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Whale Shark Koh Tao
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Big Blue Freediving - Koh Tao - Thailand

Sawadee Pee Mai

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If your like most people, you probably have a few war wounds and missing brain cells from the events that took place during Songkran.

Despite being in the hottest month of the year and that for weeks the weather has been unbearably hot, Mother Nature had alternative plans for us during Songkran. She joined the celebration in full force offering us thunder, rain and no-shine; all day long.

Staff from Big Blue started our New Year celebration by walking through the streets of Mae Haad. The lanes were full and everyone was splashing and being soaked by copious amounts of water. After being completely soaked, by others and Mother Nature, we took Koh Tao’s notorious ‘yellow brick road’ and made our way to Sairee. Celebrations were had at nearly every dive school, restaurant and beach club. Our favourite must-stop places included Maya Beach Club, Fishbowl, DJL and, lastly, Big Blue. Water slides were built and we witnessed people swimming fully clothed in the ocean, pool and even in an oversized pot (yes, a pot).

The really good news, though, is that fun was had and a New Year has begun. Our sins were washed away and our blessings from Mother Nature were received. Sawadee Pee Mai everyone – we wish you adventure and health for the year ahead!  

Are you a sustainable tourist?

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If you have stepped foot on Turtle Island, also referred to as ‘The Rock’ or simply ‘Koh Tao’, you would have noticed that the Thai locals as well as many long-stay expats care for its environment and its future preservation. Like any tourist destination, high visitation numbers can result in environmental damage, in some cases irreversible. Unfortunately we often witness tourists visiting Koh Tao who do not look after its environment.  

At Big Blue Freediving we are proud that Big Blue Diving’s conservation department, managed by our very own Marine Biologist Rachel Linarts, works hard to rectify and prevent any damage that has been or may be made by tourists to this speckle of paradise. Rachel runs eco diving and conservation expeditions, frequent beach clean ups and is a active member of Koh Taos ‘Trash Hero’ group. She hopes that by educating locals and tourists we can conserve our earth.

If you are reaping the benefits of a traveller, please be and encourage others to be a sustainable tourist. One who visits a destination and only makes a positive impact not only on its environment but on its society and economy.

Looking after our oceans and its land above the water, which we call home, is vital. We need to work together on preserving our world and its cultures. Please share this blog and lets educate others on how we all can work towards becoming sustainable tourists! 

 

Excellent conditions in Koh Tao (Turtle Island)

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Some would say that March and April are two of the best months to dive in Koh Tao, Thailand. Our weather is heating up, our days are sunny with blue skies, we have magical whale sharks gliding past and our visibility is great!

The visibility of the water when Freediving can completely change the divers experience of the underwater world. High visibility allows freedivers to see marine life not only up close but also from a distance. We can see schools of barracuda, we can see the rock formations and the sea bed from 20 + meters away. The colour of the ocean, whilst watching marine life swim by, is truly indescribable. We get to experience the underwater world in a whole new light! 

We always take our customers, both students and fun divers, to the best dive locations on the island. Koh Tao boasts around 20 excellent dive sites. Popular dive sites include White Rock, Shark Island and Green Rock. We also have two world class diving sites Southwest and Chumpon Pinnacles. 

One of our freediving mottos at Big Blue Freediving is: to experience freediving is just 'Breath Taking'. It truly is, especially when the visibility is at its peak!

Image: Nudibranch; Photographer: Jeff, Big Blue Diving 

Whale shark encounters!

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It is official, whale shark season is in full swing at Big Blue Freediving in Koh Tao, Thailand and our morning divers have been ecstatic with their once in a lifetime whale shark encounter! Over the past week divers were treated with not only one but two majestic whale sharks at Chumphon Pinnacle and Sail Rock, two of our regularly visited dive sites! 

As mentioned, in a previous blog, a benefit to Freediving is that it allows the diver to have intimate contact with marine life. Unlike Scuba, training in Freediving allows the individual to get close to marine life as freedivers have no bubbles and move gracefully through the water resembling an aquatic mammal.

A brief introduction to whale sharks

Whale sharks are spotted in tropical and warm oceans, and as you may have guessed that includes sunny Thailand! Whale shark's can live for up to 70 years and are the largest known extant, meaning still alive and kicking, fish species! Incredibly this amazing fish species can grow to be as long as 12.65 meters, which is the average size of a school bus and weigh more than 21.5 metric tons! They are a slow-moving shark and are the most friendliest looking shark you could ever imagine!  

Business as usual

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Our Big Blue leaving party was a success! We drunk the bar dry and raised money for each of Big Blue's bar and restaurant staff. Many tears were shed but mostly another unforgettable night was had at Big Blue's Beach Bar, Higher Ground. 

Big Blue Freediving is now happily operating out of Big Blue 2. We have been very fortunate to be relocated to a beachfront bungalow which is now our Freediving HQ! Courses are taught around the resort but many in our tasty restaurant, which overlooks the turquoise waters of Sairee Beach. Breathing sessions have been underneath the shade of the coconut trees whilst listening to the sounds of the ocean (and the odd long-tail or diving boat)! 

We are excited to be in our new location and Freediving courses are starting daily; business is running as usual at Big Blue Freediving! 

 

An End of An Era

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Sadly this evening will be our last sunset and our last party at Big Blue 1. For many years the hub of Big Blue has been within our resort. We have certified thousands of divers at Big Blue Diving and travellers from around the globe would remember their time at our irreplaceable beach bar, Higher Ground.

