Here at Rainbow Divers, there are daily highlights to our job. From teaching new students the joys of scuba to the fun and banter on our boat journeys, not to mention all the lovely marine life. But recently, we hosted a very special guest; Sarah Winterbottom, the winner of Miss Scuba UK this year!
For those not in the know, Miss Scuba United Kingdom is an annual pageant with a difference, it is not solely a beauty or scuba diving competition but is a merging of the two disciplines to help raise awareness for marine conservation and celebrate the inner beauty of today’s modern women.
The competition itself was set up by Mr Robert Lo who is also the proprietor of the Sipadan Mabul Resort (SMART) and Mabul Water Bungalows, and as such is a strong believer in sustainable development within the realms of our marine environment.
He hopes that by sharing the beauty and wonders of the underwater world via beauty queens, it will enable more people to understand how fragile our oceans are and how much more we all need to play our individual little roles to make a big difference in protecting it.
Which brings us to this year’s newly announced champion, the talented, and beautiful Sarah Winterbottom. Hailing from London and when not diving, she works in Public Relations. It’s been something of a whirlwind since being crowned and, as a fantastic addition to her skills as an advanced open water diver, she spent a few days with Rainbow Divers in Nha Trang not only to see the wonders of Vietnam, but also to complete her Vietnam Nudibranch speciality, which is a unique and fantastic course developed by Rainbow Divers’ owner and founder Jeremy Stein.
In between dives and drinks at the Rainbow Bar in Nha Trang, we caught up with Sarah to find out what her journey has been like…
Rainbow Divers (RD): What has been the best part of the competition so far?
SARAH: Without a doubt, the highlight of the competition so far was competing in the final of Miss Scuba International in Malaysia. The whole two weeks away was amazing and I had so many once in a lifetime experiences there. Diving at Sipadan was incredible and I’ve never dived anywhere so rich in marine wildlife – we swam with turtles, sharks and even schools of barracuda! It was fantastic.
RD: How did it feel breathing underwater for the first time?
SARAH: Very strange! Humans aren’t meant to breathe underwater so the whole sensation is very unnatural, but once you are under and used to it, the feeling is awesome!
RD: What has been the highlight of your Vietnam adventure so far?
SARAH: Everything! I couldn’t pinpoint one particular moment as the whole of my trip to Vietnam has exceeded my expectations. I’d never been to the country before so every place I visited was new and exciting for me. I loved the diving and was delighted to meet Jeremy Stein, the owner of Rainbow Divers and the pioneer of diving in Vietnam!
RD: What does the Miss Scuba UK title mean to you?
SARAH: There were three parts to the competition, which took part in the UK, Cyprus and Egypt, with different judges judging each part, so to win really means a lot to me. Any of the girls in the top 5 could have won, but I worked hard and put in as much effort as I could in each part and am so happy it paid off! The year has already been incredible and there is so much more to come.
RD: What do you think are the biggest threats to our oceans?
SARAH: Unsustainable fishing is a huge threat and is having serious effects on our oceans. Travelling round South East Asia I’ve actually been in the water and heard dynamite go off, which was a huge shock to me as it really exposed the destructive methods that are being used every day by fishermen. 95% of our oceans are fished to the maximum or overfished which is a shocking statistic. These fishing practises alongside other threats such as inadequate protection and pollution are putting our oceans under pressure.
RD: Where in the world would you most like to Scuba dive?
SARAH: I’d love to dive in the Gili Islands. I went to Bali last year, however didn’t make it over to the Gili Islands but have heard the diving there is awesome.
RD: If you could be any ocean animal what would you be and why?
SARAH: I’d be an orca. I think they are so graceful and move through the water so beautifully. They’re also such intelligent animals.
RD: What’s your best memory/accolade from each place you visited?
SARAH: My first stop in Vietnam was Phu Quoc where I stayed at the Kim Hoa beach side resort. My highlight here, was going out on the boat and doing my nudibranch speciality course. I didn’t know a lot about them before this so learning about them and then diving and spotting them was fun. I then went to Ho Chi Minh and my best memory here is definitely my beautiful suite at the Caravelle Hotel. The room was so luxurious and big and I didn’t want to leave. I wish I could have stayed here longer than one night and see more of the city, and spend more time in my lovely room! Finally, one of my best memories from my last stop which was Nha Trang, apart from diving of course, is my cookery class at the Evason Ana Mandara. I’d never cooked Vietnamese food before and had a one-to-one class with the sous chef which really was such a lovely way to spend an afternoon. I’ll be cooking the recipes when I get home for my family! My beach side bungalow here was beautiful as well and I loved sitting outside on my balcony in the evenings.