The scuba diving craze has become big business, helping small coastal communities in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.
A trend for “muck-diving” is helping boost tourism in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia, The Economist reports.
Around 100,000 people visited these two countries in 2014 specifically to explore sand flats and muddy silts for rare objects and little-seen creatures, according to research conducted in that year by the UK’s Leeds University.
This brought an additional $150 million to the region. Specific towns and villages, such as Anilao and Dauin in the Philippines, have been direct beneficiaries.
Finding the hairy frogfish
Muck divers are the marine version of birdwatchers, thinks Dr Maarten De Brauwer, who led the university’s research.
They want to catch a glimpse, for example, of the mimic octopus, a master of disguise that helps it evade bigger predators, and which remained unknown to science until 1998.
Other sought-after sights are the hairy frogfish and the garbed flamboyant cuttlefish. To help the visitors find them, young local Filipinos work as guides, often earning double the salary of a fisherman.
As with other parts of the industry, however, there are dangers of overtourism, with large numbers of muck divers inadvertently harming the environment they want to explore – a possible outcome the guides themselves agree with, according to De Brauwer.