South East Asia is the main area for muck diving especially in countries like Malaysia (mainly Kapalai and Mabul, in Sabah), Indonesia (mainly the Lembeh Straits, Manado), Philippines (Anilao ) and Bali. This is because the muck in those locations is just perfect for the amazing creatures that you come across while diving here. Creatures like colourful nudibranches, Anglerfish (Frogfish) Shrimp, blue-ringed octopus and rare pygmy seahorses will make divers quiver in excitement which usually leads to frantic banging on their tanks to attract the other divers to look at the treasure found.
Once upon a time in Sabah, everybody wanted to dive at Sipadan and nowhere else. They all wanted to see the “big stuff”. However a clever Japanese man and his friends decided to have a look around Mabul island which is near Sipadan . They applied for some land over the sea and built a resort. Selling mainly to the Japanese market, they soon had droves of Japanese divers who seemed to like diving around Mabul island and the sandbank at Kapalai . This got most of the local dive resort owners curious and before long the secret was out. Mabul and Kapalai was a Mecca for all things macro and weird. Many of the Japanese had seen the big stuff and now were in search of the smaller and rarer marine creatures. Pretty soon, Mabul and Kapalai was on the diving agenda even for divers staying on Sipadan .
|Blue Striped Nudibranch.|
Just after the Chinese New Year holidays this year, my dive buddy and I went to Mabul for a dive holiday. We got our permits and did 4 dives at Sipadan . We saw all that we were supposed to seat Sipadan , such as the black tip and white tip Sharks, reef sharks , turtles, schools of Barracudas , Jacks and the Bump head parade which was all great , but somehow was not as rewarding as the other dives that we did in the muck around Mabul and Kapalai.
The first muck dive we did was at Paradise 1 on Mabul Island. It is a flat sandy area with some man made structures created out of ironwood and old rubber tyres. The first few minutes were spent pretty much looking at bare sand till we came across a couple of large green turtles resting on the bottom. They were totally not bothered with us and gave us this bored look as if to say - here we go again, more divers. Soon we heard some clanking from our dive master and we finned over to see what the ruckus was about. There on the sand, all alone in its glory was the fingered dragonet with its dorsal fins erect and showing off its colours. It was the perfect little dragon heralding in the year of the Dragon. Soon we started to see more critters, Robust Pipefish, which looks just like a brown stick till it starts to
|Orang Utan Crab.|
The next dive was at the house reef at Kapali , where we found more frog fish , ornate ghost pipe fish , peacock coloured mantis shrimp scurrying from the rocks into their burrows, large potato groupers and a couple of crocodile fish . A school of jackfish (Not less than a thousand in the school) came swimming past and gave us a wonderful display that looked like a shimmering curtain of silver fish. We also found a very beautiful black flatworm with a bright pink border on its frills.
You should have seen the smiles on the faces of the divers on the boat trip back to the resort and the passing around of cameras to see who had the best shots. Yes, we do have some incredible Muck diving in Sabah !!
Text by David de la Harpe
Photos by David and San Loh