Simple Life Eco Day – Koh Tao
15 February 2020
Are you interested in organising a land, beach or reef clean in your area?
Follow this handy guide to make your efforts as effective as possible!
Land Clean Shortcuts:
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How to conduct a land clean
Download the Clean Swell App so you can log your data. Designate one person to record all the data for your clean-up group so you don’t duplicate the stats.
This is ultimately what makes your land clean worth all the hard work. By removing the litter you’ve certainly made a cosmetic difference to your area, however, by contributing your findings for data collation, you can influence the legislation that will drive lasting change!
Get a hold of some eco friendly gloves. I’m going to fess up right here and say that we didn’t get any gloves and it definitely affected how likely we were to pick up certain things. Utterly essential!
Grab a few biodegradable bin bags (you don’t want to run out while you’re out on your mission so bring extras), get your group together and plan your clean-up routes!
What should I collect during a land clean?
Essentially, you should collect everything that doesn’t belong there.
The usual suspects:
- bottles & lids
- plastic bags
- plastic cutlery
Things that might pass you by:
- fragmented pieces
- corners of wrappers
- cigarette butts
- rubber bands
- lollypop sticks
It’s really important to pick up even the smallest fragments of trash. A plastic fork starts out big but can end ended up smashed into tiny pieces when trampled on. It’s much more likely – though not impossible – that animals, birds and fish will ingest micro-plastics than larger sized pieces.
What do we do with all this trash?
First of all, you should congratulate yourselves on some game-changing hard work! It takes courage and dedication to go out into our big bad world and clear up other people’s mess. Good on you!
Now it’s time to sort through all the rubbish you’ve collected to make sure it is being disposed of in the best way possible.
Recycle everything that you can. Cans, plastics, glass, paper and cardboard are amongst the most readily recyclable products but be realistic. There may not be resources near you and you’ve got to consider the environmental impact of transporting a single item to a recycling facility. Also be sure to accurately sort items as cross contamination can result in the entire batch of recyclables being scrapped.
Anything that can’t be salvaged, upcycled or recycled should be disposed of in general waste. Please be careful with personal hygiene products and, if you do come across biohazardous waste, it’s best to call the appropriate authorities. Keep yourself safe, first and foremost.
Land Cleaning Hacks
From someone who has taken the long road and realised there’s a better way…
Sort as you clear
- wear gloves and bring a variety of carriers
- big bags are good for plastics and large recyclables
- smaller bags work for non-recyclable waste
- Buckets for small items and fragments
Record data as you go
- Shout out to the person logging data in the app as you find things!
- This makes your final sort much easier, and you can double check the accuracy of your data!
Save yourself a second clean-up
- put down a mat or bag to sort your trash on
- You can keep the land clear and your motivation levels up
- Nobody wants to pick up the same litter for a second time!
How to conduct a reef clean
Download the Project Aware App so that you can log all your data. This helps prevent things like plastic straws and carrier bags from entering the water in the first place! Cleaning our planet’s habitats is absolutely worthwhile, but we have to contribute to legislating against the production of harmful products to truly change the world.
It’s just as valuable to log a dive where you find absolutely no debris. Data aims to paint a vivid picture and it’s fair to say that I’ve been on many dives and encountered nothing – this is important information too!
Dive Against Debris Planning
Organise your dive team:
- Who is the dive lead?
- Plan the dive route, navigation style and maximum dive time.
- Organise diver formation for effective searching.
- Ensure everyone has the appropriate equipment! All certified divers should already have a cutting tool, but a decent dive knife is very good idea if you’re going to be dealing with fishing wire or netting. You will also need a mesh bag to store all of your findings. If you know you’re going for something big, bring a lift-bag.
- Designate the use of at least one Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) to protect your team in shallow water – 6m or less.
- Remember not to hook anything onto yourself – hold the reel or mesh bag in your hand.
- Assign buddy pairs and count how many divers there are in the team. Make sure you come up with the same number you went down with!
- Go over your missing diver strategy, just in case.
What should we remove?
We need to be more selective about what we remove from the ocean and how we remove it.
Of course we want to get rid of all things which don’t belong, but not if they have become habitats for life. An old bottle that’s been at sea for months is now a microhabitat for different marine species and it could be more harmful than helpful to remove it.
Another example is fishing wire which has been enveloped by coral. Be careful when using your cutting tool so as not to disturb or damage any marine life. It may be prudent to leave it.
Old glass pieces, bottles and pottery can stay in the ocean. If there is a brand new bottle with its label intact then you can remove it, as long as there is nothing already living in it! Some people choose to tilt the neck of glass bottles upright to ensure a clear entry and exit route for any resident creatures. Again, please use your best judgement.
