Two of Ustica's most difficult yet suggestive dives, in the darkness of the Punta Galera caves, an explosion of life will leave you with an everlasting memory of Sicily.
Just offshore from Punta Galera's only mooring buoy, on a sandy seabed at a depth of 40 metres, is the entrance to the magnificent Grotta dei Gamberi (shrimp cave). The opening is just under 2 metres high and 6 metres wide. Only a few metres from the entrance you reach the main part of the cave, an impressive circular chamber with a vault almost 10 metres high and a diameter of more than 30 metres. Following the left wall of the chamber you come across a large rock overflowing with life, as is the case with every corner of the cave. Thousands and thousands of parapandals, the shrimps typical of Ustica and the coastal caves of Sicily, bring life to the walls, accompanied by various nudibranchs and cypraeae; but cave life is bustling! Musdeans and conger eels are fond of parapandals, and it is not uncommon to encounter them while hunting for food. In addition, lobsters and melon urchins can be spotted in the various crevices, contributing to the cave's diverse ecosystem. After the main chamber, there is a somewhat narrower corridor that slowly leads to the cave exit at a depth of about 24 metres. On the way to the exit you are always escorted by parapandals and musdeans, and if you look carefully you can spot several specimens of mechanical shrimp, immediately identifiable by their long claws and pastel orange colour. Once out of the cave, all that is left to do is to return to the boat, accompanied by the fabulous fauna of Punta Galera.
Just west of Punta Galera, at a depth of about 28 metres, is the first entrance to the Grotta dell'Altare, another unique and suggestive underwater cave in Ustica. This first entrance is in the shape of a narrow corridor leading to the 'Amphitheatre', a large hole in the rocks where it is not uncommon to encounter Umbraculum and slipper lobster, and which serves as an antechamber to the actual entrance to the cave. The cave entrance is about 22 metres deep, less than 2 metres high and 4 metres wide with a sandy bottom. Following the left wall of the cave there is a small rock, beyond which the cave begins to rise to a depth of about 13 metres. Inside there are many parapandals, cypraeas and mechanical shrimps. Also, if you look carefully, you can spot the very rare brotule, abyssal fish that ascend to shallow depths at night and find refuge in the darkness of the Ustica caves. Once you have finished exploring the cave, you head back towards the exit, which coincides with the entrance, but before leaving you cannot fail to be fascinated by the play of light created by the sunlight penetrating through the large opening of the entrance! Once out of the cave, all that is left to do is to swim gently back to the boat, always accompanied by the lush fauna of the waters of Sicily.