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Welcome to our new member - Adventures in Borneo
Welcome to our new member – Adventures in Borneo
WYSE News | June 22, 2023

1. Tell us your story. How did Adventures In Borneo get started?

We embarked on our journey in the UK back in May 2000, initially operating as a PADI Dive Centre where our primary focus was providing PADI Courses. However, as time went on, we noticed that many individuals who learned to scuba dive were eager to embark on dive holidays. Consequently, we expanded our services and established ourselves as an outbound dive centre and travel operator in the UK.

In October 2001, we had the opportunity to explore Sabah, located in Malaysian Borneo, and we fell in love with the surrounding scuba diving. This captivating experience inspired us to create a new branch of our company based in Sabah, Malaysia, specializing in inbound travel. It quickly became apparent that Sabah had much more to offer than just scuba diving; it boasted incredible wildlife, a majestic mountain range, lush jungle rainforests, and a captivating tribal culture. With this realization, we established our company Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures S/B, which consists of two sub-companies. Dive Downbelow focuses on scuba diving plus marine conservation and education, while Adventures In Borneo S/B offers tailor-made adventure and transformational travel experiences for industry brands, tour operators & educational institutions.

2. What makes Adventures In Borneo different from your competitors?

We have a unique approach to adventure & experiential travel.

What makes us different from our competitors is our extensive expertise, emphasis on re-generation, personalized approach, and transformative experiences. With over two decades of experience, our team of seasoned professionals possesses deep insights into the locations we operate in. This expertise allows us to curate extraordinary experiences tailored to our clients’ interest and trip intention.

We offer a wide range of services, including scuba diving, marine conservation, tailor-made adventures, and educational field trips.

We are deeply committed to responsible and re-generative tourism practices. Our dedication to marine conservation, ecological preservation, and supporting local communities is embedded in everything we do.

We take a personalized approach, understanding our clients’ preferences and requirements to create tailor-made itineraries. Our goal is to exceed expectations and deliver unforgettable adventures.

We believe in the transformative power of travel for self, others and nature. Through encounters with marine life, cultural immersions, and environmental education, we create experiences that leave a lasting impact for positive change.

3. What is your favourite success story from your organisation?

In 2008, we established the “Work For A Career” program, aimed at providing professional opportunities in scuba diving for low-income and underprivileged local individuals.
Candidates enrolled in this program embark on a three-year training journey to become certified PADI Instructors. The entire program is fully funded by our company. To date, we have successfully guided 92 candidates to achieve the esteemed NVQ Level 3 qualification as PADI Instructors. This program holds immense pride for us as it transforms individuals from a mindset of limited prospects and lack of focus to one of abundant opportunities and professional growth. It instills valuable qualities such as structure, professionalism, inspiration, and opens doors for travel and work experiences. Moreover, participants have the opportunity to learn additional specialties such as equipment technicians, travel consultants, and nature guides.

Many of our program graduates choose to apply for employment within our company, contributing to the formation of our fantastic team. The transformational impact of this program is profound. Numerous candidates have gone on to explore the world, with some even settling in other countries, utilizing the foundation of skills and knowledge they acquired through this program to succeed in various professions. Witnessing these personal and professional accomplishments is immensely rewarding, and it is something we take great pride in.

Both my husband and I come from humble backgrounds and understand the challenges individuals face without financial advantages. In our home country, hard work can often lead to career success, but we recognize that the same opportunities are not readily available in Sabah. Therefore, we are deeply committed to providing genuine opportunities to underprivileged individuals, empowering them to seize a brighter future.

The “Work For A Career” program serves as a catalyst for change, offering a pathway to success and breaking the cycle of limited opportunities. It is a testament to our belief in the transformative power of education and dedication, and we remain dedicated to making a positive impact in the lives of those seeking a professional career in scuba diving.

4. What can we expect to see from Adventures In Borneo in the future?

We are continuously dedicated to further developing the transformational “outcome” aspect of our adventure and conservation experiences. Our aim is to create meaningful and lasting positive change for individuals, communities, and nature.

Through our immersive adventures, we seek to go beyond providing thrilling experiences and memorable moments. We strive to create transformative journeys that leave a profound impact on the lives of our participants. We believe that adventure and conservation can be powerful catalysts for personal growth, self-discovery, and a deeper connection with community and nature.

5. Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?

I see several trends emerging in educational and active youth travel and I am an avid speaker and advocate of these.

  • Experiential Learning: There is a growing emphasis on experiential learning, where educational travel experiences provide hands-on, immersive opportunities. Focusing on active participation, engaging with local communities, and gaining practical skills and knowledge through real-world experiences.
  • Focus on Sustainability (in fact I can see this morphing into Re-Generation and Responsible Travel: Environmental awareness and re-generation have become significant considerations in educational and active youth travel. Travel programs increasingly incorporate elements of eco-tourism, emphasizing responsible practices, conservation efforts, and promoting cultural and environmental sensitivity. Participants are encouraged to be mindful of their impact on the environment and local communities, fostering a sense of global citizenship and stewardship.
  • Focus on Soft Skills and Personal Development & Emotional Intelligence: As a Strategic Psychotherapist I’m happy to see that some educational travel programs now place greater emphasis on developing soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, communication, teamwork, leadership, adaptability, and cultural intelligence.
  • Customization and Personalization: Youth travelers seek more personalized and customizable experiences. They desire the flexibility to tailor their trips based on their specific interests, goals, and preferences and I think educational travel providers are responding to this demand by offering a range of program options and allowing participants to choose activities and components that align with their individual aspirations.
  • Wellness and Mindfulness: There is a growing recognition of the importance of wellness and mindfulness in youth travel experiences. I would love to see more programs incorporating elements such as yoga, meditation, nature retreats, and wellness activities to promote physical and mental well-being.
  • Slow Shift towards Destination Needs: Some areas of the travel industry is increasingly focusing on considering “what the destination needs” alongside “what the traveler needs.” This approach recognizes the importance of sustainable tourism practices, community engagement, and the preservation of local cultures and environments. It emphasizes the development of travel experiences that benefit and support the destination’s long-term sustainability and growth and helps to increase the value chain to include the host countries dependents.

