Grotte di Oliero / Siori – Cave diving in Italy

Already in November 2007 we went to the village of Oliero in Italy to dive the cave Siori in the park of Oliero, but due to a mising permission we went then to the “Elefante Bianco” (read the report here). On March 1st and 2nd we finally went there again with the permission and were ready to make our first dives there.

We started son Saturday at 7:00 at Innsbruck and after about 3 hours we arrived at the gates of the Oliero park, which were open, but the sign at the entrance was showing “closed”. A little bit confused, we entered the park, because we had announced our coming for that day and time via e-mail and got it confirmed. As we were walking from the entrance back to the water, we met some italian guys, who were preparing for a dive and asked them, where we could pay our entrance fee and how the normal protocol for diving in the Siori is. Altough communication was not very easy, becouse of our bad italian and the not so perfect english of these guys, they were a great help for us – thank you very much at this point.

We unloaded and prepared our equipment and shipped it to the entrance of the cavern part of the Siori with the boat, which normally brings the tourists in the cavern part. After that we put on our suits and went to the entrance, where we finally geared up. We had double 12´s with Nitrox 32, because of the shallow profile at the first 400m of the cave and becouse we wanted to start to get to know the first part of the cave. Already when walking through the cavern zone, we felt the flow, which we could see before as river running out of the cave. As we didn´t know if that kind of flow is little or much for the Siori, we decided to start the dive.

The first part of the tunnel is without any sidepassages or to get lost in another way, as the flow will bring you out anyway. At the first vertical drop starts a rope as mainline, which makes sense due to the flow. First you drop about 9m and the tunnel leads back, in the same direction where the river above is running. But after only a few seconds, we could recognize, that the flow was to strong for swimming and we started to enter the cave with pull and glide (where glide was more a stop). Soon the tunnel began to turn and get around a corner. After about 15 minutes we reached a T where cave line shows the way to the “shortcut” – a side passage where you could shorten your way to the deeper part of the cave a little bit. We decided at that point to call the dive and take the way back with the flow.

At the way out it was very nice to enjoy the cave and only make a few finkicks to correct the direction and not to have to do any for propulsion. After a short safety stop at the entrance we ascended and made a surface break and made the diveplan for the second dive.

We had enough gas left to make at this dive the way behind the T at the right side, which is the longer way, and decided to go as far as gas will reach. Again we were struggling against the flow, but we were faster as at our first attempt and after only 8 minutes we reached the T and followed the rope at the right side. It leads soon after that in a very flat but wide part which looks pretty cool. After that you come to the point where the rope ends and the way further in is marked with caveline. You can also see where another line from the sidepassage ends, but has no connection to the mainline.

At this point the flow was not that strong anymore as in the first part and the cave beginns to become deeper. We followed the tunnel a litle bit further, but had to return as we reached our turnpressure. Again the way out was a lot more fun than the way in. We were flying through the flat part and after through the tunnel all the way to the entrance. Again we did a safety stop and after that we left the cave and put our gear out of the cavern part as well.

We brought our gear back to the other side of the river and loaded up the car to go to our booked hotel and to get something to eat. As it was in the meantime about 15:00 we were hapy enough to find the hotel open, because they have closed from 15:00 to 17:00 and due to that no restaurant until 18:00. After bringing our luggage to the room, we went through the village and could find a bar which served as well some “bruschette”, and we were happy eniough to make it ´till lunch.

The next day we went to the park again and geared up with our double 20´s to get some more time in the cave. As soon as we went through the cavern part, we rekognized, that the flow had even improved and we were wondering if it was possible to dive. When we decended we felt that the flow was a lot stronger than the day before and again we started into the cave with “pull and stop”. When we reached the end of the first part, where the rope changes to caveline, we both were wet from sweating in our drysuits. Still we had some gas left and started to follow the tunnel a bit further, but soon we reached our turnpressure, although we started with lots of gas. Fighting against the flow had cost a lot of gas. So we called the dive and enjoyed the fly back like the day before. After the safety stop we ascended and decided to finish diving for now. The flow was too strong to enjoy a second dive. So we put our gear back to the car and headed home.

This again was a good and interesting weekend, and for the next time we will be better prepared and hopefully the flow is not that strong anymore.