By Jure Mestek
The best way to describe the fascinating sea critters that dwell in the silty bottom is alien. It comes as no surprise then that they inspired many monsters in the sci-fi lore.
What is a muck dive site?
You might be unfamiliar with the term - at a certain point, we all were. Muck describes an area with specific sediment that covers the bottom. It usually consists of black volcanic sand, silt, natural debris, trash, or coral rubble. The term was coined by Bob Halstead, when he was exploring the black sandy beaches in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. Most muck-diving hotspots are in southeast Asia, and despite not being everyone's cup of tea, they have a huge fan base among scuba divers, especially photographers.
Why should I dive in muck? Yuck.
At first glance, one might think the degraded and seemingly desolated areas are lifeless and uninspiring. Muck dive sites don't offer pretty scenery like coral reefs but rather a unique ecosystem that is both unusual and exotic. Sometimes, yes, disgusting - yet oddly mesmerizing.
Exploring muck dive sites requires a more focused approach: moving slowly and searching meticulously for distinguishable features such as eyes, fins, or sudden movements. Give yourself enough time, and you might spot some evolutionary marvels.
What can I expect to see?
When you slowly blend with the environment and adjust your eyesight, you'll see that the bottom is teeming with life: rare nudibranchs, sea slugs, a variety of pipefish, frogfish, eels, and gazillions of crustaceans, shrimps, and crabs.
The common dwellers are as bizarre as they are captivating. Catching a glimpse of a patient bobbit worm is a sight you won't easily forget.
Even though seasonal, you might see many different ghost pipefish, tiny frogfish, mimic or blue ring octopus, flying gurnards, dragon sea moths, and many more.
Is muck diving for everyone?
Muck diving has a few specifics that you need to take into account. Diving during the day (or night), the visibility is usually below average, especially in comparison with a typical coral reef dive. You need to have good buoyancy and keep your fins up so as not to stir the silt from the bottom, creating an invisibility cloud around you. Dives are usually shallow, so air consumption and deco time are never an issue.
Can I do muck diving in Bali?
Indonesia, together with the Philippines and Malaysia, is among the best muck diving destinations in the world. And Bali, with its wide variety and easy access, is one of them.
In Pemuteran, the best muck diving is in Muck Bay. You really shouldn't let that one slip.
Within a 45-minute drive eastwards hides Puri Jati and westwards Secret Bay. But the fun doesn't need to stop there. If you get a knack for it, muck diving in Tulamben and Amed is just as exciting.