Muck Diving in Sydney, what the?
There are so many fantastic avenues to pursue with scuba diving, from wreck diving to deep diving and beyond. One lesser known scuba activity is muck diving. This is possibly my own and many photography enthusiasts favourite type of diving. So what is muck? It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect, find the siltiest dirtiest seabed and you have found yourself some muck. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that visibility will be bad, indeed some of the best visibility in Sydney can occasionally be found on a muck diving site. Although if you want to keep it that way make sure your buoyancy control is up to scratch as bouncing off the bottom will drastically lower the visibility. A PPB (peak performance buoyancy) course can help you avoid clouding up the dive site and irritating your buddy.
So what creatures can you expect to find at a muck site? Definitely some of the more unusual sea creatures. Anglerfish prowl the ocean floor looking for a quick oversized meal. These strange fish walk along the seabed or up rocky walls, while dangling their lures out in front hopping a shrimp will get a little too curious. Their huge mouths open, easily consuming prey half their size in a single bite. With a huge array of colours and patterns everyone you come across is distinct.
Seahorse are also frequent visitors to muck diving sites. Latching onto sponges or old pool netting it takes a trained and experienced eye to spot them. Often there will be a dozen or so in close proximity that go totally unnoticed by the average diver. Multiple species and variants will often inhabit the same area, more than once I have taken a photo only to discover upon post processing that another seahorse has snuck into the corner of the frame. If you happen to notice one or two with big bellies it will often be because they are pregnant, a beautiful site to see.
A muck site typically occurs just off the shore and starts around three metres or deeper when the sand line turns to silt. Rivers and harbours often contain the right conditions, a local Sydney favourite is Lilli Pilli. With swimming nets to attract the seahorses and small silty rocky reefs to bring in the Anglerfish some would say it has it all. There is also a handful of old glass bottles randomly along the seafloor, the perfect location to see a cheeky bottle blenny peering out at you. If you want to observe something different check up in the little crevices and cracks for a Malabar grouper or the rare sea turtle visitor.
Photographers often develop an obsession and love for these muck dive sites. Rarely does the sealife you encounter move quickly meaning you can really perfect your focusing. Usually the marine creatures will remain in the exact same spot for weeks at a time allowing you to get good tips from the local dive shop on what’s currently under the water and where to find it. Just watch that strobe placement and angle when taking photos, a photography course will explain the basics of scattering angles to allow you to get that crystal clear shot in the water of a muck dive.
So what are you waiting for, go get your MUCK on!!!