Pantelleria, Italy

Pantelleria, also known as the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean, is a small volcanic island closer to the african coast than to Europe. With its rough landscape, battered by the wind and lack of sandy beaches it is not very popular with package-holidays tourists. But the clear waters and rugged shore make it a perfect hidden gem for divers.

Dive Sites

 

 

 

 

Martingana - Dive Site I

Diving Conditions:

GPS: 36°44'56.25"N,  12° 2'44.60"E

Difficulty: MEDIUM; the drive to the site is easy (steep but asphalt road), from car park to the water it is a short (300m) walk but it has steeps steps.

Depth: 6 to 30m

Currents: Tide independent

Type of bottom: Rocky gets to coarse sand at about 28m

Interests: Scenic, Wildlife, Shore diving, also good for night diving

Water Temperature: Summer months: 26 degrees with thermoclines down to 18

Visibility: up to 40m

 

Description:

Access to this dive site can be easily missed: when the road down to Martingana levels off at the bottom of the hill there is a private paved road on the left side, between the first zibibbo (typical local vines) field and a house called Tea Maria. Park the car and walk down the paved road then at the bottom go right down the dirt path (always bearing left) and eventually down the steps carved out of the lava. Here you will reach a small slip way. This is the entry and exit point of the dive.
Surface swim out of the inlet and drop down (about 6m), keep the wall to your left and follow it along. In the cracks of the wall you can see murray eels, octopus, nudibranchs, groupers and lots of other fish. As you reach the tip of the bay the wall has more caverns, a well-like pit and a swim-through. The rocks in these dark places are covered by soft coral and anemones. There is so much life that it is possible to spend an hour dive just in this small area. Or you can continue further out over the boulders which eventually turn to coarse sand at about 30m. Another option for this dive site is to drop down at the tip and continue left following the shore line, if you are a fast finner you can reach the next bay which has a small canyon. Be careful as there could be a slight current running parallel to the coast.

 

In this site we also saw a turtle, but it was more out of luck than a regular spot for them.

There is no phone signal in the area!

 
 

Martingana - Dive Site II

Diving Conditions:

GPS:  36°44'42.35"N,  12° 2'27.81"E

Difficulty: HARD; the drive to the site is easy (predominantly asphalt road), from car park to the water it is a tricky scramble over the rocks. 

Depth: 6 to 35m

Currents: Tide independent

Type of bottom: Rocky

Interests: Scenic, Wildlife, Shore diving,

Water Temperature: Summer months: 26 degrees with thermoclines down to 20

Visibility: up to 40m

Description:

Follow the road down Martingana until the end, follow the signs for parking. If the sea is calm enough, get into the water in the lava canyon which starts on land and continues into the sea. The dive is following down the canyon until it opens up in what is called the ‘amphitheater’. If there is a bit of swell then enter the water on the left side and follow the wall down, you can cross over this lava casting to end up in the canyon or you can just proceed along the wall. There are lots of groupers, fish, hermit crabs, sculpins, groupers, etc.

There is no phone signal in the area!

 

 

Balata dei Turchi 

 

Diving Conditions:

GPS: 36°44'06.3"N 12°01'19.9"E

Difficulty: HARD, road to this site is a dirt road with big pot holes and big stones. From the parking lot to the entry point its a medium walk with some scrambling over rocks.

Depth: 5m to max. 20m

Currents: Tide independent
Type of bottom: Rocks

Interests: Rock formations, Shore dive, Scenic,  Wildlife

Water Temperature: Around 24-26°C in summer months

Visibility: up to 40m

 

Description: 

Balata dei Turchi is located in the southern part of the island. It is a beautiful bay with an impressive lava flowing into the sea and surrounded by tall cliffs up to 300m high. The name comes from the arabic word balàt, meaning a stone slab, forming a wide flat platform gently sloping into the sea. 

Access to this place is through a long dirt road which can seem a little rough, but do not get deterred by it. There is a big parking area at the bottom, and from there it is another 200-300m walk to the water including a moderate scramble over the rocks.  

Easiest entry point is to jump in on the left side of the stone platform, where the depth is about 4-5m and swim out following the wall to big boulders, which gently slope to approximately 20m which then turns into coarse sand bottom. There is plenty of life to be seen on these rocks, with schools of fish of different sizes and shapes. 

There is no phone signal in the area!

 

Arco dell' Elefante

Diving Conditions:

GPS: 36°47'35.4"N 12°03'08.5"E

Difficulty: MEDIUM, access by car is very easy, but the path to shore requires some scrambling over some rocks. 

Location: Arco dell' Elefante 

Depth: 3-20m
Type of bottom: Rocks

Interests: Rock formations, Shore diving, Wildlife, Scenic,

Water Temperature: 24-26C in summer months

Visibility: up to 40m

Description:

Elephant arch is one of the main attractions and icons of the island. This cliff closes off the Cala Levante bay to the east and its shape is reminescent of an elephant head with its trunk submerged in the water forming a great arch. You can reach this place easily by car and descent to the sea is not very difficult thats why its very popular bathing spot for tourists of all ages. 

Entry point is at the right side of the rocky beach, swimming across the little bay (5-6m) towards the arch. The dive is around the trunk of the elephant. Right under the arch you will find big boulders and you have to swim over them (ca 3m) to get to the other side. If you turn around you can get a nice view of the arch as a blue window. On the outer side of the trunk the depth goes to 20m with a sandy bottom where you can find lots of fish including greater amberjacks and barracudas. 