If you come across a heavy object (over 4kg) please ensure that a lift-bag is used by someone who is trained to do so.
The rest is yours for the taking!
After the Eco Dive
Give yourself a big round of applause for your hard work!
Depending on what you find, you may want to leave heavy things to dry out before disposal. Please, remember to separate the recyclables!
It’s wise to check that there are no sneaky wee critters hiding in any of the waste. Crabs are notorious for stashing themselves in amongst netting and rope, so be sure to shake them off before binning anything!
Take a photo of your haul and celebrate your hard work. Share it far and wide and encourage others to do the same! I’d love to hear about your land cleans or eco dives – please comment on this post, reach out on Facebook or tag me on Instagram!
If you found this post useful or inspiring then please share it with your friends, family and community! I massively appreciate your support and hope to continue bringing you useful and exciting content. We can save the world – one blog post, one land clean and one plastic bottle at a time. Thank you!
How to become a PADI Divemaster
No matter where you want to go to do your DM course, here’s a quick guide on what it takes to get there!
If you still need a little push in the right direction, check out 10 of the best things about scuba diving!
Before you begin your PADI Divemaster Course, you’ll need to:
- be 18 years old
- have a doctor’s medical statement of fitness, signed within 12 months
- be certified as a PADI Rescue Diver
- have an Emergency First Response (or similar first aid) certification within 24 months – if you’re a medical professional, you’re sorted
- have 40 logged dives
- have at least 1 month to complete it (though I’d recommend taking 2+).
A lot of dive centres can work out a package price for you if you’ve still got a few courses or dives to get under your belt before you start.
If you book your DM Course here, you get to DIVE FOR FREE the whole way through! It’s the best way to gain experience and get your numbers up!
Where should you do your Divemaster course?
It’s a big world out there! Consider…
- country, continent & culture
- visa restrictions
- living costs
- political stability
- local dive laws
- weather & dive conditions
- work opportunities
- social lifestyle
What about the dive centre?
I’ve got experience with Simple Life Divers on Koh Tao, Thailand. I’m more than happy to answer any questions you have!
There are many dive centres & schools out there, and they all have different ratings. I’m still learning about these but if ‘5 Star’ is in the title, I think you’re in with a pretty safe bet!
Take into account…
- customer reviews
- certification numbers
- DMT turnover
- course, materials & fee costs
- pool/boat facilities
- perks – free diving/future discounts
but most importantly…
- will there be whale sharks!?
What’s in the PADI Divemaster Course?
The PADI Divemaster Course can be completed in as little as 3 weeks, though I would recommend taking around 3 months.
Becoming a Divemaster is a commitment. You’re dedicating your time, money & energy to developing your knowledge and skills to a professional standard. You’ll want to get the most out of every component of the course so that you can become the best possible version of yourself!
The main components…
- Knowledge Reviews 1-7 in the Divemaster manual & Exam 1
- Knowledge Reviews 8-9 & Exam 2
- Learn how to use RDP tables and the eRDPml
- Complete skills circuits and demonstration workshops
- Map a dive site
- Exercises in Search and Recovery & Deep Diving
- Shadow Divemasters and Instructors as they teach courses and lead fun-divers
- Present boat/dive briefings
- Conduct a scuba review
- Conduct diver rescue simulations
- Complete the swim exercises:
- 400m swim
- 800m swim with mask, snorkel & fins – no use of arms
- 100m tired diver tow in full scuba kit
- 13 minute tread water + 2 minute tread with arms elevated
Fun-dive for free all the way through your DM course when you book with us!
PADI Fees and Professional Dive Insurance
If you want work as a DM you will need to pay your PADI fees to achieve ‘active’ status. Check if this is included in your DM course cost.
Depending on where you are in the world, you might also need professional insurance. It is not compulsory in every country, but it’s a smart idea to have it incase anything goes wrong with you or your students.
If you are an EU citizen (the UK is still included at this time) I would recommend Aqua-Med for professional dive insurance. Check out their website for more information!
If you book your insurance through this link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself, and I would be very grateful for your support.
I only recommend products & services which I value and have used myself.
What’s so great about scuba diving?
Here are my Top Ten reasons why scuba diving is one of the best things you can do for yourself – and for our planet!
Use this handy navigation list to jump to any section!
