Diving Off-season On Ustica Island – Is It Worth Doing (And What You Need To Know)

Diving Off-season On Ustica Island – Is It Worth Doing (And What You Need To Know)

Time to read: about 6'

There are many reasons why the phrase 'off season' should not weave defeat into your holiday plans, especially for marine lovers. The most popular question of people who have never been diving in Sicily is – “at what time of year is it better to come?” And while any operator would answer “from May to October”, my answer to it is “anytime”! The answer lies only in who is looking for something to do on land, during free time from diving. Because the sea is rich in underwater discoveries all year round and every season brings its own advantages. Best of all, fish don't listen to hotelier dictated seasons and marine sightings 'off-season' can be the most alluring of the year!

I’ll be honest – anytime is good for diving in the Mediterranean but it is not possible to take a trip to Ustica at any time and expect to find all facilities open. By the way, we are open about 10 months a year – so just avoid that little time we need for boat and equipment maintenance!

Since the time I’m writing is spring, I would like to tell you about diving in Ustica in springtime, which is conventionally off- season. Here are some good reasons why you should consider a diving holiday on Ustica Island now, and useful tips to get the most of it.

Don’t let the forecasts fool you

Firstly don’t always believe the online weather forecasts.  A lot of them will simply predict thunderstorms and rough seas 5 days a week. They are happy to get this correct maybe 60% of the time.  So, we actually have several very nice sunny days during the cool season, as well as calm sea. And the micro-climate of the island is most of the times positively unpredictable.
Winter in Sicily is short. March and April are called the crazy months, as we can get incredible summer-heated days followed by rain and sea storms, but if luck is by your side you may be surprised.  It must be understood that as an island, Ustica is washed from all sides by the sea - by this at any time the dive can be both super comfortable and challenging. Nevertheless, the advantage of the island is that on some side it is always good: if the wave came from the North, then in the South - calm and diving. In a word, we always go to sea for diving.
Yet, I recommend planning a few extra days and being a little flexible with the diving days. We will keep you well informed on the weather in the lead up to your booking, and give you options.


Underwater Life in Spring

We dive year-round here in Ustica so I can tell how different it can be from November to April. It's amazing how marine life changes and how some species replace others!
During a couple of weeks of early spring, algae begins to bloom (producing a biomass of microscopic phytoplankton) so water becomes not so clear. But this has pluses: a "crowd" of fish appears which has swum it to reap.
Ustica is famous mostly for its groupers, barracudas and amberjacks: they don’t seem to prefer this period though, but this event gives place to so many other species that seem to disappear in summer, such as octopuses, lobsters and cuttlefishes, while any cavity is literally stuffed with shrimps.

Needless to say that diving in a marine protected area is always a privilege, much more after a calm winter with no tourists.

Other significant plusses

While the winter months might generally be considered the ‘low season’ to many, they do offer significant plusses to both divers and more general tourists.
Probably an obvious bonus that comes to your mind is low price – by its very nature a low season will offer you the lowest average flight prices and there are significant differences in accommodation rates when comparing low season to high season.  But here I would point out some other evident benefits why an off-season trip to Ustica is well worth considering:

  • Few boats around or none at all – the dives can be totally for yourselves. Sometimes we’re the only ones at sea!  The entire dock is available for us (well no, we share it with the seagulls!)  and we can enjoy wildlife in its natural environment.
  • Temperature - Nobody likes to get cold, which is why preparing for cooler water diving is key. Thick (7mm) semi-dry wetsuits, hoods and even dry suits get divers diving in much cooler water than the 16-18°C lows we experience in the Mediterranean winter, and so can make diving here comfortable enough. What I say is that natural fresh wind is much better than air conditioning, which can affect sinuses and ears.
  • Life on the Island – once you’re back on land, you get that feeling to be a guest of the local inhabitants and not a generic visitor or tourist. They might ask you how your dive was, suggest you how to explore the inland nature of the island, tell you about the harvest of the time. I mean, they have time to talk with you; they’re (still) relaxed. At the restaurant, they might ask you what they can get you for dinner (as they probably won’t have the full menu à la carte).


Why then with Mare Nostrum Diving?

There are a lot of great reasons I usually highlight for diving with us, all of which are enclosed in our “One Fin-Shot Beyond” motto. But if I wanted to convince you to choose us now, one of the first things that come to my mind is that if you are willing to live an off-season experience, you should choose who really lives the off-season life on the island. Especially underwater. What can a dive guide - diving from May to October – tell you more about the special features of this specific period? It can be an experienced guide, pleasant and trustful or it can be a native dive guide (not diving in winter), but none of these can lead you to uncover the peculiarities of marine life undisturbed by the flocks of summer divers.

Ultimately, I can also identify the “non-reasons” why you would choose us in low season.
Most likely we do not have our Day Cruiser Dive Boat taking us diving, so it’s not the vessel that will make an outstanding difference (although our RIB has nothing to do with a conventional one – we still won’t let you carry your equipment back and forth at each dive, you can still exit from water by the solid ladder with your tank on and take advantage of an awning in case of hot sun or little rain). We also do not have our entire crew at your service for extra comfort or little arrangements. Think about it, you’ll only be with us owners and probably get the captain diving with you.  

By the way, we’re not even promoting any cheap offer for this period. How much more would you be willing to spend to have an organization to share with a few, if not with anyone else? So no extra, no discount. Just normal price, which turns out to be very cheap once you get an exclusive experience.  

If you're planning to dive in Ustica in Spring, book here your dive package now!


Author: Tatiana Geloso
co-owner of Mare Nostrum Diving, PADI IDC Staff, conservationist & commercial diver.
Cover Photo: © V. Ambrosanio
Underwater: © G. Ombrello