His own website’s jovial description that “Michael Markscheffel is among other things an inspirational personal fitness and scuba instructor who originated from the UK but who now calls Malaysia home la” just shows that he is ever so willing to embrace Malaysian culture.
Coming from operating road drills underwater in the channels of Oxford in England to diving in the waters off the islands of Semporna in Sabah for a living, Markscheffel has come a long way from home and indeed a long way in terms of his ambitions.
Hailing from Essex in the United Kingdom and starting off as a commercial diver recruited fresh from diving school during the 1980s, Markscheffel would always be travelling around the UK, working in environments such as the canals of Oxford and offshore diving sites for repair work and surveying.
Markscheffel would find his way into different countries in Asia during the 80s by way of a business venture with his siblings in importing bicycles to the UK. Eventually, he ended up in Malaysia in 1989 with his partner to begin manufacturing here.
During his travels between the UK and Malaysia, his fondness of the country grew along with his bicycle importing business, which led to them supplying to Toys ‘R Us, Carrefour, Argos as well as the independent stores.
“I sensed that I would always have a relationship with Asia” he said.
While his business brought him to countries such as Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand, he never saw himself living in those countries because they were just too foreign for him.
“Malaysia, on the other hand, has always appealed more to me.
“English is widely spoken, the weather is great and having colonial era-influenced systems such as driving on the left-hand side was probably a big factor,” he added.
He recalls living in Section 25 in Shah Alam during the 90s, when it was still undeveloped and when it used to take 20 minutes or less to get to the heart of the city.
However, despite the increase in the number of people and traffic in the Klang Valley, he is not irked by the gridlock and is just very happy to be here as a guest.
He says Asia is truly a melting pot very much like the UK and he confesses that the friendly, welcoming and receptive Malaysians were the biggest draw for him to move here.
“I want people to know that I appreciate being able to be here, I’ve never taken it for granted and I always remember that I’m a guest while I’m here.”
“It upsets me if ever I hear or read of other foreigners here that have not been receptive to the local ways,” he adds.
After selling off his business five years ago, the opportunity arose which allowed him to reassess what he really wanted so he decided to return to Malaysia over a year ago to get back into diving but this time as a teacher.
These days, he is still very much interested in business. By combining his love for diving with his experience as a former commercial deep-sea diver, he now runs a business that specialises in personal fitness training and PADI scuba instruction.
He runs classes in various dive locations, including Pulau Redang, Pulau Perhentian, Kota Kinabalu and Semporna and he is happy to accommodate his clientele as to where they would prefer to get their PADI certification.
Being independent and not having a base enables him to not only cater to his students but allows him to travel around to many of the fantastic dive sites in Malaysia. His favourites are the abovementioned places.
“I’ve selected those four locations because I think they’re the best and its where there are most things to see.”
Citing the famous explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, he adds that Semporna is in the top five places in the world to visit for diving because of its marine life and reefs.
“Malaysia is very, very lucky from that point of view,” he said. “The reefs in Malaysia are just fantastic”.
The friendly Englishman recalls spotting a whale shark off Mabul Island last year, which turned out to be one of the most memorable dives he has been on.
As a qualified personal fitness instructor, he provides customised workout routines and nutritional advice to those seeking it. He cautions that while food in Malaysia is fantastic and easily accessible, it is all about moderation and reasonable consumption.
He takes the opportunity during his free time to visit local landmarks such as the Twin Towers, Putrajaya and the National Museum as well as spending time with his friends.
“I have many local friends and have known them since the days when I was manufacturing here and we sometimes meet up for golf, Scrabble and see new places together.
“When I drove to Putrajaya, I already knew it was a beautiful place but I was still amazed at how magnificent the structures and buildings were”.
For Markscheffel , staying fit comes easy as he is a fitness instructor but he is not a gym junkie. He tries to eat right and stay active by riding his bike or hitting the gym. On some days, he buddies up with his clients to do their favourite activity.
Markscheffel has two grown up sons, Marlon, 19, who is studying in the UK in Portsmouth, and Benjamin, 18, who is a student in Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University College.
Just recently, Markscheffel and Benjamin spent their Christmas surfing together in Cherating. “It was unusual for Christmas but we managed to have a great time there” he said.
Sharing how he finds it so far in Malaysia, he says, “I’ve had a lot of good fun so far
and there is still a lot to offer I’m sure.” — By C.Y. LEE