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Ocean Utopia

Visit at Ocean Utopia by Val on the seashore of Koh Tao (Thailand) this week. The visibility in the water was not too good but it actually reinforced the magic of the artwork.
Since the feat of its installation in March 2016, its evolution is amazing. The three structures are today entirely covered with shells and small algae. The coral shoots, slowly but surely, colonise their entire surface as well as the bases that guarantee the stability of Val’s artwork on the sandy bottom of the sea. Sea anemones have hatched on two of the sculptures. The three figures are also wrapped in an organic coat that accentuates the gestures that Val imagined for them. « Volonté », « Espoir » and « Étonnement » seem to be soaring in the infinite blue by the abundance of nature that surrounds them. Then there are these thousands of fishes that are like the pulse of the site. Their back and forth movement is its breathing. It literally makes it alive.
Ocean Utopia began its metamorphosis from bronze and concrete sculpture to an artwork standing in subtle balance with its environment. Marine flora and fauna have fully become its third medium. It only asks to hatch even more in its majesty and mystery. It is the sanctuary of Val and of her immense talent as a sculptor.

 

Volunteer in Koh Tao

Big Blue Conservation is dedicated to protecting the astonishing abundance of life on Koh Tao’s reefs, as well as contributing to global research studying the impact of climate change on this beautiful environment. Through numerous projects and initiatives, we work closely with the local community to sustain our local economy and protect our island from the impact of tourism. By choosing Big Blue Conservation, you contribute to our ecological mission whilst enjoying the best diving on the island.

Right now Big blue Diving Eco branch Big Blue Conservation is offerring an amazing opportunity to get involved with Volunteer Work: Our expedition starts with an afternoon of buoyancy training to enhance your diving skills in preparation for the BSAC Marine Conservation specialty. You don't need to have a background in biology as this course will give you all the skills and confidence that you need when undertaking the survey dives and working on our coral nursery afterwards. This includes various short lectures on four topics (Ocean Environment, Coral Biology, State of our reefs, Coral Conservation), followed by a 4 SCUBA practical sessions. After a day off you will then complete your Deep and Nitrox diver certification and continue working on various reef restoration and rehabilitation techniques. Upon completion of the BSAC specialty, you will begin to partake in survey dives, which involve collecting data on the current status of the reefs and assessing our reef communities. These data contribute to global marine biological research databases used to protect our oceans. During week four, you have the opportunity to complete a project of your choice with the support of our training staff – whether it is organising a fundraiser, an educational video, or simply a poster. This is your chance to show off your talents and apply them to marine conservation! Be the change you want to see.

Commitment: 4 weeks minimum

Cost: 40,000 Thai Baht (includes accommodation, dives and equipment rental). 

The BIG and the small.

The biggest fish in the sea is as long as a school bus, weighs as much as 50,000 pounds, and has a mouth that looks, head-on, wide enough to suck down a small car.The largest photographed Whaleshark is beleived to be 18 meter from nose to tail as photographed here, and the smallest was just 30 cm caught in a fishing net in the Philipines.

Despite this distinctive profile, scientists know very little about the whale shark. They breathe through gills, like fish. They are cold-blooded, like fish. The "whale" part of the name refers to size and how the animals eat. They are one of only three known shark species that filter feed, as baleen whales do, swimming slowly through plankton-rich water, maws agape. Water goes in carrying edibles of all sizes, and water sans food flows out.

The giant fish is hard to study in part because it is hard to find and track. By tagging individual specimens, scientists have learned that whale sharks can log thousands of miles in years-long trips. But they sometimes disappear for weeks, diving more than a mile down and resting in the chilly deep for a spell. No one has ever found mating whalesharks but there have been a few infant whalesharks found in the Philipines which males us beleive this area is a likely contender for their birthing grounds. Its been rumoured that whalesharks are solitary creatures but encounters with mass groups of Whalesharks in Mexico and the Philipines prove otherwise.

Plus there are many witness accounts from Koh Tao fishermen of old that Koh Tao itself would often be host to more than 20-50 whalesharks at a time back before the islands here were inhabited. Whalesharks are still a frequent visitor to Koh Tao and if you want to know more about them then keep an eye on our Facebook page which will update you every time there is a Whaleshark on Koh Tao.

Riddle me this!

