Best Muck Diving destinations for finding Tiny Critters

Scuba Diving in The Maldives

Book Your All Inclusive Vacation and save 25% in Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts, Maldives
Book Your All Inclusive Vacation and save 25% in Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts, Maldives
Follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest news:
Follow Maldives Magazine social media
Follow Maldives Magazine social media
Rhinopias, Indonesia - Courtesy of Samambaia liveaboard

16 August, 2023

If you think there's no reason to dive in low visibility over a mucky bottom of silt, sand, and natural or manmade debris, think again: some of the world's weirdest, most unique sea creatures live in this very environment. Welcome to muck diving! Along the shores of volcanic landmasses, especially near brackish river mouths, dead coral and organic matter mix with mineral-rich sand and silt to create a habitat unsuitable for many species. However, evolution was up for the challenge, and brought forth a cast of characters with incredible adaptations, ready to amaze divers who have patience, keen eyesight, and curiosity.

Muck diving creatures are often small, camouflaged, or hidden, and finding them is half the fun. Many would even say that the treasure hunt of muck diving makes you a better diver overall- more observant, knowledgeable, and appreciative of any environment you encounter. And you may be surprised by how excited you'll feel about seeing, for example, a pink Hairy Frogfish with bizarre fuzzy follicles swaying in the current, or a Mimic Octopus pretending to be a flounder, even compared with the excitement of seeing mantas, sharks or turtles.

Many liveaboards offer top-quality muck diving in the world's tropical muck diving paradise: the Coral Triangle. This rough polygon of the ocean in the Indo-pacific, encompassing Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Malaysia, contains more species of coral, fish, and invertebrates than anywhere else in the world. What's more, volcanic activity created many of the islands in these countries, and their tropical rivers provide the freshwater outflow that nourishes muck diving conditions.


With over 17,000 islands, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, and contains four times as much ocean as land. It's known to be a muck diving paradise.

Juvenile Painted Frogfish, Indonesia - Courtesy of Amira liveaboard

In Lembeh Strait, more than 30 black sand dive sites teeming with kaleidoscopic nudibranchs, gorgeous little Mandarinfish, pygmy seahorses, Weedy Scorpionfish, ghost pipefish, and plenty other species, some of which are endemic. Night diving in Lembeh is a favorite of many divers. In Alor, Biangabang beach is critter paradise, with black volcanic sand full of sea moths, mantis shrimp, and frogfish; this area also offers great night diving.

Ambon, as world-famous for muck diving as Lembeh, hosts rare animals like the Ambon Scorpionfish and the Halimeda Ghost Pipefish, the latter imitating a small, circular algae species. A search through bottom-lying detritus yields Orange-Painted Frogfish, all kinds of morays, devilfish, and Mandarinfish (whose swirling mating dance you can view at dusk).

Wakatobi in the Sulawesi area is truly a coral reef site more than a muck diving area, but the macro species are just as satisfying. Wakatobi holds many photogenic shrimp species, such as Coleman Shrimp on glowing fire urchins, the shy but powerful Peacock Mantis Shrimp, and Harlequin Shrimp munching on starfish. Cuttlefish, Blue-ringed Octopus, Wonderpus, and Coconut Octopus can all be found, the last curled sneakily inside the shells of sunken coconut husks. Raja Ampat, like Wakatobi, is a coral reef macro destination- it's famous for pygmy seahorses, endless nudibranchs, frogfish, and Blue-ringed Octopus.

Muck diving Liveaboards in Indonesia: Ondina | Tambora | Mermaid I | Waow | Raja Ampat Aggressor | MV Samambaia | Alila Purnama

The Philippines

This country's 7107 islands make it the second-largest archipelago in the world, and its diversity of species is legendary.

In Dauin, the car wrecks and concrete blocks of artificial reefs are home to cuttlefish, octopus, seahorses, frogfish, and ghost pipefish. On the nearby sandy bottom, molluscs like Wonderpus, Blue-ringed Octopus, Mimic Octopus, and Flamboyant Cuttlefish show off their color-changing and shape-changing prowess.

Hairy Frogfish, Philippines - Courtesy of Seadoors liveaboard

Cabilao in Bohol has a slope and plateau full of stargazers, crocodile snake-eels, scorpionfish, and Cabilao's holy trinity (pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish, and sea moths). In Moalboal, Pescador Island's night dive displays scurrying crabs, tons of nudibranchs, cuttlefish, and eels.

Puerto Galera is a renowned muck area, with Hairy Frogfish, Thorny Seahorses, flying gurnards, sea moths, nudibranchs, bobbitt worms, Mimic Octopus, and Wonderpus. Go night diving to see the molluscs hunt for prey.