- Learn a new skill
- Travel to new places
- Boldly go where few have gone before
- Find space and calm
- Be at one with nature and life on earth
- Meet new people
- Improve your mental health
- See exotic wildlife
- Do more of what you love
- Conserve our precious ocean & planet
Learn a new skill
There’s something to be said for broadening your horizons and learning something new! A sense of accomplishment is up there with one of the most basic human needs and, with scuba, you can be sure to find endless opportunities to develop! From starting out by earning your Open Water Certification, to taking it all the way to Technical diving and diver specialties, the road to expanding your knowledge is bountiful.
Travel to new places
Whilst travelling to tropical locations to spend time in the sun, sea and sand is at the top of a lot of people’s agendas, you don’t have to draw the line there. Scuba diving can be conducted almost anywhere that you find water! From the ice caves of the Arctic to abandoned inland quarries, lakes and rivers, there are innumerable places to explore to seek out new underwater adventures. There might even be diving right on your doorstep – metaphorically speaking…
…Unless you happen to live here:
Boldly go where few have gone before
Although there are globally renowned dive sites which host thousands of divers every year, the world is full of unexplored terrain – both over and underwater! As a certified diver, you are at liberty to take a buddy and adventure forth into the unknown. Map new dive sites, search for wrecks, perhaps you’ll even discover a rare or undocumented marine species!
It’s also important to recognise the privilege of this experience. We may have evolved from water dwellers millions of years ago, but the ability to explore the source of life on our planet is a beautiful gift recently bestowed to us. Take this opportunity to delve into the unique and undiscovered blue that represents 71% of our earth’s surface and find yourself at one with our planet and it’s aquatic origins. You’ll be one of a very lucky few.
Find space and calm
The water is a vast entity with depths we can only imagine. It is a sacred space, and you can feel it. It holds you like a full body hug and guides you into a state of mindful meditation. Scuba diving is not swimming – the aim is to expend as little energy as possible for the most rewarding experience.
Upon entering the water, it’s not silent as you might imagine. It’s bustling with pops, crunches and squeaks from aquatic life. The melodic rhythm of your breathing accompanies you on every journey, becoming your own meditative metronome. Your heart rate slows as you enter a space of relaxation, where tranquility washes over the body and mind. For about 60 minutes, you are at peace – living absolutely in the moment – and that is truly priceless.
Be at one with nature and life on earth
Like a stroll along a beach, a walk in the park or a mountain trek, a dive in the ocean brings you closer to the elements! Where the earth’s jungles have monkeys, exotic birds and insects, the ocean have sharks, dolphins, whales, tropical fish, eels, rays, turtles, crustaceans and so much more. Just as there are fields of wildflowers on land, there are beds of stunning varieties of coral, bearing their beautiful shapes, colours and sizes for our eyes to feast on.
They say that time spent in nature is the best medicine, and I couldn’t agree more.
Meet new people
Who needs tinder when you’re on a dive boat?! Jokes aside, it’s a fabulous way to meet people from all over the world and many walks of life. Life-long friends can be found in the dive community. Travellers, holiday makers, marine enthusiasts, environmental agents, thrill seekers, and passionate dive professionals are just a handful of the types of people that board the dive boat every day. No matter who we are or where we come from, we are all part of one big family!
Improve your mental health
This has been a major part of my personal journey and I genuinely can’t advocate for it enough. Like some type of miracle potion, scuba diving has opened my eyes to the wonder and value of all life, including my own. I’m at peace every time I enter the water, living in the moment, allowing my senses to carry me on a voyage of gratitude for who and where I am on this planet.
- Demands that I slow down
- Invites me to be grateful
- Values forward planning and problem solving
- Encourages me to remain calm in times of difficulty
- Reminds me to breathe and take responsibility
- Stimulates my mind with the wonders of our world
See exotic wildlife
Glide alongside the majestic Hawksbill Turtle. Dance with Bottlenose Dolphins and seek out the meandering Moray Eel. Hover in awe of a gentle giant, the Whale Shark. Swim with hundreds of species of fish in a single dive. Observe the miniature Nudibranchs that require a keen eye to spot. Study the symbiotic relationship between the Gobi and the Shrimp. Avoid the Titan Triggerfish… (who are big softies, really).
And that’s just the beginning.
Coral is an outstanding animal and an essential contributor to our marine ecosystems and planetary survival. It acts as a nursery for thousands of species to nest their eggs, providing shelter for their early stages of development. It provides food sources for all sorts of life-forms, including parrotfish, who create sand as a byproduct!
Do more of what you love
Scuba provides an excellent platform for you to build on hobbies that you already love! Perhaps you’re an avid photographer or videographer? Maybe you have a home aquarium or are interested in plant propagation? If you’re into sustainability and environmental protection, then there is so much scope for you to pursue and develop these interests in the world of diving!