Here's a fun little scuba myth! The next time you think you are having a bad day remember this: Fire authorities in California found a corpse stuck up a tree in a burned out section of forest while assessing the damage done by a forest fire. The deceased male was dressed in a full wet suit, complete with SCUBA tanks on his back, flippers, and face mask. A post-mortem revealed that the person died not from burns, but from massive internal injuries. Dental records provided a positive identification. Investigators then set about to determine how a fully clad diver ended up in the middle of a forest fire?

It was revealed that, on the day of the fire, the person went for a diving trip off the coast some 20 miles away from the forest. The firefighters, seeking to control the fire as quickly as possible, called in a fleet of helicopters with very large dip buckets. Water was dipped from the ocean then flown to the forest fire and emptied. You guessed it. One minute our diver was making like Flipper in the Pacific, the next he was doing the breast stroke in a fire dip bucket 300 feet in the air. Apparently he extinguished exactly 5'-10" of the fire.

Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed!

Fluoro Diving on Night Dives

Night diving isn't everyone’s cup of tea, but this could be about to change. A new way to see the underwater world is emerging. ‘Fluoro Diving’ is where the standard white light torch is swapped for a powerful ‘Ultra Violet’ torch. You also need an additional visor for your mask which helps filter the intense blue light and emphasise the coral fluorescence. The affect is astonishing, resembling the night scenes from the movie Avatar. The corals come to life in a very different way. The UV light reacts with the corals to create a fascinating array of fluorescent colours. Not all coral reacts to the light and some are brighter than others. Small crabs which scuttled across the sand glowed pink under the light. The white eyed moray eel glowed yellow. Very few fish react to the UV light but one in particular we noticed was the ‘long snouted cling fish’ which glowed pink. These guys are commonly found hiding in the spines of sea urchins. Again its difficult to know the reason why they glow and not others. If you want to be a part of this new era of night diving get in touch with us. You need to have good buoyancy skills and be comfortable with night diving because not everything at night is fluorescent. And remember more people have climbed Mount Everest than have tried Fluoro diving.

Whalesharks in schools!!!

Whale sharks are often thought to be solitary behemoths that live and feed in the open ocean. Scientists however, have found that whale sharks can be gregarious and amass in the hundreds to feed in coastal waters. Aggregations, or schools, of whale sharks have been witnessed in the past, ranging from several individual sharks to a few dozen. However this new research, which involved both surface and aerial surveys, has revealed an enormous aggregation of whale sharks—the largest ever reported—with up to 420 individuals off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. What brings them together is food.

“Whale sharks are the largest species of fish in the world, yet they mostly feed on the smallest organisms in the ocean, such as zooplankton. Our research revealed that in this case, the hundreds of whale sharks had gathered to feed on dense patches of fish eggs. Whale whale sharks may seem conspicuous as the heaviest and longest of all fishes, growing more than 40 feet long, there is still much that is unknown about them. They have a very widespread distribution, occurring in all tropical and sub-tropical regions of the ocean around the world. Understanding this filter-feeder’s diet is especially important since food sources determine much of the whale shark’s movement and location. During the dozens of surface trips that team members made to the aggregation, called the “Afuera” aggregation, they used fine nets to collect food samples inside and immediately outside the school of feeding whale sharks. Scientists then used DNA barcoding analysis to examine the collected fish eggs and determine the species. They found that the eggs were from little tunny, a member of the mackerel family. “Having DNA barcoding is an incredibly valuable resource for this research,” said Lee Weigt, head of the Laboratories of Analytical Biology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “It not only allowed us to know what exactly this huge aggregation of whale sharks were feeding on, not readily done from only physical observations of eggs, but it also revealed a previously unknown spawning ground for little tunny.”

The team of scientists also examined a nearby, less dense aggregation of whale sharks, known as the Cabo Catoche aggregation, off the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula. They found that the prey of this group mostly consisted of copepods (small crustaceans) and shrimp. Increased sightings at Afuera coincided with decreased sightings at Cabo Catoche, and both groups had the same sex ratio, implying that the same animals were involved in both aggregations. “With two significant whale shark aggregation areas and at the very least one active spawning ground for little tunny, the northeastern Yucatán marine region is a critical habitat that deserves more concerted conservation effort,” said Maslanka. The whale shark is listed as “vulnerable” with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Populations appear to have been depleted by harpoon fisheries in Southeast Asia and perhaps incidental capture in other fisheries.

Seahorse at White Rock

Wonderful to come across a Seahorse at White Rock!

