If you are into underwater macro photography then the muck dives in Timor Leste will tick your bucket list. Here’s what you may be able to spot just 15 minutes away from our Dive centre in Dili.
The most popular muck dive site – Tasi Tolu
Tasi Tolu is the popular ‘muck dive’ dive. A small patch at 18 metres deep consists of mostly soft coral substrate amongst the sandy bottom. This patch has a great diversity of more cryptic and camouflaged fish species. Cockatoo waspfish, leaf scorpionfish, Fingered Dragonnet, frogfish, pygmy pipefish, seahorses and ghost pipefish can be commonly found here. It’s all just a matter of spending time looking closely and various creatures will eventually reveal themselves like looking at some magic picture book.
Camouflage provides advantages such as avoiding detection by predators and also remaining hidden from prey species. Lots of cryptic fish species such as stonefish, lionfish and scorpionfish have venomous spines to protect themselves from predators but their disguise aids in ambushing prey items by sucking them into large mouths.
Brightly yellow coloured but with an intricately patterned camouflage the weedy scorpionfish (Rhinopias frondosa) is definitely a rarely spotted but super cool fish to find.
One of the all time photographers favourites of course is the thorny seahorse shown here.
Artificial environment – Roda Reef
At nearby Roda Reef, an artificial reef with a series of stacked tyres, lots of ornate ghost pipefish (Solenostomus paradox) can be sighted as they settle into shallow reef areas to breed during the latter part of the year. They are well camouflaged and hover motionless upside down amongst crinoids and seagrass in the more sheltered structure of the artificial reef substrate. The more time you spend looking and you will find more and more, often in clusters of several individuals.
Ghost pipefish are actually a pelagic creature and only visit reefs for breeding. Once this is complete they disperse out to deep open sea. When not breeding they are more slender and are translucent to avoid being seen. Males are smaller than females who will carry the eggs unlike seahorses, they are reported to be monogamous during the breeding season. They feed by ambushing small crustaceans and sucking them into their long tubular mouths.
As well as ghost pipefish, check out the crevices for scorpionfish and moray eels, lionfish and nudibranch.
Under the Jetty – Pertamina Pier
Pertamina Pier, Pertamina Jetty or just the Jetty. If you like nudibranch then this overhead environment dive is for you. The columns supporting the jetty are covered in huge sea fans but also hydroids which nudibranch love to feed on, so you wont have to go far to spot one.
If you are a Nudibranch nerd, then check out our Nudibranch Facebook album.
Mantis shrimp, leaf scorpionfish and morays are easy to find and take a close look at the anemones for for anemone crabs, porcelain crabs and zebra crabs. But watch out for the anemone fish, they can be a bit fiesty.
All sites are less than 15 minutes drive from the dive centre. Join us for a great muck dive!