Complesso dell’Accademia | Orca Diving Ustica

Complesso dell’Accademia

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Sunday 23 June
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The Academia Cave, which gives its name to the complex, is very large and relatively easy to explore

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Located within the site of Grotta della Pastizza, the Academia complex consists of four separate caves, all of which are shallow and each with its own particularities.

The Academia Cave, which gives its name to the complex, is very large and relatively easy to explore. The entrance is at a depth of 8 metres, the seabed is rocky on the left and sandy on the right. As you go inside, you can see openings in the top left-hand corner through which light filters, reminiscent of the windows of a study room, hence the name Academia. The cave penetrates for about 30 metres and ends in a small sand chamber, from where one turns back towards the entrance and finds on the right another opening at about 4 metres from where it is possible to exit. Inside the cave, small groupers, crustaceans and various nudibranches find shelter.

The second cave is the 'Washing Machine', so called because the entrance at about 11 metres is circular in shape and resembles the opening of a washing machine. Once past the entrance, one immediately ascends into a narrow passage where one diver at a time passes, inside the passage you always see the light that enters through a large opening on the left and once you have ascended to 6 metres you head for the exit at the end of the large opening. Inside you can find moray eels and the rare Cypraea.

The Cave of the Saint is the most famous of the complex, being the only one that can also be explored by snorkelling! The entrance is at a depth of 3 metres. As you go deeper, the seabed is made up of small stones and after a few metres you come to a large rock around which it is possible to resurface inside the cave. 

On the surface there is a large air bubble where thin rays of light filter through, illuminating the statue of St Bartholomeo, Ustica's patron saint. Back underwater, you can go further, where there are two additional chambers, the first completely dark with a sandy seabed that has another air bubble at the end, and the last where you can find sunlight entering through an opening in the roof of the cave, creating wonderful plays of light. Once finished, one can exit through the entrance to the saint's chamber. The first chamber is easy to explore while the last two chambers are reserved for divers with an excellent command of finning and buoyancy.

Grotta Totò is the last and also the most difficult to explore. The entrance is at 12 metres and leads to the main chamber at a depth of about 9 metres, which is dark with a rocky seabed covered by little sediment. Inside are two stalagmites, one broken about 1 metre high and the second more than 3 metres high. After the stalagmites there is another chamber, unfortunately very shallow and full of sediment, making it unexplorable. Following the rocky seabed, one ascends to a small air bubble where one can admire some fascinating stalactites. Returning underwater, you slowly make your way towards the exit.

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