Muck diving was for me just a word, till my dream trip became true. It happened just before this Christmas, when I was lucky to visit and dive at Lembeh Strait. My expectations were high. But reality overshadowed them completely. I can not imagine now diving anywhere else. My life has changed forever.
I just came back from one week (well, normally I would do 22 dives almost in two weeks) diving at Lembeh Strait, island of Manado, North Sulawesi. Not just a choice of the place - NAD Lembeh Resort, but the whole week was just spectacular. Diving ration is 1:2, one dive guide to two, usually photographers. Dives are limited by 75 minutes, and you do three or four every day, as it is a part of the whole package you paid for.
I knew something about muck diving and I have been told by many photographers that this place is for me on the List "must do". But I had no idea, that every animal I put on my wish list, is not just a wish, but true already, and we more make a schedule when we see it, than seeking to fulfill it.
My wish list was made mainly from crabs, shrimps, squids and cuttlefishes, seahorses and nudies. But there were also some "fish behavior things" added. I was wishing for mating cuttlefish, same as seeing some cleaning shrimps over nudies or horses, or critters carrying eggs.
I have got all of it, and even more. Naturally. Without touching or moving "animals". In Lembeh, you just watch pregnant shrimps carrying their eggs, shrimps cleaning the slugs or eels, you see Coconut octopuses playing with their shells or glass bottles. Muck diving is very much about diving in the rubbish, but it is all about it. And it is amazing!
Zebra Cra (Zebrida adamsii) full of eggs
But not just rubble and rubbish. Diving in Lembeh Strait is also about photography. Macro photography. Super macro photography. Super super macro macro diopter photography. :) I was equipped by my Canon 100 mm lens (and left my 60 mm at home, as I just came from Raja Ampat liveaboard - wide angle diving) and I haven't changed the lens for all 20 dives. The critters I was shooting looked pretty fairly big on my shots. But is real, they are mainly only few millimeters, maximum one centimeter big. Sometimes I was shooting only what my amazing dive guide pointed to me, without seeing it really.
Voila! This is maybe 2 mm big PREGNANT Hairy Algae Shrimp carrying eggs.... What? You can't see it? At it has a sparkling eye!
Classical example if this is a hairy shrimp. I was a bit ready for it, as in Raja Ampat, my dive guide, another col Manado boy, was trained to spot such things. And one dive he has found something that excited, that he screamed to his reg madly! It was a hairy shrimp and he even said it was pregnant. I was watching unidentified blob of something, not being able to see what was it. I would never ever ever noticed that thing! So when I saw another one in Lembeh, of course, again pregnant, I was already very calm and ready not to really see anything:D This time it wasn't pink but green - ish.
One night dive we have seen many - many means more than 12 - coconut octopuses. They are perfect objects for photographers - playful, showing up, photogenic, not too small creatures, which love to play with their shells forever, throwing sand on you, coming in and out of the shell, waving by tentacles.
Cleaning sessions were on the daily and night program as well. Emperor shrimps were cleaning slugs and nudibranchs, cleaning shrimps were cleaning eels and crabs. Almost one quarter of all critters we have seen were carrying eggs. Some of the, mostly anemone fishes, were living with parasite in their mouth, but there were also some parasites visible on the little gobies or blennies.
Lembeh Strait is the perfect place for watching the animal behavior. You come back not just with the best pictures, but also lots of knowledge. Photographers usually share their pictures and experiences. This is not the place to come once only.
Thanks to all people from NAD Lembeh for unforgettable memories!