Traveller Tales: Swimming with the fishes: Conquering fears!

Swimming with the fishes: Conquering fears!

Do you have a phobia? Something you’re afraid of that know is completely irrational but can’t help whimpering in a corner whenever you come face to face with it? Diving amongst the fishes was mine until I went diving Borneo.

This story goes back a long way… The last time Andy and I went snorkelling I went over a patch of seaweed, grabbed onto him for dear life and almost drowned him. It was a textbook scene from the Life Savers Medallion training. Because of this, I’ve been vehemently objecting to diving for a long time now despite Andy’s best pep talks.
A wise old turtle at Mabul.

A wise old turtle at Mabul.

Every year for the past 5 years we’ve been to Borneo, home to Andy’s most favourite diving in the world and he hasn’t been able to put a scuba tank on. This year though, he finally he put his foot down and off I went to conquer my fears.
snorkelling

Before the panic set in…

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In the big blue ocean.

After warning the guys at Manly Dive Centre that I was completing my dive course against my will, I found myself attached to a regulator in a freezing dive pool in Manly and then thrown in at Shelly Beach for my first ever dive. It all went surprisingly well! Two weeks later and it’s not little Shelly Beach anymore… but the 600m deep wall of a reef at Sipadan, just off the coast of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. Sipadan is home to one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, Barracuda Point. Tropical water and up to 30m+ visibility (maybe 20m on a bad day) coupled with the fabulous coral and sea life makes it a clear favourite amongst diving nuts.

The reef is unbelievable – everywhere you look you see something cool swimming in, above and around the multicoloured coral. Under the guidance of the crew at SeaVentures we saw turtles, reef sharks, white tipped-sharks, black-tipped sharks, trevally, barracuda, little “Nemos”, lion fish, angel fish, frog fish, fish with lipstick (my technical name for her – she was so pretty!), nudibraches, squid, an octopus…. ah too many to name – check the video below for yourself!The best bit was that I wasn’t even scared (well maybe there were one or two moments…)! For me it was the sharks, but floating around with them just swimming by makes you realise that they’re not bitey all the time.
Jack fish at Sipidan. Photo: Jonatan Sanchez. jonatansanchez.squarespace.com

Jack fish at Sipidan. Photo: Jonatan Sanchez. jonatansanchez.squarespace.com

Diving at Sipidan and Mabul is an easy addition to any of our other Borneo tours. Air Asia now fly direct from Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur to Tawau, making it quick and painless to get to. We have a range of different accommodation options available, too, from deluxe to basic to one-of-a-kind like the amazing SeaVentures Dive Rig where we stayed on this trip. Thanks so much to Jona for having us on the Rig and helping me conquer my fears. So tell me.. are you afraid of sharks? And would you be willing to give diving a go? I’d love to hear where you’ve been diving and what you’ve seen!
SeaVentures Dive Rig

SeaVentures Dive Rig at Mabul: Our home during our diving trip.