Muck diving Liveaboards in the Philippines: Philippine Siren | Seadoors | Solitude One | MV Discovery Palawan | Atlantis Azores

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea still holds primary forest and diverse cultural groups, as well as sharks and other threatened marine life. Its remote location means you'll have the water to yourself. To top it all off, this country virtually invented muck diving.

Milne Bay in the southeast corner of the PNG mainland birthed muck diving in the 1980s, when a group of divers decided to check out the spot their boat had randomly anchored. It remains the world's premier muck diving site, with a substrate of black sand, broken old coral, and rotting branches and a slew of octopi, shrimps, crabs, nudibranchs (including Spanish Dancers), snake eels, stargazers, Mandarinfish, frogfish, cuttlefish, scorpionfish, seahorses... you name it, you got it.

Diving Kimbe Bay is more about big fish (barracuda, sharks, Napoleon Wrasse) than small critters, except for the black sand of Wire Bay. Here, Leaf Scorpionfish, nudibranchs, shrimps, and photogenic anemonefish provide plenty of fodder for your camera.

Muck diving Liveaboards in Papua New Guinea: MV Chertan | Febrina


The Borneo area of underwater Malaysia holds impressive biodiversity and a long history of being loved by divers, from Jacques Cousteau to the hundreds of today's annual visitors. Its muck diving sites are in the top five worldwide.

In Mabul, the dive site Froggy Lair teems with frogfish (obviously), cuttlefish, and ornate ghost pipefish. At the dive site Crocodile Avenue, where a sandy slope meets reef and rocks, a rare crocodilefish species makes its home, along with seahorses, mantis shrimp, lobster, snake eels, frogfish, nudibranchs, and octopi.

Kapalai has an artificial house reef full of charismatic creatures: Blue-ringed Octopus, Mimic Octopus, Orangutan Crabs, countless nudibranchs and shrimps, Harlequin Ghost Pipefish, Mandarinfish, Leaf Scorpionfish, wasp fish, and frogfish.

Muck diving Liveaboards in Malaysia: Celebes Explorer

Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia - Courtesy of Vicki Jones (

Top Tips for Muck Diving

To get the most out of your muck dive,

  • Go slow and look carefully for the small stuff.
  • Master the frog kick so you don't stir up the silt.
  • Learn about the species you should be looking for.
  • Practice patience, and try underwater photography.

If you give it a chance, muck diving may win your heart and passion more quickly than you expect.

Related stories

Scuba Diving in the Maldives

Scuba Diving in the Maldives

Scuba diving in the Maldives means diving at one of the worlds best scuba diving destinations, because of the white sand beaches, coral reefs, clear warm waters, dive sites and a thriving and vibrant marine life. Explore excellent dive sites and a collection of underwater gardens. They're abundant with extensive coral reefs and magnificent fish life. It's common to see sharks, turtles, manta rays, whale sharks and a kaleidoscopic range of tropical sea creatures.

Read More
what is better: beach or overwater

Beach or Water Villa?

Maldives - a name that became synonymous with honeymooners' paradise in the tourism world, has slowly revamped to cater to the needs of families visiting

Read More
Maldives Resort Offers & Packages

Best Maldives Resort Offers & Packages

Find out more about the most unparalleled Maldives hotel deals and special rates, when Book Direct your next beach holiday

Read More
Best Resorts for Vegetarians

Maldives Hotel Reviews

Some of the best hotels and resorts in the Maldives are already included in this list, and the good part of them offers the best prices. We will constantly add new hotels

Read More
10 Exclusive Resorts in Maldives

10 Exclusive Resorts in Maldives

The Maldives is paradise destination that should be on the bucket list of every discerning travelers. There's a special breed of hotels there that cater to the most tasteful of luxury travelers Read More

water pool villas, male

Newest Maldives resorts to Explore in 2024

Here are just 10 of the amazing new resorts in the Maldives that are set to welcome guests Read More

10 Cheapest Water Villa Resorts in Maldives

10 Most Affordable Water Villas

While it may never be cheap to visit thу Maldives, fortunately there are still some chic and relatively affordable overwater villas you can stay. Read more

luxury privaye villa

Maldives Luxury Guide

Here's the best of Maldives for luxury travellers. We've compiled the finest recommendations of places to stay, ranging from the most celebrated five-star resorts to luxurious private islands Read More


Maldives Romantic Guide

The ultimate ‘flop and drop' and honeymoon destination, the Maldives is the playground for the most amazing and finest utilization of each second of this extremely valuable and hopeful time with each other in tota Read More

maldives on the cheap

Maldives Budget Guide

Budget travellers choose Maldives as their destination of choice thanks to the variety of affordable stays  Read More

family holiday

Maldives Family Guide

Maldives - a name that became synonymous with honeymooners' paradise in the tourism world, has slowly Read More

scuba diving in the maldives ultimate guide

Maldives Diving Guide

The life of these paradise islands below the Indian Ocean's level is the main draw attracting thousands of divers Read More