Under the waves lapping on the rocks in the sheltered cove of Sicily’s north-western tip it was a completely different world to that above the waves. Seaweed in all its myriad forms covered the rocks. Flashes of silver revealed where tiny fish were feeding. On many of these submarine rocks clusters of black spiny spheres of sea urchins lay in wait for their prey.
A thousand flashes of light reflected off a shoal of fish twisting and turning pretending they were larger as one than they were as individuals put in an appearance. A brightly coloured rainbow wrasse as colourful as any tropical fish was feeding on algae from the rocks. Even a lone harmless jelly fish put in an appearance…
Snorkelling is not the only activity around San Vito lo Capo, a small town on the peninsula in the far north-west of Sicily. It is place a little off the beaten track as most of the tourist traffic stops at Castellammare del Golfo or heads to Trapani and Erice. However it is worth the extra 45mins driving over the mountains to reach the place only a few non-Sicilians know about. There are plenty of places to find peace and solitude if you want it and there is little scope for development as much of the peninsula is a Nature Reserve or is protected in some way.
There follows a brief round-up of outdoor activities in the area around the town of San Vito lo Capo.
Apart from the expanse of sandy beach at san Vito lo Capo and the smaller wilder beach below the village of Macari the coast is wild and rocky with a few protected coves and inlets. On the west side of the peninsula you get a sense of the primeval. The dark volcanic rock here meets the sea and is pitted and with deep fissures beneath the surface. These are ideal for fish and other sea dwellers to hide in. Sheltered coves abound making entry into the water easy for the snorkeler.
Across the peninsula the mountains drop right into the sea and the coast here is protected as part of the Reserve Naturale Orientale Dello Zingaro. There are a number of small beaches here accessible only by a coastal footpath or from the sea. Marine life here is far more abundant because of the protected status of the coast and snorkelers will often find themselves swimming with shoals of fish.
All you need is a face mask and snorkel to see the marvellous underwater world. Flippers, while not necessary, help with the swimming among the fishes and you can cover more ground while expending less energy. Wearing a wetsuit keeps you warm but then the waters of the Mediterranean around Sicily are relatively warm anyway. It doesn’t require a lot of equipment to enjoy the delights of snorkelling.
There are several rock faces where climbers can test their skills. Not being a rock climber I cannot comment on the quality of the climbs but it is with out a doubt a popular place, at least for Sicilian climbers, to venture.
With a national park, mountains, plenty of coastline and a coastal plain there is plenty of opportunity for hiking in the area around San Vito lo Capo. There are a network of paths from a gentle stroll along the coast to more strenuous mountain routes. You can obtain basic maps and route directions from most accommodation providers.
The Reserve Naturale Orientale Dello Zingaro on the east side of the peninsula is car free but is criss-crossed with numerous trails. There is a hiking trail from the northern entrance to the park to the picturesque village of Scopello just outside the southern end of the nature reserve. It is short enough to complete the round trip in a day allowing time for a lunch in Scopello and a break in one of the many coves on the return journey. Alternatively you can explore the other parts of the park by following other trails into the mountains. All paths are well marked and there is a small charge to gain entrance to the park.
Just because you can hire bikes does not mean there is a good infrastructure for exploring on two wheels. However their are a number of quiet roads and lanes for cycling along and a few trails marked as suitable for cyclists.
Driving up to the Reserve Naturale Orientale Dello Zingaro I past a good few road cyclist cycling up the steep ascent. Obviously these keen cyclists were training for the mountain sections of Giro d’Italia – Italy’s version of the Tour de France.
Kayaks can be hired in San Vito lo Capo from where the coast can be explored in either direction. Although it is a longer trip kayaking round to the nature reserve is possible. Adequate time should be allowed. Much closer is the jagged coastline along the eastern side of the peninsula.
I stayed on the El Bahira campsite with Eurocamp. The site is directly below some popular climbing cliffs and is only a short drive, or an even shorter walk to the town of San Vito lo Capo. Information and maps are available from the site office. They cater for activity orientated guests with bicycles and climbing gear for hire.
For further information on Eurocamp, please call 01606 787787 or visit www.eurocamp.co.uk
NOTE: I travelled as a guest of Eurocamp. However I will always retain editorial control and will, as I have done in the past, write a true and honest review about my experiences. You can read my review of my stay at El Bahira with Eurocamp here.
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