change though, he still uses a feather and ink to write his letters as far as i'm aware. There will hopefully also be some news forthcoming with Big Blue being able to offer SSI technical diving courses. Whatch this space.
So in conclusion, Big Blue is THE most successful, forward-thinking SSI dive resort in the world- fact. We have some incredible dive professionals here, and we have the awards to prove it. So you know there is only one place on Koh Tao that you need to come to, to learn how to dive, take your diving further, fun dive, or freedive. So get booking online now!

SSI facts
Seeing as we've just hosted the top brass from SSI, it seems only fitting to provide a bit of background information on the fastest growing diving agency in the world:

- Started in 1970, SSI has expanded to include more than 30 Service Centers, is represented in more than 110 countries with over 2.500 International locations, and has materials printed in more than 30 languages.
- Since June 1, 2010, Scuba Schools International is one of the few training agencies who qualified for a Global ISO Certification.
- SSI is a founding member of the RSTC (Recreational Scuba Training Council) and is present in all major national committees to ensure that the diving community´s interests are been taken care of.
- For more than 40 years, SSI has provided training, scuba diving certification, and educational resources for divers, dive instructors, dive centers and resorts around the world.
- On the open water course, the skills that you need to learn can be done in a way that is more flexible for both the student and the instructor. Other dive agencies are less flexible, which is not great for people that learn at different speeds and in different ways.
- International Headquarters is where the important standardization of SSI diving certification and education happens. This is where SSI Training Standards are written, and where the skills and techniques for SSI courses are created. This is also where we produce educational materials and, with the help of our Service Centers, translate them into many languages.
- SSI Dive Centers and Dive Resorts are professional businesses, that operate a scuba diving or freediving school for diver and dive professional training, as well as provide a variety of diving holidays, both local and destination for their customers. This network of Dive Centers and Dive Resorts around the world, where you can learn how to scuba- or freedive or further your diving education and experience, is extensive.
- SSI offers internationally recognized Scuba training programs for all levels - starting with Snorkeling and entry level diving courses up to Instructor Certifiers. The most common programs are: SSI Open Water Diver (OWD), Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD), more than 30 different specialty courses (like EAN Nitrox, Deep diving, Underwater navigation, Night diving and Limited Visibility, and many more). Dive leader training programs start with the Dive Control Specialist (who is qualified like Assistant Instructor) followed by Open Water Instructor and above.
- SSI's training program for children aged 8–12 years is called Scuba Rangers.
- The Training Program for technical Divers is called TechXR (Technical Extended Range) and includes decompression diving, trimix and other courses that exceed the limit for recreational divers.
- SSI Scuba Training programs are certified/recognized throughout the world (such as RSTC - Recreational Scuba Training Council, EUF - European Underwater Federation, CUA - China Underwater Association and others).
- SSI certified more open water divers in Australia in 2013 than PADI did.



Perfect diving at the moment
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.