By: Dirck Zadeh – The Divespot Team
Ustica. A little volcanic island 70 kilometers north of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The waters surrounding this 8.1 km² patch of very rocky land has been a marine reserve since 1986. The Area Marina Protetta Isola di Ustica. This island is supposed to be the best-kept secret of scuba diving in Europe and after months of eager anticipation The Divespot Team set out in June to discover whether Ustica could live up to that claim.
Arriving in Palermo after a three-hour flight from Amsterdam, followed by a short night and an even shorter breakfast, we headed out to Ustica aboard the ferry. Pleasantly surprised by the 30 percent discount for scuba divers. Upon arrival at Ustica we were greeted by Crisitina from Orca Diving Ustica at the dock and hauled directly to the dive boat. 30 minutes later we were putting on our 7mm wetsuits for our first dive. Where are you ever welcomed like this?
All the divespots around Ustica are no more than 15 minutes away. So within an hour after arriving, but thoroughly briefed by our guide Nicolo, we descended into the abyss of Piramidi. Right away we were all absolutely blown away. Are we really still in Europe? Is this actually what the Mediterranean can look like if you protect it? Wow! Incredible! It was indeed a very different sight and experience.
The underwater life of Ustica is really stunning and overwhelming. The walls are simply impressive. There are caves, barracuda’s, scorpion fish and the number of groupers we encountered was mindboggling. Two years ago while scuba diving the Medes Island we already met a lot of them, but now they were almost everywhere we got our hair wet. An ecstatic feeling accompanied us after that first dive during our short stay on Ustica.
With the divesites so close by, we returned to the docks after every dive, welcomed by the lovely team of Orca Diving who listened patiently to our exalted reporting of the dives and helped us unload our dive gear. At the end of the day we returned all humble and grateful to our hotel Residence Stella Marina to chill out by the pool and talk some more about our dive experience. And find out if any of it came through on the pictures.
The highlight of our trip was saved for the last day. Just like it’s supposed to be.
That day we were heading off to dive Scoglio del Medico and Secca della Colombara. And that’s where we were really struck with marvel. The drop off at the Scoglio with its currents, incredible amounts of fish, the chasing school of barracudas and the countless amounts of groupers made for an epic dive experience one would not think was still possible within the European continent. But as this site is very close to the so called ‘No Take’ zone of Ustica, it is probably no coincidence that we encountered so much fish here.
Bedazzled by the underwater life and friendliness of the people at this little Island we returned home after three days. Ustica really IS the best kept secret in the European waters. So don’t tell anyone, please! Or let’s try to get some more protected waters out there, so it won’t be left alone.
For more info on Ustica diving contact The Divespot Team via firstname.lastname@example.org