Celebrating Halloween 2015 with a ‘Ghost Net’ removal!

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Celebrating Halloween 2015 with a ‘Ghost Net’ removal was fitting – to show the macabre effects on the local marine environment in TARP from an illegally dumped fishing net!

Soon after the net was found on a dive site, a team of our dedicated and full time professionals and Go PRO interns assembled to remove it, and they did it in a single dive. Internship candidates Mike, Ian, Ashley and Katie valued the experience so much, for the positive contribution towards the Project AWARE movement, and a passion that divers share: marine conservation! It’s been more than 150 net removals in the past decade, all of which have been fully sponsored by our Downbelow operations with necessary dive logistics and the manpower of experienced professional divers, and our support for Sabah’s local environmental authorities to preserve and protect will continue indefinitely!

Get more details on how to get involved in marine conservation projects at our premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre, in Sabah, Borneo!

Downbelow’s interns protect the TARP environment!


Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures’ interns protect the TARP environment from the many hazards of an illegally discarded fishing net!

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park’s 5 islands is a protected area, which is difficult to police because of its close proximity to mainland Kota Kinabalu city centre. And where there is a high population of tourists and residents, so much more marine debris enters the marine ecosystem. One of the worst marine debris is a fishing net because it’s still ‘fishing’ underwater, until it is removed. Project AWARE ambassador, resident PADI Platinum Course Director Richard Swann of our Go PRO team, leads a group of our professional scuba diving interns to remove the net from further damaging the delicate coral. Marine conservation is one of the most fulfilling dive lifestyle experiences any professional divers can have, and whenever possible our operations involves those in training to organise such projects!

Get more details on a Go PRO course at our PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre facilities in Sabah!

Pro divers remove another Ghost Net in TARP!

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To prevent anymore damage to our underwater environment of coral reefs, a team of pro divers remove another Ghost Net in TARP!

Some of the professional divers have many years of experience in this particular field of marine conservation, such as resident Platinum PADI Course Director Richard Swann. For more than a decade, Richard has mentored hundreds of divers to achieve their professional goals and live the diver lifestyle as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor! One of his many passions is to inspire those professional divers, as well as recreational divers and the general public, about the value of protecting and preserving our marine environment.

Recently, we have noticed strong current on and off at certain dive sites within the marine park, and through the years of experience Richard has with net removals, his dive safety briefing emphasised buddy teams and communication.

The team finished their taxing underwater task, and would gladly volunteer over and over again for the benefit of protecting the fragile coral reef!

As with all Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures conservation programs, ‘Ghost Net’ removals are fully sponsored by our operations with logistics and manpower, for which the efforts are regarded invaluable for the sake of our marine life and their habitat.

For information on getting involved in a marine conservation program at our premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre, get in touch with our Sabah Travel Centre!

Future marine scientists help out TARP mangroves!

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From the University of South Wales, a group of future marine scientists help out the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park mangroves!

Mangroves are an essential environment for the health of our marine ecosystem, particularly for juvenile species, small crustaceans, sea turtles and dugongs.

It’s a part of our duty as PADI professionals to protect and preserve our marine environment, and the university students believe likewise of themselves, especially after qualifying as PADI Open Water Divers.

The students had already certified back in the UK, and arriving at our premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre, our experienced Instructors conducted a refresher session to acclimatise them to the warm tropical waters of the South China Sea – not that it’s tricky!

After plenty of buoyancy practise, resident Platinum PADI Course Director and Downbelow’s Managing Director Richard Swaan, introduced a underwater visual census survey technique. With each dive, the students underwater tasks for the benefit of their scientific degree field study gets more complex, and as is expected, they will be all the more confident after such practise!

The better part of an afternoon is spent cleaning the mangrove area nearby our island beach house, where our island staff team organised a clean-up to rid the area of marine debris.

There’s a lot of common ground between marine science and professional diving, and it’s only natural many of the university students visit again to continue their diver education and Go PRO to become PADI Divemaster or PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI) on our award-winning PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC)!

For more information on a marine education program our Sabah Travel Centre can create specially for you, or any of our Go PRO internship programs!

A Downbelow adventure is a unique education of marine and wildlife!

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In support of World Wildlife Day, our 20-strong adventure group from Denmark take a mass selfie to raise awareness that they are ‘Serious About Wildlife Crime’, as they gain a unique education on marine and wildlife during their Downbelow adventure!

Resident Platinum PADI Course Director Richard Swann encourages our newly qualified PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors, Azhar and Kerry, to share their own experiences in marine conservation. The two have many experiences, from beach clean-ups to ‘Ghost Net’ removals, which they can draw from to relate the AWARE Coral Reef Conservation Specialty presentation for their student divers’ knowledge development!

Newly qualified PADI Open Water Divers, such as our Danish adventurers’, are equally passionate as the PADI professionals of our premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre, and our Go PRO internship candidates assist for their own experience of contributing to the marine environment!

‘Expedition Borneo’, is a 30-day program we personalised for our adventure groups of young travellers from Denmark, which offers a unique educational approach through various activities at choice ecotourism operations.

For more information on holidays that help to make a positive difference, get in touch with our Sabah Travel Centre in Kota Kinabalu, where our experienced and helpful will create a program catered to you and your adventure group to explore Kota Kinabalu and Sabah!

First ‘catch’ of the year: GoPRO divers remove another ‘Ghost Net’!

