Downbelow was recommended to me by a friend as I was visiting Kota Kinabalu with my wife who was attending a conference. I sent them an email after their closing time thinking that I would get a response in the morning. I was very surprised to get a call from Sarah Jane, a Senior Travel Consultant, within an hour. I was able to book my wife and I for the next morning.
They arranged for my wife and I, and our gear, to be picked up at our hotel the next morning and for the next three days. The van that picked us up was clean, reliable, comfortable and the driver was prompt, courteous and professional. We were dropped off at the marina where we signed some paperwork and were briefed on the boat ride to Gaya Island. Then we were escorted to one of their boats, where we donned personal floatation devices. The boat did not cast off until everyone was wearing a life jacket and seated.
The ride to Gaya Island was brief and pleasant. The boat was clean and the driver was focused on getting us to the Island safely and comfortably. The facility on the island was clean, well kept and, again, comfortable. We were briefed on what was expected of us on the island and while diving. We then completed the diving paperwork and our certification cards were reviewed so that they knew our limitations regarding depth and gas.
Each dive was well briefed by the guide, most of whom were PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors or higher. We were actually guided by PADI IDC Staff Instructors on many of the dives. Each dive required a short boat ride to the dive site. The guides helped us don our equipment and assisted us in our back rolls off of the side of the boat. Each dive lasted about 50 minutes, depending upon the air consumption of the divers. Each dive was conducted safely and professionally and to the standards expected of them as a PADI 5 Star Dive Center. The scuba equipment was in good shape and well maintained. I tested the air in the cylinders for Carbon Monoxide and there wasn’t even one part per million detected in the 18 cylinders that I checked.
After each dive, we returned to Gaya Island for water and fruit. Coffee and tea was also available. After the second dive, lunch was provided. If you are a vegetarian and you let them know then they will cook a vegetarian lunch for you. I’m a vegetarian and some days the lunch was the best meal I ate all day.
The staff will carry your gear back to the facility for rinsing at the end of the day and they will store your gear if you are returning the next day. I dove with them for four days and 12 dives.
I have never seen a better run organization, from the Course Director – Richard Swann down to the the amazing staff both at headquarters and on Gaya Island. I recommend Downbelow without hesitation. They can accommodate very large groups down to single divers and their training program is one of the best in the world.
– Pedro, Japan