Top 10 Underwater Travel Experiences
Poseidon Undersea Resort
Dive into delicious Maldivian-Western fusion cuisine at this restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Just don't blame us when the faces on the other side of the glass stare accusingly at your plate of fruits de mer. Reserve well ahead for a seat at the world's only all-glass underwater restaurant. Only twelve diners can feast at a time at this haute cuisine destination 16 feet below the waves. With 360-degree views of the surrounding Indian Ocean, you'll get a good understanding of what it's like to be inside an aquarium looking out.
Sleep with the fishes at Jules Undersea Lodge in Key Largo Undersea Park. Checking into this unique address includes donning SCUBA gear and plunging 21 feet into the turquoise waters off the Florida Keys. But don't fret -- even those who haven't learned to dive can still take the plunge after taking a three-hour course. Guests are seen to their rooms by trained dive staff and the accommodations include hot showers, a fully stocked kitchen, and even air conditioning. Getting underwater is all part of the experience in this part of the country: The quirky Florida Keys are also home to an Underwater Music Festival every July at Looe Key Reef near Big Pine Key.
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The bill might give you a sinking feeling, but treatments at the world's first underwater spa in the Maldives' North Male Atoll will raise your spirits. The surreal spa at the Huvafen Fushi resort is a place you'll want to keep your eyes open. Rays pirouette on the other side of the glass and you might also catch a glimpse of Huvafen Fushi's celebrity clientele -- George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, and Kate Moss have all been guests of the resort.
photography by Hanns Manship
You'll need to equip yourself with a waterproof map, diving or snorkeling gear, and a guide to take in the ancient Roman history at the Herod's Harbor underwater museum. Dating back to 10 BC, what was once one of the most important ports of the Roman Empire now sits in just 20 feet of water off the town of Caesarea. A roped trail laces the way between the 36 exhibits, including sunken ships, vast anchors, harbor foundations, and ancient marble columns. Opened in 2006, the 18,580-square-foot archeological park sits on the Israeli coast halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
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Virgin Limited Edition
A new plaything for guests of Sir Richard Branson, the Necker Nymph is an open-top marvel that let's you fly underwater in a three-person "aero-submarine." Able to dive to depths of nearly 100 feet, this cool craft can be added to your bill for $25,000 a week when you're renting Branson's 105-foot catamaran The Necker Belle (from $95,000 per week). Built by the same engineer responsible for the submersible featured in James Cameron's IMAX film Aliens of the Deep, the Nymph is only around a tenth of the weight of a traditional submarine and uses technology similar to planes to maneuver through the emerald waters of the Caribbean.
Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada
When you want your culture with a side of sea life (and maybe a light covering of algae and coral), jump into the dramatic Underwater Sculpture Park off Grenada. Sitting in clear, shallow waters, the works are sure to startle unsuspecting SCUBA divers and snorkelers as they stumble upon figures lying on the seabed, holding hands, or sitting at desks among the kelp. The 65 sculptures are constructed in an eco-conscious manner and become artificial reefs as they are colonized by coral and marine life. The world's first underwater sculpture park is the work of artist Jason de Caires Taylor, who is also working on another underwater sculpture park off the coast of Cancun in Mexico.
Poseidon Undersea Resort
Taking undersea accommodations to new heights of luxury, the long awaited Poseidon Undersea Resort will be over-the-top-and 40 feet underwater. The brainchild of a submarine manufacturer, guests at Poseidon will be able to sleep deep below the waters of a Fijian lagoon. Besides an amazing location, the resort will have 24 underwater suites, a fitness room, a library, and a wedding chapel. With 70 percent of the room's surface constructed from transparent acrylic, guests will have no need to use the flat screen televisions for entertainment. If you fancy a change of view, try the revolving undersea restaurant or book a ride on the resort's 16-passenger submarine. Guests willing to sink a mere $30,000 for a room will need to be patient -- the resort is now scheduled to open in 2011.
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The Chinese were on the cutting edge when they built the Baiheliang stone tablet -- an ancient water calculation structure to record low water levels -- around 1,200 years ago. It used to be easy to see the mile-long tablet from shore, but the Three Gorges Dam submerged much of it under higher water levels in 2006. But all was not lost. You can now dive to see the tablets or visit the Baiheliang Underwater Museum, which opened in 2009. Walk along an enclosed corridor and peer through the portholes 122 feet below the surface of the famed Yangtze River. And what will you see? The stone tablet is decorated with more than 30,000 characters of poetry as well as elaborate fish sculptures, including the nine-foot-long King of Carps.
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Every seat offers an up-close coral view at the Red Sea Star. This restaurant, bar, and observatory sits 16 feet under the Red Sea near the town of Eilat. With two windows to each table in the star-shaped restaurant, seafood fans can practically point at their dinner before they eat it. If you want to get up close and personal with sea life without getting your feet wet, the coral reef gardens that surround the restaurant are home to dramatic bluespotted rays, clownfish, and orange-striped triggerfish. Lighting is kept low at night to prevent distress to the reef's sensitive inhabitants, making the restaurant one of the few underwater night-observatories in the world.
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Al Sweeting Jr
It's one of the world's greatest mysteries: Where is the lost city of Atlantis? Take a boat ride out from the coast of North Bimini in the Bahamas and you may see the answer. Submerged 20 feet beneath the surface are otherworldly rock formations considered by many to be part of what was once the ancient city's road system. Skeptics scoff at the idea, but grab your goggles and take a gander at the orderly 1,500-foot-long row of square blocks and decide for yourself.