Every year people from all over the world visit the beautiful Aegadian Islands in order to take advantage of the fantastic scuba diving opportunities available there. Just North West of the islands sits the largest protected marine area in all of Europe, measuring at a whopping 53,992 hectares. It was established in 1991 and careful measures have ensured that a wide variety of both flora and fauna have been able to flourish here ever since. This naturally makes it a perfect place to explore and see an underwater world like nowhere else on the continent. Of course, to list every creature and plant living there would take more time than any of us are willing to commit, so here are a few highlights.
Posidonia sea grass, sometimes known as Neptune grass or Mediterranean tapeweed, may not seem like an overly exciting prospect but stay with me on this. It’s a form a seagrass that can only be found in the Mediterranean Sea and forms large meadows beneath the waves. It’s a crucial part of the ecosystem as other forms of marine life use it for shelter and a food source. It is also an incredibly effective green lung of the ocean; it absorbs a vast quantity of CO2 and subsequently produces an enormous amount of oxygen. To put it into perspective, Posidonia produces roughly 2.5 times more oxygen than an equivalent portion of the Amazon Rainforest. The grass is a clear sign of a lack of pollution as it only grows in clean water and requires sunlight to photosynthesize. The effectiveness of the marine life protection here can be seen clearly in the growth of Posidonia; it is much longer and grows much deeper than any other example in the world, with sunlight still reaching it at more than 50 metres below the surface. A true testament to the clarity and cleanliness of these protected waters.
Thanks to the copious fields of Posidonia we can see the presence of many creatures, one of those being the sea turtle. The most common species of sea turtle in the Mediterranean Sea is the loggerhead which is the largest hard shelled sea turtle in the world, usually with a carapace (upper shell) measuring around 70-95cm, though the largest recorded was an impressive 213cm. Those visiting Favignana can also take a trip to the First Aid Centre for Marine Turtles. Here, in order to help preserve the population of the animal, the first aid centre opened in collaboration with the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) in 2015. The facility is open all year round and is committed to the care and rehabilitation of injured or at risk sea turtles, however there is also a small area devoted to visitors. Here you will receive a guided tour and learn all about the ecology and biology of the creatures along with an understanding of what you can do if you are to see a turtle in distress whilst out in the waters yourself.