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.

Me & Jason – the reason we started diving

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)

                                      The end of Scuba Junkie’s Jetty

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

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. Sounds like you had an amazing experience! I did a try dive for the first time this year too and it’s so weird to be underwater for such a long period of time! Thanks for sharing!

  2. There are some good tips here on a first diving experience. I think my brain would struggle letting me breath whilst being completely submerged too. Jason sounds like the perfect teacher! After being in the UK, the coast of Sabah must be like paradise, you got some wonderful images with the underwater camera!

  3. Looks like you had a great time. I’ve visited many parts of Borneo but didn’t make it to Sabah. The diving looks perfect.

  4. I’m a bit like Marianne and don’t like closed in spaces, especially things on my face. I may have to give it a try now!

  5. That is a wonderful start to diving. Love it 🙂 How exciting you have continued diving to see some amazing fish and sea life. I love to dive also. I pinned this. Love your photos and thanks for sharing 🙂 #feetdotravel

  6. Breathing underwater for the first time can be a bit strange but it quickly becomes second nature. Glad you enjoyed your dive and now the sky (or should be the ocean floor?) is the limit

    1. Yes the more you dive the easier it gets. This dive changed our lives and holiday destinations. We did this discovery dive a few years ago now but wanted to share for those who may be considering taking up diving. We should hit our 100th dive very soon !

      1. Annnnnnnnnd as your very proud instructor you know the rules when it comes to dive 100 and to not let me down I hope 🙂

        1. Thanks Jason – I am diving with Cat for my 100th dive and am looking forward to reaching this number of dives.

  7. What an exciting first dive! I learned a few things regarding diving from reading this so thank you. Did you know lion fish is an invasive species around the shores of Florida? We are encouraged to catch and eat them as they are created an unbalanced ecosystem since they have no natural predators here.

    1. Hi – Glad it helped – yes, the Lion fish is a formidable predator !! Keep diving safely and if you haven’t already been involved in dive for debris, look it up !! that is a great thing to be involved with and also great for practising your buoyancy too – all the best and thanks again for your comments – Kind regards Marianne 🙂

  8. Glad to know that Marianne loved it despite not loving water. We should definitely try it out. The photos look amazing.

    1. Once you try it I’m sure you’ll fall it love with the world under the water

    2. Hi Both – Yes please do give it a go – with the help of a professional outfit of dive masters in one of the most beautiful parts of the world – it has literally changed my life – it is completely awesome and the beauty of the sea life and corals will blow you away – Kind regards, Marianne 🙂

  9. Glad your first time diving was a great adventure. Love all the photos, it really is another world down there. I’m not a diver but I enjoy reading about divers experiences. Happy and safe future dives for you!

    1. Thanks Lisa – you should give it a go

  10. I love hearing people’s stories of when they first learnt to dive and how it made them feel! It changes your life doesn’t it! We found Scuba Junkie via Trip Advisor as well and that changed our lives – finally we found a dive operator that cared about the environment because unfortunately, not all places in the world do! Hope our paths cross at a Scuba Junkie resort sometime 😀 #feetdotravel

    1. Hi thanks for the comment. Yes Scuba Junkie does so much for the environment and that’s one of the many reasons we keep going back. We still haven’t managed to see turtles hatch yet – that’s on our bucket list so will have to keep going back!. I am sure our paths will cross one day.

  11. Wow fair play what an experience, we still haven’t been brave enough! Thanks for sharing. #feetdotravel

    1. go on give it a go – Marianne hates water and is claustrophobic- she saw a turtle within the first few minutes and it took her mind off it – she loves it now

  12. I’d love to dive but even snorkelling gets me a bit nervous. I really need to get over it, the rewards would be completely worth it. Perhaps your spontaneity might be contagious….

    1. Hi Shona – if you can do snorkeling you can dive- As the instructor said to me all you have to do is breathe! I love it now !

  13. This is so cool, thanks for sharing! I too love snorkeling, but I have never worked up the courage to try diving. You may have just convinced me…

    1. Hi Laura – Snorkeling is great fun too but once you get over your fear of not having that link to the surface – the beauty is out of this world. It really is like visiting another planet – please let me know if you do it. go for it ! thanks Chris

  14. Great story, I am glad you decided to go for a dive. I remember my first dive, I cannot forget the pain in my ears that almost made me cry but in the end it everything was worth it. I hope I will get my PADI licence next year – love to be underwater. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

    1. Yes clearing your ears before they hurt helps a lot – you should do your padi – let me know how you get on – enjoy!

  15. Wow that’s such an awesome story! I am kinda the same in water but I always wanted to dive and got my PADI Open Water license a few years back – it was an amazing experience. But spontaneously deciding on a dive is something else entirely! So great that you enjoyed it and went on so many more dives since! Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks for your comment: yes diving is unnatural but the rewards are really worth it. I think everyone feels nervous the first time

  16. Well I hate fish and I also get claustraphobic but looking at your photos and reading that your wife had some similar fears but loves diving makes me think if I get the chance I should at least give it a go!

    1. Hi Tracy – I say “go for it” YOLO – you only live once !! – make sure you find a really good scuba school and explain that you are nervous, but the experience will be one you never forget and the sea life will blow your mind …. good luck and keep me posted – M xx

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