This week I have started the process of taking over from Josh Stephenson as Master Divers resident eco warrior, a tough act to follow! I’ll be taking over organising beach and dive site clean ups, running eco presentations, quizzes and movie nights, and getting involved in island and international eco projects. I know my parents will be proud and will remember me as a precocious teenager declaring that if their new car didn’t have a catalytic converter, I wouldn’t get in it! They told me then that I couldn’t save the world and this is my chance to prove them wrong!
From those well intended beginnings I have gone on to travel and scuba dive around the world. I have seen how stunning our oceans and the aquatic life within them are, and I want to keep it that way. I’m hoping that during my time in this role I can educate other divers on what is happening to our environment as well as inspiring non-divers to think differently about conservation and what can be done. We’re all in it together!
I first dived with Master Divers in Koh Tao, Thailand in 2013 and knew that I would one day come back. I’m really lucky to have done my pro training here and land a dream job! We will miss Mr Koh Tao, he has set such a fantastic example in this role and has made the job much easier for me, but there’s a new eco-queen in town now; long may I reign!!
Master Divers is a registered Shark Guardian Diver Centre, 1 of only 3 on Koh Tao! Shark Guardian is a conservation charity actively involved in shark conservation, research and education. They host educational presentations around the world and introduce sharks to over 200,000 people annually.
As a Shark Guardian dive centre we are passionate about protecting our finned friends and support Shark Guardian projects with daily shark surveys on eShark to study population sizes and distribution. In addition, we are proud to announce that we are the FIRST dive centre on Koh Tao to pioneer the new Shark Guardian Diver Programme!
The Shark Guardian Diver Programme is an engaging and educational course that introduces participants to shark evolution, anatomy, behaviour, and the modern dangers sharks face in the oceans such as fishing and finning. We recently organised a day event to raise money for Shark Guardian, however the course can also be added onto any of our scuba courses and provides a great insight into shark lives.
Our recent event took 25 international Dutch students to Shark Bay and Aow Leuk for shark surveys and snorkelling and we were lucky enough to see LOADS of different sharks. Pregnant females often stay in the safe and shallow bays for protection, and so after a while waiting on the surface, several adults approached followed by their new pups! This data was recorded and sent to Shark Guardian via eShark for future research on population sizes and distribution.
After an exciting and busy morning, we then took the boat back out with a younger group of Shark Guardians to complete a ‘Swim for Sharks’ around our local dive site 3 Rocks. All who joined completed the swim around all 3 rocks and were rewarded by a beautiful sea turtle sighting near the surface!
The day came to an end with an inspirational and educational presentation by Shark Guardian co-founder Liz full of great videos, fascinating facts, and sobering statistics about the threats to sharks in our oceans. All who attended left with eyes wide open to the wonder, beauty, and importance of sharks and with a new found realization to the threats they are now facing.
Keep up to date with our Shark Guardian events via social media! Will you be a Shark Guardian of the future?
A year ago, Master Divers helped coordinate the hugely popular and wonderfully successful Koh Tao Earth Day 2016. This event invited our beautiful island community together to participate in a day of land and underwater clean ups for the benefit of our environment. So this year, alongside the collective support of our local government and island residents… we decided to do it all over again!!
Earth Day falls on the 22nd of April. It is a day to focus on the beautiful blue planet we live on alongside all other species who inhabit it. So much fantastic life relies on the environment and fragile eco-systems to survive; however, unfortunately, our planet and our environment is changing and is evident of deteriorating due to human actions.
Our oceans have less fish than ever before. The climate is changing. Ocean temperatures are rising alongside ocean sea levels. New technologies such as fracking and drilling techniques are damaging the environment in unprecedented ways with unpredictable outcomes. More and more habitats are being destroyed for land and/or resources, causing more animals to become endangered and extinct. The health of our planet Earth is indisputably in decline.
Fortunately, there are some great organisations and great initiatives combatting the destruction of our environment, and many more countries and governments introducing environmentally friendly laws and regulations than ever before. Everyone can make a difference, and that is exactly what we aimed to do for the second year running! Earth Day 2017 was our event as a community to get together and help protect and preserve our island home, whilst simultaneously raising awareness and educating other island travellers on environmental issues. Now whilst there are many ways to help our environment, we decided to focus on plastic (more specifically Single-Use Plastics) as they have an immediate and everlasting negative effect on our environment and oceans.
