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Travel June 26, 2018

Counting Fish

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea”

E E Cummings


Sleeping with the fishes is something to relish, rather than fear (unless you are genuinely in trouble with the Mafia) thanks to a number of luxurious underwater retreats that enable you to drift into a slumber whilst literally counting exotic sea creatures instead of figuratively tallying sheep.


Among the world’s most impressive submarine suites are the fittingly titled Poseidon and Neptune at Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. Floor-to-ceiling windows afford incredible views of a three-million-gallon aquarium known as the Ambassador Lagoon, patrolled by 65,000 marine creatures including sharks and rays. The three-story suite is serviced by a 24-hour butler and boasts a gold-plated bathroom. You can even go take a guided scuba dive into the tank and hand-feed the stingrays. Similarly, at Resort World Sentosa in Singapore, 11 luxurious two-storey townhouses proffer rooms that plunge into the world’s largest aquarium, home to more than 40,000 fish, and with a private hot tub up top.

Off Tanzania’s Pemba Island, the Manta Resort’s aquatic angle is that its underwater hotel room is actually in the sea. The lonely lodging lolls 240m offshore in the crystal waters of a marine conservation area, and can only be accessed by boat. Guest can marvel at tropical fish and colourful coral, with octopuses sometimes attaching themselves to the glass. Come nightfall, spotlights attract more reticent creatures and plenty of squid.  Snorkels and fins are provided if you’d like to get closer still.


Far less ostentatious is the enchanting Utter Inn at Sweden’s Lake Malaren near Stockholm. Conceived by local artist Mikael Grenburg who focuses on “making art for the public”, the humble dwelling contains just a single underwater room with a wraparound deck overlooking the lake’s surface.


The world’s first underwater nightclub sits off Maldives’ coast. Submerged at six metres and reached via a speedboat trip followed by a grand staircase, Subsix also serves as a bar and restaurant at the Per Aquum Resort, surrounded by a spectacular reef that harbours more than 90 species of coral and fascinating marine life such as moray eels, parrotfish and hawksbill turtles.


If you wouldn’t feel too guilty about tucking into a seafood platter as dense shoals of fish look on, consider the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Hotel. The world’s very first all-glass underwater eatery, it sits at five metres deep in a tunnel-like shape for unobstructed ocean views. Enjoy high-end European fare, or opt for a mid-morning cocktail. Also at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Hotel, it was announced in April that later this year will open the world’s first underwater villa—and there’s even a Kiwi connection. Designers Crown Company enlisted the services of New Zealand aquarium specialists M J Murphy Ltd to create the lavish villa that has been christened The Muraka, meaning ‘coral’ in the Maldivian language of Dhivehi.


Stefano Ruzza, general manager of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, says that the venture allows guest to explore the Maldives “from an entirely new perspective” thanks to its two-level construction with quarters above and below the sea.


The sprawling upstairs complex comprises a king- and twin-bedrooms, powder room, gym, living room, bar and dining area and even quarters for butlers. If you’d rather stay out of the salt water, a relaxation deck overlooks an infinity pool and faces west for some draw-dropping sunset views. An impressive bathtub also overlooks the ocean. But it’s beneath sea level that the magic really happens. The undersea bedroom suite, surrounded by a reef and replete with a private bathroom and living area, plunges five metres, accessed via a spiral staircase, with panoramic views of the Indian Ocean.


Lead architect of the $22 million residence, Ahmed Saleem, says: “The Makura promises a unique experience that is not available anywhere else in the world.” Due to open in November, the villa can accommodate up to nine guests—and you’d likely want to fill every bed thanks to the heart-stopping $72,000 per night price tag. Included is a seaplane flight to a jetty where awaits your own private speedboat to reach the villa and for your own personal use along with four butlers who’ll tend to your every whim 24/7, including preparing all meals and even arranging fitness sessions.


“Through our development of the world’s first undersea residence, we continue to shine a light on the Maldives as a luxury destination,” adds Ruzza, “as well as a cultural and natural wonder for global travellers.”

Jamie Christian Desplaces

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