The minute I topple over the side of the boat in East Malaysia, I know everything has changed forever.
Below me glimmers a shoal of white and turquoise fish feeding on shallow coral. To my left, an angelfish flits around my fins — its electric blue, yellow, purple and orange markings glow in the early morning light.
While I have good reason to be splashing about in these warm turquoise waters, a hotspot for marine biodiversity, nothing prepares me for what I see next.
Pressing my mask down into the small waves, a bustling aquatic city comes into view. Schools of coral and blue groupers zoom past as leopard-print Andaman sweetlips munch on floating plankton.
There are fish courting, eels gliding, reef sharks darting, turtles drifting, and then there’s us: a small group of divers from around the world, floating amid this scene of staggering beauty.
I swapped the grey skies of the UK for a four-day underwater tour of eastern peninsular Malaysia.
Each dive is more stunning than the last.
I’opted for a luxurious cabana at the Tanjong Jara Resort on the mainland.
Popular with honeymooners who wander the grounds hand-in-hand and gaze out at the sunset with cocktails.
Kate Hodal was a guest of Tanjong Jara Beach Resort, which offers a Diver’s Escape package including three nights accommodation, breakfast, two days of diving, and barbecued lunch for each day, starting at £197 per room per night. Flights to Kuala Lumpur from London are around £790 on Malaysia Airlines. The dive starts again on March 1. Visit www.tanjong jararesort.com