Muck Diving on Koh Tao
Fancy a change when diving? Want a different type of diving challenge? Ever wondered what is out there away from the coral reefs? This is what muck diving is all about! This a favourite pastime of advanced divers, macro divers and budding underwater photographers. Many unique and exotic marine animals can be found for those with a keen eye and plenty of patience.
What is “Muck Diving”?
Muck diving is usually found in sandy, silty bottoms, often situated away from the coral reef. This can mean visibility is easily reduced. Ideal areas often consist of natural debris such as coral skeletons as well as unfortunate man-made rubbish like tyres and fishing equipment.
These areas can be a short distance from regular dive sites or just off the beach during shore dives. The term “muck diving” was first coined by scuba diving legend Bob Halstead as he dived off the beaches of Papua New Guinea.
Discover and Explore
As this type of diving is away from the normal reef and dive sites it gets you back to one of the key components of why people become scuba divers – to explore new areas and discover new amazing creatures. There will certainly be reduced diver traffic as you head out into the sand for your new challenge and you should find some hidden gems lying out there. There may not be many fish for you to see but with patience and a little experience you will find different eco systems and unusual creatures that often don’t inhabit the coral reef.
Tips and Tricks
The key to muck diving is having great buoyancy, being able to move very slowly and not disturbing the bottom is essential for viewing the hidden creatures you will find out there. The silt can very easily be disturbed so ensure your fin kicks are not creating a dust cloud behind you. The frog kick technique, while ensuring your fins are raised behind you, is the best way to go.
Remain focused on the environment and look for anything that looks slightly out of place. Usually the easiest way to spot a camouflaged critter is to look out for fins or eyes. Take your time and carefully study every object you come across ensuring to also look underneath things, as often these are favourite hiding places of creatures such as shrimps.
You should ensure you research the area before joining the dive trip, asking the local dive shops and guides to get a better understanding of the local area and knowledge of what marine life you could expect to see and where you may see it. The can be a few hidden dangers such as scorpion fish and stone fish that you should be aware of as they can easily blend into their surroundings with their excellent camouflage.
The Mucky Sites on Koh Tao
One of the joys of muck diving Koh tao is the ease of access. It really is as easy as grabbing your scuba equipment and a buddy before heading straight off the beach for a dive in the sand. Koh Tao beaches such as Chalok Ban Khao and Sai Nuan on the southern end of the island offer lovely shallow sites for you to have a look around.
There are also a few Koh Tao dive sites where once you venture off the main reef you have a good chance of coming across different marine species. Mango Bay on the North side of Koh Tao is a large bay with corals on either side but a nice large sand patch in the middle for you to explore.
Koh Tao’s Top Muck Diving Creatures….
These creatures are abundant in other diving areas around Thailand but sightings are quite rare here on Koh Tao especially upon the main coral reefs. But whilst out in the sand they can be found around the dive sites such as White Rock. The lionfish makes a beautiful underwater photography subject with its majestic fins and lovely colouration.
A burrowing eel that is a nervous creature rarely leaving its burrow to explore, these can be seen in the big sand patch of Mango Bay with them popping their heads out of the sand. This species is more placid when compared to its cousins the morays. The snake eel is pointed to help dig the hole which becomes its protective burrow.
A big favourite for scuba divers of all levels to come across due to its uniquely cute appearance. Sightings of these animals are varied with them popping up at Twins, Mango Bay and Tao Tong in recent times. They are named for their similarity in appearance to the equine species with bent necks and long snouted heads followed by their distinctive tail.
A truly amazing creature that can change its colour in a blink of an eye making this Cephalopod a master of camouflage. The change in colours can also be used to communicate with other cuttlefish when warning off rivals, attracting a mate and even to help coordinate hunting with other cuttlefish.
These strikingly coloured little slugs are fascinating to watch under the water and a favourite for avid muck divers. Here on Koh Tao we have had 64 different species recorded around the island. The word ‘nudibranch‘ is originated from the Latin word ‘nudus’ (meaning naked) as this animal uses its dorids to breathe, this is basically a naked gill situated on its back.
Author: Neil Davidson (PADI MSDT #294100)