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Remembering World War II Usukan Bay Shipwrecks

In light of the tragic recent news that all of our beloved World War II Usukan Bay Wrecks have been removed by a Chinese salvage ship I wanted to show a few images I have taken over the years as a reminder of why we loved them so much and why is saddens me remembering World War II Usukan Bay Shipwrecks.

Remembering World War II Usukan Bay Shipwrecks.

Local Fishermen Depended on The Wrecks

These wrecks were not only a highlight of the west coast for both local & international scuba divers they were also a great spot for the local fishermen who enjoyed a heathy daily catch which provided a valuable income for the waterfront community. To Sabah it is clear these wrecks were worth much more to leave undisturbed than the fast money made by salvage.

Remembering World War II Usukan Bay Shipwrecks.

Shipwrecks Make Perfect Artificial Reefs

My pictures display a vibrant healthy marine oasis with stunning corals covering the structures something the ocean is in dire need of & desperately needs to preserve. In addition to their cultural significance shipwrecks transform into a habitat for an array of species. A wide variety of fishes, invertebrates and algal species make the wreck their permanent home. The nooks and crannies of these wrecks make them perfect artificial reefs.

In a time where global warming and rising sea temperatures are threatening corals reefs world wide its more important than ever to protect what we have.

The Ships were originally sunk over 70 years ago during WW2 by an American submarine & serve as a stark reminder of the horrors of war in which so many lost lives. Lest We Forget !

It is the opinion of many that raising of these historic war graves is an unforgivable act that has affected many people on many levels & cannot be undone they deserved much better protection.

Remembering World War II Usukan Bay Shipwrecks.

Salvaging of Shipwrecks Is An International Problem

The salvaging of shipwrecks seems to be a growing international issue as reported in The TelegraphThe Guardian and Divernet. If allowed to continue the ocean will be robbed of its maritime history.  Authorities worldwide need to do more. I hope that the shipwrecks of KM Kumuran and Gaya Wreck, both located in the Tunku Adbul Rahman Park will remain intact.

Remembering World War II Usukan Bay Shipwrecks.

Remembering World War II Usukan Bay Shipwrecks2018-07-13T22:11:32+08:00

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!

Downbelow Cattery at SPCA2018-02-03T00:58:16+08:00

Downbelow crew remove ‘Ghost Net’ in TARP!

A crew of Project AWARE divers from Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures’ premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre remove another ‘Ghost Net’ in TARP!

These conservation efforts will continue for any future net removals to come, without hesitation!

Any marine conservation conducted by our operations is fully sponsored, financially and with all logistics to make the dive a success. Any fishing nets found are documented to report the damage to the reef for Sabah Parks to continue their efforts to enforce environmental laws. It’s been more than 150+ illegally discarded fishing nets that have been removed by an organized crew of professional divers and those in training, and these conservation efforts will continue for any future net removals to come, without hesitation!

Come in to our Downbelow travel centre to discuss a collaboration to help protect and preserve our local environment in Kota Kinabalu!

Downbelow crew remove ‘Ghost Net’ in TARP!2016-01-21T01:54:13+08:00

Conservation-minded from the beginning!

From the beginning of their ‘Work For a Career’ training, our PADI Divemaster trainees have been encouraged to be conservation-minded!

To successfully complete the year they will have many an opportunity to contribute in our conservation programs!

It’s a wonderful reward to witness divers, relatively new to the professional dive industry, to care for the environment with a real passion to protect and preserve. Training on our incentive program, it is required for candidates to exhibit their passion for the marine environment, and to successfully complete the year they will have many an opportunity to contribute in our conservation programs!

Get more details from our Go PRO advisors on our professional scuba diving training and various conservation programs we conduct at our Gaya Island beach house.

Conservation-minded from the beginning!2016-01-06T08:38:10+08:00

Pro divers remove another Ghost Net in TARP!

To prevent anymore damage to our underwater environment of coral reefs, a team of pro divers remove another Ghost Net in TARP!

