The longest coastal tract in Italy without any signs of human habitation is to be found on the eastern side of Sardinia. For around 40 kilometres the coastline between Cala Gonone and Santa Maria Navarrese is not only completely uninhabited, but also blessed with a rugged and wild hinterland rich in endemic species of flora and fauna.
This is the fortune of the Gulf of Orosei: a landscape unchanged since the Cenozoic period (30 million years ago), when this area was at the mercy of the geological events which determined the present topography. The limestone mountains which frame the gulf formed over thousands of years and have been carved and modelled by the untiring forces of the atmosphere. The never-ceasing flow of rivers in a much wetter period than the present has cut deeply into the mountains, forming characteristic canyons known as codule
The Karst phenomeni, typical of Sardinia, manifest themselves here with many caves both above and below the surface of the sea whose intricate networks of labyrinthine tunnels interconnect with each other and with caverns further inland in the region. The Grotta del Bue Marino, with its 5,000 metres of tunnels, is accessible only by sea and still only partially explored: the principal siphon loses itself in the bowels of the earth.
Once the ideal habitat of the almost extinct mediterranean nun seal (Foca monaca), this area of sea derives its popularity from this incredible and affectionate mammal which has become a symbol, half myth half reality, of the village of Cala Gonone.
Cut off for years from traditional tourist itineraries on the island, this strip of Sardinia has only recently begun to attract mass tourism. Whether they simply want sea and a tan at all costs, or true nature lovers, both find calm and refreshment on the delicious little beaches lost among the cliffs.
Standing out from the rest is the famous Cala Luna: the vast expanse of golden sand is scythe-shaped between the azure sea and the pinks of the giant oleanders which grow in great numbers a few metres from the beach.
More secluded, but not lacking in fascination, are Cala Biriola and Cala Mariolu, inaccesible from land because they are surrounded by steep escarpments covered with a cloak of dense shrubs, holm oaks, and century-old junipers.
Near the end of the gulf, before the vertical walls of Capo di Monte Santo, is the last enchanting inlet: Goloritzé. A majestic pinnacle of limestone keeps watch over a little beach of pure white pepples smoothed by sea water. Some metres on, there is rocky arc over the water, which reflects in the deep turquoise of the sea.
The most evocative side of the coast is descended on for a few weeks in the hottest season by a growing number of visitors who, concentrated in relatively restricted spaces, risk overcrowding. In this way the place is being deprived of its original fascination and the only solution would by the dilation of the tourist season to spring and autumn, seasons characterized in the area by a decidedly mild climate.
To safeguard the enormous environmental heritage, hunting, camping and removing wood of any kind is forbidden both by the beaches and further inland.
During the cold season very few boats disturb this water and the sea appears lonely and dark a languid and jealous custodian of its aeons of secrets.
The Diving Center DIMENSIONE MARE at Cala Gonone (near to the port) is the base point for excursions in the Gulf of Orosei Tel: 0784/93385