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Diving Ustica

Ustica is a small island off of the coast of Sicily, 36 miles North West of Palermo. This tiny blob of lava had a small community scraping a living from fishing. That was before they discovered divers and we discovered them. The island boasts a marine park and enough good dive sites to more than compete with locations like the Red Sea.

It is a great place to dive and a great place to stay. We travelled with our dive club and had a wonderful week of easy diving - and a couple of challenging dives. Our visit was in September, at the very end of the season and we caught some bad weather but that only stopped us diving on the first day.

 

The tiny harbour is the heart of the island. The road up from the port, through the town and across the island is a small one. The minibus we used to get us to and from the accommodation only just fitted around some of the tightest turns. The bigger lorries have to use a jetty on the other side of the island once a week when the ferry docks as they would never make the first turn on the road out of the harbour.

There must be about a dozen dive operators working from the small quay so it can get pretty busy of a morning. The boats seem to keep to a schedule giving you 15 minutes to get on board and ready to go but it all seems to work very well.

While we were there almost everyone seemed to be using air and Nitrox seemed a rare commodity, which was a shame as most of our dives would have suited it perfectly.

 

Electric colours of one of the local fish. We had a good selection of wildlife where ever we dived.

We started off with Punta Galeria and Punta Dell 'Homo Morto. We also dived Doctor's Rock, Colombara Reef, Punta dell' Arpa, Punta dello Spalmatore and Santa Maria during the week.

My dive buddy Stephen surfacing at the Doctor's Rock - Lo Scoglio del Medico. It's one of the best sites around the island. The currents bring in big Jacks and masses of Barracuda while the rock has a wonderful swim through cave. We dived it three times in the week and even our least experienced divers managed to tackle the cave by the end of the week.
Peter returns to the dive boat. The diving in Ustica is very relaxed with the first dive setting off at about 9.45am and the afternoon dive setting off at about 3.30pm. This gave us plenty of time to relax in the sunshine, eat a big lunch and even get a sleep some days before the other dive.

Stephen in his "normal" feet up diving position. Since Coco didn't do much diving this holiday I buddied with Steven most of the time. He was a brand new diver and I found his habit of spending most of the dive upside down very disconcerting. He seemed happy and said he just enjoyed the feeling - each to his own!

A shy smile from a Moray eel. We didn't see many of them during the week, unlike the jelly fish. There were thousands of them and several of our party got stung during the week. Peter probably holds the record for worlds loudest "F**k" when one finally got him at the end of the week.
Not just diving but eating and drinking too. Paulo and Anne run Profondo Blue, our dive operator. They make as much of the food as they do the diving. They have a superb cook and only down side is you may feel your wetsuit is a little tighter when you leave than when you arrived.

Ooops! Where did that reef come from? A recent accident has become a new dive site. Unfortunately this was one of the best spots of the Colombara Reef - Secca della Colombara - before the crew of this marble carrying ship managed to do a very bad job of parking. It now lies with a broken back, but there are plans to re-float it. Maybe they could sink it in few more metres of water so we could dive all of it.

The wreck is still very unstable so there is a 50m exclusion zone around it. (Well 50 Italian metres - that's about 10m to the rest of the world)
The vivid colours of the soft corals and sponges. Anne, our dive leader knew just where to find the best of everything. We never went short of things to see on any of our dives.
In Town - a world music festival on Saturday night. It may be a small town but it still boasts a host of places to eat and drink. There seem to be several events scheduled in the town square through out the summer, this festival being just one of them.

Just more fish. Lots more Barracuda - thousands of them swimming past at the Doctors Rock. Tony just moaned and cursed when I told him I hadn't photographed him as he swam slowly through the middle of a huge shoal without them taking any notice.

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