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Tips for Dive Guides: Micro Diving
Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014 10:21 PM
Joined: 01/05/2008
Posts: 66

As a PADI Course Director, one of the biggest points I like to emphasize for new PADI Divemasters and Instructors is that students and divers are there to have fun. One of the biggest mistakes I see new Divemasters make is trying to cover a vast area during the dive. They swim fast, looking only for larger critters like moray eels, sharks, stingrays and turtles.

On one hand, yes their diving guests will love to see all of the above. On the other hand swimming really fast is likely to make the big stuff swim away faster, the guests are likely to use their air faster and the whole dive will be a lot shorter as a result. But the saddest thing about this is that they are missing so many other fascinating creatures because they are not Micro Diving.

Micro Diving, as the name suggests, means looking for all the little things that most divers miss. Because the pace is a lot slower, a smaller distance is covered, but generally much more is seen.

To put this into context, I recently was diving in Madeira. I had the luxury of a guide and a buddy who was advanced open water with 30 dives. There was another diver, also advanced open water, with 70 dives who was buddied with another dive guide.

As my buddy and I cruised slowly round the reef, checking out all the nooks and crannies, I was aware of the other diver and his guide swimming fairly fast around us. After 40 minutes they left to go back to shore as his air was low. My buddy and I stayed with our guide for what turned into a 90 minute dive — and we loved every minute of it.  

To one person, the topography would have looked like lots of bare rocks; to us it was a haven for small things. By taking the time to go extra slowly, not only did we make our air last, but we saw so much more than the other diver who burned up all his air by swimming too fast. Aside from several octopuses, cuttlefish and the usual bream, we also saw a group of squat anemone shrimp — tiny, teardrop-shaped shrimp that wiggle as if they are dancing.

Micro Diving doesn’t mean that you won’t see the larger things, they’ll still be there, and perhaps more likely to stay awhile as a slow-swimming diver is not seen as much of a threat compared to one swimming fast. It is also a great way to learn a new reef if you have not been there before.

Fantastic critters and where to find them:

Pipehorses: Much smaller than your standard seahorse, pipehorses are easier to find in sandy areas close to rocks or coral and usually have their tail wrapped around the bottom of soft coral or algae

Secretary Blennies: These entertaining chaps live in small holes in hard coral throughout the Caribbean. Generally you will only see their head, but if you wait patiently they will zip out of their hole to grab morsels of food drifting by.

Headshield slugs: Don’t discredit sand patches! Head shield slugs can be abundant over sandy areas. They are tiny and very easy to miss. You basically are looking for black specks, about the size of grains of rice (or smaller). They can be found internationally.

Sailfin blennies: These are fairly abundant throughout the Caribbean. A good place to look for them is in sandy areas slightly closer to the shore than reefs. The best way to spot them is to get down low and look for their heads poking out of the sand. If you wait very patiently, they will swim up and flash their dorsal fin to other sailfin blennies in the area, like semaphore.

Squat Anemone Shrimp: As the name suggests, look around anemones for these small shrimp (about a centimeter long) that can be found internationally.

Nudibranchs: These are fascinating critters. They look like colorful slugs with small plumes on their backs. These plumes are actually external gills. Nudibranchs are fairly rare to spot, but look on around rocks, hard coral and wrecks. They can be anywhere between a few millimeters to several centimeters long.

These are just a few creatures that you can see just by taking the time to go slowly and look for them. Whilst not every dive will lend itself to Micro Diving, this is a great way to enthuse your divers even more about the aquatic realm.  

Emily Petley-Jones is a PADI Course Director. She is also the managing director of Dive Superyacht.

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Posted: Friday, August 1, 2014 10:12 PM
Joined: 15/03/2011
Posts: 1

Lauren I agree 100%, I worked as a DM and Instructor in some of the best diving locations in the world. I also understand that most people are only chasing the 'big' things in the water and not realising how interesting the smaller critters are with some of the most amazing camouflage patterns you have ever seen.

However I do believe this is called Macro life and not Micro life. The same way a photographer will explain to you that it is a Macro photograph. 

If I am wrong then I do apologise but I have never heard anyone use this term.

 Average 5 out of 5