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Hook and line fishing (with a maximum of 2 hooks) is fishing activity that is permitted in the confines of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, but not nets used for commercial fishing; so when our dive operation (who are passionate about marine conservation) found such a net recently, our Go PRO divers couldn’t help themselves to remove another ‘Ghost Net’ as our first ‘catch’ of year!

Last week, our team of professional Project AWARE divers with years of experience showed our Go PRO internship candidates how to remove an illegally discarded fishing net from the fragile coral reefs of a nearby dive site we frequent when conducting leisure dives.

Sadly, there was the shredded carcass of a Blacktip reef shark found entangled, and a sight that no diver (no matter how experienced) can prepare themselves for the shock.

Good news is, there were several crustaceans that the team of Project AWARE divers freed for that marine life to have a chance at survival. That’s a chance we take, as marine life has a very low survival rate once physiologically damaged by such trauma, but try we must!

This battle against marine debris has been going on for the past decade, and our operations are determined to support the local environmental authorities for the sake of diving our beautiful underwater world in Sabah, Borneo for many, many years to come!

What active conservation is there in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah?

Saturday, December 27th, 2014 @ 08:00 Conservation, News, Project AWARE, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

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What active conservation there is in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah? There is a collective effort from the local authorities and they need the support of dive operations in the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park! We are always there for environmental protection and support!

For the past month, there have been numerous illegally discarded fishing nets discovered snagged on the fragile coral reefs of dive sites in the marine park. Downbelow operations fully sponsor various conservation projects with logistics and professional diving staff to demonstrate our Project AWARE commitment, and one such instance is two separate net removal dives. The first dive is a small team of 6, who removed a very old net, and on the second dive the following day, a group of 10 divers removed a new ‘ghost net’ that was already claiming marine life.

We work together with the local governing bodies to keep our marine environment protected; and within our own operations, various PADI courses and programs are integrated with raising awareness for responsible tourism. For example, our 1-day snorkel safari program is combined with marine debris collection for our snorkelling guests to contribute themselves!

For the past decade that our operations have been in the successful marine park, we can definitely see a positive difference. If we continue supporting one another, we can continue to enjoy our beautiful paradise for many years to come!

Contact our Kota Kinabalu HQ for more information about our marine conservation efforts and how you can get involved!

Kota Kinabalu: Pro divers protect coral reef from marine debris!

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 @ 08:00 Conservation, News, Project AWARE, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

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Kota Kinabalu is a lively city, and the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park is located just off the coast of the city centre.

Scuba diving in the protected park is a prime location for its incredible coral reefs, however marine debris from mankind is so detrimental to environmental health!

Pro divers at our premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre, tackle yet another ‘ghost net’ from one of our favourite dive sites in the park. The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a very successful government designated marine park but governments need help from dive centres who are out everyday to keep them healthy.

Net removal dives are fully sponsored by Downbelow, with the necessary logistics and professional staff to remove illegally discarded fishing nets discovered with efficiency and safety always a priority.

Resident Platinum PADI Course Director Richard Swann leads the organized team to remove a very old fishing net to prevent it from deteriorating the coral reef and its marine life any further.

As committed Project AWARE professional divers, dive buddies brought along large mesh bags in aid of raising awareness about the negative impact of marine debris on the environmental health in our local area.

Contact our HQ in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, for more information on other conservation projects we will conduct in future, such as coral planting to revitalize damaged reef!

Removing another ‘ghost net’ to protect TAR park!

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 @ 08:00 Conservation, News, Project AWARE, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

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When discovering a ‘ghost net’, it’s shocking and disappointing, and especially when we can see the effects of the destructive net!

The conservation efforts of the past decade of 150+ net removal dives, proves our expertise allows us to act quickly; and as usual, Downbelow operations immediately sponsor another project with logistics. Equipment, safety and full-time, dedicated, PADI professional staff are arranged to remove the illegally discarded fishing net to protect and preserve the fragile coral reef in Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park.

Go PRO interns, having recently completed their professional dive training to become PADI Instructors, achieve valuable experience for their involvement, and to live one of the most important aspects of the dive lifestyle: raising awareness on marine conservation.

This fishing net was one of the largest any of our team ever handled, which is why so many professional divers participated. The net removal dive took roughly one hour to complete, and all divers are happier for it!

For more information on other marine conservation projects we can arrange for our clients, contact our HQ and discuss a suitable itinerary for your group or party. Contribute to the marine environment on one of our unique educational programs conducted at our Gaya Island beach house in Sabah!

Illegally discarded fishing nets are a scourge!

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Illegally dumping a fishing net in the sea damages the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem, because it is ‘marine debris’, in other words unnatural!

Richard Swann, resident Platinum PADI Course Director and Downbelow’s Managing Director, removed a 50-metre net from the shallow depths of the coral reef between 8 and 10 metres, with the necessary assistance of our local Go PRO internship candidates Azhar and Mac.

The two interns are completing their PADI dive education with mentor Richard to qualify as PADI Divemasters within our 1-year Downbelow-created ‘Work4aCareer’ program! Soon-to-be dive professionals, they receive a unique education by physically experiencing the positive contributions to our marine environment.

As part of their 1-year internship, Mac and Azhar acquire amazing experience by participating in such challenging conservation projects as net removal dives. In their future dive careers, they will refer to all of their experience with us to fight against marine debris, a plight our local area faces on a daily basis.

We fully support Mac and Azhar to continue their dive education to become PADI Instructors in their future, so they may extend their passion for conservation to others!

Contact our Head Office for more details on our Go PRO internship programs to include professional dive training conducted at our Gaya Island beach house!