Archive for April, 2011

University of Glamorgan Cleans Up Gaya Island

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011 @ 09:24 Glamorgan University, Groups & Schools, News, Project AWARE

TAR Park, Kota Kinabalu: It was Dive for Earth Day on 22 April and this year Downbelow had 30 eager participants already living on the island to help them pull off the biggest collection of rubbish on Gaya Island yet.

Earth Day & Dive for Earth Day

University of Glamorgan with their big pile of rubbish collected from Gaya Island, Kota Kinabalu, SabahEarth Day has been around for decades and has gained momentum in recent years as global environmental problems have garnered more serious attention.

Dive for Earth Day is an extension of this movement to the marine environment and is actively promoted by the PADI Foundation, Project AWARE.

It’s an opportunity to spread the awareness of how problems that are so obvious on land affect the marine environment where it’s out of sight of our land dwelling cousins, but not divers.

The rubbish removal from the coast line illustrates that just because trash can’t be seen, doesn’t mean it’s gone.

University of Glamorgan Cleans Up

Cleaning the environment is no easy task and requires substantial manpower to make a difference.

This year, in its Project AWARE and Dive for Earth Day efforts, Downbelow was fortunate enough to already have a small army of just such manpower on Gaya Island.

Richard, in orange, with some of the Glamorgan Uni students and 1 of 4 big truck tires removed from the Gaya Island swampA group of 30 students form the University of Glamorgan in the UK had been camping on Gaya island for the week leading up to Dive for Earth day.

As a gesture of goodwill, whilst wrapping up their research project, they happily agreed to pitch in and help remove trash from the very environment they had been studying for the preceding week.

Trash – Lots and lots of trash

Gaya Island’s sensitive intertidal mangrove swamps were identified as the target of some Dive for Earth Day love.

The group organised themselves into a ground assault unit, who took the jungle paths along the shoreline to reach the swamps, and the amphibian unit, who got there by boat.

Together they spent the morning in the mangrove swamp and along the shore at other secluded spots and inlets around Gaya Island and removed stacks of trash from the environment.

Glamorgan students unloading Gaya island trash from the Downbelow boats

In total, the Glamorgan students and Downbelow crew removed 847kg of trash from the swamps and shoreline.

Glass bottles, plastics in various shapes and sizes, diapers and an assortment of other trash counted amongst the pile.

Most glaringly out of place were the 4 large truck tires. Gaya Island has no roads and no vehicles!

Dive for Earth Day!

To end a day of doing good, Downbelow’s Dive Shop donated a brand new dive computer to raise money to be donated to Project AWARE.

The students dug deep and raised AU$ 400 for the cause.

Thanks to the students from the University of Glamorgan, Dive for Earth Day 2011 was a great success.

More Project AWARE events are coming this year, so keep an eye on this blog and our Facebook page if you want to get involved.

Glamorgan University Surveys TAR Park Reefs

Monday, April 25th, 2011 @ 09:52 Glamorgan University, Groups & Schools, News

Gaya Island, Kota Kinabalu: A group of 30 students from the University of Glamorgan in the UK wrapped up their marine research program here after spending a week on the island with Downbelow.

Island, hammock, mozzy net. You're sorted for a week on Gaya island.

Students, studying various bachelors and master degrees, came to Kota Kinabalu as part of a Tropical Ecology module.

Various bits of information were collected from around Gaya Island from carefully measured and marked patches of coral reef and sea grass.

“To maximize their research time”, said Joanne from Downbelow, “the students lived on the island for their entire stay.”

Downbelow’s PADI 5 Star IDC Dive & Adventure Centre on Gaya Island was temporarily expanded with an array of mosquito covered hammocks, which in turn was covered by a huge canopy.

Careful measurements of the TAR Park coral reefsThis provided comfortable accommodation for the students on the island itself.

To complete specific tasks and meet certain objectives for their research, each student had to dive twice a day.

Downbelow kept to their safety protocol of a 4:1 student-instructor ratio, which meant the Downbelow crew had to dive 4 times per day.

“During their dives the students learned various techniques for field research”, Joanne said.

The data the students collected about fish populations, diversity, coral health and other environmental factors will be used by next year’s University of Glamorgan expedition, to compare against the same areas.

