Enjoy The Smaller Things In Life
When diving Thailand, most people hope to see the large pelagic such as sharks and manta rays or big schools of fish that although mind blowing are pretty easy to spot! However, the little things that are much harder to spot can be just as rewarding and just as fascinating to see.
Macro diving is for divers with a keen eye, that want to get up close and personal with some of the smaller creatures that inhibit our oceans. They may have less statue than a Whaleshark or Manta Ray but they are just as fascinating to watch.
The term “macro” diving comes from the lenses underwater photographers use when taking shots of tiny subjects.
This term was then adopted by the scuba diving community as a whole for dives that would focus more on the small marine life that our oceans and seas are teeming with.
Most macro habitats are shallow sandy sites which do not have the dangers of large predators. This enables the smaller creatures to dominate the local eco system and to develop into adults in safety.
The areas should also be free of strong currents and swells as to not damage the environment in which the creatures live and also give juveniles a better chance of not being pushed out into the dangers of deeper water.
Eye Spy, With My Little Eye
Koh Tao is not well known for its macro diving, but that’s not to say there isn’t a wealth of tiny life out there for you to spot, watch and enjoy.
Here is a rundown of some of the smaller things you can hope to see when looking for macro life on Koh Tao:
These are a type of slug which shed their shells very early on in life. A big favorite of macro divers and photographers due to their striking colours and forms. Nudibranchs are often spotted crawling on corals and sponges among the reef.
These fascinating critters also boast spectacular colours and often look as if they are dancing away as they move around a dive site due to their “skirt”. These guys can be seen around coral reefs and around on the sand.
Koh Tao has 3 main species of shrimp of which you can see: Durban dancing, cleaner shrimp and boxer shrimp but for the keen eye you can also see sawblade and mantis shrimps here. Shrimps are commonly found inside crevices and gaps between rocks on dive sites but can also be seen on wrecks and between nooks and crannys on other artificial reef structures.
These guys look like tiny snakes but actually belong to the same family as seahorses with their name coming from the shape of their elongated snout. We have 2 species of Pipefish here on “Turtle Island”, the Banded and Janss’ pipefish, which can spotted in sheltered areas such as inside HTMS Sattukut and under rock formations.
A rare but firm favorite of people diving on Koh Tao, the most common place to spot these guys is at Mango Bay on the north of Koh Tao where they like to hang out in the sand.
The ultimate find for any true macro diver on Koh Tao! A very rare critter to these shores that can be found on the corals of Aow Leuk and also Japanese Garden. Also known as an Anglerfish these are small, short and stocky with an ability to mimic its surroundings to make it very difficult to spot.
Top Tips To Improve Your Macro Dive
To ensure your dive doesn’t become a game of “Where’s Wally”, follow these tips and enhance your chances of finding that specific little critter you are hoping to see.
1. Go Slow
As you were told during your Open water course, “the slower you go the more you will see”, this is definitely true for macro diving. Swimming slowly will give a better opportunity to see small movements by animals and time to observe abnormalities on a reef that could be a camouflaged creature.
2. Improve Your Buoyancy
Having good buoyancy will enable you to get closer to potential habitats that may have critters inside. Also having the ability to get close to subjects will give you a better chance of capturing a photo if you have a camera.
Learning about the habitats and habits of the marine life you want to see will give you a better chance of finding them as you will know where to look.
4. Look For The Eyes
When looking for a camouflaged creature the eyes will always give them away even if the rest blends perfectly in with its background.
Dive with a local – Diving with a Divemaster will give you access to invaluable local knowledge. These dive professionals will know the location of all resident macro critters in the local area and hopefully increase your chances of spotting what you came to see.
Author: Neil Davidson (PADI MSDT #294100)