In the recent years, photographers and enthusiastic divers have been on a quest to find unique underwater inhabitants and varying dive sites. Forget visions of crystal clear water, dancing reef fish, and dazzling color. No, no I am not narked yet! It’s all about muck diving.
Muck Diving = Silt + Discarded Junk + Low visibility – (Coral Reef + Schooling Fish)
To those of you yet to experience muck diving, it is only for the brave hearted diver who doesn’t mind low visibility (aargh lost my buddy again), silt instead of abundant coral and the arduous task of searching for the invisible. Often scattered on the bottom is discarded human junk. Surely such ingredients do not make the recipe for a perfect dive! So why muck dive? The persistent diver is often rewarded with fascinating and bizarre marine life rarely seen on reefs and guaranteed to have you boiling with excitement and scrambling for the fish/marine ID books to uncover your latest finds.
Muck diving has been the source of many recent finds in the scientific community. It is not unusual after a muck dive to find that you are unable to identify an underwater animal seen. Many books still do not carry the recent findings. Do not despair. Try out websites/contacting magazine publishers etc. Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones to find a new species in the mud so carry that camera and click away. Such incentives make muck diving irresistible to the adventurer.
Now that you are all ready for that first muck dive where should you go? Many marine environments overlooked for the more colorful reefs such as seagrass beds, mangroves, wharf, and jetties as well as sandy reefs can be your introduction to muck diving. The ideal sites are usually bays that are sheltered and shallow but have tidal movements bringing food in and out of the bay. Remember always check with the local dive operators regarding tidal movements, local conditions, and hazards and when diving in mangrove areas it’s a good idea to check if crocodiles have been seen in the area!
Successful Muck Dive = Local Knowledge + Persistence + Good Buoyancy + Trained Eyes
When muck diving one must become the Sherlock Holmes of the underwater realm. Be persistent in your investigations. Diving at high tide generally offers the best visibility. Local knowledge is vital and taking a local Dive Master can enhance you dive. Good buoyancy is an essential skill since visibility in these areas are generally low and certainly not helped by divers stirring up the bottom. A good pair of eyes is a bonus. Many times some divers come up after a muck dive seeing only half of what the experienced muck diver has seen. Do not worry, the good news is that you can train your eyes gradually with more knowledge and dives.
Trained Eyes = Good Knowledge + Details + Curiosity + Observance
To gain knowledge about the marine creatures that inhabit muck diving areas, expose yourself to various dive magazines and books. Keep a small library at home. Adi and I find that this is especially useful in educating ourselves on the latest findings.
This will make you the instant hero/heroin on the dive when you easily rattle of the names of the creatures you have encountered. Keep an eye on details and note things down on underwater slates whenever possible. This will help identify the animal and you will be shielded from disappointment when looking into the marine ID books. Be curious. If you notice a bump in the sand, have a closer look. Most of the time it may be nothing but one day. It may turn out to be a mantis shrimp or a flounder staring back at you. Quick movements and odd shapes may have surprises waiting to be discovered.
Any of the environments discussed above can be easily dived at night opening up another world with different inhabitants such as decorator crabs, spanish dancers, squids, bobbit worms that will make you think of alien movies as well as numerous crabs and shrimps. The glories of muck diving await you. Just remember to watch your buoyancy, look out for animals in the sand before settling down to film but most of all be prepared to be amazed by what you see. Diving will never be the same again.
Assorted Muck Diving Sites
- Malaysia: Pulau Gaya, Sabah
- Indonesia: Manado, North Sulawesi.
- Thailand: Khao Lak
- Solomon Islands: Morovo Lagoon
- Fiji: Kandavu Island, Waindroka Resort on Viti Levu
Sea grass areas
- Malaysia: Kapalai island, Mabul island, Pulau Mataking, Semporna
- Indonesia: Bunaken Island
- Thailand: Koh Samui Island
- Philippines: Malapascua Island
- Malaysia: Pulau Kapalai, Pulau Mabul, Pulau Mataking, Pom Pom Island
- Indonesia: Lembeh Strait, Tulamben off Bali’s Kunkungan Bay, Derawan, Secret bay
- Thailand: Phuket, Krabi
- Australia: Heron island, Exmouth
- Philippines: Anilao, Batangas