There may come a time in your dive career when you think you’ve seen it all, when you’ve ticked whale sharks, mantas, sharks and a wide variety of tropical reef fish off of your list. Or perhaps you enjoy the excitement and mystery of searching for something elusive underwater. Then it might be time to try muck diving.
What is muck diving?
Muck diving is exactly what it sounds like: diving along a sensitive, sandy bottom, buoy line or fixed line to find the weird and wonderful creatures that hide in the muck.
What can you see?
Sand, sand and more sand. Hidden there you can find vibrantly colored nudibranchs, from the dancer-like flabellina to the yellow pikachu, to sea warts and everything in between. Moving slowly and breathing calmly you can catch gobies and mantis shrimps before they dart back into their holes. In and around sea anemones you can find broken-back shrimp, and sea moths are often dancing in the sand.
Keen eyes can spot different-colored frogfish and a diversity of crabs. Juvenile fish often hang around in these areas, as well as bottom dwellers like stonefish, pipefish and flounders. The things that you’re seeking are often well camouflaged and tiny; getting close to the bottom without stirring it up, along with moving very slowly, enables you to spot them easier and get a better look at everything.
Because good muck diving is usually very close to a sensitive sandy or muddy bottom, good buoyancy control is extremely important. Frog or or butterfly kicks are best, as they move the water less than the conventional, long fin kicks. Using your hands excessively also creates a lot of water movement, which will stir up the bottom. For muck dives you want to disturb the water around you as little as possible, not only to ensure better visibility but also to help you to observe the creatures without disturbing them too much.
Relax and slow down your breathing
Muck diving is a sort of meditation, even more so than normal scuba diving. As you slow down your dive and your movement underwater, your breathing slows down too. 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 secure floating piers.
If there’s muck diving nearby or on your next trip, give it a try. Pack lots of patience, good buoyancy skills and a keen eye — you might be pleasantly surprised with how much you can see in a small area.