Palau, Sardinia with Nautilus Diving Centre (a BSAC Dive Resort) by Eddie & Sue Clamp
Being an at home volunteer editor of the BSAC Travel Club can be a lonely existence sometimes so when a request came through to consider a report from a BSAC resort centre in Palau I looked at it with some interest as I had never been there before. Wife Sue and I checked it out and it seemed an ideal occasion to go on a ‘holiday with diving’ where we both go, instead of the other ‘diving holiday’ – where I go and Sue stays at home. Stephanie at Nautilus Diving Centre (NDC) arranged our B & B accommodation at the Hotel Piccada and also our taxi from the northern airport of Olbia to the lovely resort of Palau. (NDC is a BSAC Resort. Such resorts do not offer training but welcome BSAC divers and recognise their skills and experience, enabling them to dive to their grade). Many thanks Steph.
After a short flight via an Easy Jet flight of one hour fifty minutes from Gatwick and a 40km taxi drive to Palau we arrived at our hotel in time to settle in and go for our first meal out. A word about our flight via Easy Jet – we were happy with it. I booked our seats both ways that included speed boarding. I also booked 26kg extra hold baggage for me and 20kg for Sue. Extra cost of course but very well worth it in our opinion. We took our own sarnies to eat on the on the short flight and enjoyed our pre-holiday brandy and gingers.
I visited the dive shop on my first full day to book my dives (NDC is a BSAC Resort. Such resorts do not offer training but welcome BSAC divers and recognise their skills and experience, enabling them to dive to their grade). First mistake here was obvious. Despite email advice from organiser Stephanie to book dives prior to arrival – I had failed to act. No diving for the first two days, then a progression of four double dive days with two afternoon dives in between giving 10 dives in all (well it was a holiday with diving). I booked and paid for this package which included a BSAC discount and had to be paid immediately with cash. Easily solved, as I was able to speed off to one of the three ATMs available around the dive centre. I also left all my dive gear with them to enable them to take it to their dive boat when required.
Two days later after a swiftly consumed hotel breakfast I turned up keen and eager at 0750. Impressed to see all my gear set up and mounted on a 12l cylinder with my semi dry hanging off a rail with fins and booties underneath my seat. Spare cylinder for my second dive alongside.
Captain Vinnie brooks no argument. When on board his word is law. Taking weather and sea conditions into consideration he chooses the dive site we are to visit on the way out. My first dive was at Secca di Washington . My dive buddy was Dagmar from Germany and we were led by dive guide Pierre Henri (PH). A site with many granite boulders and a large, deepish archway. Watching a very large grouper and wondering if I could get near to him I missed the arch but was able to meet PH on the other side as he emerged. Lots of small fish evident with a nice scorpionfish. Sea temp 22C. While we more experienced divers were able to go fairly deep dive guide Charlotte took her less experienced group on a shallower dive. After the dive NDC staff changed our gear to the spare cylinder for our next dive. A routine I am unused to but very necessary as divers milling around in a haphazard fashion in the confined space available would only get in each other’s ways.
Second dive of the morning was Secca di Spargiotello off Isola Spargi. I did this dive twice during my stay and enjoyed both dives. Circled around a granite sea mount with some groupers, plus lots of crannies to peer in. It was here that I admired PH’s technique of pointing interesting items out to the group – it consisted of one finger consistently pointing toward s the item of interest whether it be close or far. Either way my old eyes failed to see anything, whether it was an octopus covered with rocks or a large school of barracuda in the distance. I didn’t until I was nearly on top. At the top of the seamount at the end of the dive I lay hovering and was amazed by the number of small fish that swam in and around me. There were loads – it was almost if they were expecting me to feed them.
Two days later I did my first afternoon dive at Cala di Prana. Diving with PH again and a friendly group of French divers we passed along the bottom of the reef over sea grass with a milkier viz than I had experienced before. Returning shallower we came across a couple of octopi plus a large scorpionfish. A few days later I carried out my final afternoon dive at Punta Sardinia with dive guide Charlotte. Both these dives were closer in shore and enjoyable but I preferred my two morning dive days. Memo to self – book dives prior to arrival next time.
On the second of my morning double dive days I dived the Motore Aero (aircraft engine) off Spargi Island. Located at 22m on sand this appears to be the remains of what could have been aWW2 Italian aircraft (possibly a ground attack Breda Ba 65). After inspecting the engine we swam back to the reef with shoals of silver bream and a couple of octopi. Video of the engine can be viewed here. Next dive was at Cala Johan. We followed PH over sea grass and rocks to encounter the largest shoal of barracuda I have ever seen in the Med. Video here.
A few days later we dived Cala Johan and Punta Tegge. Following dive guide Charlotte we passed through various swim throughs with shoals of bream and again some octopi. Again two good dives.
On my final day we dived Secca di Spargiotello for my second time. Following PH’s pointing finger around the sea mount we came across lots of sea life – morays and octopi. There was a very large shoal of bream shallow with one lone barracuda – a fine sight. My final dive of the holiday was on Rellitto Angelika. This wreck is a cargo ship sunk in 1982 on the Sardinian coast of Punta Marmorata. The wreck is now well spread out with not much that is recognisable apart from the bridge. We completed our dive around some nice granite rocks. Wreck video here.
Many thanks to all at the Nautilus Dive Centre for organising our really enjoyable ‘holiday with diving’. I enjoyed diving with you all, especially the dive buddies from many countries that I dived with. Hope to dive with you all again one day.
Hotel Piccada is a friendly family run hotel on a hill overlooking the town. Breakfast is a basic continental buffet. Our room was comfortable and kept clean and best of all we had a balcony with a marvellous view over the town and the Marina with the Isla Maddelena in the distance. I could watch the dive boat leaving and returning and have Eddie’s lunch and beer ready for his return (Eddie says – bliss).
Frequent ferries travel between Palau and Isla Maddelena and on one day we took a trip over there. The town of La Maddelena has some old narrow streets, many tourist shops and a promenade and is well worth a visit.
There is a large sandy beach and two smaller ones in easy walking distance of the Hotel Picadda and they are safe for swimming which pleased me. While Eddie was diving I spent my time either walking around the town or on the beach. There are several supermarkets and smalls hops in the town and a large interesting market on Fridays.
We ate out each evening mostly at restaurants near the Marina. We found one course enough as the helpings are large and while the locals tucked in to huge pizzas; we could barely manage half each.
Among our favourite restaurants were:-
Pasta and Vino Trattatoria served a variety of delicious pastas at reasonable prices.
L’ Approda has a varied menu. Friendly staff and is open early so is popular with young families.
Trattoria del Porticciolo is the place to go for large pork chops, swordfish and huge pizzas. Prices are very reasonable and it is very popular with the locals. It opens at 7pm and is closed on a Friday.
We both enjoyed a relaxing holiday and would definitely consider going there again.
Eddie & Sue Clamp