Seahorses, otherwise known as Hippocampus, Latin for horse sea monster, are small bony segmented fish that have a distinctive head and neck shaped like that of a horse. They are most commonly found in shallow waters, clinging to seagrasses or other marine plants. Described as the slowest fish, they struggle to avoid predation and affects by human activity, leading to reductions in world populations. So in collaboration with the citizen science project, iSeahorse, you can help monitor local seahorse populations.

Anyone can join, whether you’re a diver, a scientist, a seahorse enthusiast, or just on a beach holiday.  You can upload your photos and observations to https://www.iseahorse.org/. By doing so, you can help identify seahorse species and you can advocate for their protection in your ocean neighborhood.

The Seahorse is a very popular aquarium fish and is it also used in traditional Chinese medicine. In addition to this, the species is used to make souvenirs for tourists.

The main exporters of Common Seahorse are India, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, but over 50 nations are involved in buying and selling the species on the international market.

So although every dive in Thailand should include an encounter with a Seahorse unfortunately this is not the case because of its demand basically for Chinese medicine, which is so very sad but also makes an encounter with a Seahorse that much more memorable.

Thanks to Scuba Birds for the photos.

Manta on Koh Tao???

The Manta has got to be one of the most breathtaking creatures on the planet to dive with. The manta ray is a real bucket-list item for all divers all around the world. Once commonly seen here on Koh Tao, there hadn’t been a confirmed sighting of a manta for a very long time but over the last 10 years or so they do seem to be getting witnessed a lot more especially over the last couple of years or so. And yesterday we were very lucky to encounter one at Southwest Pinnacle.

With the diving community absolutely ecstatic over the magnificent manta that paid us a visit, there’s never been a better time to look more closely at these creatures, and investigate what may have brought it here.

So what do we know about the manta ray?

There are 2 species of manta rays: the reef manta (Manta alfredi) and the giant manta ray (Manta birostris). Both are classified as “vulnerable” in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, unfortunately. They have the largest brains of all fish apparently, which doesn’t explain why it’s been so long since they came to Koh Tao the ignorant shits.

Fish you say? That’s right, just like Nemo and Dory manta rays are in fact fish, just funny-looking ones. They are actually related to sharks, but are considered gentle creatures which do not represent a significant threat to humans, plus they lack the venomous tail spikes that many of their relatives have.

The largest species is the giant manta ray, whose central disc can measure up to 9 meters wide! Despite their massive size mantas eat only tiny little plankton, which they filter through their gills with something called ‘gill rakers’ – widely sought-after in Chinese medicine due to the ridiculous belief that it can heal anything from colds to cancer. Yeah right China, keep your filthy mitts off them!

So what brought them to us again?

Manta rays are distributed in tropical, subtropical and temperate oceans worldwide. They’re not fans of cold water at all, and with water temperatures on Koh Tao averaging around 30 degrees all year round the conditions are perfect for them to come and say hello!

As plankton eaters, it’s actually quite surprising that we haven’t been seeing them a lot more than one every million years or whatever it is – after all the ocean around Koh Tao is often full of plankton, which is the main reason why we have so many whalesharks visiting our waters all year round.

Could the recent anoxia event (complete lack of oxygen) we’ve been seeing at depth have something to do with it? It’s certainly possible, but I believe the most likely conclusion is that we’ve had an extra-long influx of planktonic matter this year, likely coming from the depths of the South China Sea – when the food comes, the hungry follow. This would also explain the numbers of whalesharks we’ve been seeing, and also the amount of salps and comb jellies we’ve been finding on every dive site and shoreline.

I’d love to be able to say these magnificent mantas are back for good, but only time will tell. Watch this space, and if you’re not already a certified diver then hurry and do something about it soon! Contact Big Blue Diving to see how you can get certified.

Fighting Plastic!