The 30 students from the University of Glamorgan, UKBefore they left Gaya Island, the Glamorgan students left their mark – or rather removed the mark left by others.

Downbelow organised a Project AWARE shoreline clean-up for Dive for Earth Day, an annual, global initiative highlighting the problem of rubbish in the marine environment.

The students visited the mangrove swamps and secluded inlets around Gaya island and collected a whopping 847kg of rubbish.

Back in the UK this weekend the Glam Group will no doubt be talking about, and using the data from their research experience in Sabah for some time to come.

Downbelow looks forward to their return. Check out photos of the Glam Group’s Downbelow adventures on our Facebook page here and here.

Downbelow is a PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre Our international staff provide personal, premier service at our PADI 5 Star Instructor Development (IDC) Dive Centre, where we pride ourselves on small group tuition with extremely high safety standards & procedures.

Do visit us at our Dive Shop & Travel Centre where we offer free wireless Internet and refreshments.

Tel: +6 012 866 1935

Visit our Facebook page to see what we get up to over here in paradise!

Downbelow at ADEX 22 – 24 Apr – Drop By & Say Hi!

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 @ 13:27 News

DownBelow at the Asian Diver Expo. What's next? See you at ADEX!

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah: Downbelow is preparing to set off to Singapore tomorrow to attend the Asian Dive Expo (ADEX) taking place at the Suntec Exhibition Centre from 22 – 24 April.

As part of the Sabah Tourism contingent, Downbelow will be at ADEX to tout the benefits of diving, learning how to dive and doing dive internships in Kota Kinabalu’s TAR Park specifically and in Sabah in general.

ADEX is one of the region’s biggest dive expos and last year drew 21,000 participants, including visitors, form 49 countries.

Over 100 dive exhibitors represented every aspect of the dive industry from equipment manufacturers and retailers, to tourism boards and travel operators, to dive centers, dive resorts and liveaboards.

There was a little something for everybody; gadgets for underwater photographers, courses for beginner and advanced dive training, marine conservation, diving media and dive associations.

So, drop by the Asian Dive Expo (ADEX) at Suntec Exhibition Centre in Singapore, and find us at booth A01 (find us on the ADEX Exhibitor Map) with Sabah Tourism .


It Was All Perfect And Worked So Smoothly

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 @ 10:14 Guestbook

Pearl & Alec having a great time in BorneoDear Alister,

We just wanted to email you and say thank you so much for organising such a brilliant trip for us recently in March.

It was superb, really great, and the whole itinerary worked really well, with no problems at all. The hotels were superb, the tour with Patrick the guide amazing, it was all perfect and worked so smoothly.

Thank you so much also for your help booking the Rasa Ria, that was just paradise, and well worth the extra to stay in the Ocean Wing.

Definitely one of my favourite places I have visited so far in life!

Your help and professionalism was excellent.

Thanks so much

Pearl and Alec James

Downbelow Trains Sabah Parks Staff

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 @ 09:00 Courses, Diving Sabah, Groups & Schools, News

Underwater skills training in the lagoon fronting our Gaya island lagoonTunku Abdul Rahman Park, Kota Kinabalu: It was with great pleasure that Downbelow recently took a group from Sabah Parks under their wing to equip them with a variety of skills.

Often collaborating with Sabah Parks on Project AWARE and illegal net removal programs, it was fun to welcome them into the diving fold for a change.

The 6 Sabah Parks staffers spent a few days at Downbelow’s PADI 5 Star IDC Centre on Gaya Island, which is co-located with the Sabah Park HQ for their Tunku Abdul Rahman Park operations.

The program, customised for the Sabah Parks staff, consisted of 6 Open Water SCUBA Diver, 5 Advanced Open Water Diver and 6 Emergency First Responder courses.

Downbelow Instructors in the back, Sabah Parks students in the front - qualified!From course work at the dive centre, to skills training in the adjacent lagoon and practical exercises on CPR dummies, the group took the learning curve in their stride and smiled their way through all 3 programs.

After a few days, some hard work and lots of fun, 6 Advanced Open Water and Emergency First Responder trained Sabah Park staffers emerged to tackle their jobs with new insight and skills.

