Takeshi – Rescue Diver to Divemaster on Internship in Sabah, Borneo

Sabah, Borneo: You’ve undoubtedly seen pictures and snippets here on our blog and on our Facebook page about Takeshi our Divemaster Intern who is with us on Gaya Island in Kota Kinabalu at the moment.

Takeshi almost immediately started with his Rescue Diver course, which is a prerequisite for the Divemaster Internship, and – as expected – quickly made work of it an qualified.

Since then, under the wing of our resident PADI Course Director and Downbelow’s GoPro Team, he has been diving, observing, studying and generally keeping a keen eye on things to acquire as much knowledge has he can about being an awesome Divemaster.

A couple of days ago he took the plunge and, shrugging off whatever nervousness he may have felt, he presented his first dive briefing.

Below is the clip of Takeshi’s first dive briefing, which is on our YouTube channel. Thanks to Richard and his new smartphone, the YouTube channel promises to be more active…

Takeshi – Rescue Diver to Divemaster on Internship in Sabah, Borneo

Sabah, Borneo with Downbelow: Trip Report Part 2

Mr. Alex Harrison from Australia, a very happy customer of Downbelow, sent us this passionate trip report of the time he spent here in Sabah Borneo, and we can’t help but share his enthusiasm. We broke it into 2: Part 1 and Part 2.

I had to admit I had some trepidation about booking with a travel company over the internet after hearing so many horror stories.

I worried that a lot of the transfers and connections would fall through and we would be stranded. I needn’t have worried.

The trip was seamless. Perfect. Our itinerary spanned 3 weeks and took us from Kota Kinabalu to the caves in Gunung Mulu, Sarawak and back to KK where we spent a day exploring the Klias Wetlands and the base of Mount Kinabalu under our own steam.

Then we flew to Lahad Datu and travelled 3hrs by dirt road to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley where we stayed for 3 days.

We travelled to Sepilok and stayed just outside the Orang Rehab Centre, before going on to Myne Resort and spending 3 days exploring the Kinabatangan River by boat as part of the Boutique package.

The wildlife was incredible and Myne Resort’s staff were very hospitable going out of their way to help us with any requests, even scheduling extra boat trips or walks at night if we were so inclined.

We travelled by private car (no tour buses on this itinerary!) to the Gomantong Caves where traditionally birds nests for bird nest soup is harvested, then to Labuk Bay Proboscic Monkey Sanctuary (this is very underrated and I personally enjoyed it far more than Sepilok as it was far less crowded).

We went on to the water villages and markets in Sandakan after visiting the Buddhist Temple, but our guide accomodated our request to make a last minute detour to visit the Sandakan War Memorial where 2,400 Australians died in the Death Marches from the POW camps there in the Second World War.

As we are Australian, this was a moving experience and our guide intuitively understood how important it was to us.

Danum Valley photo courtesy Mr. Alex Harrison, AustraliaWe flew south to Tawau and travelled by road to Semporna where we took a boat to Kapalai Dive Resort – the diving was amazing and winning the Sipidan permit lottery meant I fulfilled my dream of diving one of the holy grails of scuba.

It certainly lives up to its reputation with turtles the size of coffee tables and schools of barracuda.

Even though my partner is a non-diver, she was well looked after and had plenty to do with snorkelling and kayaking and she was never bored.

The chalets are on stilts, in a water village style, on a sandbar in the middle of the Celebes Sea and it felt very exclusive.

Danum Valley held a special place in our hearts and was head and shoulders above the rest, only equalled by Kapalai.

Virgin rainforest bursting at the seams with wildlife everywhere you look. We would often trek four different trails each day even at night, through mud, with leeches throwing themselves at us.

We were apprehensive about the leeches and humidity, but quickly it became second nature and we were in love with the place.

One particularly memorable day, we woke up to the sound of gibbons and walked along the rainforest canopy walkway with the trees and surrounding hills covered in mist.

We spotted a wild female orang utan and her baby. And hornbills. And tree snakes. And langurs. And macaques.

The list goes on and on. We even saw a pair of the rare Bornean Bristlehead, which had fellow birdwatchers in the party extremely excited.

We walked to Jacuzzi Pool, but pressed on and walked on to a couple of beautiful waterfalls, with nothing but the call of birds and gibbons to break the silence.

There was movement in the canopy all the time. Our guide, Yoktan, was brilliant. The night before he spotted sambar deer, flying squirrels, owls, tarsiers, tarantulas, civets, wild boar and many other animals for us with uncanny ease on a night drive on an open-top 4WD.