Plastic never goes away. It is possible that every piece of plastic EVER produced is still on our planet in some form. Plastic production has increased 20 fold in the last 50 years and production continues to increase. 50% of all plastic production is merely single-use plastic such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic straws; designed and used for a short term convenience before being discarded (did you know 100 billion plastic bags are made every year? That’s 1 million every minute!). The majority of this plastic is sent as waste to landfill where it will stay and pollute the earth forever. However, a huge amount is discarded into our environment and oceans. Over 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans every year; there are currently 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans; and plastic will soon outweigh fish by 2050. This is a huge problem!
This year, we arranged an island wide land based clean up with over 250 volunteers where we removed 1,600 KG of trash and waste from the island, half of which was made from potentially recyclable materials. We then sent our 17 different boats to all our local dive sites who removed a further 500 KG from the ocean. This data was sent to Project AWARE for research and statistics on ocean trash. All participants and our island community along with government representatives all celebrated the days achievement with a huge party at The Hacienda with food stalls, game stalls, drinks and a generously donated raffle.
This year, the money raised is being put towards starting an island recycling centre to reduce the amount of waste we produce and to further responsibly manage the plastic, glass, and metal waste here on Koh Tao. We are encouraging dive centres on the island and other businesses to commit to reducing their single-waste plastics by becoming plastic free themselves. We hope this will spark a change of attitude on Koh Tao which alongside the support of the local government will allow us to ban certain single-use plastics in the future.
If you have not yet signed our petition to ban single-use plastic bags and reduce plastics on the island, please do so here!!
You don’t always have to have the same interests as your significant other to have a strong healthy relationship – however, it is always nice to share a common hobby. Imagine being able to add an extra element of adventure that you can both take pleasure in on nearly every holiday you plan! So why not try scuba diving?
It’s the perfect recreational sport to share with your lover. Once you both start diving, it will come to no surprise that every holiday will be tailored around good diving spots found around the globe! You will end up being each other’s best dive buddy – who else would you rather put your trust in? You will share every new discovery with joy and wonder! “What was that nudibranch that we saw?! I’ve never seen anything like it!” “Wow, did you see the size of that Manta Ray!” “This wreck was so cool, lets go get our wreck speciality!” It will come as no surprise if diving becomes an obsession for both of you.
As an underwater photographer, I get to witness and capture moments between couples as they share this adventure together: sweet gestures such as holding hands, or sneaking in a cheeky kiss or excitedly pointing out new fish species or beautiful coral to each other. Some of the couples I see have been diving for years or even decades together, some are getting their PADI Open Water certification and some are just trying a Discover Dive – whatever type of diving they are doing, I nearly always see an exchange of smiles from behind their regulators and my heart melts all over again.
Here are some moments that I have managed to snap of couples that have come diving with us:
I apologize if this post is so sweet it has give you cavities, but I just couldn’t help myself! I adore seeing couples develop and share a love for scuba diving as it reminds me of my own relationship… Five years ago, my boyfriend and I did our Open Water course on Koh Tao – we have now been living on this island for 3 years doing what we love (diving of course!), and each day we come home from work and still excitedly talk about what we’ve seen and where our next diving holiday will be. It has changed our lives forever… maybe it will change yours and your lover’s too 🙂
Here at Master Divers, and at many dive centres around the world, we utilise our diving days by having both a morning boat and an afternoon boat. The afternoon boat leaves at a leisurely 11.45 am, allowing time for a lazy morning and a late breakfast/brunch at our neighboring cafe The Coconut Monkey. Whereas the morning boat leaves as the sun rises around 6.45 am. Now on first thoughts, the morning boat may seem a little too early in the day for boats, tanks, and equipment; however it is the absolute perfect time for quiet waters, beautiful bubbles and magical marine life!
There are typically only half as many boats sent out around Koh Tao’s many dive sites every morning, and so we are often the only (or one of the only) group of divers on the reef. This means that we have the choice of buoy line, no diver traffic what so ever, and private viewing of the entire site all to ourselves! In addition, the marine life is only just awakening and are therefore yet to venture out further from their coral reef homes of which they stayed the night. Not only are we the only divers there, there is also so much more to see!
