A Beginner’s Guide to Muck Diving


What is muck diving?

The phrase muck diving was coined by Bob Halstead when he described diving off black sand beaches in Papua New Guinea. This unusual type of diving has gained great popularity and involves diving sites with sandy or silty bottoms, in search of the critters found there. Some of the best sites for muck diving are volcanic areas and sea grass beds.

What can I see when muck diving?

Think weird and wonderful and you’re on the right track. Nudibranchs, cuttlefish, frogfish, sea moths, snake eels, blue-ringed octopus, flying gurnards, pipefish and waspfish are some of the incredible and varied marine life to be found when muck diving.

Who does muck diving appeal to?

Anyone with a keen eye who enjoys scouring small areas to find the bizarre and interesting creatures that live there. This type of diving is highly addictive and much-loved by underwater photographers, especially macro photographers. It offers a whole new world of diving and marine life experiences that otherwise wouldn’t be seen.

Where are the best places to go muck diving?

The hot spots for muck diving are in Southeast Asia including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Here are our top sites for muck diving:

Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

This channel, dividing Lembeh and Sulawesi, is a popular and well-known muck diving area with black sand slopes and a huge variety of critters to experience. Pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, stargazers, hairy and clown frogfish are a few of the types of marine life to be found there.

The area has approximately 35 dive sites including Hairball and Nudi Falls and there are also two Japanese WWII wrecks, Bimoli and Mawali, to explore. Those looking for other types of diving should head to the northern end of the strait for a variety of sites.

The Lembeh Strait can be dived year-round and there are many dive operators on Lembeh.

Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea

Located at the south-eastern tip of PNG’s mainland, this is the home of muck diving and Dinah’s Beach was where it all began. The coastline and surrounding islands offer a variety of muck and coral dives where small critters can be found alongside ocean giants such as manta rays, whale sharks and large pelagic fish species.

Dinah’s Beach is a great muck dive site to find many species of octopi, frogfish, batfish and scorpionfish. The coral pinnacles at Deacon’s Reef provide stunning scenery and corals that are home to many invertebrates. Those looking for bigger species, such as mantas, should visit Wahoo Point. Observation Point is another a dive and photographic highlight; with seagrass, mangroves and seahorses.

The area can be dived year-round. Both shore-based and liveaboard options are available from Alotao.

Mabul & Kapalai, Malaysia

Mabul and Kapalai lie close to world-famous Sipadan and offers sandy, shallow reefs that are home to mandarinfish, frogfish, ribbon eels and various nudibranch species. This is one of the hotspots for muck-diving and is conveniently close to Sipadan as well.

Sipadan’s nutrient-rich waters attract Green and Hawksbill turtles and the area is home to large pelagic fish and visiting hammerhead sharks and manta rays. Mabul and Kapali are just a 20-minute boat ride away and are great bases from which to experience muck diving and Sipadan’s marine life.

The area can be dived year-round and Mabul is the main dive base for trips to Sipadan.

Dauin, the Philippines

Situated in the Visayas region of the Philippines, Dauin is the main muck diving site of the area. The sandy slopes are home to pipefish, seahorses, sea moths, stonefish and many other small critters.

There are also a variety of coral reefs, wall dives and WWII wrecks to explore in the surrounding areas of Negros and Apo Island Marine Sanctuary.

The area can be dived year-round and dive centres can be found in Dumaguete and Dauin.




About Author

Kathryn has lived in the UK, Egypt, South Africa and New Zealand and is a trained scuba diving instructor and Great White shark safari guide. She is the author of No Damage (December 2014), the Managing Editor of The Scuba News New Zealand, a freelance writer, public speaker and co-founder of the marine conservation cause Friends for Sharks (August 2014). In 2015 she organised and completed a 10-month global speaking tour in aid of shark conservation: 87 events, 8 countries, 7000 people. Learn more about Kathryn’s book, No Damage at: http://www.kathrynhodgsonauthor.com/books/no-damage/

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