Big Blue Through The YearsA walk down Memory Lane 1991-2023

The Founder of Big Blue Diving

Michael Spjuth Big Blue Diving
Michael Spjuth, founder of Big Blue Diving, Thailand.

Michael came to Koh Tao in the late 80’s as an intrepid backpacker sitting on a coconut boat from the mainland. It was here he enrolled in his Open Water Course and loved it so much he went as far as almost completing his Divemaster before he ran out of money. Never the one to be put off by problems Michael whizzed home to Sweden, got a bank loan to buy a car, then jumped back on the plane to Thailand and with this loan started the second Dive shop on Koh Tao – Big Blue Diving. Michael went on to produce one of the worlds most successful Dive centers. Sadly Michael passed away at the beginning of 2022 when he had a fatal motorbike crash. The impact of his loss has been devastating to the team but his memory and his legacy lives on as we dedicate our new dive center to the founder of Big Blue Diving, our friend and mentor Michael Spjuth 12/1/67- 1/1/22.

In the beginning …

An original Koh Tao Dive center
Our Original Dive Center, 1991.

In 1991, well before Koh Tao was a backpacking haven, Big Blue Diving opened as a small dive shop at the end of the only pier on Koh Tao. We were the second dive shop to offer scuba diving to the few intrepid travelers that ventured out to visit paradise. Business was slow until Koh Tao started to get mentioned in travel books like Lonely Planet and Rough Guides.

Big Blue Diving back in the 90’s.

By 2000, we had opened our 5-star PADI dive resort right in the heart of Sairee Beach. Our beachfront dive shop with beachfront restaurant and bar quickly became a favorite with island visitors and locals alike. It was also around this time that we expanded the Big Blue dive boat fleet and started operating two large and purpose-built dive boats, something other dive shops at the time were not able to offer.

Big Blue Dive Centre Shop Front
Big Blue 1 situated in the heart of Sairee Beach.

Over the next couple of years, tourism and scuba diving boomed throughout Thailand. By the end of 2001, Big Blue Diving branched out and opened up another small dive shop on the neighboring island of Koh Samui. From this shop, we offered luxury speed boat trips to send divers to the sites around Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan, Sail Rock, and Ang Thong Marine Park. We also offered overnight packages to Koh Tao from Koh Samui so that those customers could have the chance to enjoy a bit of a taste of life in true paradise.

By 2003, we were ready to expand again. We opened Big Blue Diving in Khao Lak, a sleepy seaside resort town on the west coast of Thailand. We originally only offered full-day diving trips to the Similan Islands, but as we grew we started to offer luxury liveaboard trips. We picked up a large luxury boat, and started getting customers out to the more challenging dive sites in the Surin Islands, like Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, and Jacques Cousteau’s’ favorite dive site, Richelieu Rock.

Big Blue Khao Lak
Big Blue Diving Khao Lak 2003

In 2004, Big Blue Pro became Koh Tao’s first SSI Instructor Training Center and we dedicated a team of Instructor Trainers led by, the highest-ranked SSI Instructor Trainer in the world, and quickly became an SSI Platinum Instructor Training Facility. focusing on making dive professionals and building dive careers.  Our candidates now work all over the world in a variety of different scuba diving jobs.  Our high-quality training, high standards and award-winning status have meant that our candidates are sought-after worldwide.  If you are looking for a career in the dive industry there is no better place to do your professional diver training.

By 2007, we were ready to expand again, only this time not with a new dive shop, but with a new department; Big Blue Tech, our technical diving division. Tech specializes in wreck diving, diving on twin sets, decompression diving, Nitrox and Trimix diving, CCR, and sidemount diving. Big Blue Tech quickly became one of Koh Tao’s leading tech operators, winning several awards within the industry. Currently, Big Blue Tech is the worldwide leading certifying body for SDI and TDI.

Learning how to dive on Twin tanks with Big Blue Tech from Koh Tao, Thailand

The year 2009 saw the official opening of Big Blue Conservation, a not-for-profit ecological awareness and educational organization with our own in-house Marine Biologist with two goals in mind – to protect the Koh Tao ecosystem and inspire and build a global team of conservationists through SSI Marine Life Ecology & ID education. Our mission was and still is to protect the immense variety of marine life contained on reefs around Koh Tao and to pioneer our own research programs as well as contribute to global research efforts that are the foundation of marine ecosystem preservation and restoration. But we don’t just work underwater, we also organize regular beach clean-ups, join in with island-wide cleaning efforts, and host an annual fundraiser called Swim for Sharks to raise money for Shark Guardian and their work to protect vital shark populations. Marine Biologists at work with Big Blue Conservation on an artificial reef off Koh Tao.