Another perk of morning dives is simply the peace and tranquility of the calm waters soon after sun rise. Most morning divers are treated to ocean conditions without wind, waves, current, and visibility is also noticeably better earlier in the day. This means easier dives, lower air consumption, longer dives, and more to see! Some nocturnal species such as local Puffer Fish and Sting Ray will also be much easier to see in the early morning as oppose to later afternoon, so charge your camera overnight for some excellent photo opportunities!
Now while late risers are wasting a few extra hours in bed, morning divers can enjoy their surface interval with some fresh fruit for breakfast and a coffee on the sun deck, floating in the middle of the Gulf Of Thailand. Beautiful morning views and a sea breeze are enough to refresh anyone who may be feeling a little tired, but most days there’ll even be time for a morning nap while we change tanks and divesites.
Finally, after two amazing and peaceful dives, we return to land around 11 am. After washing up the equipment and logging our adventures, it’s still only… 11.15 am! This means that you still have the entire day ahead of you to explore Koh Tao, relax on the beach, enjoy a massage, sleep in the sun, nurse a fruity cocktail, or even just return to the boat for an afternoon of more diving. Morning dives are great for travelling groups where not everyone dives, as they leave the whole afternoon free for other activities with other friends or family.
So join us one morning, because an early rise means a great dive!
White beaches, crystal clear waters, blue skies, and great people enjoying some holiday vibes. It seems that some of the best conditions, environments, and circumstances for diving, are also some of the best for drinking.
After a days diving, there’s nothing wrong with relaxing and watching a sunset with a cold beverage of your choice. However, as with everything in scuba diving there are certain limits we need to abide by in order to stay safe underwater, and alcohol consumption is one of them. Alcohol has many physiological and psychological effects, (many of which we enjoy!), and therefore it is important to understand how these may effect us underwater.
1. Alcohol is a diuretic, and therefore causes dehydration within the body. In combination with a loss of water through immersion diuresis, heavy sweating in hot climates or hot exposure suits, and the dry air we breathe from our tanks, this can put our body at a serious risk of dangerous dehydration; which in turn is a leading risk factor of decompression sickness.
2. Alcohol is also a vasodilator and causes our blood vessels to dilate, meaning we lose body heat a lot faster by conduction and convection from any exposed skin. Not only will this be uncomfortable and cold underwater, but maintaining our body temperature becomes even harder and can lead to feeling tired and fatigued. Loss of body heat will in turn change our circulation, increasing the risk of decompression sickness and hypothermia, both of which we want to avoid while diving.
3. Another physiological effect of alcohol is that it reduced our blood sugar levels, raising our risk of hypoglycemia. This in itself is inherently dangerous, but even more so underwater where we cannot regulate our blood sugars and any loss of consciousness will likely lead to a drowning situation. Even small reductions in blood sugars will leave you feeling tired and fatigued after a dive where our bodies metabolism speeds up whilst surrounded by a cold aquatic environment.
4. There are also the obvious psychological effects of alcohol; reduced concentration, reduced awareness, lack of inhibition, poor judgment, slower reaction times, reduced coordination etc. These may be both safe and enjoyable within moderation around a bar with some friends, however any mental or bodily impingement is very dangerous underwater and will seriously affect how you prevent or react to an emergency. We should never drink and drive for such reasons, and therefore we should never drink and dive!
So… as scuba divers should we avoid alcohol altogerther?
No. Alcohol is both safe and enjoyable in moderation and you’d be hard pressed to find a diver or dive professional that doesn’t enjoy the occasional drink after a great day under the sea. Refrain from drinking AT ALL before a dive, as it’s seriously dangerous to be diving under both the physiological and psychological effects of alcohol. Only drink moderately after diving, as heavy consumption can increase the risks of dehydration and decompression sickness. Finally, if any drinking before a days diving leaves you feeling groggy or hungover, you should cancel or postpone the dive until you’re fully recovered.
Most people come to Koh Tao for diving, as worldwide it is famous as THE place to train! But there’s much more to this lump of rock than just the ocean that surrounds it, and lots to do on Koh Tao that doesn’t require a scuba tank to have fun!…
Koh Tao has many viewpoints, some you can drive to, others you will need to walk to as the tracks leading there aren’t suitable or safe for bikes, most even have a restaurant of bar where you can relax and soak up the view!