We climbed to View Point and the view over Danum Valley took our breath away. We then moved on to Coffin Cliff and visited the burial site of Kadazandusun head-hunters on the rock face above the valley. Then descended to Jacuzzi Pool for a welcome dip and some therapy with fish nibbling our toes.

We did more trekking through the rest of the day including at night and spotted another orang utan, this time a fully grown adult male with the cheeks.

At lunch the resort manager, Edmundo, convinced Kirsty to touch a non-venomous tree snake which was resting on the balcony. No mean feat, as Kirsty has a snake phobia!

But the day wasn’t over yet. I had tipped off the Borneo Rainforest Lodge team that I was planning something special. When we arrived for dinner at the restaurant, which is open on two sides to the forest, we were met with a table with a floral arrangement.

My partner heard the pop of a champagne cork behind us and they served two glasses of sparkling wine. I got down on one knee and popped the question and she replied yes without seeing the ring, which was sitting at the bottom of her glass.

25 of the staff came over, surrounded us and started strumming guitars and singing Ronan Keating’s “This I Promise You”.

It was a night to remember, under the stars.

I had never wanted to propose in Paris – I always found that too cliched. The staff threw themselves into the proposal.

You see, they had even carried sparkling wine to Jacuzzi Pool earlier in the day in anticipation of my plan to propose there and set up a romantic lunch back at the lodge for when we returned.

But when Kirsty decided she didn’t want to go for a swim, and I did, and she only dipped her feet in the pool, I motioned to Yoktan that it wasn’t happening then.

He discreetly radioed the lodge and the plans changed quickly. And it happened later that night, over dinner. It worked out so much better.

This is the thing about Borneo; flexible, a slow relaxed time, and the magic is always happening. The magic is everywhere.

If you are an eco-tourist and you want to visit Sabah in Borneo, book through DownBelow. They will make your trip perfect and effortless.

And spend a little bit extra to stay at Borneo Rainforest Lodge and Kapalai Dive Resort. They will make dreams come true.

Because of how magic the trip was, and how seamless it all was, my partner who always wanted to travel in the safety and convenience of well-trodden Europe, has now decreed that our next holiday will be to Costa Rica…..

I can’t wait!

Alex Harrison, AUSTRALIA

Missed Mr. Alex Harrison’s Trip Report Part 1? Read it here.

Sabah, Borneo with Downbelow: Trip Report Part 1

Mr. Alex Harrison from Australia, a very happy customer of Downbelow, sent us this passionate trip report of the time he spent here in Sabah Borneo, and we can’t help but share his enthusiasm. We broke it into 2: Part 1 and Part 2.

“I had long wanted to explore Borneo – but like so many others had thought of it as a impenetrable place.Then one day a diving catalogue caught my eye, and I knew I wanted to do something different for a holiday.

I was tired of the usual run of the mill places. I really wanted somewhere different. And I love diving. The trouble was, my partner didn’t dive. So I left it again for a little while.

Then I looked at the brochure again and the liquid eyes of orang utans beckoned. And I fantasised again.

Danum Valley photo courtesy Mr. Alex Harrison, AustraliaMy partner had been working on her PhD for years and it had finally come to a completion and had submitted it. She had not had a decent holiday in more than a couple of years.

I had often travelling to various places, but somehow it never felt the same because I could not share the experience.

I’d always wanted to dive Sipidan. One day I browsed a scuba diving forum and DownBelow were recommended by a few forum members. I looked into it more and they were recommended again on TripAdvisor.

I filed them away for future reference and thought I might look into them again.

One day I convinced my partner to consider Borneo for a holiday for something different. I wanted to really shake things up and really get into nature. She agreed, initially with some hesistation.

I rushed off to the local travel agents to look at booking some tours after working out a rough sketch of where we wanted to go around Sabah in Borneo. It frustrated the daylights out of me.

Even a lot of the so called “Asia experts” did not seem to have much clue about where to go. They offered prepackaged tours, which seemed to only be able to cover half of what I wanted to do, but in twice the time.

They said I was too ambitious in what I wanted to do.

I did not like the answer.

So one evening I fired off an email to Dive DownBelow

From then on, it was so easy and a pleasure and a joy to organise the itinerary. No fighting and resigning myself to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Downbelow created a bespoke ititinerary that fitted exactly what I wanted to do in the order I wanted to do it and they fit all of it into exactly the amount of time I wanted to do it.