These trends reflect the evolving needs and interests of youth travelers, highlighting a shift towards more immersive, socially responsible, and personalized educational and active travel experiences.

6. How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with Adventures In Borneo?

We have implemented several measures and policies:

  • Comprehensive Policies: We have a dedicated Youth Policy and Code of Conduct that outlines our commitment to the safety, well-being, and appropriate behavior of young travelers. These policies serve as guidelines for our team and participants, promoting a safe and respectful environment throughout the journey.
  • Rigorous Training: Our team members undergo extensive training in safety protocols, emergency response procedures, and risk management. This training ensures that our staff are well-equipped to handle any potential challenges or emergencies that may arise during the trip.
  • Independent Auditing: We subject our Standards and Procedures to independent audits conducted by reputable organizations such as the British Ministry of Defence and PADI. These audits provide an additional layer of assurance and validate our commitment to maintaining high standards of safety and operational excellence.
  • Risk Assessments: Before each trip, we conduct thorough risk assessments to identify and mitigate potential hazards or risks. These assessments enable us to implement appropriate safety measures, adapt our plans if necessary, and ensure the overall well-being of young travelers.
  • Experienced & Professionally Qualified Guides and Supervision: Our trips are led by experienced & professionally qualified guides and instructors who prioritize the safety and supervision of young participants. They have in-depth knowledge of the local environment, cultural considerations, and emergency procedures, ensuring a safe and enriching experience for all.
  • Emergency Response Plan: We have a robust emergency response plan in place, which includes communication protocols, medical support, and evacuation procedures. This plan is regularly reviewed and updated to align with the latest best practices and recommendations.
  • Destination Partnerships: We work closely with local partners, such as accommodations, transport providers, and activity operators, who share our commitment to safety. We carefully select and collaborate with trusted partners who adhere to the highest safety standards, further enhancing the overall safety of our young travelers.

By implementing these measures, we prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of young travelers throughout their Adventures In Borneo experience.

7. What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?

Our decision to join WYSE Travel Confederation was motivated by the strong alignment of their organization’s values and objectives with ours. We were drawn to their commitment to promoting responsible and sustainable travel for young people, as well as their focus on enhancing the quality of experiences.

By joining WYSE Travel Confederation, we have gained access to a community of like-minded professionals who are passionate about youth travel.

For knowledge sharing, industry insights, and best practices, enabling us to continuously improve our offerings and deliver even greater value to our clients.

8. Have you attended a WYSE Travel Confederation event? (WYSTC, STAY WYSE, WYSE Exchange Australia, WETM-IAC) If so, what was your experience with the event?

Yes, I attended WYSTC in Edinburgh in 2018, it was a great opportunity to connect with likeminded and passionate industry cohorts. The event was a resounding success, providing a platform for networking. During the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting a few companies that have since developed into strong and mutually beneficial partnerships.

9. What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing currently?

One significant challenge our organization currently faces is environmental issues, including plastic pollution, coral reef depletion, overfishing, and the presence of ghost nets in our oceans. These challenges directly impact the natural attractions that drive our business.

To address these concerns, we place great emphasis on education and action. We believe that raising awareness and taking proactive steps are crucial to finding solutions. Through our programs and experiences, we strive to educate our clients and inspire them to become advocates for environmental preservation.

Our focus on education extends to promoting re-generative practices and encouraging active participation in conservation initiatives. We want our clients to be well-informed and actively engaged in protecting the environment. By integrating education and action into our offerings, we hope to make a positive impact and contribute to the preservation of our natural heritage.

Though the environmental challenges we face are daunting, we remain committed to confronting them. Through our collective efforts, we can work towards a better future.

Member snapshot

Adventures in Borneo, established in 2000, is a specialized adventure travel company owned by Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures S/B. As a licensed boutique DMC based in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo, we collaborate with industry travel brands, organizations, and institutions. Our focus is on experiential and educational nature-positive travel.

Our PADI 5 Star IDC Career Development Centre plays a crucial role in marine education, offering captivating field trips on marine biology and tropical ecology to schools and universities. Alongside learning, we organize and conduct the removal of Ghost Fishing Nets, emphasizing the importance of safety. We actively contribute to marine conservation and raise awareness about ocean plastics through ongoing projects dedicated to preserving the health of our marine system.

Our expertise lies in Transformational Travel, encouraging intentional journeys that foster personal growth and meaningful connections with the world.

Additionally, we offer volunteer programs to assist stray cats and dogs in Sabah Borneo.

Adventures in Borneo’s commitment to delivering exceptional adventure travel experiences, promoting environmental conservation, and supporting local communities allows us to make a positive impact in the travel industry.

Membership type : Associate Member

JO Swann - Adventures in Borneo S/B

Jo Swann
Co-Founder & Director
Adventures in Borneo

Member highlights

I’m speaking at WYSTC 2023 in Lisbon: Designing transformational travel for youth and student education.