Conserve our precious ocean & planet
Although this may be the last item on my list, it’s definitely not least. This is possibly the most prevalent of all benefits of scuba diving.
We are visitors to the largest ecosystem on our planet and it’s only right that we do everything in our power to protect it. It’s our duty to give back to nature, or more aptly, take away all the things we’ve put there that do not belong.
Every dive is a fun dive but, more importantly, every dive is an Eco Dive. We are ocean ambassadors and the effort to remove bags, cans, plastic bottles, lighters, indeed, anything that doesn’t belong in the ocean should be at the top of our to do list.
The most important rule of diving is to never hold your breath. Alongside that, I’d say never hold anything. The creatures of the ocean, big or small, strange or familiar, friend or foe are not to be touched. There are surfactants on the skin of marine animals which are there to protect them from harmful and foreign bacteria. If we touch anything – even with gloves on – we risk exposing them and compromising their immune systems.
The only things we should touch or remove on a dive, are the man-made waste products that shouldn’t be in the water in the first place.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my top ten benefits of scuba diving! If you did, please share this post, like my Facebook page and follow me on Instagram. Your support is hugely appreciated – thank you!
Andaman Visa Run:
from start to finish
Are you a backpacker or a digital nomad? Perhaps you’re planning a long break to do your Divemaster Course on the stunning island of Koh Tao?
You’ll probably need to make a visa run at some point!
The Andaman Club Visa Run is a fast, cheap & easy way to renew your visa.
Here’s everything you need to know about this land-based trip to Myanmar!
Initially, I went into Island Travel which is located on the Down Road, between Cafe Del Sol and Pura Vida.
I took my passport along and booked the 2500thb run which leaves Koh Tao on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. You depart Koh Tao in the morning, the visa is updated in the afternoon, and you return to Koh Tao on the night boat, arriving the next day.
THINGS YOU WILL NEED ON THE VISA RUN:
- 3 booking slips which you receive from Island Travel in an envelope
- your passport
- Sources of entertainment – it’s about 18 hours of travel with not a lot else going on
- Snacks and water & some dinner money (cheaper than buying onboard/at terminals)
- a jumper or blanket (air conditioning can get very cold)
- a change of clothes & toiletries
- sleeping tablets/motion-sickness tablets if you’re susceptible
- Recommended cash of 20000thb or evidence of a ticket out of Thailand
HOW IT WORKS:
Lomprayah Ferry from Koh Tao to Chumphon
– 2 hours –
- Show up 30 minutes earlier than the ferry departure time so you can exchange your booking slip for your ferry ticket without rushing. It can be very busy.
- Get in line to board the ferry & put your sticker on. There are 2 boats and the stewards will make sure you don’t get on the wrong one if they can clearly see where you’re going.
- Find yourself a nice place to chill – I recommend the VIP room on the upper deck. It’s only 100thb for the whole journey, there are wall sockets, bigger seats and less people.
Bus from Chumphon to Andaman Sea
– 2.5 hours –
- Keep walking straight through the Chumphon ferry port to where there are minibuses parked & ask for Andaman Club, someone will be sure to get you to the right bus.
- Board the bus and buckle up for the ride.
Speedboat to Grand Andaman Hotel, Pulo Ru
– 0.5 hours –
- When you arrive at the Thai Port, go into the office to the departures window for processing.
- Follow the stewards who will guide you to the speedboat or use these handy signs!
- When you arrive in Myanmar, mind the monkeys on the beach and protect your passport!
- Process at the arrivals desk in Myanmar. They will keep your passport and issue you a photocopy
The Grand Andaman Hotel
– 1 hour –
- A minibus will take you to the Grand Andaman Hotel. There’s a duty free lounge and an in-house Casino!
- You spend less than an hour here and if you’re not lined up for the bus they will send someone in with a bell to find you!
The Return Leg:
- The minibus will drop you back at the Myanmar desk for you to collect your passport
- Back on the speedboat
- Back to Thai Immigration office
- Re-enter Thailand
- Back in the minivan to Chumphon – arrive around 7pm.
You now have a couple of hours to spend in Chumphon where you can pick up lots of essentials at decent prices. There are shopping malls, fast food restaurants, clothes stalls and loads of street vendors to check out!
- 9pm: back in the minivan which will take you to the night ferry
- When you check in they will assign a bed for you
- Settle in for a good night’s sleep!
- Arrive back on Koh Tao around 6am
That’s it for the Andaman Club Visa Run!
Check here for updated rules regarding land-border entry limits from the Thai Embassy.