Ustica is a true scuba diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise. The seabed has steep walls that plunge into deep blue waters, shallow sandbars and underwater caves.
Starting from 25- 30m depth, you’ll find colonies of coralligenous animals and spectacular
yellow and red violescent sea-whip (Eunicella) lots of different kinds of colourful sponges and splendid colonies of red coral and false black coral (Gerardia savaglia). The wildlife preserve created by the Marine Protected Area has let the local fish species like Mediterranean perch, sea bream, red fish and many groupers come back in numbers when they used to be threatened.
There are lots of places where divers can observe the hidden riches of the Marine Protected Area but especially good ones are the Grotta dell’Accademia, Capo S. Paolo, Punta Galera with its Grotta dei Gamberi, Secchiello and the Secca della Combaia. There’s also an underwater archaeological itinerary that starts off Punta Cavazzi.
The Marine Area Protected
Ustica is in the southern Thyrennean sea, about 36nm off the coast of Palermo. The island has been declared a reserve because its position at the centre of the Med makes its seabeds a paradise for all forms of marine life.
Founded in 1986, Ustica is the oldest of the Marine Protected Areas and covers 15.951 hectares 60 of which are a zone A integral reserve, signalled by yellow buoys with signal lights and yellow topmarks on shore. At the time of writing the reserve is in serious difficulty because of administrative problems so much so that the stewardship of the Marine Protected Area has passed from the Comune di Ustica to the Capitaneria di Porto di Palermo.
Capitaneria di Porto di Palermo
via F. Crispi, 153 – 90139 Palermo
The small port of the oldest of Italy’s Marine Protected Areas just has a few berths along a pier to the right as you enter. It is a very popular spot where it’s quite difficult to get a berth. But the island’s natural beauty makes mooring in the bay more than worth the discomfort. In the evening you may tie up outside the port on the new pier that you’ll find at the end of the breakwater and is used by used by the ferryboats. The fuelling dock has just 2m draft.
Sailing and stopping is allowed in the zone B general reserve; in the zone A integral reserve you may swim from land starting from Caletta and Cala Sidoti.