Some of the professional divers have many years of experience in this particular field of marine conservation, such as resident Platinum PADI Course Director Richard Swann. For more than a decade, Richard has mentored hundreds of divers to achieve their professional goals and live the diver lifestyle as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor! One of his many passions is to inspire those professional divers, as well as recreational divers and the general public, about the value of protecting and preserving our marine environment.

As with all Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures conservation programs, ‘Ghost Net’ removals are fully sponsored by our operations with logistics and manpower.

Recently, we have noticed strong current on and off at certain dive sites within the marine park, and through the years of experience Richard has with net removals, his dive safety briefing emphasised buddy teams and communication.

The team finished their taxing underwater task, and would gladly volunteer over and over again for the benefit of protecting the fragile coral reef!

As with all Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures conservation programs, ‘Ghost Net’ removals are fully sponsored by our operations with logistics and manpower, for which the efforts are regarded invaluable for the sake of our marine life and their habitat.

For information on getting involved in a marine conservation program at our premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre, get in touch with our Sabah Travel Centre!

Pro divers remove another Ghost Net in TARP!2015-12-19T08:44:07+08:00

Future marine scientists help out TARP mangroves!

From the University of South Wales, a group of future marine scientists help out the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park mangroves!

Mangroves are an essential environment for the health of our marine ecosystem, particularly for juvenile species, small crustaceans, sea turtles and dugongs.

It’s a part of our duty as PADI professionals to protect and preserve our marine environment, and the university students believe likewise of themselves, especially after qualifying as PADI Open Water Divers.

With each dive, the students underwater tasks (for the benefit of their scientific degree field study) gets more complex, and as is expected, they will be all the more confident after such practise!

The students had already certified back in the UK, and arriving at our premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre, our experienced Instructors conducted a refresher session to acclimatise them to the warm tropical waters of the South China Sea – not that it’s tricky!

After plenty of buoyancy practise, resident Platinum PADI Course Director and Downbelow’s Managing Director Richard Swaan, introduced a underwater visual census survey technique. With each dive, the students underwater tasks (for the benefit of their scientific degree field study) gets more complex, and as is expected, they will be all the more confident after such practise!

The better part of an afternoon is spent cleaning the mangrove area nearby our island beach house, where our island staff team organised a clean-up to rid the area of marine debris.

There’s a lot of common ground between marine science and professional diving, and it’s only natural many of the university students visit again to continue their diver education and Go PRO to become PADI Divemaster or PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI) on our award-winning PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC)!

For more information on a marine education program our Sabah Travel Centre can create specially for you, or any of our Go PRO internship programs!

Future marine scientists help out TARP mangroves!2015-12-28T06:55:06+08:00

First ‘catch’ of the year: GoPRO divers remove another ‘Ghost Net’!

Hook and line fishing (with a maximum of 2 hooks) is fishing activity that is permitted in the confines of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, but not nets used for commercial fishing; so when our dive operation (who are passionate about marine conservation) found such a net recently, our Go PRO divers couldn’t help themselves to remove another ‘Ghost Net’ as our first ‘catch’ of year!

Good news is, there were several crustaceans that the team of Project AWARE divers freed for that marine life to have a chance at survival.

Last week, our team of professional Project AWARE divers with years of experience showed our Go PRO internship candidates how to remove an illegally discarded fishing net from the fragile coral reefs of a nearby dive site we frequent when conducting leisure dives.

Sadly, there was the shredded carcass of a Blacktip reef shark found entangled, and a sight that no diver (no matter how experienced) can prepare themselves for the shock.

Good news is, there were several crustaceans that the team of Project AWARE divers freed for that marine life to have a chance at survival. That’s a chance we take, as marine life has a very low survival rate once physiologically damaged by such trauma, but try we must!

This battle against marine debris has been going on for the past decade, and our operations are determined to support the local environmental authorities for the sake of diving our beautiful underwater world in Sabah, Borneo for many, many years to come!

