Crystal-clear waters and unexplored seafloors: the underwater park of the Tuscan Archipelago guards treasures of unusual beauty and, amid the myriads of multicoloured fish, you may come across the remains of centuries-old shipwrecks.
First rule: look, but don’t touch. Observe in silence, without disturbing. The secrets and images of the underwater world can only be captured by the naked eye or with the help of an underwater camera. You can follow an octopus through its rocky hideaways, the wake of an eel, a crab or a starfish. Sea-watching offers extraordinary experiences. Diving in the company of an expert guide is a real opportunity to see some of the mysteries of the world underwater.
Boutique Hotel Ilio on Capo Sant’Andrea on the north-western tip of the island and in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, offers lovers of diving the chance to experience fantastic dives to the depths of the sea. At the DIVING CENTRE, situated just 150 metres from the hotel, scuba-diving courses and guided immersions are organised with qualified guides and PADI instructors; equipment is also available for hire. On the beach at Sant’Andrea motor boats and rubber outboard motor boats can be hired.
The depths of the gulf of Capo Sant’Andrea and other areas nearby
For lovers of scuba-diving, the depths of the bay of Capo Sant’Andrea are a world to be discovered: places such as le Piscine, Cotoncello, l’Isolotto, il Careno, le Formiche di Zanca, as well as the seabed around Capo Sant’Andrea. It is here in Sant’Andrea that the bright green seaweed, Posidonia, finds an ideal environment; this is further proof of the cleanliness of the sea here, which offers the ideal habitat for many species of fish, the “castagnola”, the needle fish, sago and salpa. Whereas, from the sandy seabed, starfish and mussels stand out. Further out to sea, between coral sea fans, it is also easy to come across lobster, eels, and large dentex, barracuda, seahorses and, with a bit of luck, you might even see a moonfish in summer.
Near to Capo Sant’Andrea, two wrecks of Roman merchant ships have been discovered. The first was found very close to the shore and the second 200 metres from the coast in fifty metres of water. Many of the finds from the two wrecks are exhibited in the archaeology museums of Marciana and Portoferraio but there are still many fragments of amphora and other remnants to be found on the sandy seabed.
Just one kilometre from Sant’Andrea, you can dive off the wonderful “Formiche di Zanca” and swim undisturbed among the many species of marine life; sponges, seaweed, corals, shoals of saraga, coloured torda and octopus. Close by are the Careno shallows. Here the sea bed close to the shore is gently sloping whereas on the side of the open sea the seabed drops to a series of terraces to 40 metres in depth. Here hideaways, caverns and narrow passages offer homes to many forms of cliff-marine life, sponges and tunicates. The most beautiful side is the one towards the northwest, where there are gorgonia, lobster, scorpion fish and where you can watch dentex and sea urchins look for prey. With that of the Formiche, this is one of the best dives on the whole island.
Other destinations by boat
The whole rocky coastline towards the west offers marvellous ravines for scuba-diving. A stop off along the coast at Pomonte by motor boat to visit the wreck of the 62 metre merchant ship Elviscott which sank in 1972, today home to happy colonies of bream and sea urchins, is well worth the trip. Within easy reach of Elba is the “Red” island of Capraia, with its splendid and unspoilt sea depths and port, where there are plenty of things to see or simply have lunch in one of the little restaurants.