About Downbelow

Company Director, PADI Master Instructor, Adventurer, Entrepreneur & Homemaker ! Joanne has worked in the travel & corporate world since 1992. A passionate conservation minded marine & wildlife enthusiast. Together with her husband Richard Swann they founded Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures based upon their own travel & dive experiences.

Borneo Clouded Leopard

The Borneo Clouded Leopard is one of the most sought after encounters for wildlife enthusiasts visiting Sabah, Borneo. Some people travel to Sabah specifically in search of this rare and beautiful big cat. Some will stay for two weeks or more in pursuit of a sighting. The Borneo Clouded Leopard has been top of my wish-list for more than 10 years and this weekend i was “baptised” and blessed with my first encounter – and what an encounter it was !

I had taken my Mum on safari to Danum Valley for a 3D/2N adventure. Mum love’s birds so i thought a quiet and relaxed morning “birding” would be perfect. In particular we were searching for the six species of Pitta birds found in Danum Valley. After about one hour of “calling” the birds and seeing 4 of the 6 species we got the radio call from another ranger that a Borneo Clouded Leopard had been spotted at the Canopy Walkway. We ran as fast as our legs could take us, it was the fastest 500m sprint i had done in hiking boots, we then skidded down the slopes of the jungle forest to a large decayed log. Inside the log was one of the most beautiful creatures i had ever seen. At first we could only see the striking clouded pattern of fur that resembles the lowland jungle forest, then we saw his huge tail, perfectly evolved for climbing trees. After some manoeuvring, a few scratches and a number of leech removals and with quiet and precise instructions from my guide i was peering at the Leopard from one end of the rotten tree, i had a great view. After a few minutes he crawled out from the log and walked away, we followed as he disappeared into the 130 million year old dense primary rainforest.

He left behind his kill, a Lesser Mouse Dear. So the researcher and guide set up a camera trap in the hope to get an image of him when he returned. Indeed he came back about one hour later and the camera captured the most amazing set of images of the Leopard with his kill.


Borneo Clouded Leopard

Borneo Clouded Leopard

The Borneo Clouded Leopard is a wild cat occurring only in Borneo & Sumatra. Scientists discovered it as a new species and different from the Clouded Leopard found in other parts of Asia in 2007. They believe the Borneo population likely diverged from the mainland population some 1.4 million years ago. Its very difficult to know how many individuals still exist in the wild since they are so secretive and live in dense lowland forests. The most recent research suggests between 5,000 – 11,000 still live in the whole of Borneo. Certainly we were very fortunate to have this encounter and i’m so thankful to Azmil, my guide, to Eddy Boy Jon the researcher who provided me with his amazing picture and to Calixtus Laudi who gave me the images taken by the camera trap later that afternoon.

Borneo Clouded Leopards are rare and the only place to see them in the wild is in the jungle, your guide plays a big role in your wildlife encounters and we believe in working with some of the best guides in the field. So if you want us to arrange your jungle safari get in touch with Downbelow Adventures. 

Beach Accommodation Kota Kinabalu

Beach Accommodation Kota Kinabalu Package By Downbelow Adventures

We, at Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures, offer beach accommodation Kota Kinabalu, which is perfect for travellers who wish to enjoy the tranquility of Sabah, Malaysia.

If you are a scuba diver or snorkeller, we are proud to state that we just opened our second PADI 5-Star IDC Dive Centre on Manukan Island Resort in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. It is offshore Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo. Just 10 minutes away from the Kota Kinabalu mainland. Daily dive packages and island snorkelling are also available for walk-in clients and non-residents.

Our Dive Centre is located at the resort’s swimming pool area. The swimming pool is used for all confined water training dives and offers a comfortable location for surface intervals.

Furthermore, we present scuba diving, sea kayaking, and snorkeling safaris daily. You can access the 49 dive sites of the National Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park through our custom built dive boats. The dive sites are also minutes away from us.