There are plenty of hiking trails around the island. Due to the heat it is recommended to do any hiking either in the early morning before it gets too hot, or later in the afternoon. While the tracks are generally safe, it is a good idea to take a cell phone and a first aid kit with you just in case. And lots of water, and many of the more remote trails do not pass by any shops. If you are going hiking on your own do let someone at your hostel or hotel know where you are going and when to expect you back – just as a safety precaution.
Koh Tao has some fantastic snorkelling, so if you’re not keen on fully submersing yourself in the water but still want to see the wonders of the sea then Koh Tao’s sandy beaches and shallow waters are a great place to start! You may be lucky enough to see Juvenile Black Tip Reef sharks & Hawksbill Turtles as well as all different types of colourful reef fish.
Stand Up Paddleboarding has become more and more popular worldwide in recent years and the trend has made its way to Koh Tao. SUP TAO offer hire on an hourly, half day or full day rate. Just don’t forget your suncream!
A great way to see some of the island and get to some deserted bays, kayaks are usually two person boats so it’s great to split the cost as well, they can usually be hired out for an hour/half day/full day. Do be aware of the weather before you go out and make sure you take lots of sunscreen and water on your adventure!
Koh Tao has some great rock climbing routes, whether you are a beginner or an experienced climber the rocks of Koh Tao definitely have something to offer you!
A once in a lifetime experience! Where better to find your inner circus monkey than on a tropical island in Thailand! Good Time Adventures offer beginners classes to advanced classes as well as multiple class passes for enthusiasts. If you don’t have a problem with heights this is definitely one for you!
What better setting than a sleepy island in the middle of the ocean to ground yourself, the setting for yoga here is blissful, whether you want to join a class or are an experienced yogi that just needs a beautiful setting to enjoy your practice, Koh Tao can accommodate. The three most popular yoga schools are Ocean Sound, Shambhala & Grounded; they offer a range of different classes for every type yoga from Hatha, Yin, Restorative and Vinyassa, you name it, it’s covered.
Stuck for something to do in the evening? Hacienda in Mae Haad may have the answer! They have an 18 hole mini golf course where you can relax and have a drink and some food and play a couple of rounds of mini golf. Great food and a great atmosphere. They are also starting to show films throughout the week and have built a mini theatre!
Koh Tao has a great atmosphere after hours with many different venues offering many different experiences. From relaxing sunset drinks, elaborate cocktails, fire shows, cabaret dances and even dedicated beer pong bars, there is always something to do once the sun goes down. Sairee beach and Sairee Town has the majority of late night bars and parties with a variety of music options and always a friendly group of travellers and locals. (Just try and ask for ‘no-straw’ when ordering drinks and reuse plastic cups to reduce our single plastic consumption!)
July 2016 marked the reopening of Koh Tao Crossfit, inspiring many of us to try Crossfit for the first time. Merty, who has previously enjoyed Crossfit in the US thought she would introduce the topic, and explain why it’s a great scuba fitness regime:
‘The image my friends back home have crafted of my life here on Koh Tao seems to be some combination of Bay Watch, Finding Nemo, and Eat Pray Love. To them, I spend my days froliking with whalesharks along side beautiful, sun-kissed colleagues who only drink beverages served in coconut shells.
Moving tanks, loading gear, carrying spare weights, towing students… these are the consistent, behind the scenes realities in the day-to-day activities of dive professionals that outsiders are not often privy to. Scuba diving and all that goes into it places high physical demands on the body and it is important that dive professionals are prepared to meet those demands in a way that is sustainable.
When I first arrived on Koh Tao, I maintained a fitness routine that included a lot of running and swimming, but I struggled to find a suitable strength routine that would fit into my dive schedule. Many of the fitness classes on the island were offered only when I was on the boat or under the water. My strength was declining just as the physical demands of job were increasing, and my body began to feel the adverse effects.
Recently, I began training at Crossfit Koh Tao. Their new class schedule caters to divers’ schedules (early morning/evening sessions) while still offering mid day classes for my days off. For me, Crossfit is the perfect fitness compliment to my diving career. Crossfit’s emphasis on functional movement allows me to meet the physical challenges of my day-to-day life without worry of injury while the high intensity interval training improves my lung capacity and breath control. I would encourage any diver to go check it out!
See you at the box!’
Master Divers Course Director Gaz is currently the co-owner and Crossfit coach at KTC, so feel free to ask him any questions on WOD’s and work outs and make sure to stop by!
