I kept this diary of things we have done in Singapore for 2 years. I have now moved some of it to other travel pages but you can still find links to many of our activities here. I have also created a reading list of books we have read about the region.

Western Japan

Birds in Singapore

Kuala Lumpur stopover

Thai Diving

Singapore Liveaboard

Local Residents

Beijing Summer

Diving with Sharks

Shanghai Heatwave

Taiwan Tourists

An Indian week

Where U bin?

Island hideaway

Steamy running

A Trip to the Zoo

Gardens by the Bay

Jakarta

Singapore walks

Mind the bus

Flower power

Melaka

Early weeks

 

Vicky's Blog

 

"What's the point of muck diving?" we asked ourselves when we first heard about it two years ago from some enthusiastic Americans that we met in Melaka. Unlike most other diving in tropical waters you spend most of your time swimming over black silty sea bed rather than pretty reefs. You might go for 15 minutes without seeing anything at all. The appeal to enthusiasts is that the Lembeh Strait, mecca for muck divers, has an amazing diversity of unusual critters: octopus, frog fish, nudibranchs, crabs and shrimps. The problem is that first you have to find them and many of them spend most of their time buried in the muck! Well we are always up for new experiences so we gave it a go...

First impressions are very favourable. On a recommendation from some divers we stay in Black Sand Dive Retreat, a six bungalow divers resort on the mainland side of the Strait. About 90 minutes drive from Manado, it is set in fine gardens on the steep hillside and our very comfortable room had great views over the water. Semi-outdoor shower rooms are also beautifully done - we had a beautiful ginger plant in ours. The dive shop is well equipped and three small dive boats ensure that the dives don't get too crowded. There is also a nice swimming pool where you can sun yourself between dives. There is now an abundance of dive resorts in Lembeh but I think we chose well.

A real challenge with muck diving is the muck! There was quite a lot of sediment in the water from time to time when we were in Lembeh and the slightest flick of a fin (or hand on the bottom) sends up clouds of silt that can swamp your fine photo of a zebra batfish (above) - and this is one of the many fish that I had not seen before. I am told that with a well positioned strobe (flash) you can minimise the backscatter but I find it pretty hit and miss.

We do manage to see quite a bit of interesting stuff. No blue ringed octopus or hairy frogfish but I track down the rather disgusting bobbit worm. This primitive creature (above) lurks under the sand and then shoots out at night to grab fish in its sharp jaws and then eat them! About 3-4 cm wide and (I am told) up to around 3 metres long they look like something out of a science fiction movie. This one didn't catch any fish while I was there but pretty impressive anyway.

We do find (well actually our guide does) some interesting little stuff as well. In fact often you need to photograph the tiny critters and look at them back on the computer as they are so small. Above is a hairy squat lobster who only lives on a particular purple soft coral - about 1cm long. Many of these creatures live on a very specific habitat - bubble coral shrimps, anemone crabs.

I expect that I will be back for more muck diving although interspersed with more scenic locations. We did find coral on some dives - in fact one of the most unpromising dive sites - under an old liveaboard - turned out to have some great mandarin fish in the coral and rubble just underneath. It was interesting finding some more marine life and the scenery above water is fantastic but cruising over all that muck for an hour at a time can be a bit dull. Having just dived in Raja Ampat (where you get great underwater scenery and amazing wildlife) we might be a bit spoilt. Maybe after a few different dive locations I will be yearning for those frogfish in the muck again. You can read Vicky's Blog about the trip here. For information about the dives and how to get there click here.

Here are a few more pictures from the trip ...