Beach Accommodation Kota Kinabalu

Beach Accommodation Kota Kinabalu For Scuba Divers

We provide our guests unparalleled convenience and international standard facilities, our scuba diver guests can take advantage of our affordable Stay and Scuba Dive Holiday Packages.

Do You Want To Learn How To Scuba Dive?

At Downbelow Adventures, you can stay and learn to scuba dive with our holiday packages. Staying at the accommodation where you will learn to scuba dive provides a very special experience. Not only will you save travel time in the morning and afternoon transferring to the dive centre, you will also be able to return to the comfort of your own chalet during surface intervals. At night there’s nothing better that feeling rewarded by your achievements, looking out at the ocean which has become your new play ground.

Beach Accommodation Kota Kinabalu For Island Activities

If you are not into scuba diving, why not take advantage of our Stay and Snorkel Safari Holiday Packages. When you take advantage of these packages, you can explore the Pearl of the South China Sea and experience three activities in just one day. You can go snorkeling and discover the beautiful coral reefs. Then, experience trekking through the rainforest and mangroves. Afterward, you will go sea kayaking to check out the secluded bays and find out more about the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP).

Beach Accommodation Kota Kinabalu

Staff Team

Throughout your scuba diving, snorkeling and sea kayaking activities, our professional staff team will be with you every step of the way. We will take you to the most unique places of Kota Kinabalu. Our team will have the required safety equipment so you can have peace of mind while appreciating the beauty of the islands. You can read more about our safety standards and proceedures at our dedicated section. Now, if you choose to trek alone with your family and friends, you can. It is extremely safe to explore the jungle trails without our guide. However an area orientation is required so you must ensure you receive this prior to any trekking activity. On Gaya Island you will be given a handheld radio to communicate with our PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre on Gaya Island.

To know more about our holiday packages, please call +6 088 488 997 or email us at [email protected]


Mount Kinabalu Climb

A Mount Kinabalu Climb has been proven to be quite challenging for many tourists, regardless of age, this is a challenge that many embrace every day. Whether you want to explore new territories in the Pearl of the China Sea or you simply want to maintain your physique during the holidays, our Mount Kinabalu Climb package is the perfect solution for you.

Early Bird Mount Kinabalu Climb

For early birds, we have some great packages available. We offer a free night’s accommodation at our very own Downbelow Adventure Lodge in Kota Kinabalu and Poring Hot Springs in Kinabalu Park.

Climbing Mount Kinabalu is the best way for you to enjoy the sights and sounds of pure natural Sabah. Located within a world heritage site, it boasts clean air and un-spoilt jungle. It is one of the highest mountain in the South East Asia. No wonder this majestic mountain is considered the crown jewel of the area.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists take advantage of our Mount Kinabalu Climb package, as they know that it is the ultimate holiday package that they can get. The mountain’s uniqueness and beauty are just two of the reasons tourists keep coming back for more.

Mount Kinabalu Climb

Package Inclusion

Our Mount Kinabalu Climb package includes return land transfers from Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu Park plus internal park transfers. The package also covers your climbing permit fee and application, insurance, as well as entrance fees. You can also get a Certificate after climbing.

Currently, we have a Mount Kinabalu Promotion that includes one night at Poring Hot Springs with full board, free meals, and an additional night at the Downbelow Adventure Lodge with free lodging.

To follow the steps of Sir Hugh Low, who first conquered Mount Kinabalu, we recommend planning your climbing expedition in advance. Our guide speaks English, so when booking and climbing with Downbelow Adventures there is no need to worry about finding an experienced guide when you climb this highest mountain in the South East Asia.

Our Mount Kinabalu Climb package does not include the equipment that you need for the climb. But our Dive & Adventure equipment shop offers essential pieces of equipment that you can use for your climb, and they are all available at affordable prices. We can provide you the logistics and know-how to face the challenges in climbing Mount Kinabalu successfully.

Our package consultant will help you arrange your expedition upon your first inquiry. Before you arrive in Kota Kinabalu, you are provided an itinerary with a packing list so you can prepare for your mountain climb and look forward to that day when you can finally conquer Mount Kinabalu. Doing it this way will allow you to train and amp your fitness levels before the most awaited climb of your life.

