The Profondo Blu Insipiration
The Island As We See it, The Island We Want You to See
Acclaimed as the “The Black Pearl Of The Mediterranean” Ustica is a volcanic island which offers gorgeous scuba diving and snorkelling adventures. As a Marine Protect Area (the first one established in Italy, in 1986) which helps keep the shimmering waters clean and safe, it is inevitably an underwater paradise and the quintessence of Mediterranean beauty.
Surf the web and you’ll get the first information you need to know about the island, the description of its depths and why it’s one of the most famous dive destination in Italy, so we won’t repeat it here. We prefer to unveil the features we ourselves discovered in decades of living and working on the island as professional divers and unfold the reasons why your scuba holiday with Profondo Blu Diving gets original and unique. Ustica has to offer lot more than you would expect - we know it well - and we are designed for it.
The Positive Effects of the Marine Protect Area
Ustica Island needed it and deserves it: protection saved it from massive fishery which is very much practiced and uncontrolled in the nearby Palermo. When you dive in Ustica, you can feel that connection with nature that elsewhere in the Mediterranean is seldom or difficult to find. Not necessarly because Ustica is somewhat of outstanding comparing to the other tiny and wonderful small islands around Sicily, but it surely gives the occasional visitor the opportunity to get into a kind of relationship with marine fauna. Fishes do escape from man as nature teaches them, but as they’re not stalked by predators they don’t associate divers to danger. This aspect should be a default in an era of marine conservation, but if the Mediterranean is not on the Top List of dive destinations in the world, it’s not for being inferior in beauty but in its protection. So Ustica stands out for this and whatever the dive site is, you can experience this feeling similarly to tropical waters.
Groupers, Amberjacks and Barracudas: is it what they told you?!
Yes, that’s right, we must say the Dusky Grouper is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e in Ustica. Juveniles and adults, males and females, solitary and in groups: no dive site is without encounting a grouper. And, the dusky one is not the only specie you can find - the much more friendly goldblotch grouper easily striking the pose for a picture and the mottled grouper performing as folk groups in ritual dances are equally frequent to meet.
Amberjacks are our favourites. Italian divers go crazy for big fishes and they are the only specie you can expect to encount that takes your breath away (no, they don’t attack your regulator!!). How come they are so friendly in Ustica? Here again: protection. Purse seine fishery is not allowed up to 3 nautical miles around the island and when restaurants propose you amberjack as a main course, celebrating its origins of Ustica, cool down, it has been hardly and regulary fished by pelagic trawl from authorised local fishermen.
One of the most recognizable fish that divers encounter throughout the world’s oceans is the Barracuda. Most commonly, divers spot barracuda swimming alone or in small groups of five or six, but some species can form vast schools, especially when they’re still young, because schooling provides protection from larger predators. That’s what you get in Ustica and if you digit “scuba diving in ustica” in Google Images most of the blue pictures portray barracudas (ok, you don’t need to check this now, stay with us!).
So, we promise that we will do our best to let you experience whatever is told about diving with groupers, barracudas and amberjacks. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need our know-how to encounter them: Scoglio del Medico and Secca della Colombara are the usual sites where they love to hang around, and even if there are bulks of divers finning like bats trying to capture a great shot with their cameras and GoPros, you’ll get to see them. But if you’re here, it’s not exactly what you were looking for, right?
Did you say “Wreck”?
When it’s about a wreck in Ustica, the first thing that comes to an Italian’s mind is the plane crash mystery in 1980. We islanders can’t get over it. It has nothing to do with Ustica itself except that it happened in the island’s airspace en route to Palermo. So it remains a sad word association. Nevertheless, we do have a wreck , a shipwreck. In 2005 the cargo “ITA” flying Panamanian flag has run aground on the shoal of the Colombara and nowadays it lays in two pieces, on a seabed of 24-26 metres on the opposite sides of the shoal. It’s more of a piece of junk than a wreck, but groupers have made it their hideaway and willingly barracudas can come across attracted by the marine life generated by the shelter of the wreck. So, we never consider it as a proper “Wreck Dive” and if they sell it as a wreck dive, you might be disappointed and you will ascertain what it really is. It is not safe to swim close to it far less to slip into its crumbly iron parts. However, it still offers a striking scenery and an extraordinary subject to shoot. Once it’s located in Secca della Colombara, which has much more to offer, the wreck is just one of the attractive elements as part of the dive.
Everything aside, the seabeds of Ustica are a true underwater museum. Ancient anchors, potteries and other items dating back to different historical periods have been found in the first years of underwater exploration.
Clay remains can be spotted in several dive- and snorkelling sites, but if you want to identify with a museum tour, there are two underwater archeological itineraries, set by the Sicilian Monuments and Fine Arts of the Sea Office: the oldest one is in Punta Cavazzi where in the '90s have been found numerous ancient anchors, the artifacts were left in the original place of discovery and equipped with notice boards avoiding their removal from the seabed that have kept them for centuries. A second one was set in 2016 in Punta Falconiera where the anchors of Roman and Byzantine Age are spread on a seabed from -30 to - 15 meters. Unfortunately over the years both installations have been somewhat abandoned, so in the past years we would never have dreamed of recommending a dive in these sites, with the only aim to visit the archeological itinerary. A redevelopment project is underway, so fingers crossed for the coming season! Punta Falconiera though is a wonderful dive spot for its vertical walls and a beautiful cavern, so we can pass by on the relics on our way back to the boat.
Even more recently there is another important discovery: a wreck of a ship sunk off Ustica between the first and second century BC. It’s load of amphoraes is perfectly visible. A pity it lies at 70 metres deep.
What about the famous “Grotta dei Gamberi”?
It is probably the most request dive spot, after Scoglio del Medico and Secca della Colombara. And with good reason.
Located in Punta Galera, Grotta dei Gamberi (Shrimps’ Grotto) is a cave with its main entrance at about 40 metres that leads into a wide chamber with its walls literaly covered by shrimps. The cave narrows into a tunnel that takes to its exit at about 28-26 metres. It’s the crown jewel of Cavern Diving in Ustica and you need to be an expert diver to vist it. Well, nowadays, you’ll have to be specifically certified to access to any cavern or cave in Ustica. We love cavern diving and we are qualified to lead you safely into this delicate and precious environment in order to enjoy the best of it. Discover with us the Dark Side Of The Volcano and explore the underwater caverns of Ustica!
Pelagic vs Benthic
If you’re not accustomed to this terminology, no worries, you will grasp the meaning in a blink of an eye. Each diver is particularly fond of a specific area of diving and its environment. Photography, Biology, Geology or Archaeology; deep diving, cavern, night, fish identification, in drift, along walls, into the blue or on a seagrass meadow. Ustica Island has it all, and if you’re looking for a spot where to practice or enjoy even just one of these areas, you’ll get your utmost experience. The dive spots around the island differ in nature, as volcanic conformation offers a great variety of scenaries: there are sites where you can plunge into a school of barracudas and enjoy the whizz of the hunting amberjacks, wishing to cross the tuna while admiring the macro plankton driven by the current (that’s pelagic life), others where you can stroll on seabed of teeming life made of shellfishes, crustaceans, polyps and nudibranches enjoying muck-diving with your camera, where different species of groupers, wrasses and breams spend their time looking for food and shelter (and that’s bentic life). Discover with us the Biodiversity Paradise of Ustica, with our expert local guides and naturalists: you’ll get more than a simple guided dive.
Discover Ustica through the Profondo Blu Inspiration and book now your dive experience.