Muck diving

With some of the richest seas on earth, the Southeast Asian region in which Mabul is located is a world-class muck diving destination.

Besides regular dive sites, there are numerous muck diving sites in Mabul.

What is muck diving?

Muck diving is the term used to describe the murky surroundings at the bottom of dive sites, consisting mainly of sand, silt and sediment as well as natural debris such as dead corals and coral rubble.

Visibility is often limited when compared to other types of dive sites. However, many small yet vivid and bizzare-looking marine species thrive in these environments.

Muck diving lets you get up close and personal with these rare aquatic lifeforms, most of which cannot be found elsewhere.

Here in Mabul, one can expect to encounter creatures such as the pygmy seahorse, anglerfish, blue-ringed octopus, nudibranchs and more.

The blue-ringed octopus. Photographed in Mabul by Angell Williams.

Who goes muck diving?

Muck diving is a favourite activity amongst beginner and advanced scuba divers, in particular those with a keen interest in underwater macro photography.

Compared to reef diving where you can expect clear blue water, coral gardens and large marine animal sightings or wreck diving where you can just look around and admire the entire scene, with muck diving it’s all in the details.

Most of the subjects are small, with many of them being best viewed using a macro lens or even a magnifying glass.

Muck divers are generally expected to have good buoyancy control, as most of the time will be spent scouring the bottom of the ocean.

Nudibranch captured by Andrei Voinigescu while muck diving in Mabul.

Where to go muck diving

There are countless muck diving sites here in the Coral Triangle, the world’s most diverse marine environment according to WWF.

The tropical climate and calm shallows add to the popularity of the region for this type of activity.

The best muck diving sites in Mabul itself include Paradise I and II, Crocodile Avenue and Froggy Lair.

Besides Mabul and neighbouring Kapalai, other heavyweights in the muck diving scene include:

  • Anilao, Dauin and Dumaguete (Philippines);
  • Alor, Bali, Lembeh Straits and Ambon Bay (Indonesia);
  • Milne Bay (Papua New Guinea); and
  • Gulen (Norway).
A type of nudibranch commonly found in Mabul. Photographed by Samuel Chow.

When to go muck diving

With hot, sunny days and warm, balmy nights all year long, muck dives in Mabul may be carried out throughout the year.

The dives generally take place in shallow and warm waters. Couple this with the fact that several resorts in Mabul offer free unlimited jetty/house reef diving, one can literally spend hours underwater searching amongst the rubble for their next surprise.

Juvenile Trunk Fish photographed by Barry Peters in Mabul’s Paradise dive site.

Other considerations

Most muck divers equip themselves with stainless steel muck sticks, around 14 inches in length, to help them avoid contact with the bottom. Most of these muck sticks come with a clip or lanyard so they may be attached to one’s buoyancy control device.

The stick is gently introduced into the sand, and is used to hold oneself in place or as a monopod of sorts for a camera or even for banging on one’s tank to get the attention of another diver.

Used properly, the stick is the only thing to contact the bottom on a muck dive – the diver and his or her camera are well clear of the bottom, with fins up as well.

Nitrox and muck diving are a good combination. Typically, muck dive sites are flat or slope gradually, and depths usually range from 6 to 20+ meters. Nitrox allows for really generous bottom times in these conditions.

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