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Isola d'Elba e Aecipelago Toscano
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Tuscan Archipelago >> Nature and environment
The Sea Fauna The Flora
  The Fauna on Land
The real under-water treasures of the Tuscan archipelago are not coffers full of golden coins from the time when the pirates ruled the sea, and not even the amphorae and the rests of antique galleons. The real treasure is the one that we see when we enter the crystal clear water that surrounds the Tuscan islands, a world under water that explodes in a galaxy of colours and shapes. A paradise for divers. The most enthusiastic meeting, and a quite common one, is the meeting with the dolphins that swim along the coasts of the archipelago, in the centre of the Sanctuary of the cetaceans. With a bit of luck, the divers can run into the big fishes of the Mediterranean sea; the sperm-whales and the rorquals that live in the water of the park during the whole year, but are more common in spring and autumn.
Unfortunately the turtles do not lay eggs on the beaches of the Tuscan islands, though it is possible to see them. Dentexes, guiltheads, basses and round-shaped moon fishes can be seen along the coast, and sometimes even brown groupers, a specie threatened with extinction. The small islands, shoals and rocks make it possible to find such a vast variety of spices and the divers can swim around between the poseidonian bed where morays, damsel fishes and sea-eels hide. In deeper water you can enjoy watching the tunas and sword-fishes hunting sardines. The coast line is adorned with red sea-tomatoes. The presence of this spice is a biologic indicator, showing that the water is not polluted. Limpets and dog's-teeth and algae caress the all the green nuances and attract the sea-urchins which will be food for the white breams. Squids, cuttle-fishes and octopuses represent the molluscs. Sometimes it is even possible to see a sea-horse, a specie that seemed to be almost extinct due to the pollution and the avidity of the collectors. But the most grateful experience for a diver is to see all the colours of the coral, one of the most threatened ecosystem. The rare red coral is still present in the archipelago. The shell family is very big and both collectors and businessmen are interesting in shells as they make a lot of money exporting them. An indescribable range of shapes and colours which makes you understand why the primitive populations used the shells as decoration and amulets with magic power. It would be impossible to list all the marine species that live in these waters, so rich in species that it represents a sort of natural aquarium. The only solution is to dive into the water and enjoy the show.
The divers that come to the coasts of the archipelago enter a paradise where they can choose between about ten diving itineraries: in Portoferraio there is a small island, known as Scoglietto, which soundings offers a great variety even though the most interesting area is the north part, where the masses and the sand stains slope down forming a big plateau. Along the rock it descends in a more determinant way, featuring a wall that precipices in the blue water: here you can admire an incredible plateau with red gorgoniae and with a bit of luck you are able to run into one and another grouper around the rocks. From Capo d'Enfola, a few minutes from Marciana Marina, you easily reach the Scoglio della nave which is a sort of rocky extension of the promontory: the fissures and the gorges give shelter to octopuses, morays and langoustes. From Marciana Marina you can get to two other diving sites close to each other, Punta Nasuto e Punta della Madonna: at the first site you find dense groups of damsel-fishes, white breams and corvines, langoustes hiding in the gorges of the rock, sea-eels and a part particularly rich in coral. The Punta della Madonna is characterised by the many species which live in an environment with little light like the prawns and the lesser slipper lobsters, which you will not miss if you bring a torch with you. These are only some diving itineraries which you can discover on the island of Elba, and here we can mention some others such as Secca del Careno, le Formiche della Zanca, il Relitto di Pomonte, i Picchi di Pablo, la Secca di Fetovaia e quella di Capo Fonza, gli Scogli del Remaiolo, dei Gemini e della Focacciola e della Corbella, Punta delle Cannelle e i Sassi Neri. Also Capraia, significantly renamed the emerald island for its transparent soundings, offers many possibilities for divers who can not miss the rocks on the north part of the island, called Formiche. It is a vast area of low water which is particularly suitable for several diving itineraries thanks to the morphology of its soundings with channels, peaks and piled rocks: these itineraries fit experienced divers as there are strong streams. The site of Aereo is worth a visit, close to the port, where a rocky ciliate goes up from 43 metres to 24 metres, featuring saddled breams, salpas, dentexes and sea-urchins, but also morays, sea-eels and white breams that are hiding in the fissures of the rocks. You get to La Secca del Turco from Punta dello Zenobito, at the south of the island, and is without any doubt the most beautiful diving sites of Capraia; a rock top, over 100 metres long and rising from 50 to 28 metres. The soundings are characterised by huge blocks with small fissures, caves and walls with colourful coral around. Here live many species of fishes and crustaceans, almost a complete exhibition of the wonderland of Capraia: blennies, white breams, gobies, corvines, crustaceans, many sponges and one or two groupers. Other nice diving sites worth visiting are the Scoglione, di Punta and the small rocks of Civitata e Punta della Fica. If you are not a diver you can still discover the incredible variety of the sea-life of the Archipelago by visiting the aquarium of Elba. It was built some years ago in what used to be a disco in Marina di Campo, with private money, and is one of the most complete aquarium in Europe. The aquarium covers more than 1000 square metres, featuring around 1150 species of fishes and underwater organisms of the Mediterranean. The habitat has been set as in the real life, with tides, sand-banks, ports and rocks. Here the visitor is able to see some species which are hard to run into normally which makes it interesting even for expert divers. The tropical area features some of the most curious underwater species, such as piranhas, swell-swell-fishes, sharks and scorpion-fishes. The premises of the aquarium also host the Animal Museum of Elba which has around 250 examples of mammals and birds, representing around 170 different species.

Photos from APT Tuscan Archipelago and Mediaweb srl.

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