For more information about our Mount Kinabalu Climb package, please contact (+6) 012 866 1935.

PADI Instructor Development Course Asia

Do not wait any longer take the PADI Instructor Development Course Asia. It is time for you to take the plunge and get your certified PADI Divemaster certificate to another level. Being a PADI Dive Instructor lets you have a job that you love. With our PADI Instructor Development Course Asia, you will be trained by our dedicated Go PRO staff team. Our IDC offers you all the tools that you need as you train and teach scuba divers in the classroom, open water, and confined water. The highly recognised and awarded Go Pro team of Downbelow Adventures will guide you on how to develop your skills to utilise these tools.

Downbelow Adventures is proud to be a 5-Star PADI Instructor Development Course Center. If you want to move into the top professional levels of PADI, then this is the ideal place to start your training.

Whatever your current level and whichever dive courses that you need, we can offer you a package that is just right for your expertise. Our Go Pro team can offer you anything that you need so you can go from a non-diving candidate to a certified PADI instructor.

PADI Instructor Development Course Asia

PADI Instructor Development Course Asia

We offer a broad range of packages and options for PADI Dive Instructor coaching. Even if you have never tried diving before in your life, you can still become a diving instructor with the assistance of our Go Pro team. Our diving training centre is found in the heart of the Kota Kinabalu, an ideal place that you can spend a few weeks or a few months exploring the underwater world.

What The PADI Instructor Development Course Asia Includes?

Our PADI Instructor Development Course Asia includes the following courses:

  • PADI Assistant Instructor Course
  • PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor
  • Emergency First Response Instructor Course

We also add in FREE of charge the PADI Oxygen Provider Instructor Course AND at reduced rates the opportunity to scuba dive the BEST OF BORNEO dive sites of Sipadan or Layang Layang !

PADI Instructor Development Course Asia

When you have completed these courses, you can apply for the PADI Instructor Examination. It is a two-day evaluation conducted by the PADI Instructor Examiners of PADI Asia Pacific. Before the examination, our PADI Instructor Development Course Asia at Downbelow Adventures is stuctured five times a year.

PADI Divemasters choose our development course because they know what we offer is recognized worldwide. Our course can guarantee that you pass the IE through thorough preparation. We have a record of 100 percent pass rate for several years. Although our PADI Instructor Development Course Asia is of high-quality and professional in nature you will experience all of these in a fun atmosphere with unsurpassed support before, during and after the course.

To know more about our PADI Instructor Development Course Asia, please contact (+6) 012 866 1935

Downbelow Cattery at SPCA

Flashback to 1974. I am buckled into the child seat of my Dads green “Mark 1″ Cortina.  We are going to collect Tibby – cat number two. I remember seeing her frightened huge eyes peering at me through the cardboard box, she was a kitten but looked pretty big to me. This was my first childhood memory. Whether in fact its a true memory or just a story that has been recited to me so many times i think its my memory i’m not sure, but it happened. I remember nothing of my first cat. Mum says i hugged her so much she scratched me to pieces so for the benefit of both our safety we re-homed her. Tibby on the other hand was my cat until she died aged 19 when i was 21. We grew up together.

My love for cats has never left me. When i first met Richard, my husband. I told him if we were going to be “an item” he must be prepared for me to go to China where i was going to rescue tigers that chewed off their own paws because they were chained inside cages and barely keep alive for the medicine trade.

Fast forward to 2016, Richard tells me he’s decided to build a cattery for the SPCA here in Sabah, he wasn’t just going to pay for it to be built, he was going to build it himself with a team of people made up of our lodge and island staff and local construction workers – i was thrilled !