 

 

Siggi V

Cala Tramontana

Diving Conditions:

GPS: 36°47'56.4"N 12°02'52.8"E

Difficulty: EASY, access by car to a parking lot, then 100m walk to the entry point down a slip way. 

Location: Cala Tramontana, next to the Hotel L'Approdo Mediterraneo

Depth: 5-20m
Type of bottom: Rocky wall and sandy bottom

Interests: Wreck, Shore diving, Wildlife

Water Temperature: 24-26°C in summer months

Visibility: up to 40m

Description:

This site has a very easy access along a concrete slipway. Entry point is at the end of this slipway and following the rock wall on the right. In rocks and grassy patch next to it you can find plenty of marine life. When you reach approximately depth of 18 meters swim out to the left into the sandy area to find a ship wreck of a 35m long Lybian fishing boat el Jadir sitting upright on the bottom. 

You can explore it but be careful of the many fishing nets trapped on it. 

 

Cala Gadir 

Diving Conditions:

GPS: 36°48'43.4"N 12°01'32.4"E

Difficulty: EASY

Depth: 6 to 32m

Currents: Tide independent

Type of bottom: Rocky turns into coarse sand at 28m

Interests: Shore diving, Roman archeological finds

Water Temperature: Summer months: 24-26°C

Visibility: up to 40m

 

Description:

This is a UNESCO underwater archeological museum so you need to go with a guide from the diving center Dive-X (see details below). The main attraction of this dive are the anchors, amphoras and pieces of wooden hulls from wrecks dating back between III century BC nad II century AC. Navigating this site is very easy especially since they placed a rope which you can follow. You enter the water on the northern side of the bay and follow the wall on your left shoulder. At about 16m you will see a wooden fragment from a wreckage semi hidden in a small gully. Here you should go over the wall and follow along in a north-easterly direction following down the lava terraces. At about 20m you will see a couple of amphoras. Once you have seen these, follow down the terraces and at about 27-29 meters you will reach a plateau of coarse sand. Dotted on the plateau you will find a group of 6 Punic and Roman amphoras, a part of a Roman lead anchor (III-II centry BC) and many more ceramic fragments. If you keep sight of the wall and follow it on your right side it will take you through all the findings. Make your way back to the shore following the wall. In the deeper part of the dive you will see groupers and along the wall itself there is a substantial amount of life: murray eels, nudibranchs, fish, small groupers, etc.

 
 

Punta Liscetto 

Diving Conditions:

GPS:  36°48'52.47"N, 12° 1'26.71"E

Depth: 6 to 45-50m

Currents: Tide independent

Type of bottom: Rocky turns into coarse sand at 40

Interests: Boat dive, Wildlife

Water Temperature: Summer months: 24-26°C, thermocline at 30m to 17-18°C

Visibility: up to 40m

 

Description:

Anchor the boat in the bay relatively close to the cliff in about 5m of water. Drop down and swim out at about 20m, over the large boulders continue down to the ledge which drops down to about 45m. Once at the bottom go left and then rise back up along the edge of the bay (it is very clear underwater) along the wall, work your way back up and along the wall there is a small cavern with a statue of a Madonna at about 5m. On the dive look into the blue for hunting snappers and amberjacks. There are also lots of groupers and schools of small fish. In the shallows often there are octopuses.

Logistics

 

Diving:

 

Dive Center:

We strongly recommend Dive-X Dive  owned by Eduardo Famularo based in Gadir. Phone:  +39 339 105 1878. Tank rental €15 per full tank; boat dives €35 per dive (incl. tanks and weights) in 2017. 


Hyperbaric Chamber:  Ospedale Civile di Pantelleria: Via Almanza Pantelleria. Tel. +39 (0) 923 911844, +39 (0) 923 911337

General:

Infrastructure on the island is not perfect. There is no phone signal in the Southern part of the island (approximately from Tracino to Nica'). 

 

Getting there: there are daily ferries from Trapani all year round as well as flights from Palermo. During the summer months there are also high speed boats from Mazzara del Vallo and flights from most major Italian cities. 


Land transport in Pantelleria: There are numerous car hire companies in Pantelleria, all overly-priced! Most cars they hire are small (which is a good thing given the narrow roads) usually a Fiat Panda. They also hire the older model which you can get for cheaper and haggle a bit as well. Some companies hire old Citroen Meharis as turist traps. Fuel prices are also extortionately high, around €2/liter. 

Tap water on the island is desalted water so do not drink it. Also, on the Southern part of the island there is no running water and all water comes from water tanks filled partially by rain water and partially by tank trucks. Therefore, especially if you are staying in this more remote, albeit prettier, part of the island you will need to make an extra effort to save water. 

Food: supermarkets can be found in the main villages, and in Pantelleria town some are also open on Sundays. Food tends to be more expensive than in mainland Italy. 


Accommodation: If you would like to rent a large dammuso (typical house) in Martingana with 6 beds and a stunning terrace please email us.

However, don't let all this deter you from visiting Pantelleria. It is no doubt not an easy island but it is fascinating and unique and this ruggedness hides some true gems. 

We are very familiar with the island and have visited numerous times, therefore feel free to drop us a line if you have any questions regarding the dive sites (there are many more than the handful that we describe here), the island or anything else. 

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