Every email was answered quickly and promptly within 24hrs and I began to discover a different level of customer service that I had not quite come across.

It seemed like I was the most important customer for them. The only customer.

Sarah Jane was my consultant and she was brilliant.

She quickly and effortlessly (from my side of things) booked us into places that I knew had high levels of demand. Laban Rata on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley and Kapalai Dive Resort near Sipidan.

I couldn’t believe it, especially as Lonely Planet warned that these places were often booked out in advance especially in the peak season when we were going.

The only disappointment was that they did not organise trips to the other parts of Borneo such as Sarawak and Kalimantan, but fair enough. Sarawak was easy enough to organise and Downbelow offered great advice on how to go about making bookings to fly and see the caves in Gunung Mulu.

Downbelow were accomodating when we had to cancel climbing Mount Kinabalu due to a family crisis that left us no longer mentally and physically prepared for the rigours of the climb.

They swiftly and quickly arranged alternative sections of the itinerary even though it was only a week out before we were going in August 2011.”

Read more or Mr. Alex Harrison’s Trip Report in Part 2

Thanks for the Perfect Organizing of Our Trip in KK

Dear Sarah,

We are so glad that we have completed our Open Water Diver course with you guys.

Thank you so much for the perfect organizing of our trip in KK and your promptly reply all the time.

We like the hotel you recommended to us.

We hope we can arrange few days to visit you guys again for the AOW as soon as possible and we miss everything in the dive center, also the island.

The team is great and we are proud to have met these bunch of great people!

Especially to our super cool instructor Bob, you are awesome!

Thank you!

Best regards,
Andy and Sinney

Happy Downbelow customers Andy and Sinney

Complete a PADI Dive Course & you could win a trip to Australia

Qualify with Downbelow to be part of the PADI 20 Million Certifications Competition

Sabah, Borneo: Complete a PADI Dive course with Downbelow and you could win a trip to Australia!

Simply be the one who gets the 20 millionth PADI certification, and the prize is yours!

As we write this, the counter is at 19,962,551 – so there’s only 37,449 left to go.

To stand in line to qualify to be the 20 millionth PADI certification, you can complete any one of the following courses at Downbelow’s PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre:

If your certification through Downbelow is the 20 millionth, your whopper of a prize, will include:

  • 2 round trip economy class flights to Australia incl. airport taxes and fees;
  • 4 nights twin-share accommodation in Queensland, Australia;
  • 3D3N on an Australian liveaboard dive boat;
  • 1 hour low level reef flight from Lizard island to Cairns;
  • Day trip to the Daintree Rainforest;
  • A Cuddle a Koala Experience;
  • Aboriginal Cultural Experience;

So what are you waiting for?

Email us or contact us

right now to book your qualifying certification course and be that 20 millionth certiciation!

This contest is run by PADI, so be sure to read their contest rules and competition outline. We represent the details here as accurately as possible, but can not take responsibility for errors or omissions that may occur now or in future.

Coral Reef Conservation Speciality in Sabah, Borneo

Sabah, Borneo: Last Saturday our Divemaster interns were introduced to the Coral Reef Conservation Speciality by Instructor Bob and resident PADI Course Director Richard.PADI Aware Coral Reef Conservation Speciality with Downbelow in Sabah, Borneo

The PADI Aware Coral Reef Conservation Speciality is all about the fascinating world of coral reefs and teaches the participants about how fragile reef systems are and what steps should be taken to protect them.

Bob and Richard introduced many more interesting facts to our Divemaster interns and shared their passion about the delicate aquatic life that lies below the waves.

This particular speciality requires no dives, so it’s suited to both snorkelers and divers.

The PADI Aware Coral Reef Conservation Speciality is one of a range of interesting speciality courses that we offer at our beach house dive centre on Gaya island.

Get in touch with us for more information about our speciality and other other scuba diving courses in Sabah, Borneo.


2 New Divemaster interns at our Dive Station in Kota Kinabalu

2 New Divemaster Interns in Kota Kinabalu, SabahKota Kinabalu, Sabah: Two new soon-to-be Divemaster interns joined our PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre on Gaya Island last week.

We’d like to say big welcome to Takeshi and Weijia.

Takeshi’s first order of business was to qualify as a Rescue Diver, which is one of the entry requirements of the Divemaster internship.

