On my recent trip to Sabah with the Travel.Earth team, the activity I was most looking forward to was the Ocean Walk. According to my research, this involved donning a 25Kg oxygen helmet underwater(which prevents you from floating back up to the surface) and spending a quick fifteen minutes walking with the fishes, I was not quite sure what to expect but I was beyond excited!
We took a bus from our hotel- The Shangri-la Rasa Ria– to a jetty where we were taken by speedboat (which was an adrenalin rush in itself) to a pontoon where we were briefed on the activity and the hand signals we would need to communicate underwater- the most important one being the thumbs up which meant ‘get me out of here!’(Hopefully, I wouldn’t need to use it!)
The best part about this activity was that no prior knowledge was required, anyone from the age of ten upwards could take part and you don’t even need to know how to swim let alone have a diving license. There were people in our group who had had bad experiences with water in their past and they were relieved and reassured after the brief. I for one could not wait any longer, I was ready to go!
After our briefing, we were ferried to another pontoon where we were prepped for our highly anticipated Ocean Walk. I was asked to choose a pair of rubber shoes (thankfully they had children’s sizes for my tiny feet) and then asked to walk to a set of stairs where the helmet was placed on our shoulders and we were guided down into the cool and clear waters. The water was quite cold at first but once they place the helmet on you and you walk down the stairs, the sight you are welcomed with is enough to take your mind off the cold or any other worries you might have. As I walked down the stairs, one of the divers indicated that the stairs had a railing that I could use while I descended into the unknown (phew!). The 25Kg helmet became almost weightless as soon as I was completely immersed and I could hear the reassuring noise of the oxygen entering the helmet. As I looked around, I couldn’t believe my eyes, the visibility was better than I expected and I felt like I was in a National Geographic Magazine! There were fishes of all shapes, sizes and colours that swam all around me; I had to take a minute to take it all in. We were warned that we would feel some sort of discomfort as we went deeper into the water and this could be alleviated by yawning or opening our mouths wide. Thankfully, I did not have any problems as my jaw dropped the second I walked down those steps.
A few minutes into the Ocean Walk, we were each handed a fish carcass that we held out in front of our helmets as schools of fish swam towards us to fill their tummies. We saw the most beautiful fishes in all the colours of the rainbow and I could have spent the whole day there marveling at their beauty. There was even a small table with different types of coral that housed a few incredible looking aquatic animals from clownfish (or as I called them, NEMOS!) to clam fish as big as my hand. Lucky for us, they had divers all around us documenting this once-in-a-lifetime experience with cameras and go pros (the pictures and videos that they captured were given to us on a CD at the end of the activity).
As our fifteen minutes came to an end, I could confidently say that among all the amazing activities we got to take part in during our trip (like parasailing, zip lining, and kayaking), this was my favourite. I was blown away by how interactive the whole experience was and the guides truly did an amazing job making us feel completely at ease and dispel all our apprehensions.
If you’re looking for an experience like no other that you’ll be talking about for months to come then this is the one for you and with its pristine waters and thriving aquatic life, Sabah is the best place for your next underwater adventure so get packing, Sabah is waiting for you!