We look forward to welcoming them back for plenty of diving and more training soon.

Check out some more pictures from the Sabah Parks group in the album on our Facebook page.

Downbelow Office Crew Takes to the Water

Sunday, April 17th, 2011 @ 12:00 Diving Kota Kinabalu, KK Dive Club, News

Diving Kota Kinabalu, Sabah: Downbelow’s island crew dives everyday, so who can blame the office staff when we long for some diving action every now and then? It all happens just 10 minutes from Downbelow HQ after all.

Office Girls in the WaterOf Downbelow’s 13 office-based staff, 9 are divers.  Between us we now hold 3 Discover SCUBA Diving, 3 Open Water Diver, 1 Advanced Open Water, 1 Open Water SCUBA Instructor and 1 IDC Staff Instructor certifications.

Last weekend 4 of our office staff took to the water to help each other out.

Joanne and Ev kept their instructing skills sharp by presenting the Advanced Open Water Course to Alice & Sarah.

On dry land, and in the office, Joanne and Ev are Downbelow’s Marketing Director and Regional Manager respectively, whilst down below they are IDC Staff Instructors and Open Water SCUBA Instructors respectively.  Alice & Sarah are Travel Consultants in the dry, and were Open Water Divers in the wet.

Over 2 days, Sarah completed her Advanced Open Water Diver course, plus a couple of specialities including Peak Performance Buoyancy. Alice completed day 1 and is expected back on the island later in the month to complete day 2.

The next few weeks will see more of the staff get back in the water for diving fun and to up their qualifications.

Not only do we encourage our non-island staff to dive more often, but with Downbelow’s KK Dive Club we also encourage Sabah’s locals and residents to do the same.  By joining the club you get discount diving, enabling you to dive down below more often.

Drop by our KK Times Square office or email us direct and find out how to dive more for less.

Jan the Diver now Jan the Divemaster

Friday, April 15th, 2011 @ 10:00 IDC, News, Professional Diving Internships

TAR Park, Kota Kinabalu: Like proud parents watching their kids graduate college, Downbelow saw recent 1 Month Professional Divemaster Intern Jan go from strength to strength to finally qualify as a fully fledged PADI Divemaster.

Jan the Divemaster with a hand full of specialities tooWe’re very proud!

Jan, all the way from Norway, joined Downbelow at our PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre on Gaya island a month ago.  As a CMAS Advanced Open Water Diver he had his sights firmly fixed on our PADI Go Pro program.

Over the course of the month he was on the island daily – we do, after all, dive every day.

Jan was soon knee deep in not just acquiring the knowledge and skills required to be a PADI Divemaster, but also gaining a keen insight into the ins and outs of the daily operations of a busy dive centre.

There were several large groups to take care of, plenty of Discover SCUBA Divers to watch over, and even an illegal net removal or two, all which Jan took in his stride.

We bid Jan a fond farewell, but hope to see him back soon when Jan the Divemaster wants to become Jan the Dive Instructor.

Downbelow is a PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre Our international staff provide personal, premier service at our PADI 5 Star Instructor Development (IDC) Dive Centre, where we pride ourselves on small group tuition with extremely high safety standards & procedures.

Do visit us at our Dive Shop & Travel Centre where we offer free wireless Internet and refreshments.

Tel: +6 012 866 1935

Visit our Facebook page to see what we get up to over here in paradise!


Langley Diving Gives Downbelow a Big Up

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 @ 09:00 Guestbook, News

Recent visitor, Les Newman, owner and PADI Course Director from Langley Diving in Langley, Canada, left us this shining review:

If you are looking for adventure with quality, economy and safety you have to think of Malaysia. If your goal is to dive and enjoy the wealth of aquatic life Malaysia has to offer at a truly Five Star facility, you have to consider Kota Kinabalu.

There, you will want to dive with Joanne and Richard at Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures. Richard, a PADI Course Director, and Joanne, a PADI Staff Instructor run an active team teaching all levels from novice diver and snorkelling to instructor levels.

Their location on Gaya island with proximity to the city of KK and fleet of high-speed dive boats make diving in the area a breeze. With nearly 50 different identified dive spots and highly skilled local staff who know the waters and sea life, you get a lot of diving in without seeing the same reef twice.

