The warm waters off the cost of Anda, Bohol in The Philippines is a haven for all manner of critters. Even better, there are only a handful of dive operators in the area, so you are likely to be the only divers on any given site, giving you plenty of time and space to explore. We were only there for 3 days of diving, and yet in such a short time, we were treated to a huge array of macro critters.
You have already seen our blogs on the Shaun the Sheep Nudibranch and the incredible night dive, so we just want to fill in some of the gaps and show you what marine life you can find on the reefs and sandy seabed that run along this productive coastline.
Macro junkies will be rewarded on every dive here! Tiny crustaceans and nudibranch can be found on every dive. Porcelain and candy crabs are photographer’s favourites, but there are plenty more to be on the lookout for. Sea Slugs come in all colours and sizes from the minute (sometimes too small for us to see with the naked eye) to large, on one dive we must have seen over 20 different species. While it might take you a little while to be able to spot the smaller species, the dive guides here have eagle-eyes, and are always on the look out for marine life to point out to you.
Pigmy seahorses live on the house reef, as well as dive sites all along the coast, and we have never seen so many of their cousins, the ghost pipefish. The team at Magic Oceans have introduced a Code of Conduct for photographing Pigmy Seahorses which is available here on their website. On the sandy muck dives, small thorny seahorses could be found just swaying on the seabed.
Frogfish, a creature close to our hearts, also feature on pretty much every dive. On one dive, a large orange frogfish, very much like the one that featured on our logo, took a shine to Caroline, leapt off his perch and slowly made his way, somewhat clumsily, over to her (watch video to the end), falling off the edge of the reef in a comedy frogfish moment.
As well as all this marvelous macro, the reef tops here are packed with healthy corals where turtles like to hang out, so the diving at Magic Oceans has lots to offer. In our three days of diving, we packed in 10 dives and would have been delighted to stay on and do more, but it was time for us to move on to Atmosphere Resort. Fingers crossed we will be back to visit the Magic Resorts team soon…
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Critter Diving in Dumaguete
Words and Images by Marty Snyderman
While the term “muck diving” is one that would probably not pass a smell test with the marketing gurus on Madison Avenue, experienced muck divers know exploring the muck to be a featured attraction of diving in the water surrounding our resorts at both Atlantis Puerto Galera and Atlantis Dumaguete.
If you are new to diving or simply have not yet enjoyed the opportunity to muck dive, you might not be familiar with the term muck diving. Don’t let your lack of familiarity or the name turn you away. The term muck diving was first used to describe exploring areas where the bottom consists of black sand, mud and silt in sites that are often influenced by some current flow and a source of freshwater. Over the years the definition has expanded, and today the term muck diving is often used to describe dives over almost any area that has a soft bottom as well as dives around structures such as a pier or dock where the pilings along with discarded tires, bottles and other man-made objects combine to provide habitat and hiding places for all kinds of creatures.
But it is not just the nature of the sea floor or number of species that one might see that has made muck diving so popular. It is the fact that many of the encountered creatures are so bizarre, amazing, different, and well adapted for their life style and their chosen habitat that they routinely leave divers in awe of what Mother Nature has to share. Creatures such as ornate, robust, and halimeda ghostpipefishes, shrimpgobies and their partner shrimps, strange-looking scorpionfishes, sea moths, skeleton shrimp, decorator crabs, stargazers, gurnards, frogfishes, cuttlefishes, seahorses, octopuses, and snake eels are daily fare in muck sites.
In many muck diving areas, the bottom is not completely barren. Small patch reefs and anemones in the sand provide refuge for additional species of fishes, crabs, shrimps, lobsters, and squids etc. In short, muck diving can be crazy good!
The Muck Diving Experience
For many divers the first time they look around after entering the water at some highly acclaimed muck diving site, their heart sinks as the surroundings do not bring the term beauty to mind. Drab is usually more like it, and upon first consideration most muck diving sites look boring. But you’ll be selling muck diving short if you judge this book by its cover. Just trust those that brought you to the site and go see what there is to see. Odds are you’ll be absolutely amazed.
Muck Diving Technique
In many muck sites it is extremely easy to stir up the bottom and reduce the visibility with a single kick of a fin or the loss of buoyancy that causes a diver to crash into the sea floor. It is best to keep kicking and all other movements to an absolute minimum, and to achieve and maintain neutral buoyancy.
After that, it is “get low, go slow, be curious, and look closely” as you scour the bottom and any structure whether a soft coral, sponge, or debris such as a dead leaf or piece of driftwood on the sea floor. Take two looks at the slightest aberration. See something that looks just slightly different than its surroundings, and the odds are that you will be looking at some mind-blowing animal.
Be patient with yourself as you learn “how to look”. Divers that are new to muck diving almost always swim past subject after subject without spotting them during their first several muck dives. And they are almost universally amazed by the animals their dive guides spot. It is like the guides and new divers are diving in different oceans.
The key to the guides’ success is that they know where, how to look, and who they are looking for. Of course, gaining that expertise takes time. No doubt, their experience is a huge help. When you ask them how they do what they do, they are usually quick to tell you they “get low, go slow, remain curious, and look closely”. And I’ll throw in a “have fun and allow yourself to be amazed by Mother Nature”.
Visit www.atlantishotel.com to find out more!
Introducing Thresher Shark Indonesia
Thresher Shark Indonesia was founded in 2018. Their work aims to protect endangered pelagic thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus) in Alor Island, Indonesia through investigating the critical habitat, socio-economic importance of the species for the community and conservation outreach to local schools. They combine research and community engagement to inform policy decision for local protection of the species.
Thresher Shark Indonesia first documented thresher shark sighting around Alor diving sites, they began collecting movement information through satellite tagging studies, and also gained the perceptions about the fisheries dependency of thresher shark fishing. Thresher shark fishing in Alor was previously unknown to local government institutions. Their outreach activities have successfully been delivered to more than 500 Alor communities through radio, community events, and other engagements. This has shifted the perception of the local communities to the importance of conserving thresher sharks and valuing them as a local tourism asset in Alor.
Over the coming weeks we will look into the current projects of Thresher Shark Indonesia in more detail.
To learn more right now, visit their website by clicking here.