If you’re just getting your fins wet, “muck” may be a new term for you. You may have read about it in online forums or heard excited divers talking about the best muckin’ picture they’ve ever taken, but were left scratching your head. They definitely didn’t bring that up in your open water course. Don’t worry, Blue Marlin Dive is here to break it down for you.
What is muck diving?
“Muck” is a polite way to describe some dirty diving! Muck diving occurs in an environment which usually has a silty or sandy bottom and sometimes a source of fresh water. When you first drop into a muck diving site, you may be disappointed. Visibility will be lower and the colourful corals and fish you’ve grown accustomed to at other sites are less abundant. However, these spots with overgrown algae, broken coral, debris and structures such as piers are home to the most rewarding muck diving. This is where we find the primo macro.
Macro? Mucky? Confused yet?
While “muck” diving refers to the type of dive site you’ll go to, “macro” refers to the tiny critters we look for. Divers use the term macro to denote the large magnification needed in photography, not a large critter.
Down in the muck, you’ll find the weird, the peculiar and the extraordinary. While some people dive to see the biggest ocean creatures they can find, it’s no less exciting to spot the tiny ones lurking on the bottom. Don’t forget to bring a camera!
So, where can I find the best muck diving?
Indonesia is considered by most to be the ultimate muck diving destination in the world! In fact, Lembeh is the holy grail of muck diving. However, don’t be discouraged if you can’t make it to this remote location. With just a hop and skip from Bali, begin your muck diving adventure in the Gilis or Komodo. While most divers travel to these places because of the Gilis’ reputation as the ‘Turtle Capital of the World’ and Komodo’s bucket-list-topping dive sites, they often forget about the macro life lurking on the seafloor.
In Komodo head over to Waniliu for a chance to explore what many refer to as a ‘mini Lembeh’. Siaba Besar’s sand dunes also make for great critter huntin’ grounds. In the Gilis, consider making a request for Hann’s Reef, Bounty Wreck or Secret Reef.
How deep will I go on a muck dive?
Most muck diving takes place under 10 metres, sometimes as shallow as 2-3 metres. This is great news because you can spend a longer time underwater searching for rare creatures, your air will last longer at shallow depths and your no decompression limits [NDL] are extremely generous.
What macro can I expect to see?
Depending on your dive guide, clarity of the water and patience, you can see just about anything. Your expectation shouldn’t be to see every creature in one dive, but seeing one or two of the following is considered a great dive: an assortment of crabs and shrimp, nudibranchs, ribbon eels, seahorses, frogfish, scorpionfish ghost pipefish and bobtail squid. If the scuba gods decide to smile upon you, you may even find rhinopias, flamboyant cuttlefish, mandarinfish or even blue-ringed octopuses.
When is the best time to go?
There is no “bad” time to muck dive, but expect to see different types of fauna at varying hours. Mandarin fish, for instance, seem to be especially prevalent around sunrise or sunset. Night diving brings out a whole slew of different critters than daytime with crustaceans and octopus making more frequent appearances. The best part is that muck diving can be done all year round, regardless of the season.
What are some useful muck diving tips?
- Take your time: Take it slow. Remember that you don’t have to rush through the dive site. The whole point of muck diving is to find all the hidden creatures, so the slower you go the better your chances of finding something. As an added bonus, less movement will help you conserve your air supply and prolong your dive.
- Get close: Many of the critters we look for are just a couple of millimetres in size so you might have to get really close to be able to see them properly. Please be aware of your surroundings; in muck diving, it’s easy to accidentally stir up the bottom if you haven’t mastered neutral buoyancy. If you are concerned about your buoyancy, try the Peak Performance Buoyancy speciality first.
- Know the habitat: The more familiar you are with individual species’ habitats and behaviour, the easier it will be for you to find them. You can increase your chances of spotting a hidden gem if you research beforehand when and where they usually hang out.
- Look out for unusual movement and eyes: If you take your time and go slow on the dive, it will be much easier to spot unusual movements in the muck. Don’t grow impatient if you don’t spot anything at first glance, many of the creatures are hiding and only come out once they don’t expect any threat.
- Go to the right places: Even though you may stumble upon a rare creature, do yourself a favour and research the right places before you actually take your trip. Talk to local divers, they are the ones who know the spots the best and will be able to provide you valuable tips on where and when to go to a certain site.
Get into the big leagues with the little stuff.
After you’ve been diving for a while, you’ll be able to tick off most of the big creatures from your list. Mantas, turtles, sharks…. yeah they’re cool, but any amateur can spot them. Muck diving opens up an entirely new realm of bragging opportunities. It’s not uncommon to see a table full of dive instructors one-upping each other on their rare finds that only they would be able to spot. With just a few muck dives under your weight belt, you’ll be able to confidently join the conversation without sounding like a total mucking newb.
Are you ready to try this type of diving?
Do you think you have the buoyancy, patience and keen eye that it takes to be a muck diver? Blue Marlin Dive offers muck diving at all of our locations, from the Gili Islands to Komodo. Come and get mucky with us.