This is macro diving at its best. Hover, watch as the reef comes alive below you. When your Malasian dive guide tells you where you will see a sea horse – and then delivers – you know you have chosen the right place.

While on shore in Kota Kinabalu you will be overwhelmed with the sights, sounds and smells of a variety of open air markets that make this part of the world very special. Pick a country and you can find a restaurant within walking distance of your hotel with food from that country. Downbelow can not only handle your diving, but arrange an entire accommodation package to meet your budget.

If you are traveling to South East Asia, stop in Malaysia, visit Kota Kinabalu, dive with Downbelow and be reminded why you got into diving in the first place.

Les Newman, C.G.A., PADI-CD
Owner, Langley Diving
Langley, BC, Canada

Proboscis Monkeys on Gaya Island

Monday, April 11th, 2011 @ 10:26 Gaya Island Animals, News, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

Gaya Island, Kota Kinabalu: Proboscis monkeys in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park!?

Big male proboscis monkey in the trees near the Gaya Island dive centreIt seems a bit far fetched to think that the shy proboscis monkey could possibly inhabit the relatively small islands of a marine park, 10 minutes by boat from the shores of the busy city of Kota Kinabalu.

But over the years there have been some anecdotal evidence of exactly that.

We’ve heard of people who glimpsed what could have been a proboscis monkey in the islands’ jungles and the story of tourists seeing a group swimming between islands.

Even a tale of a boatsman who saved a nearly drowned proboscis monkey near one of the islands.

But to those who know proboscis monkeys, the islands and how busy the park is, you may as well be telling them you saw Big Foot or a yeti.

But this weekend past the myths were confirmed. The legend was grounded.

The tall tales became solid facts, when our island crew and guests at Downbelow’s PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre on Gaya island had a 1st hand proboscis monkey encounter.

The proboscis male with some of the family visible to the leftWatching in awe our crew and guests saw a group of 4 proboscis monkeys make their way down from the thick of the Gaya island jungle to fairly near the dive centre where they sat around for a while.

Feeding on leaves they watched the divers watching them, the big male perhaps just checking that his territory wasn’t being infringed upon, reassuring himself of his dominance.

Richard, of course, managed to get his camera out in time to snap a few distant shots before the proboscis monkeys disappeared back into the Gaya island jungle. There’s a couple more shots on our Facebook page.

Although these critters are very shy, now would be a good time to book one of our Guided Jungle Trekking packages on Gaya island and try your luck.

Animals at the Dive Station on Gaya Island

Friday, April 8th, 2011 @ 16:39 Diving Kota Kinabalu, News, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

Gaya Island, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park: It’s no secret that Gaya Island teems with wildlife below the surface, but we’ve also seen our share of wildlife in and around the relatively untouched jungle of the island too.

Pit Viper at the Downbelow Island Dive StationThe latest visitor to our PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Center on Gaya island was this young, beautiful pit viper.

The ‘pit‘ in pit viper refers to a fossa – a pit of sorts – in the area between the nostrils and the eyes on either side of the head.

The pit is home to a membrane which gives the snake a 6th sense – infrared vision.

With two such organs, 1 on either side of the head, the viper also sees infrared in stereo, which means not only can they detect prey, they can also tell how far away it is.

In order for this ability to be effective, the prey needs only be 0.02°C warmer than the background, a very effective tracking device giving their nocturnal prey very little chance of hiding.

Although pit vipers are venomous, because of their keen senses they usually avoid humans, but are in any case  not aggressive unless provoked or threatened, and are thus easily avoided in the rare cases that they are encountered.

This particular specimen was found in the nice and warm compressor room where there is very little of both aggression and provocation; the worse he did was keep our island crew on their toes.

Our Facebook page has a growing album of other non-marine animal encounters we’ve had around our Gaya island dive centre.  Why not join us for a few of your own?

Downbelow is a PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre Our international staff provide personal, premier service at our PADI 5 Star Instructor Development (IDC) Dive Centre, where we pride ourselves on small group tuition with extremely high safety standards & procedures.

Do visit us at our Dive Shop & Travel Centre where we offer free wireless Internet and refreshments.

Tel: +6 012 866 1935

Visit our Facebook page to see what we get up to over here in paradise!