Countless nights, countless beers, countless godfathers and countless memories have been had here. Tonight we farewell not only our favourite bar on the island but some of the most hardworking members we have had the honour of working with (restaurant and bar staff you know who you are)! 

As of tomorrow we will be operating from Big Blue Chaba and Big Blue 2. We have many exciting prospects ahead but tonight we celebrate, with sniffles, where it all began - at Big Blue 1! 

If you are on Koh Tao tonight, join us from sunset until we can drink no more! 

A brief history of Koh Tao

View Point

Koh Tao was initally used as a stop off for fisherman who needed shelter from bad storms or a break from a long journey. In 1933 the island was used as a political prison, and remained as such for 14 years until the prisoners were released to the shores of Surratthani. That same year the first long term settlers came to Koh Tao, and many of their families still own huge areas of land here. The population has risen steadily over the years, and has moved on considerably from the early days, when people made their liviing on the island by selling coconuts, growing vegetables, and fishing. 

In the 1980's Koh Tao was discovered by the first 'backpackers'. Word travelled fast about this tiny paradise with its amazing beaches and dive spots. It didn't take long before many travellers were making the trip to Koh Tao, and because of this, bigger boats were brought in to make it easier to reach. 

With its many shallow dive sites and great all year round diving conditions, it is no wonder the island has turned into a diving Mecca. People realised the island's potential, and have put Koh Tao on the map as one of the best places in the world to learn to dive! 

This tiny island has seen significant change over the last 10 years. There are now over 40 dive companies, and many large resorts to choose from. At the moment Koh Tao is paradise; let's hope it stays that way! 

Source: Dive Guide: Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao, Ang Thong & Sail Rock (www.dive-guide.org)

Benefits of Freediving

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There are several benefits to freediving, here are a few to consider: 

  • Intimate contact with marine life - One of the main reasons why freediving is so popular is in the freedivers' ability to get close to marine life. With no bubbles and slow, graceful movements, the freediver resembles an aquatic mammal. Fish respond to freedivers much better than scuba divers, thus allowing the freediver a closer and more intimate experience with marine life. 
  • Serenity - Many put freediving akin to yoga as pre-dive techniques place freedivers in a meditative state. Gracefully slipping underwater, freedivers hear only their heart beat. Freedivers glide effortlessly underwater, unencumbered by bulky scuba equipment. The brief time spent underwater on a freedive is a rich and intensely beautiful experience. 
  • Cost - Freediving is a very cost-effective way to explore the underwater world. All that is generally needed are a mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit, and weight belt. The specialzed freediving version of each of these items (i.e. longblade fins, low volume masks, depth-compensatingweight belts) tends to cost slightly more than their scuba counterparts. However, there is no need for scuba tanks, bouyancy compensators or regulators - which can add up to several hundred dollars. 

Source: www.usfreediving.org; www.sportdiver.com

Features of a freediving mask!

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Koh Tao is full of Scuba Diving enthusiasts and it is easy for lovers of the ocean to assume that they can use their Scuba Diving mask when Freediving. The main difference between a Freediving and Scuba Diving mask is that a Freediving mask is a low volume mask. This feature allows the Freediver to use less air to equalise, which comes in handy when you are 20-40 meters below the oceans surface! In addition, many Freediving masks are designed so that they are more streamlined. This is to help with minimising resistance when diving, or gliding, through the ocean. 

All divers are aware that selecting the correct mask for diving is just as important as selecting the right fins and footwear. But what do you look for when shopping for a new freediving mask? Below are the five (5) important features, listed by SSI International, to look for when choosing a freediving mask!

Lens

The lens should be made of tempered or safety glass. The lens faceplate in a new mask is usually protected by an oily film. This coating must be removed - using a mild cleanser - before applying a commercial anti-fog solution. 

Band

The mounting band for the lens should be non-corrosive - moulded plastic or composite. 

Strap

The strap should adjust, and lock in place, easily. It should also be either split at the back of the head, or wide enough to fit comfortably and securely; a narrow single band will easily slip up and down. 

***TIP from our Instructors: Invest in a neoprene mask strap. They are comfortable, easy to adjust and are very affordable. For a small investment they will save you from pulling on and sadly pulling out your hair!!! 

Nose Pockets

Nose - or finger - pockets allow the Freediver to overcome the effects of depth and equalize pressure in the ears and sinuses during decent. 

Hope this helps fellow Freedivers! 

 

Is Freediving, free?

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By learning the correct techniques for Freediving you will be able to experience the underwater world like never before! At Big Blue Freediving in Koh Tao, Thailand we will safely teach you all the skills you need so that you can glide above coral reefs, explore rock formations and experience up close encounters with our local marine life, including Whalesharks and Turtles! 

Freediving is a sport that you can practice at any time that is convenient for you. No boat scedules, no heavy equipment or tanks, no expenses for future diving endeavours and no need for an underwater guide. Once you are a qualified and well trained Freediver, as long as you dive with a buddy, your free to dive as you please. The ocean becomes your playground! 

So back to the title of this blog. "Is Freediving, free?" The short and very interesting answer is 'no'. However, Freediving is the cheapest and most rewarding training in the divingsphere, a new word of ours! Freediving training teaches you safe skills to explore the underwater world and at Big Blue Freediving our Level 1 Freediving course is only 5500 Thai Baht and our training will take you up to 20 meters deep, on ONE BREATH! It really is BREATH TAKING! 

Do you speak another language and still want to dive deep? Don't worry, so do we! Our experienced Instructors Rakel & Pilu teach in English, French & Spanish! 

For more information surf our website or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

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