I have always loved snorkelling – it gives you that glimpse into another world below from the familiar comfort of the surface. So, whenever I planned a trip away to warmer tropical climates, I would always make sure that part of the holiday had a few days next to the beach with the best coral reef we could find. Marianne and I have never really been the kind to sit and sunbathe on a beach for hours, we both get itchy feet after an hour or so …..
Our first trip to Sabah, Borneo was no exception. After a lot of research, and looking in the lonely planet travel guide (and online I came to the conclusion that the islands off the East Coast of Sabah looked and sounded perfect. All of the resorts seemed to be geared towards divers so the waters must be good right?. It took some time to find somewhere to stay within our budget. Many were hundreds of £’s per night even for non divers. I eventually came across a resort that was both very reasonably priced and claimed to have an amazing house reef right off the beach. Sold! I booked 3 nights at Scuba Junkie on the island of Mabul.
As I sat on the boat for the 45 minute journey it takes to get to the island I was excited to jump into that water with my mask and snorkel – I had been sat in my office in the UK thinking about this moment for long enough !. As soon as we arrived and checked in I was off down to the beach. I walked in up to my waist and started swimming. WOW there was a turtle right there under me in no more than 5 feet of water. I was not disappointed. I swam out over the reef and was amazed at the variety of life below me. Marianne was back in the resort – she is not such a keen swimmer, she has been heard saying she hates water! and I had to share my excitement with the first person I saw! I then started to babble like a child let loose in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate factory. The person I was talking to turned out to be one of Scuba Junkie’s instructors called Jason.
He asked if I was a diver and I said no just a snorkeler and he then said why don’t I give it a try. At that time I was under the impression that you couldn’t just try it without being a qualified diver. Jason went on to explain the Padi – discovery dive. OK sold. I found Marianne and shared my excitement. Her jaw hit the floor when I said I had booked us both on a discovery dive the following morning. (she hates water and is claustrophobic a great combination for a diver)
Jason met us on the jetty and spent time talking us through diving, explaining some basic tests, hand signals and rules that we had to do before we were able to dive with him. The most important rule is NEVER hold your breath under water as the air can expand in your lungs as you ascend. We were now wet suited up with tanks on our backs and climbing down the steps towards the sunken platform at the end of the jetty. What a great set up, a secure platform in which we can practice and do our basic skill tests. Marianne was breathing just under the surface in no time. My brain had a real hang up. Snorkelling is one thing, but breathing without that link to the surface was another thing !. I think I must hold the record, for the longest time before taking their first breath ! It must have been 20 minutes my brain just didn’t want to do it. Jason deserved a medal for his patience and constantly gave me supportive words of encouragement.
Our first dive – how exciting !
Eventually, we were kneeling on the platform and taking it in turns to demonstrate some basic skills after Jason had shown us what to do. We had to take out our regulator, and clear it both with our breath and also by purging it, showing how we could retrieve our regulator in case we dropped it and clear water out of our mask.
OK – tests all done and we were off descending down. We could go to a maximum of 12 meters and followed Jason who kept a close eye on us. Many people I have spoken to suffer with their ears and it took a couple of dives before I fully understood that you have to pop you ears on the way down before they start to hurt. If your ears hurt stop going any deeper and slowly go up a meter or so until they stop hurting, clear them again before slowly descending again.
It really was another world, we saw a huge variety of fish and corals. Marianne got fixated by a turtle that swam past that she stopped following Jason and started following the turtle – until she felt Jason pulling her fins to take her out of the trance.
A lion Fish & Eel
We both loved it so much we paid for an additional 2 dives and rented a camera so we could capture the moment.
There were fish everywhere.
We love turtles.
This was how our love of diving started – all because Jason persuaded me to try it – Thank you Jason.
We will soon have reached the 100 dive milestone – that’s another story!
So next time, you have the opportunity give it a go – it may change your life – it certainly has for us !
Clown Fish Crocodile Fish