Downbelow Cattery at SPCA

Street Cats & Dogs in Kota Kinabalu

Anyone that has spent any time in Asia will have noticed the vast amount of street cats and dogs. Populations spiral out of control due to their free-roaming lifestyle and lack of veterinary care. Without a successful TNR (Trap Neuter Release) program in place cats and dogs mate and re-produce. The majority of these animals have very hard and pitiful lives. They suffer from disease, starvation and will often die a painful slow death. For people like me, coming from an animal loving nation, where cats have been part of my family since childhood is very hard to see how some cats and dogs live here in Asia.

The good news is, life can change for the cats and dogs of Sabah. Malaysia have laws against the crulety of animals which is more than can be said for some countries. Also, there are some very good people living here in Sabah that are committed to providing a better life for these beautiful animals.

SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)

The SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Kota Kinabalu is a non-government organisation, approved under the register of societies Malaysia. Until now, they have been restricted in what they can offer, mainly due to their property and location which is small, temporary and subject to flooding. Despite this, with very limited resources they have established a successful adoption program and offer care for injured animals.

In 2015 a generous benefactor donated 4.5 acres of land to the SPCA for the purpose of constructing a rehabilitation and adoption centre. In 2016 plans were approved by the local council to build a large dog kennel, a cattery, a veterinary centre, a TNR centre, education centre and staff accommodation. Once completed this will be the first such facility in Sabah – its groundbreaking for animal welfare!

Richard and i, via our company have committed to building the cattery and as i write this article, its almost complete. The cattery will accommodate approximately 170 cats separated into sections depending on their ability to socialise. Each section will be designed to keep the cats engaged with climbing walls, scratch pads and play-toys. Each pen has access to an outside section so for a period of time every day individual pens will be open and the cats can roam more freely within a confined larger area, eat grass and enjoy some sunshine. With further development and awareness for the adoption program we hope the cats will not be living at the centre for too long and we will see a turnover of animals re-homed.

Downbelow Cattery at SPCA

Downbelow Cattery at SPCA

Richard is a Platinum PADI Course Director who previously owned a construction business in the UK. He is a qualified stone-mason so with his expertise, hard word and the hard work of individuals from the Downbelow Adventure Lodge and Downbelow PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre team they have managed to build the cattery within a two month period. This weekend the Downbelow Travel Centre office girls get involved. We will help paint the building ready to move the cats from their existing temporary small shelter before the end of January 2017.

Other generous benefactors in Sabah have donated money to the SPCA to construct dog kennels and the staff accommodation building. There is still much work to be done and if anyone is reading this and wants to get involved, please contact the SPCA directly. Together we can make a difference !

Follow this blog and our Facebook page to stay updated with this exciting development in animal welfare within Sabah!

Low Budget Accommodation Sabah

Taking a unique and adventurous vacation may be something you have always dreamed about and never thought you would get the chance to do. If you have finally been able to set some time aside, arranged with friends that also want to go on an adventure and even decided that Borneo is the place to visit, now the trick becomes finding a way to make your Borneo vacation an affordable one for you. If you have saved up all the money you need for your airfare and made arrangements for activities during your visit, you will also need to find a place to stay that you can afford. If you are looking for a low budget lodge in Sabah for your trip, we have just the answer for you at our Downbelow Adventure Lodge.

Accommodation You Can Afford

When you are looking around at many of the adventure travel packages available and other hotels in Sabah, you will find that many of them are priced well out of your range. And many of the more affordable or budget alternatives may be lacking in amenities, services and cleanliness. That is not the case here, as our lodge has been specially designed with the budget traveler in mind. We offer a variety of different sized rooms to accommodate you and your party at a very affordable room rate, regardless of how many of you travel together. Each room is equipped with everything you could need for a clean and comfortable stay.

Low Budget Accommodation Sabah

Low Budget Accommodation Sabah

The Amenities You Want

When you stay at our low budget lodge in Sabah, you will have access to all of the amenities you need for a comfortable stay with us. Our rooms are equipped with oversized single beds featuring latex mattresses for the best hygienic circumstances possible. We also offer free Wi-Fi Internet access with the room. The area features 24-hour security for your complete safety and our lodge is conveniently located just a short walk from many top quality cafes, restaurants, entertainment venues and shopping. You get everything you need all in one place without having to spend a high price for it.