Anyone who’s spent time in Thailand will be familiar or perhaps even have an intimate relationship with everyone’s favourite convenience store, the all-conquering 7/11. Having supplies of the ubiquitous cheese and ham toasties 24 hours a day, every single day of the year is certainly not to be sniffed at by most Thailand backpackers, who seem to be fueled almost entirely on a concoction of Pringles, cheese toasties and buckets of cheap booze– thankfully Thailand isn’t a country famous for its cuisine or they may all be missing out on something…
But, last year, in an extraordinary move that surprised the whole of Koh Tao, and after decades of asking politely, demanding, begging, pleading and groveling, that the powers that be at 7/11 finally took our advice and stopped giving out plastic bags. They used to have a habit of giving out a plastic bag with absolutely everything. Packet of cigarettes? Plastic bag. Can of Coca-Cola? Plastic bag and straw. A couple of bottles of Singha to drink immediately? Triple-bloody-bagged, with a handful of straws lurking in them. Multiply this by the 10,000 or so 7/11 stores just in Thailand, and you can see where the root of the problem lay.
So Koh Tao was the first place in Thailand to stop the distribution of 7/11 pastic bags and now 
Of7/11 have agreed to do the same at all their stores nationwide! 
This is a huge win for our environmental movement on Koh Tao so well done to all involved especially us at Big Blue Conservation who were a huge driving force behind the initial push on Koh Tao.
And well done to 7/11, but we all as consumers must learn to refuse the bags and straws we’re offered. We all no doubt know by now that plastics are a huge worldwide problem and the oceans especially are in particular trouble of succumbing to the invasion of plastics dumped in it by us ungrateful humans, but by cutting out our supplier it’ll certainly help a huge amount.
Right. Now it’s time to see if we can’t get the big supermarkets like Tesco, Big C & Tops to do the same nationwide. First stop Phuket!

The Juvenile Batfish

Young batfish are known to camouflage themselves within their environment to avoid being detected by predators. For example, juvenile orbiculate (Platax orbicularis) and tiera batfish (P. tiera) mimic leafs floating near the ocean's surface. Juveniles are often found drifting along with floating clumps of algae (e.g., Sargassum) and miscellaneous debris, sometimes a long way from coastal habitats (it may be an effective way for them to emigrate from one reef to another). But the young pinnate batfish (Platax pinnatus), which is usually found close to the reef, engages in a different kind of mimicry. It resembles a polyclad flatworm in shape, in color, and locomotion (they both move by undulated the edges of the "body"). Most predators avoid ingesting these flatworms because they taste bad, so it is advantageous for the young batfish to look like the worm. When it comes to their diet, relatively little is known about what pinnate batfish eat. In some areas, they feed heavily on algae and are even thought to help prevent large algae species (known as macroalgae) from overgrowing part of the reef and killing the coral. But they also known invertebrate-eaters, including sponges and tunicates, soft corals and hydroids on their menu. While juvenile pinnate batfish are solitary creatures, as they grow, they sometimes form small shoals that roam the reef and feed together.
How's that for some interesting fact on a Tuesday?!

The lovable Octopus.......

If you think your heart wasn’t big enough to include everyone you love, then why not be an octopus they have 3 of them……

The octopus is a soft-bodied, eight limbed mollusc part of the order Octopoda. There are approximately 300 species of octopus around the world. They are grouped within the class cephalopoda which also includes squid, cuttlefish, and nautiloids.

They have a bilaterally symmetrical body shape, with two eyes and a beak. The soft body can change it’s shape, enabling octopus to be able to squeeze through small gaps. They usually trail their legs behind them as they swim, propelling themselves through the water. The siphon is used for both respiration and locomotion by expelling a jet of water, for quick movement.

They also have a highly complex nervous system, only part of which is localised in its brain, which is contained in a cartilaginous capsule. Two-thirds of an octopus's neurons are found in the nerve cords of its arms, which show a variety of complex reflex actions that persist even when they have no input from the brain.

Octopuses occupy a variety of different habitats within the ocean, from shallow corals, to deep abyss sea beds.  Where you can find the cute looking Dumbo octopus, with its distinctive large fins, that look like ears.

Masters of camouflage, having the ability to match the colour of their surroundings. By changing the colour and texture of their skin, they can make it almost impossible to find where they rest in plain sight.  

The appearance of the octopus, with their eight limbs and colour challenging ability makes them quite the intriguing creature. That in some ancient cultures created an alias of a formidable sea monster.  When we hear of the Kraken, or Gorgon you would shake in fear of a giant creature with eight legs, instead of the lovable 3 hearted cephalopod.

Octopus been spotted more often, during our night dives on the local reefs than during the day. So why not join us for one of our popular night experiences where the reef comes to life in so many ways. 

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Big Blue Diving
15/3 Moo 1 
Koh Tao 
Suratthani 
84360 
Thailand

Phone: +66 (0) 77 456 050
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