With all the excitement of travelling and endless adventures ahead of you, reducing your carbon footprint may be the last thing on your mind, but for the avid traveller it should be something to consider. Not just to reduce your own impact, but to ensure that the travellers of tomorrow can enjoy the same beauties you experienced.
With short haul flights becoming easier and cheaper to come by, more and more people are opting to travel by air. While it may be the quicker way to travel, it’s definitely the harshest from an environmental perspective. And let’s be honest, there are way more interesting ways to get around!
Koh Tao is a very small island at only 21km squared; most places are accessible by either walking, scooter, taxi or longtail boat. If you haven’t used a scooter before, Koh Tao is not the place to start. The roads can be dangerous due to bad weather and other road users. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a bike, pick-up taxis are widely available to and from most areas around the island. It’s also a lot more eco-friendly as you can share your taxi with a few people – which also makes the journey cheaper!
When looking for a dive school on the island, it is important to look at their mission statement to see how they present themselves in the diving world. The key things to look for are whether or not they have a good understanding of the dive industries impact on the ocean, and whether they actively do anything to help reduce that impact. The easiest way to check this is via their website and social media pages to see if they do regular land and sea clean ups, or run any conservation projects.
Finally there are simple steps you can take to reduce your impact on the island and the wider environment:
Refuse plastic bags when shopping.
Clearly state no straws.
Try to use reusable containers if ordering takeaway food, they are easy to come by and are available in all the supermarkets on the island for about 25 Thb, if you don’t want to travel with it, hand it into one of the dive schools or one of the street stalls, they will gladly use them.
Koh Tao is very low on fresh water so whilst you’re here think about the amount of water you are using on a day to day basis, even if it something as little as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, it can make a difference.
Cigarettes! If you are a smoker please don’t throw your cigarette ends on the floor or in the sea, it doesn’t look very nice and the fish around the island gave up smoking a long time ago!
If and when you do go diving or snorkelling around the island, be aware of your buoyancy and where you place your fins so that you don’t damage the local reefs as they are home to a lot of marine life.
Avoid applying sunscreen within an hour of entering the water for diving or snorkelling. Sunscreen contains harmful chemicals that instantly wash off into the ocean destroying fragile coral and marine life.
If everyone travelling followed these simple steps we would be well on our way to helping preserve the environment for future generations of travellers, so think ahead and try to leave every destination as beautiful as you found it.
Most days start the same… you’re greeted by the shop dogs who are always happy to see you, especially if you have food for them! They come rushing towards you for a hug as they follow you into the shop!
First things first, the animals need attention, so only after giving them some love and fuss it’s time to start opening up the shop for the day. Music on, computers booted up, check-in files ready for today’s arrivals, check! Classroom allocations, course allocations, tables and chairs nice and tidy, check! Hot tea and coffee on the boil and cold water ready and waiting for when the customers and other members of staff to arrive, check! Time to open the doors!
From then on our main tasks revolve around the instructors and dive masters; making sure they have what they need for their day of diving and teaching. Our most important task though, is meeting and greeting our lovely customers. We work very hard to ensure that their needs are met and that they are aware of their daily schedule if they are doing a course, and that fun divers are aware of all the trips we are running. We also rent out snorkel gear, advise on dive equipment, and recommend dive sites and pretty much everything else – from the best restaurants on Koh Tao to where to get a tattoo! This is by far our favourite part of the job, we love meeting people from all over the world and from all different walks of life. It is a very social job, and we are all lucky enough to have met some fantastic people who still stay in contact and return to Master Divers each year.
Once all the diving staff and customers are organised, whether out on the boat or studying in the classrooms, it’s time to catch up on the paperwork, office admin and finances; making sure the customers details are inputted correctly into the system and their accounts are up to date, making sure emails are answered and the weekly dive site schedule is up to date, updating the board with the next set of bookings, processing PADI certifications, and updating all of our various spread sheets. Before we know it the afternoon boat is back, so we must be ready with the next round of hot and cold drinks. This is usually our busiest time of day, as we are dealing with sign-ups for the following day’s boat and organising boats, tanks, groups, staffing and scheduling.
At the end of the day, we make sure all of the customers’ accounts and paperwork are up to date, before cashing up, powering everything down and closing up. One last fuss and feed of the animals and then its home time – usually via our café and beach bar, Coconut Monkey, for a relaxing drink to watch the sun set before heading off. Another satisfying day at work in paradise 🙂