17/18 Moo 1, Koh Tao Suratthani, 84360 Thailand         Info @ Big Blue Diving        +66 (0) 77 456 050

BIg Blue News

 

Thailand is world famous for its incredible dive sites, and with regular sightings of whalesharks all year round now on Koh Tao and the opportunity to bump into manta rays and leopard sharks on the Andaman side of the country there’s never been a better time to experience the best places Thailand has to offer for the scuba enthusiast.

In this blog we’ll be taking a closer look at what are regarded as the best dive sites to visit next time you’re in Thailand, and please feel free to offer suggestions of your own!

 

3807203 orig

‘Hin Daeng’, Mu Koh Lanta National Marine Park

Literally translated to ‘Red Rock’, this excellent divesite is located in south of Koh Phi Phi and Phuket on the west coast of Thailand. As you can see from the map it just breaks the surface and reaches depths of around 60 metres at a lovely steep wall covered in red soft corals which give the dive site its name. Best visited between November and April, there’s always a chance to see whalesharks, manta rays and even leopard sharks on occasion.  Jackfish are always present in great numbers, and it’s a lovely site to explore if you’re interested in the smaller things out there with many different types of nudibranch, shrimp and others to keep the keen macro photographer happy.

Hin Daeng

Its neighbor, ‘Hin Muang’ or ‘Purple Rock’ offers equally as wonderful diving, this time with more purple soft corals. It takes about 1-2 hours to get to these sites by speedboat from Koh Lanta or Koh Phi Phi, and is well worth the trip.

These sites are best dived with the SSI or PADI Advanced certification already due to its often challenging currents and depth.

 

 

 

richelieu rock dive site map

Richelieu Rock, Surin National Marine Park

 

Discovered as a recreational scuba dive site by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the 80’s (with the help of local fishermen) and arguably the number one site on this list, this underwater gem is world famous as being ‘Whale Shark Teritory' and draws many visitors every day because of this fact. Situated a little south of the Burmese border east of Surin Island it’s easily visited from Khao Lak and Phuket on Liveaboard or day trips, and is full of life with plankton flows ensuring the presence of big fish, in particular schooling whirls of barracuda, giant trevally, dogtooth tuna and of course the majestic whaleshark if you’re lucky.

whale shark richelieu rock

Beautiful corals, seahorses, ghost-pipefish, lionfish, harlequin shrimp, nudibranch and the chance for the rare flamboyant cuttlefish make this a must-see next time you’re diving Thailand – try to do two dives here if you really want to discover the whole site!

 

 

                                      

 

20 chumphon pinnacle

Chumphon Pinnacle, Koh Tao     

By far the most visually impressive site close to Koh Tao, this now legendary pinnacle is easily the best chance to see the whalesharks in the Gulf of Thailand (along with Sail Rock, next up on the list). Perfect for both SSI/PADI Open Water and Advanced fundivers and students, we always know that our divers are going to return from this site totally addicted to scuba diving! Once home to bullsharks and reef sharks, it's a fully submerged granite pinnacle 14 metres at its shallowest point and reaching as deep as 47 metres off the northern tip (towards a secret pinnacle nicknamed 'The Castle' due to its shape). It's surrounded by schools of barracuda, large grouper towards the ocean floor and beautiful schools of fusiliers being hunted by passing king mackerel, trevally, queenfish and rainbow runners.

chumphon

Can be dived all year round, with the best months for whalesharks usually April – June.

 

 

 

sail rock

Sail Rock, not far from Koh Tao/Koh Samui/Koh Phangan

With no other dive site for miles around, Sail Rock is renowned for being the undisputed number one dive site in the whole of the Gulf of Thailand. The only site for miles around, all of the larger species in the area are attracted towards it which inevitably makes it a great place to see whalesharks and the other big stuff that hangs around our sites – in 2017 there were at least 102 whalesharks sightings here, the most ever seen in the history of Koh Tao/Koh Phangan diving!

Batfish at Sail Rock

Once home to bullsharks (come back soon please!) it's covered in pelagics - schools of chevron and pickhandle barracuda, along with batfish, queenfish and tonnes of fusiliers! The edges of the site are usually home to prowling King Mackerel over a metre long and huge, fat grouper lurking at depth, which are always looking to feed on the smaller fish that blanket the dive site.

