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  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - THE SECRET LIFE OF MABUL - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sipadan is no discovery, it's been around for a while now, but the real discovery is the diving around Mabul itself, home to the world's best "muck diving". "Muck diving" is an expression that was coined in PNG to describe the diving to be had under a live-aboard boat while it is on safe anchor for the night. Usually a protected inlet somewhere, the water underneath the boat is shallow and the bottom is either silt, sand, dead coral or clumps of dirty coral on a silty bottom. The visibility is almost always limited.

I guess we have die-hard divers to thank for discovering the benefits of muck diving. Compared to the 30+ metres visibility, the breath-taking walls, colourful reefs and dynamic pelagic action normally encountered during a day of good diving in Papua New Guinea, jumping into silty slop is a poor excuse for getting wet. A much better idea would be to stay on board, sharing a bottle of wine and telling lies. But somewhere along the way, someone jumped in and discovered the fascinating world of macro marine life in mucky environments. Down there in the silt and dead coral are hundreds of bizarre animals. With no need to swim very far, all you have to do is rest quietly on one spot and watch an almost completely undocumented marine world in action. Scientists flocked to the area in droves and selected sites in Papua New Guinea were beginning to attract a clientele of their own. Divers were actually suffering through the wall dives and schooling pelagics for one or two good muck dives.

Following close on the scientists' heels were sportdivers and a real revolution has taken place in the international dive travel industry. Are we finally sated with 30+ metres of visibility, schools of thousands of pelagics and hundreds of large fans and soft coral trees? More and more, divers (and particularly photographers) are choosing their diving destination for the little stuff... the bizarre and the uncommon.


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