The word muck does not have the best connotation. But when it comes to Scuba, muck diving is a glorious world that all divers should try.
I will explain how and where to go to dive into the wondrous world of muck.
The term muck diving gets its name from the combination of sand, silt, dead corals, natural debris, and manmade debris (including but not limited to tires, bottles, and cans) that lies on the bottom of the sea. It is a slower dive and you really need to focus during these dives. All of this sediment makes a great home for small and rare creatures.
Muck diving is something that you may not do in your first courses, but is something everyone should give a try. It is lots of fun and after drift diving, it is my favorite type of diving.
The creatures that you can see are out of this world and it is really relaxing. I will give you the complete guide below to muck diving so you can enjoy it as much as I do.
Why Should I Muck Dive?
Muck diving is an entirely different experience from reef diving or deep dives. Muck diving takes a lot more focus but in another sense is very relaxing. A lot of people find it relaxing as you are at shallower depths and going at a slow pace.
You are “hunting” in a sense for sea creatures. You often cover a small area starting at the deepest point and working your way shallower.
Even with no corals and good visibility (muck diving doesn’t always have the best visibility), it can still be extremely hard to find little creatures.
Muck diving is also excellent for photographers and solo divers. These creatures are very colorful and rare so you can take your time to get good shots.
It is safer for solo divers since you are in shallow waters and you will have less risk of something going wrong and little chance of getting the “bends” or nitrogen narcosis. The biggest danger is if you do not have a wetsuit, rashguard or reef-safe sunscreen on to protect yourself.
The thrill you get when you find a camouflaged creature is cannot be beaten. Once you are familiar with the site and your eyes are adjusted it is not as hard as it sounds.
What Can I See Muck Diving?
Every sight is different on what you will see and it will even depend on if it is a night dive or not.
The basic but still amazing wildlife you will encounter on your dives are stingrays, frogfish, pipefish, seahorses, nudibranchs, stonefish, scorpion fish, and shrimps.
Here are a few very special creatures that people go into the muck searching for around the world: hairy frogfish, ornate ghost pipe fish, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue ring octopus, mandarin fish, pygmy seahorse, harlequin shrimps, wonderous/ mimic octopus, decorator crabs, and squat lobsters.
Pro Tips and Techniques for Muck Diving
Here are some things to think about when planning and while you are muck diving.
Be Knowledgeable – Know what you are looking for and what is possible to see in the area. Doing this will increase your chances of a sighting. Learn some basic information about the creature ie. what it eats, where it likes to hide and at what depth, etc. You will be near the bottom and scorpion fish and other poisonous sea life can be there so know how to handle this in case you bump into one of them.
Get Advice – If possible I would get advice from a local and/ or have a good dive guide. An experienced dive guide in that area doesn’t just have a good eye, they know everything about the area and the creature.
Have the Correct Dive Gear – These dives can be over an hour so having a thicker wetsuit or hood will keep you warm. I also like a stiffer pair of fins to make sure you do not kick up silt. Bring a dive light regardless if it is day or night to be able to search in low visibility and in all the nooks and crannies. I also carry extra scuba gear such as a backup flashlight, magnifying glass, and mask.
Have a Plan – Plan the dive sites for a regular day shore dive and a night dive, this will increase your chances of seeing what you want. If you are diving with buddies make sure you know the plan if you get separated. Someone may want to stick around and take photos as the others move on.
Take Your Time – It takes time to find creatures that are camouflaged or hiding. They are also extremely small, I have seen frogfish the size of a penny. Muck diving is better on cloudy days as well and could be in low visibility, giving your eyes time to adjust and study the sea floor. You will be covering a much smaller area than a regular dive, so don’t rush.
Have Good Buoyancy – Breath slow and maintain your depth. You want to have excellent control at all times so you don’t disturb the silt or bump into anything. It is also much easier to observe the creatures and get that amazing photo.
Frog Kick – You want to keep your fins up so you don’t kick up and silt and are as efficient as possible. You want to use the frog kick and helicopter kicks. Read here how to improve your finning technique.
Don’t Touch Wildlife – Again please don’t touch wildlife. This should go without saying but I have seen divers before moving a creature to get the desired photo. These creatures are extremely sensitive can you could injure them or in the worst case kill them. If you see someone else touching something, say something to them or the dive guide.
Where Can I go Muck Diving?
South East Asia is home to some of the best muck diving in the world. Countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea are the most renowned.
I will list some cities and countries below where I know you will be able to find some amazing muck diving and creatures.
- Lembeh Strait, Indonesia
- Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
- Mabul, Malaysia
- Anilao, Philippines.
- Gulen, Norway
- Nelson Bay, Australia.
- Bali, Indonesia
- Dumaguete, Philippines
- Redondo Beach, California
- Ambon, Indonesia
- St Vincent, Caribbean
- Blue Heron Bridge, Florida
- Ulua Beach, Maui, Hawaii