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What lies beneath: The world’s first underwater hotels and restaurants

Forget overwater bungalows – under the surface is where it’s all happening, writes Kate Powell.

While some ambitious travellers are taking to outer space, a number of luxury hotels and restaurants are heading instead to the ocean, calling on cutting-edge tech to unveil the world’s first underwater hotels and restaurants. Here are the high-end establishments whose openings are already causing a splash.

Conrad Maldives Rangali, the world’s first underwater hotel residence

In an exquisite mastery of modern design and technology, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island unveiled its first-of-its-kind underwater residence earlier this month, named ‘The Muraka’ (or ‘coral’ in the Maldives’ local language, Dhivehi). The residence invites guests to explore one of the world’s most beautiful environments as it has never been seen before, delving below the surface of the Indian Ocean with a number of exclusive and tailored experiences on offer.

Guests will enjoy such comforts as a dedicated butler (on hand 24 hours a day), exclusive culinary experiences (the resort’s restaurant, Ithaa, is the world’s first undersea restaurant) and curated menus (customisable, of course) designed to explore the unique desires of each traveller, be it restorative meditation, authentic cultural discovery or ocean diving.

The Muraka underwater hotel maldives conrad
The Muraka underwater hotel maldives conrad
The Muraka underwater hotel maldives conrad

Under, Europe’s first underwater restaurant

Perched on a barge on Norway’s southernmost coastline, Under looks as if it is falling dramatically into the sea. Designed by architectural masterminds Snøhetta (whose accomplishments already include Oslo’s Opera House and Norway’s new banknotes), it is Europe’s first underwater restaurant. As of April this year, it is taking bookings.

A strategically lit seabed aids panoramic views of the surrounding marine environment in the restaurant’s seated area, around five metres beneath the water’s surface. The concrete shell encourages mussels to cling to the restaurant’s exterior, effectively transforming the structure into what will eventually be an artificial reef, attracting an abundance of aquatic life. Not satisfied to merely foster a public appreciation of the underwater world, Under will also double as a research centre for marine biologists and researchers.

under underwater restaurant
under underwater restaurant
under underwater restaurant

Blue Eye, the world’s first multi-sensory underwater lounge

French-flagged cruise line Ponant has launched its world-first, multi-sensory underwater space, Blue Eye. The lounge is located in the hull, beneath the waterline, designed by architect Jacques Rougerie to allow guests to become immersed in the underwater universe.

The space draws inspiration from nature, with graphical references evoking jellyfish and cetaceans. Three underwater cameras film their surroundings live, which are then projected onto integrated digital screens so that passengers might view the abundance of marine life around them. The lounge can be found on each of the Ponant Explorer series expedition yachts: Le Lapérouse and Le Champlain, who joined the fleet this year, and Le Bougainville and Le Dumont-d’Urville, who will be joining in 2019, with Le Bellot and Le Surville launching later.


Blue Eye, Ponant’s underwater lounge © Ponant | Christophe Dugied

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