May (8)


What Coup? 
martial-lawWe've been posting regular news articles about the recent coup over the last week onto our facebook page, in order to get the message out there that there really is nothing to worry about for people thinking of coming to Thailand. Life is continuing as if nothing has happened, especially on Koh Tao- no curfew, no army, nothing. Even in Bangkok the only real difference is that there are a few soldiers on the street, and that a curfew has been in place between 9pm and 5am. But even that has now been relaxed to midnight until 4am. Apart from that, anyone coming to Thailand would have no idea that anything was happening at all. Many tourists are now getting their photos taken with soldiers, who seem more than happy to oblige them!
The problem is that once something like a coup gets out to the worldwide media, panic mode is activated, with national media and Governments warning their citizens not to travel here. Completely understandable if it happened in a country like Zimbabwe, but coups in Thailand seem to happen pretty regularly, and always very peacefully.
It has gotten a little quieter on Koh Tao, but it's quiet season anyway until July. We are still teaching a lot of people how to dive that are having a great time regardless. Very few of our customers have even asked about the coup, because they can see that nothing has changed. In fact, there are actually advantages to what's going on at the moment, flights to Thailand and hotels are massively discounted! So you could have the holiday that you planned to do anyway, but now it will cost you a hell of a lot less!
So please don't allow yourself to be scared off by the news in Europe and America. The reality is very different. Governments obviously need to be seen to give advice to their citizens, even though it is (especially here) being overly conservative advice.
Get yourself over to Thailand as planned, and don't bother spending time in Bangkok, come straight down to Koh Tao and get diving!

Motorbikes more dangerous than any coup
Regardless of what's going on in Thailand at the moment, and people's perception of the danger they think they may be under, the reality is very different. The main hazard faced by people coming to Koh Tao is motorbikes. Motorbike crashes happen a lot here, and they are almost always tourists who rented one and had no idea how to ride them, or were just drunk at the time. Both not very good ideas. Thais have a very different attitude to riding a motorbike than westerners- they don't look right when turning left at a junction, and drive pretty erratically. Unfortunately, westerners seem to copy this approach too. 
The worst culprits are the boy racers that drive around like nutters all day because they have experience of riding bikes and know there are no speed limits being enforced. Sadly these are also exactly the type of people to go out, get really drunk, and then crash.
Then there are people who've never even sat on a bike that hand their passport in and suddenly have possession of a machine that they have no idea how to ride. It seems easy as most bikes are full automatic- throttle and brakes. But they have no control, and zero understanding of the danger of sand on the road. Usually they ride a lot slower though so most crashes cause superficial injuries and just hurt the wallet.. a lot!
So please be sensible, don't even think about getting on a bike here in Koh Tao. You can easily walk most places or get a taxi.






Fantastic review- by the reviewer!
Centre-of-excellenceAlways nice when you receive a pat on the back, especially when it's because of all the great feedback you get from your customers. We're really proud to have been recently awarded a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor. The letter we received reads:

Celebrate Your Certificate of Excellence!
TripAdvisor is delighted to award Big Blue Diving with a 2014 Certificate of
This prestigious award recognizes businesses that consistently earn top ratings from
TripAdvisor travelers. Showcase it to guests and staff with pride!
Marc Charron
President, TripAdvisor for Business

That's amazing! We have over 1,200 customer reviews now, and the overwhelming majority are excellent or very good. Now, we're not perfect and don't get it right all the time, and we have a very small number of poor reviews. Some of them were legitimate criticisms, and we always work hard to address them, but others are a little strange or ridiculous, to the point where we have had people come to Big Blue solely because they read them and decided they were rubbish!
So we're pretty chuffed and will continue to work really hard to ensure that everyone coming to Big Blue has the best possible experience. But once you've left Big Blue, don't forget to leave a review on trip advisor! You can also leave a review at Divezone, Tangareef, Scubadviser, and World Diving Review


City Divers
Divers like to dive dive sites... obvious fact and tongue twister all rolled into one. But sometimes dive sites don't mean the usual wreck or rock pinnacle. Occassionally they involve an entire submerged city! Here's a list of the top five that any diver with a heartbeat would want to see:

  • Port Royal, Jamaica: Once one of the largest European cities in the new world, it was hit by a huge earthquake in 1692, leaving it 12 metres below the surface!
  • Pyramids of Yonaguni-Jima, Japan: No-one knows whether they are natural or man-made, but they look a little too designed to be natural. Plus, they rise 76 metres off the sea floor!
  • Dwarka, Gulf of Cambay, India: Situated in the bay of modern-day Dwarka (one of the oldest cities in India), it sits at 40 metres and is apparently the city of Lord Krishna. Artifacts from 7500BC have been found there!
  • Lion City, Quiandao lake, China: As big as 62 football fields, and lying at between 25 and 40 metres, it was intentionally flooded in the 1950s to create a dam.There are incredible sculptures on the buildings, and its the place I would like to dive the most.
  • Cleopatra's Palace, Alexandria, Egypt: Believed to have been sunk by an earthquake 1,500 years ago, archaeologists think it is the actual palace of Cleopatra. over 140 artifacts have been recovered to date, and scientists believe that they have even found Cleopatra's tomb!




Still Diving
big-blue-diversYou probably saw the news yesterday that the Thai Army has initiated a military coup, brought about by the political stalemate that's been happening in the Thai Parliament. Now, hopefully you're not thinking that Thailand doesn't sound like a particularly attractive place to go on holiday right now. Because, although a coup sounds pretty scary, not much has actually changed, and in Koh Tao, NOTHING has changed.. nada, not one thing.
Let's provide a little bit of context. It's usually always a pretty big deal when a coup, military or otherwise happens in any country. But in Thailand, there have been 30 coup attempts since 1912, and 11 actual coups since 1932! So the nation is actually pretty used to it. But the crutial thing to note is that the army have gotten pretty adept at doing it peacefully. In Bangkok, yes you may see some soldiers, but in the main tourist areas, Khao San road for example, you're really not going to see anything. Plus, the main focus of what's occurring is in Bangkok (nowhere near touristy areas), so if you're worried, just fly in to Bangkok and spend your time elsewhere in the country! Get yourself down to Koh Tao and you'll be lucky to even see a policeman.. and keep it to yourself but I'm not sure that anyone on Koh Tao is paying much attention to the curfew either!
Our SSI and PADI instructors are still teaching people to dive, and our divemasters are still taking qualified divers out to see the best dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand. So don't let what's going on in the news stop you from having an amazing time. Get yourself booked in to come to Big Blue!

Engine's running...
I was pondering whether to write about the history of coups, then I thought I'd write something about pigeons, because, you know. But instead I think I'll just give you the top 7 (yes 7) countdown of the weirdest/funniest things said or done by students or instructors during their open water course:

7- "I really like the current simulator"- that'll be the pool filter then.
6- "I don't understand how you work out this residential nitrogen".
5- "ok, you just did everything I didn't want you to do, and nothing that I did want you to do".
4- "I don't understand how you put the fins on, then the boots over them".
3- "Have you ever taught anyone as thick as me before?"
2-"Will I need to put this in?" Pointing at the regulator before going underwater.
1- The scared student needing to be carried from the shallow to the deep end underwater, then being held in the instructors arms on his lap until he felt brave enough to kneel down by himself.



 Changes at Big Blue Tech

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

Aquatic Lizards

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




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

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




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

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





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

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




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

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