Find out more about Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures

Richard & Jo Trekking the Jungles of Gaya Island

Meet the people behind Downbelow

Richard & Joanne with their 4x4 at Mesilau Nature Resort
Richard & Joanne exploring Sabah above the surface

At Home in Sabah, Borneo

Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures Sdn. Bhd. is the brainchild of British expats and award winning Photo Journalists Richard and Joanne of Downbelow Dive Centre UK.

They quickly realised that the country is not only a biological melting pot, but also a hidden treasure for Travelers, Sport Enthusiasts, Adventure Training and Team Building Events.

Downbelow were eager to replicate the success of their UK company to Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and introduce existing international clients to this wonderfully diverse part of the world.

The Beginning

Richard & Joanne, who have travelled extensively for work and play, are highly qualified PADI Course Director & PADI Master Instructor respectively.

Joanne teaches Officers and Gurkhas of the British Army to dive
Joanne teaches Officers and Gurkhas of the British Army to dive

Between them they have more than 20 speciality instructor qualifications, including ReBreather & TecRec.

With a background in marine biology & oceanography the couple continue to write for leading dive magazines in the UK & Australia.

In the late 90’s the couple entered the world of adventure training & team building.

They took corporate groups to America, Africa, Nepal and Asia, which is how they came to Borneo.

Here they discovered some of the best Scuba diving, mountain climbing, trekking, wildlife safaris, kayaking, white water rafting, coastline, tropical islands and ocean anywhere in the world.

In 2004, they decided that Downbelow UK needed a bit more sunshine.

So instead of taking groups from the UK to countries such as Borneo, they decided to move the company and bring people to them.

In 2005 Downbelow re-located to Sabah.

Joanne with an orang utan at Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
Joanne with an orang utan at the Sepilok Sanctuary

Drawing from their experience owning a dive center in England, managing several in Asia and being travelers themselves, they began to build a team.

They met a young energetic local girl with dreams of providing opportunity for her village and local people.

Then they met a man who’s dive experience of the region was second to none.

They researched and continued to build…

The Team

One of the lasting memories for anyone about any trip will be the people they interact with.

For this reason Downbelow have developed an outstanding team of 30 people to deliver safe, enjoyable programs & holidays to exceed their clients’ expectations.

Richard, Joseph and Ev sharing a laugh on the island
Richard, Joseph and Ev sharing a laugh on the island

Awarded the status of PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre in 2009 catapulted Downbelow to the highest level in professional diver training.

Downbelow embarked on a local internship program, which offers a professional career path for local people within the PADI system of education.

Downbelow financially sponsors the candidates and conducts the training.

The majority of Downbelow’s successful candidates are then offered employment with with the company.

In this way the program provides a career opportunity for locals, which otherwise is hard to obtain.

Furthermore, it also creates an instructor team for the company that have been taught by Downbelow themselves to the company’s high standards.

Looking out over the reef at Lankayan Island
Discovering Eco Conscious island accommodation

The Present

Licensed under the Malaysian Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism, Downbelow prides themself on a personal approach to every client.

Downbelow is happy to give advice and recommendations for anyone visiting the region.

Regardless of whether a traveler, honeymoon couple or corporate events manager, Downbelow is here to help.

Adventure being their name, Downbelow likes to spice up their programs by going slightly “off the beaten track”.

That said, on all courses and activities, you will find high standards of safety, experienced and well qualified staff and flexibility.

Downbelow is committed to designing experiences and providing courses that foster appreciation, awareness and conservation of the environment.

Piles of Trash Collected by Downbelow during a Project Aware Event
Downbelow cleans up with Project AWARE

For Downbelow responsible tourism is part of their daily business, which why they have a Responsible Tourism Policy.

It includes actions such as using filtered water rather than bottled water and reducing the usage of plastic items.

They also choose responsible hotels & resorts at which to offer accommodation, and reduces the ecological footprint of the Downbelow office.

The company regularly conducts Project Aware beach & underwater clean-ups.

Project AWARE

Marine & environmental conservation education is included within every dive and snorkel briefing, whilst maintaining the element of fun learning.

Downbelow’s achievements and effort towards environmental conservation were recognized by PADI last year.

They were proud recipient of the Project AWARE Conservation Award – Asia Pacific 2010.

A diver with a Hawksbill turtle in the TAR Park (jo, turtle, diver, torch, light, coral)
Joanne diving with a Hawksbill turtle in the TAR Park

Capturing the Tropics

Downbelow’s photography is an illustration of Richard & Joannes knowledge and experience within this fascinating region.

When traveling through Sabah you will see Richards images throughout the state.

His images appear in brochures, on airport signboards, in souvenir shops and coffee table publications.

Joanne, who has model for both land & underwater shots, has learned the art of getting close to marine & wildlife without disturbing them.

She’s often captured holding her breath, still looking natural within inches of a giant sting-ray, venomous stonefish or wild elephant!

It comes as somewhat of a surprise that, in their second decade of professional photography together, they remain happily married!

As marine enthusiasts, they have dedicated part of to the creatures they adore.

Richard with his Digital Underwater Camera setup is squid-like strobes
Richard’s tool of preference for stunning underwater photos

The Marine Biology section is presented as a field guide with creature information for all to enjoy.

All research and photography is by Richard and Joanne.

Take advantage of Downbelow’s years of experience in Sabah by choosing them for your visit to Sabah.

Happy travelers are travelers who chose Downbelow for holiday, fun diving, Scuba dive training, snorkeling, jungle trekking, sea kayaking or wildlife adventures.

Downbelow can also help you with a variety of accommodation bookings all across Sabah.

You can get in touch with Downbelow by phone, email or in person through a visit to the offices located in KK Times Square in Kota Kinabalu.

Have a look at the Contact Us page for contact details and a map to find our offices plus Dive & Adventure Centre on Gaya Island.

The Downbelow Island Team

Catch up on what’s current with Downbelow in our News & Events section >>>