First ‘catch’ of the year: GoPRO divers remove another ‘Ghost Net’!2015-12-30T03:54:39+08:00

What active conservation is there in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah?

What active conservation there is in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah? There is a collective effort from the local authorities and they need the support of dive operations in the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park! We are always there for environmental protection and support!

Downbelow operations fully sponsor various conservation projects with logistics and professional diving staff to demonstrate our Project AWARE commitment, and one such instance is two separate net removal dives.

For the past month, there have been numerous illegally discarded fishing nets discovered snagged on the fragile coral reefs of dive sites in the marine park. Downbelow operations fully sponsor various conservation projects with logistics and professional diving staff to demonstrate our Project AWARE commitment, and one such instance is two separate net removal dives. The first dive is a small team of 6, who removed a very old net, and on the second dive the following day, a group of 10 divers removed a new ‘ghost net’ that was already claiming marine life.

We work together with the local governing bodies to keep our marine environment protected; and within our own operations, various PADI courses and programs are integrated with raising awareness for responsible tourism. For example, our 1-day snorkel safari program is combined with marine debris collection for our snorkelling guests to contribute themselves!

For the past decade that our operations have been in the successful marine park, we can definitely see a positive difference. If we continue supporting one another, we can continue to enjoy our beautiful paradise for many years to come!

Contact our Kota Kinabalu HQ for more information about our marine conservation efforts and how you can get involved!

What active conservation is there in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah?2016-01-04T02:38:31+08:00

Kota Kinabalu: Pro divers protect coral reef from marine debris!

Kota Kinabalu is a lively city, and the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park is located just off the coast of the city centre.

Scuba diving in the protected park is a prime location for its incredible coral reefs, however marine debris from mankind is so detrimental to environmental health!

Net removal dives are fully sponsored by Downbelow, with the necessary logistics and professional staff to remove illegally discarded fishing nets discovered with efficiency and safety always a priority.

Pro divers at our premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre, tackle yet another ‘ghost net’ from one of our favourite dive sites in the park. The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a very successful government designated marine park but governments need help from dive centres who are out everyday to keep them healthy.

Net removal dives are fully sponsored by Downbelow, with the necessary logistics and professional staff to remove illegally discarded fishing nets discovered with efficiency and safety always a priority.

Resident Platinum PADI Course Director Richard Swann leads the organized team to remove a very old fishing net to prevent it from deteriorating the coral reef and its marine life any further.

As committed Project AWARE professional divers, dive buddies brought along large mesh bags in aid of raising awareness about the negative impact of marine debris on the environmental health in our local area.

Contact our HQ in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, for more information on other conservation projects we will conduct in future, such as coral planting to revitalize damaged reef!

Kota Kinabalu: Pro divers protect coral reef from marine debris!2016-01-04T03:13:35+08:00

Removing another ‘ghost net’ to protect TAR park!

When discovering a ‘ghost net’, it’s shocking and disappointing, and especially when we can see the effects of the destructive net!

The conservation efforts of the past decade of 150+ net removal dives, proves our expertise allows us to act quickly; and as usual, Downbelow operations immediately sponsor another project with logistics. Equipment, safety and full-time, dedicated, PADI professional staff are arranged to remove the illegally discarded fishing net to protect and preserve the fragile coral reef in Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park.

To live one of the most important aspects of the dive lifestyle: raising awareness on marine conservation.

Go PRO interns, having recently completed their professional dive training to become PADI Instructors, achieve valuable experience for their involvement, and to live one of the most important aspects of the dive lifestyle: raising awareness on marine conservation. This fishing net was one of the largest any of our team ever handled, which is why so many professional divers participated. The net removal dive took roughly one hour to complete, and all divers are happier for it!

For more information on other marine conservation projects we can arrange for our clients, contact our HQ and discuss a suitable itinerary for your group or party. Contribute to the marine environment on one of our unique educational programs conducted at our Gaya Island beach house in Sabah!

Removing another ‘ghost net’ to protect TAR park!2018-02-03T00:58:54+08:00