There might be a point in your dive career when you might think ‘I’ve seen it all’, when you’ve ticked whalesharks, manta’s, sharks and a wide variety of tropical reef fish off of your list. Or perhaps you enjoy the excitement and mystery of treasure hunt-diving… Then it might be time to try your hand at muck diving.
What is muck diving?
Muck diving is exactly that: diving along a sensitive, sandy bottom, buoy line or fixed line to find the weird and wonderful creatures that hide there. Often very small areas are explored as you spend less time swimming around and more time hovering, looking for small critters.
What can you see?
Sand, sand and lots of sand. Hidden there you can find beautiful, vibrantly coloured nudibranches from the dancer like flabellina to picatchu’s, sea warts and everything in between. Moving slowly and breathing calmly you can catch many gobies and mantis shrimps before they dart off to hide in their holes. In and around sea anemones you can find broke back shrimps, and seamoths are often found dancing in the sand.
Keen eyes could spot frog fish in different colours, and a diversity of crabs. Many juvenile fish often hang around in these areas as well as bottom dwellers like stone fish, pipefish and flounders.
Come close to the bottom or structures
The things that you are looking for are often very well camouflaged and tiny. Coming closer to the bottom, along with moving very slowly, enables you to spot them easier and get a better look at everything.
Because good muck diving is usually done very close to a sensitive, sandy or muddy bottom, good buoyancy control is extremely important in order not to disturb the bottom and, with this, messing up the visibility.
When kicking frog- or butterfly kicks are better as the produce slightly less water movement than the conventional long, efficient fin kicks that you are taught during your entry level dive course.
Using your hands excessively also creates a lot of water movement that will stir up the bottom. For muck dives you want to disturb the water around you as little as possible, this not only ensures better visibility but also helps you to observe the creatures without disturbing them too much.
Relax and focus on slowing down your breathing
Muck diving is a sort of meditation, even more than normal scuba diving. As you slow down your dive and your movement under water, your breathing slows down. Away from the bustling reefs your mind slows down as you start to focus on the small things that you find in holes and anemones and clinging to sea wisps, soft coral and even buoy lines or the chains that secures floating piers.
If you go to an area where muck diving is offered, give it a try, you might just be pleasantly surprised! Be sure to pack lots of patience, good buoyancy skills and a keen eye, and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised!!
*A version of this article first appeared at www.scubadiverlife.com