Sleeping with the fishes

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Sometimes the presidential suite just isn't plush enough. Meet the hoteliers offering their guests accommodation beneath the waves.

Japanese hotel designer Yuji Yamazaki is describing the guest experience in an underwater hotel suite, called Muraka, recently constructed off the coast of Rangali Island in the Maldives. With living areas above the water and a lift to the bedroom down below the surface, it feels like something out of a James Bond movie. Glass walls and ceiling ensure there’s always a perfect view of the marine life swimming nearby.

Part of the Conrad Maldives resort, Muraka sits a short distance off the island’s coast, accessed by a long jetty. And the room rate? US$50,000 a night. Not unreasonable when you consider the complicated engineering involved. As chief engineer Mike Murphy explains, the project required pile foundations to be drilled into the coral reef, divers to guide the legs of the structure into place, some serious underwater concreting, and the services of a crane ship.

Hoteliers are resorting to ever more adventurous customer experiences in an effort to attract wealthy guests. And sleeping with the fishes is one way to stand out from the other holiday brochures.

The Manta Resort, in Tanzania, is another great example. Halfway between a boat and a building, its underwater room is a floating structure anchored to the sea floor in a gap in the coral reef, 250 metres off the shore of Pemba Island. There are three levels: a sunbathing area on the roof, the landing deck with its lounge area and bathroom, and finally the bedroom below the waves.

“Another state of being,” is how the resort describes their unusual accommodation, priced at $1,700 a night. 

 

I want guests to feel they are the only ones under the water; the only ones sleeping on a king size bed with a view of the ocean. I’d like them to feel the solitude, the quietness – all these things that separate them from the above-ground world

The magical feeling of lying on a soft king-size bed, surrounded by panes of glass, affording almost 360 degrees’ viewing is hard to describe.

At Atlantis The Palm, a luxury hotel in Dubai, there are two hotel suites which aren’t exactly underwater, but which certainly give the impression of being so. Called Poseidon and Neptune, they both feature floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing guests to gaze out into the neighbouring aquarium.

At the other end of the luxury scale is a tiny, aquatic guesthouse in Sweden called Utter Inn. The brainchild of artist Mikael Genberg, this bizarre structure floats on the surface of Lake Malaren, near a town called Vasteras, 60 odd miles west of Stockholm. It features a tiny house and deck above the water, and a bedroom below, accessed via a ladder. You could hardly call it glamorous, though: the view through the underwater windows is pretty murky, and when large boats pass by, guests get shaken like corks in a bottle.

But at least it’s easy to access, with a ladder between the upper and the lower level. Not like Jules’s Undersea Lodge, a submarine-like structure, six and a half metres below the surface of Florida’s Emerald Lagoon, off the coast of Key Largo. Guests wishing to stay here need to be qualified scuba divers since

access is via an opening in the base of the lodge. Apparently both the Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau and Steve Tyler, lead singer of rock band Aerosmith, have visited in the past.

 

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