This tiny island of rugged bays and inlets, once described by Jacques Cousteau as the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean, is the spiritual home of Italian diving and an essential stop for any Mediterranean diving enthusiast.
Ustica is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea some 36 miles north from Palermo (Sicily). Due to the colour of it's volcanic rocks Ustica is also named as the "Black Pearl of the Mediterranean". Ustica is protected by a Natural Marine Reserve established in 1986. It is devided into 3 areas, depending on the level of protection, in order to prevent over fishing.
The main dives are The Doctor's Rock and The Colombara Bank.
The Doctor's Rock is a dive to 30 metres and is in Zone A which is the most heavily protected area of the Marine Reserve. The rock is a pinnancle with a tunnel running through it, which has a width of approximately 20 metres and a length of 45 metres. It is a spectacular dive and with light streaming in at each end, which make it very bright. You will see red gorgonians and coral. There are large Groupers as well as Barracuda and it is very evident that no fishing takes place here compared to other dive sites.
The Colombara Bank is also a 30 metre dive and is on the North-Eastern coast of Ustica and starts at just 3 m under the surface. The best dive sites are along the West walls. The first wall, descends to 24 meters and then, after having crossed a plateau at around 50 meters wide, you follow the second wall which descends to 45-50 m. At the “Secca della Colombara”, you should see groupers, big wreck fish of up to 40 kilos, amberjacks, Mediterranean barracudas, dentex, white bream and crayfish. Spectacular red Gorganias open their fans both on the wall at a depth of over 35 meters and on the rocky banks called "panettoni" dotting the bottom.
Another good dive site is the Grotta dei Gamberi, near Punta Gavazzi, where incredibly delicate fan-like red gorgonias thrive (at a depth of approx 42m), and the sub-aqua archaeological trail off the lighthouse-topped headland Punta Gavazzi (depths of 9 to 17 meters, marked by an orange buoy), where many artefacts – anchors and Roman amphorae – can be seen.
- Travelling to Ustica if you are staying in Sicily is by ferry from Palermo (2 hours 30 minutes) or hydrofoil (1 hour 10 minutes).
- During the summer months, there is a hydrofoil from Naples which takes 4 hours.
- Visibility is generally good at 60 to 100 ft (20 to 30m). Winter storms can cloud inshore areas to 20 ft (6m) or less.
- Each summer, Ustica hosts a festival dedicated to diving, snorkelling, marine conservation and more. Events take place on the island and throughout Sicily's northern coastal area. Activities organised include diving courses (both advanced and introductory), guided tours of conservation areas and tastings of the mouth-watering local seafood.
|Diving season:||Easter/Spring - October|
|Water temperature:||January 15C - August 27C|
|Air Temperature||January 15C - August 28C|