Weijia, already a Rescue Diver, joined the recreational dives to up his number of logged dives, for which there is also a minimum requirement on the Divemaster internship.

Both of them had a Q&A session with Resident PADI Course Director Richard before they started, just to get orientated and have answered any pressing questions they had.

Our Divemaster Internship program here in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is quite popular and fast becoming known for being a quality, value for money internship worth embarking on.

Spanning 1 month, it’s the first step into the realm of the a career as a Professional Diver, with the PADI Instructor Development Course IDC waiting beyond.

Find out more about Downbelow’s 1 Month Divemaster Internship in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Special Offer: Emergency First Response & Oxygen Provider

Whether you are on an island ready to Scuba dive, in an office tending to your work or in a restaurant having a meal, being prepared for when the unexpected happens, can save lives.

Our Special Offer brings you 3 courses
each complementing the other
at a discounted rate

Emergency First Response EFR Course

Emergency Oxygen Provider & Emergency First ResponderEFR is a course that teaches participants what to do when they are the first to arrive on the scene of an accident. It covers primary care, dealing with life threatening situations, and secondary care for dealing with non life threatening injuries. [Course Details]

Emergency First Response EFR: Child & Infant Care

Once the EFR has been mastered, there are special considerations for children and a different set again for infants in similar situations.

Due to their differences in anatomy and responses compared to adults, child and infant care is taught in a seperate module, which is usually conducted in conjunction with the EFR.

Emergency Oxygen Provider

A useful course in its own right, but particularly suited as a complement to the courses above, Emergency Oxygen Provider teaches the participant how to identify and treat illnesses with emergency oxygen.

The course is not just for divers, but also for people who work near bodies of water, such as boat operators, life guards, marina supervisers and the like. [Course Details]

All 3 Courses at 20% less

Do all 3 courses together and save 20%

Cost: RM750 RM600 per person;
Duration: 1 day;
Prerequisites: none;
Includes: Required learning materials and certification fees;

To book or get more information
email us or contact us today!

Emergency Oxygen Provider & Oxygen Provider Instructor

Divemaster Jessica assists Sam to resuscitate dummy victim Annie during the Emergency Oxygen Provider courseSabah, Malaysia: Already itching for more, our recent PADI Divemaster Intern graduate, Sam, took on first the PADI Oxygen Provider course, aced it, and went on to become a PADI Oxygen Provider Instructor.

As a qualified PADI Divemaster, Sam, like all other Divemasters, are able to become instructors in certain specialities.

Under the watchful eye of our resident Kota Kinabalu PADI Course Direct Richard, Sam trained in the ways of a PADI Emergency Oxygen Provider, which is a beneficial edition to the Emergency First Response qualification.

The Emergency Oxygen Provider course teaches the student to recognise diving illnesses treatable with emergency oxygen, how to properly set up the equipment and how to administer emergency oxygen.

Although the course is suited to divers and treating diving related conditions, the course itself requires no dives and it has no prerequisites.

The PADI Emergency Oxygen Course will give PADI Divemaster Sam another tool in her arsenal against unforeseen circumstances, and ads to her confidence when she plans and leads dives.

For more information about the PADI Emergency Oxygen Provider & PADI Emergency Oxygen Provider Instructor courses in Sabah, Borneo, drop us an email or contact us at the office.


Sam Qualifies as a PADI Divemater in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Sam practices the equipment exchange with Jeff one of our local Divemaster traineesKota Kinabalu, Sabah: Our PADI Divemaster intern who joined us recently at the PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre, is now a qualified PADI Divemaster!

You will remember Sam joined us from England nearly a month ago and since then been keeping busy with the business of being a Divemaster intern.

She has been studying, participating and conducting all things Divemater, with a fair few dives in between, of course.

All this whilst she’s been knee deep in the business of diving as well, gaining first hand knowledge of what it takes to run a busy dive centre like Downbelow’s.

This valuable knowledge and experience will mean a world of difference to her future employers, making her stand out amongst mere book-wise Divemasters.

Being the qualified PADI Divemaster that she is, Sam is now able to plan, organise and lead dives and divers, plus be a certified instructional assist to a PADI Instructor.

Sam – when she’s ready for the next step as a professional diver – can now enroll in a PADI Instructor Development Course IDC, which will ultimately see her qualify as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor OWSI.

We hope to see Sam back soon in one of our next IDCs and in the meantime hope that her new career as a qualified PADI Divemaster will go swimmingly.