The incredible world of muck diving is a favourite amongst experienced divers, adventure seekers and macro photographers. The term comes from the type of environment, which is usually a silty or sandy bottom, sometimes with a source of fresh water and some mild currents. Volcanic areas are great for muck diving, as are areas with a lot of vegetation such as sea grass and surprisingly places with a lot of rubbish that the cool critters make their homes in. There are no colourful corals or fish present and visibility can be quite poor.
So why is it such good diving then, you ask? The discovery of weird and wonderful creatures is the answer. The favourites of the ocean strive in the muck diving conditions, you just have to find them. Don't be surprised if you spend your whole dive scouring a small area, your face just inches from the bottom.
The bizarre and unusual things you may find 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!
Indonesia would have to be the top muck diving destination in the world, with so many wonderful dive locations, you'll have a hard time deciding where to start! The Lembeh Strait is an area that will keep you busy for weeks, with over 30 sites easily accessible and teaming with strangest of the strange. Nudibranchs are a favourite here, along with the Mandarinfish, Ghost Pipefish, Pygmy Seahorse, Weedy Scorpionfish, Stonefish, Devilfish and the Banggai Cardinal fish, which is endemic to the area. The night diving in Lembeh is second to none and not to be missed. The best sites are Hairball, Nudi Falls, Angel's Window and Jahir.
Ambon is another popular place in Indonesia, the Ambon Bay being home to some incredibly rare animals such as the Ambon Scorpionfish and Halimeda Ghost Pipefish. You can spend hours around the jetty searching the pylons and rubbish for things such as the Orange Painted Frogfish, shrimps of all kinds, Waspfish, up to 10 different moray eels, Lionfish, Stonefish and the spiny and spotted Devilfish. Stay until dusk to witness the feverish mating dance of the Mandarinfish. The best site in Ambon is called Laha, which is a macro photographer's dream. The volcanic island of Sangeang, near Komodo is a world class location and the interesting black sand excites the most experienced of muck divers.
Around Bali are the sites of Secret Bay, Padang Bai and Seraya's Secrets, which divers flock to like a moth to a flame. The Jepun Artificial Reef is probably one of the best sites in the area to discover the fantastic life that make their home here. There is something cool to see everywhere you look such as seahorses, shrimps, all kinds of wonderful nudibranchs, dragonets, Leaf fish and many different species of crabs.
Anilao in the Phillipines is an incredibly diverse muck diving location. The best site in the area and also the most secret is Secret Bay, also known as Mainit Muck, but you will also find other great sites such as Twin Rocks, Basura, Kirby's and Bethlehem. You can expect to see countless gobies, shrimp, including the Mantis Shrimp, pipefish, frogfish, scorpionfish, nudibranchs, squid, cuttlefish, seahorses, the Wonderpus Octopus and Bobbit Worms. Very cool diving!
The islands of Mabul and Kapalai in Borneo Malaysia are a treasure trove for muck divers. Most of the muck diving sites are right off the shore and even snorkeling here will give you a taste of the variety of life in these waters. The artificial House Reef off Kapalai and the sites of Paradise 1 and 2, the Oil Rig, Ribbon Valley and Crocodile Lairs off Mabul will astound you with the amount of stuff to see. There are ribbon eels, cuttlefish, sea moths, baby Lionfishes, Mandarinfish, shrimps of every shape and size, Decorator crabs, nudibranchs galore, Pigmy Seahorses, frogfish, the list just keeps getting bigger! The dives are shallow and warm so you can stay in the water for hours searching amongst the rubbish and rubble for your next surprise.
The home of muck diving is Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea and this is the place where all the excitement began back in the 1980's when a group of divers on a liveaboard decided to just jump in the water when their boat anchored, just to see what they could find. They were advised against diving the shallow because of the silty bottom, but what they found started the whole craze of muck diving and the rage still continues today. You'll find every type of wonderous creatures here in Papua New Guinea.
Other places that deserve a mention are Dumaguete in the Phillipines, a night dive at Redondo Beach in California, St Vincent in the Caribbean, Ulaua Beach in Maui, Hawaii and the Pipeline in Nelson Bay, Australia.
Muck diving will open up a whole new world of spectacular diving for you, so be sure to set your camera on macro and start snapping your collection of super cool and wonderful creatures of the muck diving world.
(By Kelly Luckman)