What Is “Muck Diving”?
Muck diving gets its name from the sediment that lies at the bottom of many dive sites – a frequently silty, muddy or “mucky” environment. Other than muddy sediment, the muck dive substrate may consist of dead coral skeletons, discarded fishing equipment, tyres and other man-made garbage.
History of Muck Diving:
The term muck diving was first used by Bob Halstead over 15 years ago to describe diving off the beaches made up of black sand in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea.
Why is Muck Diving so Popular?
Muck diving is so popular because of the opportunity to discover weird and wonderful creatures in the “muck” substrate which forms the habitat for unusual, exotic and juvenile organisms that make their homes in the sediment and “trash” that compose a muck dive.
What Will I See When Muck Diving?
The sediment and detritus environment has a different ecology to the reef. The bizarre and unusual things you will find muck diving are rare and interesting nudibranchs, frogfish, cuttlefish – the most amazing being the flamboyant cuttlefish, seahorses, snake eels, sea moths, star gazers, octopus – including the rare and wonderful blue ringed octopus and mimic octopus, scorpion fish, flying gurnards, oh the list goes on and on!
Other sedimentary bottom habitats such as lagoons and other dive sites were there is little or no current may also provide interesting ecologies, and muck diving is possible almost anywhere that recreational diving is done.
Where Can I Go Muck Diving?
The most popular region for muck diving is Southeast Asia, where there are more marine species than anywhere else in the world. Places like Lembeh Straits in Manado, Indonesia; Anilao in the Philippines; Milne Bay in Papual New Guinea and Bali are the most popular because of the amazing creatures found in the muck.
Is Muck Diving Good for Underwater Photography?
Absolutely brilliant! Out of this world!! Perhaps those that enjoy muck diving the most are the macro photographers. The calm and shallow water provides amazing opportunities to photograph the creatures that hide amongst the muck.
What Do I Need To Take With Me When Muck Diving?
A good local guide is the best first step when you want to go muck diving. Most muck diving locations pair a maximum of 3 divers per guide. The local guides are incredibly experienced and sharp eyed and know exactly where to find the creatures on your bucket list.
Perfect Buoyancy. As the sea floor is usually made up of fine sediment or silt, good buoyancy is very important. You need to keep your feet off the ground at all times and the best is to keep your legs bent at the knees and use a frog kick to move yourself around. The other divers are not going to thank you if the frog fish they wanted to photograph is now enveloped in a cloud of silt – caused by you!!
A Muck Stick or Pointer. This is a metal stick about 30cm in length that you can use to support yourself above the sea floor. This prevents you from putting your hands on the floor or waving your arms around to keep yourself afloat whilst taking photos resulting in your subject being enveloped in your own cloud of silt. Pointers are also very useful when you want to leave a specific spot, all you need to do is push yourself away backwards using your pointer. A word of advice though – look where you put your pointer before you dig it into the sand – you don’t want your subject (or another critter) to become a pointer kebab!
The right wetsuit combination: Some locations can be quite a bit colder than the surrounding areas due to daily upwelling of cooler water from deeper surrounding seas, so it is best to check before you go. For example, in Lembeh, the water temperatures can reach as low as 24C and it is advisable to wear a hooded chicken vest with your 3mm wetsuit, or even a 5mm wetsuit with hood. In summer, temperatures in Anilao can reach 30C but as you will be doing long dives, you can still get chilly and a 3mm wetsuit is advised. This will help you stay warmer and extend your bottom times.
Macro Lenses: Photographers will benefit from using a macro lense such as a 60mm or 100 / 105 mm macro lense with a DSLR. Compact camera users can add a wet lense to the front of their housings to get closer to the tinier critters. Although there are tiny supermacro subjects to be found, most critters will be small to medium sized and a macro lense should be sufficient. It is not unknown for larger fish such as rays to be found at muck diving sites!
Watch this Video for fantastic and useful tips to make your muck diving experience great for both you and your buddies:
Video and Image: With thanks to Critters At Lembeh