There is no doubt that until a Covid-19 vaccine is widespread our travel plans have to adjust to the new conditions. As of today 2 August 2020 most of our favourite destinations are still in the no go list and are not covered by travel insurance.
The latest list of countries and territories published by the British FCO does not include Egypt, Indonesia, Philippines and no countries in South America although it does have many Caribbean destinations.
With the situation evolving fast and the imminent prospect of tighter lock down as we go towards winter many people would not travel long haul anyway to avoid risks of quarantine or possible issues coming back to their home country. So for now, many of us will travel more locally. We have seen lots of new underwater photographs taken locally in British Waters but there is no doubt this is not out of choice and most people would rather be elsewhere.
After the postponement of my Red Sea live-aboard to 2021 I have been invited to the Italian Nauticam days in Italy in the stunning location of Napoli and Sorrento and coast. I am from the same region and all my diving training has been abroad so I am guilty of not having tried the local diving until now. If you don’t want to read the whole article the summary is that the diving is great and combined with the natural beauty of the area, the warmth of the local and the food and drink there is probably no better alternative for diving safe in Covid-19 times in Europe right now. I am sure there are equally stunning places in Liguria and some of the Sicilian or Tuscany locations however the Penisola Sorrentina is very hard to beat when you consider the other elements. Please get in touch if you want to dive the area as I am planning a trip mid September 2020.
The Diving Centre and Location
I used Punta Subaia and Punta Campanella Diving centre two long standing operations on the coast. The first is located in Bacoli north of Naples and the second is in Massa Lubrense just past Sorrento. Bacoli is Naples local beach so gets more local traffic while the other location is more touristic in nature with a good ratio of foreigners: during my stay there were English, German, French, Swiss and Dutch on the dives.
I used a 5mm wetsuit with a 3mm hooded vest and a thermal top under and was fine. Locals dive with a 7/5mm semidry suit.
Diving is done using 7.5 meters RIBs that can take up to 8 divers on a double tank or 12 on a single tank dive. Covid-19 procedures are in place and face masks are not mandatory outdoors in Italy however spacing on the RIB is challenging so you have checks and declarations to fill in. Some people wear face masks on the boat too is entirely up to you.
Journey time to the dive sites is 5 minutes in Baia while in Punta Campanell it can be up to half hour and the scenery is amazing as Capri is just in front of the coast and the landscape is jut breathtaking.
If there is one thing that I did not like is that in the morning there was not a systematic double tank excursion so sometimes the day would finish at 6 pm with only 3 dives done. Crew are very helpful and 15 litres tanks are included at no extra so in all cases I came up because I reached the 1 hour limit still having plenty of air.
I booked a double room with single occupancy at €80 per night B&B 2 minutes walk to the dive centre. Food and drinks with wine runs at €50 or less per day and is glorious!
If you want to have an idea of the critters in the area I would recommend the book Into the Mirror from Mimmo Roscigno ISBN: 9788890966804 is only in Italian but it is a typical coffe table book the images are simply amazing.
For wide angle a good sample is on Punta Campanella Dive Center website, also look for photographers Marco Gargiulo that is local of the area. Other photographers like Franco Banfi have also been here for workshops. So there has been some fame but mostly limited to Italian speaking photographers, this is a shame as the staff speaks English and this is a photo friendly operation.
I went for this trip with a selection of wide angle lenses, I had been told by Pietro Cremone about the underwater archeology park so I packed a rectilinear wide angle in order to avoid distortion.
Dives in Subaia are typically 1 hour long max by law at depth of 5 meters.
The dives have to be done with an expert guide as the mosaics are normally hidden to protect from the agents and the water.
There are also replica statues that are good subjects, the originals are in the Napoli Museum.
There are many villas and it is impossible to cover the grounds in two dives however I had planned to move to the second location so I drove two hours to Massa Lubrense on the night.
Here the diving is about fish and caves. You have a combination of close up subjects and wide angle. I took by zoom fisheye with me so I focussed on wide angle. Sea life includes plenty of Anthias and Damsel, Snappers, large groupers, eagle rays, breams, bass there is a lot of fish as the area has been a protected marine park for more than 20 years now. I was not expecting this abundance, there is also a resident shoal of Barracudas 1000+ strong specimen that is in shallow water at one of the sites. Due to limited processing power I have not yet created a 4K video however I took plenty of shots. The whole album is on flickr. I hereby include some key shots.
I was frankly surprised by the sheer abundance of photo opportunities and I will be always taking my equipment whenever I go back to Italy in the summer. There are so many positives to the location:
- Great photo opportunities
- Well organised dive operation English speaking and photo friendly
- Stunning location also for non divers
- Amazing food
- Fantastic people
- Easy to reach from UK and other EU countries
- Covid-19 procedures in place safe location with prime health system
I am so impressed by the location that I will be back and in fact I am planning a photo trip the week of 14 or 21 September, with the following itinerary:
- Sunday arrival dinner with local photographers to have a taste of the area
- Monday to Friday double tank morning dive, afternoon optional 3rd dive or sightseeing
- Photos of the day debrief after dinner time – optional
- Saturday no dive day local trips optional or travel independently
- Sunday free morning transfer to airport and return
Diving cost is €400 for 5×2 tank dives to be booked in advance through me. For those we will have exclusive use of the boat optional dives in the afternoon non exclusive will be €35 per dive. Accommodation will be typically less than €600 euro for the week in single occupation and plane in the region of £100-150 depending on extras. I can help with accommodation, travel and transfers. You can also rent a car as low as £15 per day this is especially of value if planning to come with partner or family.
Please fill the contact form if interested spaces will be limited to maximum 8 for the trip. I think it will be a long time for anyone to be in tropical waters with the Covid-19 situation, this is an opportunity not to be missed until the water stays warm and enjoy one of the world very best destinations.