We became a BSAC Center of Excellence in 2010, making us authorized to train all scuba diving grades and skill development courses. It wasn’t long before we were the number one BSAC Instructor Training facility in Asia. Along with Big Blue Tech, we are currently the only BSAC Center of Excellence in Asia.

By now we couldn’t help ourselves and as the demand increased for Freediving we opened Big Blue Freediving with internationally recognized freedivers. Big Blue Freediving was the only SSI freediving Instructor Training facility in Thailand at the time, and the only school to be able to offer a training pool for confined water sessions. And we even had a special boat dedicated to freediving so that the freedivers could enjoy their diving outside of the constraints of the schedules of our larger dive boats.Celebrating having reached a depth of 20 meters on one breath with Big Blue Freediving on Koh Tao.

The same year we also opened our very own retail store in the heart of Sairee Beach. Big Blue Drift quickly became the busiest scuba diving, water sports, and beach clothing retail store on Koh Tao, and also became the biggest distributor for GoPro cameras and accessories.Drift Retail StoreDrift – our high street retail store

By this point in our history, we had become really familiar with expanding our operations. But 2012 marked our largest expansion yet. We opened a second branch of Big Blue Diving on Koh Tao, also on Sairee Beach, but on the north part of the beach. This new resort was a bit more upmarket than our original resort and offered our customers bungalows on the beach, ocean view dormitories, a brand new on-site training pool, and another excellent beachfront restaurant and bar

Big Blue 2 at the northern end of Sairee Beach on Koh Tao.

In 2015, the lease on our original dive center in Sairee expired and we were not given option to renew our lease. So it was with great sadness that we had to shut down Big Blue 1. Not to be defeated, we re-invested heavily in Big Blue 2 and upgraded it with new offices, new classrooms and an area for our Japanese friends at Big Blue Diving Chaba. Since we no longer had a big presence in the heart of Sairee, we also opened a booking office right next to our retail store to spread the word about Big Blue Diving to all the new visitors to Koh Tao.

Our Japanese friends at Big Blue Chaba

To celebrate our 25th anniversary in 2016, we extended our dive resort by adding in five new budget beachfront dormitories, eight new backpacker private rooms and also enlarged our restaurant. We also opened up four new classrooms including a classroom dedicated to Big Blue Pro for all our professional-level training.Celebrating 25 years of Scuba Diving on Koh Tao.

By 2020, Big Blue Diving was a well-established and well-known name in the diving industry worldwide. We’d met our goal of being able to provide our customers with everything under one roof and we had started to set our eyes on opening up other Big Blue Diving shops in other locations including Bali & the Philippines.  But then the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the world went flipping mental and literally blew us apart!

In March 2020 Koh Tao went into lockdown. There were no cases on the island but the whole world was going crazy and the death toll was getting out of hand, (allegedly 😉 )! Here on Koh Tao however we had no Covid cases which remained that way for almost a whole year. During that time we had an agonising choice as to what to do with the business. We had zero customers and therefore there was no work. Pretty much all our staff  left or found other means of employment usually online. Our landlord lacked foresight so we downsized, enormously and went from one of the biggest Dive Resorts on the island to a small shop front in the heart of Sairee at Blue Tao Beach Hotel. When we were allowed to reopen for what limited business there was we were able to feed breadcrumbs to some of our Instructors who had stayed and enormously grateful to have Blue Tao & Blue Water Restaurant to operate our dive trips when we could.

Blue Tao Beach Hotel- our center of operations on Koh Tao during Covid.

Covid was an incredibly difficult time for us at Big Blue and was made even worse by the very sudden and tragic passing of the owner and founder of Big Blue, Michael Spjuth right at the end of it all

As the world gradually started to reopen at the beginning of 2022 and Thailand began to ease restrictions for tourism we found ourselves in need of a more suitable base within which to operate and were delighted and excited to be offered a new spot in the heart of Sairee. A Dive center, swimming pool, classrooms, space to expand and surrounded by some of Koh Tao’s best restaurants and bars. Within 6 weeks we had built our new Dive Center, new manager and a new team all itching to get things back to normal and take you diving twice a day.

The new Big Blue Dive Center on Sairee Beach in Koh Tao

Now well into our 2nd post Covid year, Big Blue Diving Koh Tao is well and truly back on our feet with 3 fully operational boats, over 100 sets of brand new equipment, around 30 super eager and passionate staff and on one of the best locations on earth – Big Blue Diving, Koh Tao, Thailand.