Make a Reservation Today

If you are interested in learning more about our low budget lodge in Sabah, you can read more about it at You can learn more about what our lodge has to offer, see the rooms available, and explore the different adventure packages we offer. Contact us about making reservations so you have the best place to stay for your vacation in Sabah!

Last Minute Climb Mount Kinabalu Packages

We have some last minute Climb Mount Kinabalu packages available. These packages are great for budget climbers, last minute climbers and especially single climbers since there is no single supplement surcharge.

What is so special about Mount Kinabalu ?

This great mountain is an icon of natural history and successful conservation whilst maintaining its position as one of the most accessible of high mountains to climb.

Rising to 4,095m it is one of the highest peaks in South East Asia, and the highest in Malaysia and Borneo. As part of the protected Kinabalu National Park of some 753.7, its biological diversity has captivated scientists the world over. People visit not only to climb, many visit to experience its natural beauty and on bird watching trips as the variety of bird life is extraordinary.

Geologists reveal the story of the mountain began 40 million years ago, when the north-western area of Sabah was still submerged and part of the sea basin. At this time marine sediments were accumulating and forming layers over the earth’s crust.

Zones of weakness allowed molten granite material to be pushed upwards, at the same time forming what is now known at the Crocker Range and Trus Madi Highlands of Sabah.

In geological terms Mount Kinabalu is very young and was born only 1.5 million years ago when this mass of granite rock began to rise and break through the overlying crusts of softer rocks.

It is thought that 100,000 years ago the mountain was probably several hundred metres higher than today when ice-caps crowned the summit. Erosion by heavy rain and the tropical sun forced huge pieces of ice and glaciers to slide down the mountain scouring the shapes we can see today.

Last minute climb mount kinabalu packages

Last Minute Climb Mount Kinabalu Packages

Our last minute climb Mount Kinabalu packages offer the opportunity to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu on a two day one night itinerary starting with a pick up from Kota Kinabalu City  early morning followed by a two hour road journey through the Crocker Range to Timpohon Gate, the starting point of the climb within Kinabalu Park. More information about the climb can be found at our dedicated 2D/1N Standard Mountain Climb information webpage.

Up to date promotions from us at Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures can be found in our promotion section of the website.

For bookings, please contact us.

What is it Like Training in Borneo With an Elite Team of Scuba Instructors ?

For first-timers or even the most experienced scuba divers, it’s important to have a good sense of every piece of vital equipment, its uses and its limits. As you get deeper underwater, as exhilarating as it might be, it is of paramount importance to know what to do in any given situation. Depending on what kind of dive you’re in for, you’ll need proper guidance from someone who knows the ropes.

For those seeking to make a living as professional divers—it is essential to get proper training and certifications to reach professional levels. In all instances, this is done through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)— the international standard bearer for dive teaching and specialized certifications.

On the beautiful island of Borneo on the western shores of Malaysia, people from all over the world seek out Richard Swann and his team of PADI instructors at Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures. Not only does he show the patrons of the local resort through guided underwater adventures, he runs one of the most advanced teaching programs for those looking to become professional diving instructors. On the internationally-recognized PADI hierarchy of training levels, Swann is at the highest level attainable as a Platinum Course Director– one of only 58 people in the world with that title.

At Downbelow Adventures, Swann and his team teach aspiring professional divers and diving instructors the ins-and-outs of equipment, the latest technology, and most importantly– thorough safety precautions. Although on a seemingly remote island, the school and resort are equipped with modern speed boats, diving and communication equipment. Best yet, it is in close proximity to dozens of the most pristine, untouched dive spots in the world.

The Go Pro Team, which may sound like a partnership with the digital camera maker, but in the case of PADI, it’s the instruction team’s goal for the students. After proper certifications and internship hours, the graduates often make careers as commercial divers, or start their own dive centres for tourists and dive students.

