When I first started scuba diving, one big reason was to see large marine animals like whale sharks and manta rays in the wild – I still find it pretty wild (pun fully intended) that I am somehow able to exist within metres of these beautiful creatures. But the more I dived, the more interested I became instead in the tinier wildlife instead. I never appreciated the existence of these truly weird and wonderful macro creatures until I went muck diving in Lembeh near Manado a few years ago.
The folks of Asia Diving Vacation who sponsored this post share that same love of the macro life found in our sea waters, and asked me to dust off my collection of weird macro creature shots to show you guys just why you shouldn’t miss out on muck diving in Lembeh or other popular spots like Ambon, Mabul and Anilao or even in Singapore’s own waters. They also gave me some photography and diving tips to help any potential underwater photographers looking to create their own macro-life collection.
What is muck diving?
Muck diving usually takes place in an areas which are covered in sand or sediment. While it often seems rather bare and desolate at first glance, there are actually plenty of weird tiny creatures hanging out in the sandy bottom, so the trick here is to take it slow and be patient, keep a sharp eye out and for goodness sake practice your buoyancy and don’t kick up the fine sand because that’s when the water really becomes ‘mucky’ and spoils your photos!
Tips for diving in Lembeh Straits
Some tips for you if you are thinking about diving in Lembeh Straits – the water there can be a bit colder and drop to around 24ºC around August, but this is probably the best time for photographers as these creatures are more abundant in cooler waters.
You will need some patience and time, so besides your buoyancy, work on how to breathe efficiently and make your air last as long as possible. Relax, don’t panic and suck down all that air, and hopefully you can extend your bottom time a little longer for better photos.
Cool tiny creatures to look out for
Here’s a look at some of the kind of weird critters you can find when muck diving and my favourite ones to photograph.
Nudibranchs or nudis are basically sea slugs of sorts, but there are over 3,000 different species with a whole range of shapes, sizes, colours and patterns, so it’s pretty fun to see how many different types of nudibranch you can photograph in a single dive.
This is what I photographed over 2 days diving in Lembeh Straits, such variety and colour!
What I personally love is how slow-moving Nudibranchs are, so they are great for beginner photographers because you can take your time to get a good shot, and their colours just make them so fun to photograph.
Another really interesting creature is the frogfish, which are actually types of anglerfish. They can be tricky to find because they are usually the exact same colour and lumpiness as the coral around them. You often only realise they are actually a fish when you notice their faces!
They are also great to photograph because they don’t move very much – they have these really weird side fins that they use to ‘walk’ around on instead of swimming like normal fish do. They have an air bladder which they use to control their buoyancy, which sounds a lot like human diving gear.
Seahorses are also strange creatures worth photographing. My favourite are the pygmy seahorses that you find on seafans, but usually at around 30m so you have to be quick about finding and photographing them if you want to spend more time underwater. They are a lot less cute than media would have you believe, and awfully floppy.
Random weird critters
What I find fascinating about muck diving is the sheer weirdness that you can find in these waters that you just don’t get in normal reefs. There are some strange creatures in the sand, y’all.
As you can see, scuba diving isn’t just about amazing big creatures, the smaller stuff is equally and I daresay perhaps even more fascinating, colourful and so, so strange.
Are you headed off on a scuba dive trip for tiny creatures soon? Why not check out my posts for similar spots like Anilao in the Philippines, or my full Manado and Lembeh dive logs where I saw some fascinating bigger creatures like octopi and cuttlefish as well. Singaporeans you don’t even have to travel overseas – Pulau Hantu has a whole lot of nudibranchs that I’ve only recently discovered.
This is a sponsored post by AsiaDivingVacation who specialise in dive vacations around Asia, check them out if you want to do some macro diving in Mabul Island off Sipadan, or see the underwater glory of my dream destination, Raja Ampat.