 

 

 

 

 

king crusier map

King Cruiser Wreck, between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi

Originally a car ferry in Kobe, Japan, the King Cruiser was bought by Thailand’s marine company and used as a passenger ferry between Phuket and Phi Phi when it hit ‘Anemone Reef’ in 1997, and sank with no casualties due to the help of nearby dive and fishing boats. The wreck is 85 m long by 35 m wide, and has four decks with large walkways and windows. It lies perfectly upright at 33 metres at the deepest point, with the shallowest point being the captain’s cabin at 12 metres – strong currents and its depth make it unsuitable for Open Water divers however. 

turtle diving krabi

The wreck acts a home to hordes of scorpionfish and lionfish, and is also a feeding ground to enormous schools of snapper, batfish and trevally. Octopus, eels, turtles and the odd shark have also been known to make an appearance, so keep your eyes peeled!

 

 

So how many of these have you dived? Do you agree with our Top 5, or would you put something else on the list? Let us know through our social media!

 

 

 

I’m often found to be browsing the various Thailand backpacker forums out there on Facebook, Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor and one question that pops up a lot is who to choose to dive with after you’ve been certified. With something like 100 dive centres on Koh Tao (1 great, 99 less so) it seems like a difficult task, but with a little bit of research it’s easy to see why Big Blue are the undisputed leaders of fundiving on this lovely little island for those wanting to dive more challenging and exciting sites than those the Open Water students are going to.

Here we will look at the different types of dive centre on the island, and what they’re offering to the already-certified scuba diver.

 

mapp

Sites Visited

It’s essential for any fundiver, be them experienced or freshly certified, to be offered the chance to visit the best dive sites Koh Tao has to offer on a daily basis. The dive sites widely acknowledged to be the best are Chumphon, South-West and Samran Pinnacles, plus other classics like Green Rock, Shark Island and the wonderfully challenging Laem Thian ‘Caves’ on the east of the island. When looking for a dive centre to use for your holidays here, it’s an excellent idea to speak to the Divemaster in their reception  and have a look at their schedule for the coming days (and also the past week) to see which sites are being visited the most – if the same sites are being repeated daily then it usually means the dive centre is using the same boat for both Open Water students and the fundivers, especially if you see sites like Japanese Gardens, Aow Leuk and Mango Bay listed.

 

Fundiver-only Boat?

‘So what’s wrong with Japanese Gardens, Mango Bay and Aow Leuk?’ I hear you ask? ‘Nothing at all!’ is our resounding answer, these sites are absolutely perfect for those of you diving for the first time, with lots of shallow sandy patches to practice your buoyancy skills without bumping into the delicate corals. However, for those with more diving experience looking to see the most beautiful sites around Koh Tao these would be a disappointing choice.

It’s here where having a boat exclusively for fundivers really makes the difference!

Our dedicated fundiver boat has no restrictions on where it can go around Koh Tao, so we don’t have to follow the crowds and stick to the nearby western dive sites like White Rock and Twins every day – no site is too far, and it’s also one of the only big boats on the island that can comfortably go from Chumphon to South West Pinnacle in a normal morning run; way too far for the slower boats out there! Most importantly of all, it means that the dive sites we go to are not determined by the majority, the learner divers. All dive sites are now viable, currents to play with and swim-throughs to squeeze through are our goals, and of course we now have absolutely no restrictions on where the boat will end up so the moment we get the ‘Whaleshark!’ call over the radio we can immediately change our plans and head straight towards it, something that wouldn’t be possible if we were sharing the boat with our OW students!

The choice here is simple, really.

fish

 

What else should we consider?

There are always more things to consider before taking the plunge with your dive centre of choice, the most important of all being safety. Boats should always have fully-stocked first aid kits, plus plenty of pure oxygen on the boat in case the worst happens. I usually have a quick search online to find out a bit more info, looking out in particular for reports of accidents etc. that may have occurred there, but maybe this is me just being a bit morbid!

The way the fundivers are organized is also key to a happy dive experience. More than 4 divers per DM is a little too much for my liking, and I do not like being told to go up because of a time restriction on the dives – there are a few dive centres on Koh Tao that won’t let you dive over 1 hour, some even have a 45 minute time limit! On a shallow site Advanced divers should be able to get at least an hour underwater safely, and here at Big Blue we will always try to give our fundivers as long as we can without compromising safety with the air in the tank, or the limits set by the dive computer of course.

Finally (and this is something that really drives me crazy!) the groups should never mix the certification levels. As a divemaster myself I don’t want to be placed in a group containing Open water level divers…ever!  More often than not the OW divers use their air a lot faster and have less control over their movement underwater, which can often result in short dives and lots of bumping into each other and the bottom. I don’t want to sound like a scuba snob but diving is expensive, and I want to get the most out of my dives without someone swimming into the back of me or kicking up sand when I’m trying to get a photograph - give them their own DM, and the put the advanced divers in another group for God’s sake!

