Three underwater experiences for the adventurous traveller
Sleeping with the fishes in the Great Barrier Reef; fine dining under the Indian Ocean; and snorkelling among artworks in the Med.
Reefsuites is a pair of underwater hotel rooms anchored inside Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, says Lee Cobaj in The Times. “My room… comes with your standard en suite, a comfortable king-size bed and simple but stylish decor… Less ordinary is the wall of windows looking out into an ocean with more than 1,500 species of tropical fish.”
During the day, natural light casts everything in an otherworldly but instantly soothing blue. “I press my nose to the glass and gawp at a confetti of frilly damselfish, coralfish, butterflyfish and wrasse, and stay that way, enraptured, for hours.” After dark, the daytime hues are transformed into a “psychedelic purple” thanks to lights embedded in the window frame. “Just before I nod off, a gigantic Queensland grouper skulks up to the glass to have a look at me.” Some find the “splashes and gurgles, bubblings, deep rumbles and low hums” at night “terrifying”, but “I thought them better than any sleep app… It’s Blue Planet brought vividly to life.” A$899 (£500) per person based on two sharing, cruisewhitsundays.com.
Dining with the fishes
When you’re not sleeping with the fishes, how about dining with them? Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, in the Baa Atoll island archipelago of the Maldives, has just launched a new package with a trio of exciting experiences, one of which involves dining beneath the waves at its award-winning underwater restaurant, SEA. Diners descend six metres into an oceanic world to be gawped at by the sealife while enjoying marinated tuna and lobster.
The resort sits within a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, which means the waters are teeming with life owing to an abundance of krill and plankton that accumulates in Hanifaru Bay during the summer and autumn months. Giant manta rays come to feed annually. Curious and friendly, the rays swim within inches of snorkellers. The third experience involves stargazing while sipping champagne and nibbling on Asian-inspired tapas at Kihavah’s SKY bar, home to the most powerful telescope in the Indian Ocean. From £712 per night for two adults sharing a villa, anantara.com/en/kihavah-maldives.
At the end of January, France’s arty Mediterranean city of Cannes unveiled six enormous sunken sculptures as part of its “underwater eco-museum”, just off shore from the island of Sainte-Marguerite. The colossal heads are inspired by the story of The Man in the Iron Mask, whose protagonist was imprisoned on the island. But they are, in fact, modelled on six Cannes residents by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor. Made from an ecological material to encourage the return of flora and fauna, the two-metre-tall, ten-tonne statues lie up to five metres below the waves, accessible to snorkellers in an area that has been set aside for swimming. Over time, the sculptures will “evolve” as they become covered with algae and corals, forming an integral part of the local marine ecosystem. cannes-destination.com.