What is it Like Training in Borneo With an Elite Team of Scuba Instructors

The next PADI Instructor Development Course will be starting very soon at Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures. The next classes begin on the 1st of February and run through the 14th.   Examinations take place on the 15th and 16th. After that, the next opportunity for aspiring divers will be in mid-April.

The PADI IDC course is indeed rigorous, but there are many benefits to taking the course here with Downbelow and students never usually have trouble passing. One benefit is the “two-for-one-offer”. Since Downbelow operates two PADI centers in the marine park candidates get a very well rounded education. It takes a serious commitment in itself to travel to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park in Borneo just to begin the course, so naturally students have high success rates due to the well structured curriculum.

Graduates are also given the option to complete their Emergency First Response Instructor Certificate within days of passing their Instructor Examination. The dive centre also offers a variety of extensions of education for divers.

Scuba Diving in Kota Kinabalu

When you take the opportunity to go scuba diving in Kota Kinabalu, you will be able to experience true underwater beauty like few other places on earth.  If diving is your hobby, there are likely many places around the world that you would love to be able to explore. The underwater sights are all vastly different, and each adventure creates its own special memory. One of the places any diving enthusiast must absolutely visit in their lifetime is Kota Kinabalu, the capital city in the state of Sabah, which is located on the island of Borneo.

Visit Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

To truly get the best experience during your adventure you are going to want to make sure that you go to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park during your visit. This park has been specially designed for tourists and visitors to the area that want to take advantage of the great Marine beauty that the island has to offer. The landmasses that are part of the Marine Park provide you with an amazing view of the Marine life under the waters in the area and also give you the chance to see the beautiful coral reefs that can be found here.

See Amazing Underwater Life

When you go scuba diving in Kota Kinabalu you will get the chance to see some amazing marine life. A great diversity can be found in the waters in this area of the world and you are very likely to encounter barracuda, puffer fish, parrot fish, porcupine fish, damselfish and many other beautiful and exotic species that you may not be able to see any place else. You will want to make sure that you bring along your underwater camera so that you are able to take pictures and record your adventure to show others back home.

Making Arrangements for Your Trip

Here at Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures, we can provide numerous different trip packages for amazing scuba diving adventures.  Contact us at [email protected] to learn more about our trip packages and to make your reservation.  We promise to make sure that everything is taken care of, and that your special trip will provide memories to last a lifetime.

Choose a PADI Scuba Instructor

Scuba diving can be a life altering activity that provides a great deal of fun and excitement. Scuba Divers get the chance to explore the world in a way that they may never have done before, and see the great wonders that live beneath the oceans. Of course, if you are new to scuba diving or have never undertaken scuba diving before, you absolutely want to make sure that you get thorough and proper instruction before you venture out. In order to get the best instruction possible to enhance your diving experience, you want to make sure to choose a PADI scuba instructor to teach you the skills you will need.

The Best Education and Skills

PADI Scuba Instructor

PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Instructors that have received their education, training and certification from this organization are considered among the best in the world today. They have very high standards and expectations and the instructors go through a number of different courses in order to receive certification. They are experienced in all of the most important safety standards for scuba diving, have great knowledge of the equipment used, and are continually improving upon their skills by taking courses and exploring specific interests that revolve around diving.

Learn at Any Level

You do not have to be any type of expert diver or have any experience at all with scuba diving when you first start to work with a PADI scuba instructor. Your instructor will take into consideration any type of experience that you may have so that they can begin to teach you the skills necessary so that you can have a safe and enjoyable dive every time that you go out. The skills that they will teach you will build on each other so that each diving experience is enhanced and you become more expert in your abilities.

Where to Go for Instruction

Here at Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures, you can get training with one of our top rated PADI scuba instructors, while on vacation in Sabah. We offer a five star PADI IDC Centre where you can get the education and experience needed so that you can receive proper certification and have a fantastic diving experience and adventure.  We even offer a Scuba Internship Asia opportunity, and a PADI Divemaster Course.  Contact us directly for details, to have the best experience Scuba Diving Kota Kinabalu which on vacation in Borneo.