 

whal

 

Here at Big Blue we wouldn’t dream of mixing our advanced and open water divers, there are no time limits, maximum group sizes of four per DM and absolutely no restrictions on where we send the boat. Our safety record is the envy of many, and our worldwide reputation for quality is one we’re very proud of here. Coupled with some of the most talented DMs on the island, and our big, comfortable dive boats (rather than the converted fishing boats so many of our competitors favour) there’s no reason why any sane diver wouldn’t at least come for a chat to find out just why we’re the best choice for fundives, every single day of the year.

 

 

Come and sign up for your fundives in person at our resort on Sairee Beach, or with me in the little office in Sairee village.

 

 

 

 

For those wishing to learn how to dive, the SSI or PADI Open Water course is a great choice here at Big Blue. We’re often asked why the Open Water course takes so long to complete, so this blog will hopefully explain just how the course works, and why taking four days to complete it is the best way to become certified whilst not rushing through it too much – after all why hurry something that’ll give you memories that’ll last a lifetime!

 

learntodive

 

When researching which dive centre to dive with, you’ll often hear the expression ‘getting certified’. This means taking and passing a scuba diving course given by one of the 120 accredited scuba certification agencies such as PADI, SSI and NAUI, the most commonly seen here in Thailand. When you’ve become certified you are now able to fill your own tanks and go diving without a dive professional (of course you’ll need to show a certification card before they will fill a tank) or, alternatively, they can now go diving with any dive shop worldwide without further training.

The training for the Open Water license consists of four parts, spread over four days: 

  • Theory work
  • Written exams
  • Pool training
  • Four Open water dives

OWPOOL

So why do we need four days – it doesn’t seem like that’s a lot to do?

When learning to dive for the first time, our students need time to let all the new information from the theory-side of the course sink in. With the average attention span of students nowadays being an embarrassing 10 minutes maximum (according to educational research) the teacher will have to structure the class sessions in a way that ensures the student is kept engaged and also interested in all the cool new information being introduced. This means spreading the classroom sessions out, with a typical theory schedule looking something like this:

Day 1: 17.00 – 19.00

Just over an hour of videos, and a quick chat with the instructor.

 

Day 2: 08.30 – 17.00

A half hour of videos, and about an hour and a half of class time with the instructor followed by a break for lunch then the pool session.

 

Day 3: 08.30 – 17.00

 An hour and a half of classtime with the instructor, lunch break then two shallow dives in the afternoon.

 

Day 4: 06.30 – 11.30

The final two deep dives of the course, no theory today!

OW

 

This spacing of the theory is, in our opinion, the best possible way to teach our Open Water students precisely what they need without running the risk of them being distracted or losing interest. If it’s all done in one go even a student with the best intentions will struggle to stay stimulated during the theory work, and will certainly not be able to recall all that’s being taught. Also, by spacing the Open Water over four days it really helps with the camaraderie of the group, as learning together always quickly leads to firm friendships amongst the group, which in turn aids learning due to the positive atmosphere that pervades.

 

On the second day, usually after a little instruction from you dive-pro, you will head to the pool (or pool-like environment). You will practice the basic scuba skills you will need to complete your open water training, including such things as putting on your gear, taking off your mask, sharing air, and so on. This shallow water session (known as ‘confined skills’) tends to take about 3-4 hours, but in some situations we will take longer if we feel the students need it to really learn all that is necessary to get maximum enjoyment out of the first ocean dives the following day.

Next comes the four ocean dives. During these dives you will demonstrate the skills you learned in the pool portion of the course, whilst also learning how to control your movements underwater – known as ‘buoyancy control’.

OW2

 

So we can do all four in one day easily, right?

Wrong! There are many safety standards the instructors MUST stick to, dictated by the Gods of diving the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) who tell every dive organization (PADI, SSI et al) precisely what needs to be done to become an Open Water diver. In regards to the ocean dives they say this:

“No more than three open water scuba dives may be conducted on a given day.”

And hereby is the reason for the fourth day! Personally, I think to do it in a shorter time period can be a little daunting, as to really get comfortable with everything takes time, and to rush through would serve no benefit to either student or instructor – our new divers often call their Open Water experience ‘one of the best times of their lives’, so why hurry?

Sign up for your SSI or PADI Open Water course here at Big Blue’s resort, or through our website at

www.bigbluediving.com

Courses starting every day of the year, at 5pm.

