User Blog
October 13, 2011
by Emma Kwee

Muck Diving in Puri Jati

Pygmy Seahorse, By: Rick Jungle

Pygmy Seahorse, By: Rick Jungle

Muck diving is all about detecting marine life on the seabed. It’s a favorite pastime of (macro) photographers and requires a good set of eyes, a lot of patience and good buoyancy. Since I didn’t really master the latter yet, am not known for my patience, and tend to overlook things above and under water, I was a bit worried that I might end up kicking up muck with my flippers, spoiling the view for everyone.

Nevertheless, we went muck diving in Puri Jati, a small hamlet located between Lovina and Tulamben, on the north coast of Bali. As muck diving is done in calm, shallow water, the gently descending sandy slope in this spot is perfect for the job.

We waded into the sea and started perusing the seabed for any signs of life. Typically, muck diving revolves around spotting smaller marine life, such as slugs (divers call them nudiebranch, and they come in a dazzling array of shapes and colors), stingray, blue-ringed octopus, and rare pygmy seahorses, lobsters and crabs that might bury themselves into the sand.

Spotting these creatures, that sometimes camouflage themselves by taking on the color of their environment (octopuses are good at that), or hiding in coconuts (as the coconut crab does) can be considered almost an art.

One of the dive instructors, Parman, had a great deal of experience under his belt, from diving in his home waters of Manado, Sulawesi. After about 20 minutes we spotted a mimic octopus. This type of octopus expertly mimics other animals to avert attacks. He can mimic fish or other animals by taking on their shape and even color. This octopus is able to copy the physical likeness and movement of more than fifteen different species, including sea snakes, lionfish, flatfish, brittle stars, giant crabs, sea shells, stingrays, jellyfish, sea anemones, and mantis shrimp.

This animal is so intelligent that it is able to discern which dangerous sea creature to impersonate that will present the greatest threat to its current possible predator. For example, scientists observed that when the octopus was attacked by territorial damselfishes, it mimicked the banded sea snake, a known predator of damselfishes. Take a look at this video to see a mimic octopus in action:

Unfortunately one of his limbs was missing, and wasn’t in the mood to mimic anything. Often, divers disturb, poke or even injure the animals they encounter to get a better shot at them with their camera’s. It goes without saying that we, as mere visitors, should treat all marine life with respect!

Muck diving is an acquired taste. As a beginning diver one might have the tendency to pay more attention to big and colorful fish, and not even notice anything smaller than half a meter. Still, the exploration of all those interesting creatures is a lot of fun.

Good spots for muck diving are the Lembeh Strait near Manado and Mabul and Kapalai in Sabah, Malaysia. Next dive will be in Tulamben, where a Shipwreck by the name of US Liberty serves as an underwater tourist attraction!

3 Responses to Muck Diving in Puri Jati

      • yes great, but many diver will come to PJ and they (critters) might be move to other resident.and Pj not secret beach anymore with beautiful rice field it will be gone in few years :( my poor bali :(
        • Hi RZA, yes, we share your concerns...that's why I warn divers to respect the critters they encounter and their natural habitat;-)

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