 

OWSS    PADI

 

 

At some point, all divers have dreamt about owning their own dive centre on some beautiful tropical island somewhere – after all it will give you the opportunity to both have your own business and be able to dive every day, right?

The fantasy, unfortunately, is nothing like the real thing – usually you’ll be so busy with the general running of the place that diving takes a back seat at first, and before you know it you haven’t dived in an age and are not likely to anytime soon!

So what should we consider before taking the plunge and investing in your own scuba business?

 

DC

Great divers do not always make great dive centre owners

 It’s very common for someone with a lot of experience as a dive instructor to think the next logical step for them is their own place somewhere, changing the lives of new divers every day. In reality, while the customer service skills learnt and honed whilst working as an instructor is certainly beneficial in owning a business, being a business owner requires an entirely different set of skills – so make an effort to take courses on technical and mechanical subjects, they will come in very handy and for easy repairs and maintenance you can rely less others, thus keeping costs down.

 

Get help from the right people

It’s a good idea to visit every dive expo you can to talk to business owners, attend as many relevant seminars on the subject as is humanly possible, then of course speak to your accountant, bank manager and lawyer to ensure that all legalities are taken care of before it’s too late.

 

dc4

Make a detailed business plan

If you are not familiar with a business plan, then find a course that’ll teach you.  A bad business plan can easily cause the failure of the new business, so make sure it includes:

 - Your chosen facilities

 - Professional instruction and teaching operations

 - Advertising, marketing and public relations for your business

 - Local demographics

 - Initial investment outlay and projections for future income

If you’re new to this, then any portion of the plan that you do not fully understand is an area you need additional training before starting to develop your business - if you do not understand the marketing functions, then you need a marketing course for example. Expect to spend at least a few months putting together your business plan.

The advantages of a new dive shop vs. buying an existing business

Are you planning on starting afresh or will you buy an existing dive centre? Purchasing an existing Dive Business generally means the initial risks are less and the start-up time is nearly eliminated, as you can usually retain the dive shop’s customers, suppliers and volume of sales. However one of the main disadvantages of buying an existing business can be that you inherit the reputation the original business had with its customers and also suppliers.

 

DC3

Choose your business name carefully

Firstly, and before you get all those fancy t-shirts printed, verify the right to use the name and register it! If your choice of name and location may cause confusion with an existing dive operation, it could land you in a trouble so take the time to do some research first - take note all the dive operations around the world that stole the ‘Big Blue Diving’ name! Try to be unique, after all you don’t want to be confused with a lesser dive outfit with a similar name…

Be aware of the amount of time it takes to start a dive centre

It of course depends on your schedule, energy and resources, but expect to be able to open between nine months and a year after deciding to start if you’re lucky, and don’t forget to figure in the amount of time you’ll be working without an income whilst getting everything started.

The Importance of a great website.

A professional and informative scuba diving website can be an extremely affordable way to attract new customers online.

Website sales and enquiries in general are a low cost method to find new customers, and they’re ‘open’ 24 hours a day, all year round. Much thought needs to be put into its provision and design, and how easy it is to navigate for those with no previous diving experience at all – I know from personal experience that a bad website can easily put someone off diving with you. Also make sure the spelling and grammar is correct for those pedants that are so common in the dive industry!

 

DC2

 

How much money will I need?

Dive centres require a lot of capital to start up, and it’s vital to consider how many divers you feel you will want as customers a day, and the costs that will be incurred to service them. For example, how will the divers get to the dive sites? Will you buy your own boat, or rent space on someone else’s? How about tanks and a means to refill them? Fins, BCDs and wetsuits come in different sizes so you will need an assortment too – expect to be paying around $1000 per person for the necessary equipment they’ll be wearing, and then there are maintenance costs to take into consideration.

Your training organization can help get good rates for dive liability insurance, but it is always an upfront premium payment. Do not forget your general business insurance and business permits too!

What about the competition?

You will always find that where there’s good diving, there are dive centres. It’s vital to take a look at what the dive centres close to your project are offering, what is successful and what they appear to be doing wrong. The best laid plans can sometimes be thrown up in the air by simple problems that were overlooked, so by having an in-depth look at how the competition operate will hopefully give you a few ideas on how to be a success from the very first day.

 

ddd

So, your dream job will certainly be exciting and incredibly challenging, and to be a success with your own dive centre depends on many factors. You’ll need a lot of luck, but with some appropriate and intensive research, forward planning and sensible business skills, the realistic chances of rising above your rivals and the competition can become a reality.

Just don’t start one right next door to us, okay?

Your html here