Mondo’s picks: 7 fantastic underwater experiences

Top restaurant in Norway under five meters of water, statue park taken over by corals in Mexico. Mondo listed unforgettable underwater experiences around the world.

Underwater waterfall, Mauritius
The underwater waterfall in Mauritius can be admired by snorkeling or from the air.

1. Underwater waterfall, Mauritius

Mauritius, a popular tourist destination in the Indian Ocean, is known for its beaches, but it has plenty to offer also below the water surface. Especially in the northern part of the island, there are excellent locations for divers and snorkelers. There are plenty of fish, corals and even shipwrecks to look at.

However, the most spectacular marine attraction is what is known as an underwater waterfall. Off the southwestern part of the island, in Le Morne, water seems to rush towards the depths from the surface. It is not an actual waterfall but an optical illusion caused by the movement of sand and water by ocean currents. You can view it by snorkeling, but the best view is from above, which is why helicopter tours are organized there.

Silfra fissure, Iceland
Snorkeling and diving trips are organized to Silfra from nearby Reykjavík.

2. Silfra fissure, Iceland

Iceland’s Þingvellir National Park, near Reykjavík, boasts one of the world’s most famous diving spots. The Silfra fissure lies between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, offering an unforgettable diving and swimming experience.

The Silfra fissure lies between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

There are few fish in the cold water, but visibility can be more than 100 meters, and the various rock formations are fascinating to watch. The Silfra Cathedral is the most famous of them all.

The good thing about Silfra is that you can marvel at the views also by snorkeling at the surface. When you dive, you must be careful: the freezing cold water has caused problems for many who are used to warmer waters. Snorkeling and diving trips are organized to Silfra from Reykjavík.

Oceanarium Lisbon
In Lisbon’s Oceanarium, you can spend a night surrounded by sharks.

3. A night at an aquarium, Lisbon

Large marine aquariums are fascinating and many of them offer special experiences. There are guided tours by experts and, for example in the Helsinki Sea Life aquarium, you can also feed the fish. How about spending an entire night next to an aquarium? Some aquarium centers around the world offer this against payment, with visitors spending the night in sleeping bags.

These are mostly available in the United States, such as in Florida. In Europe, such an experience is available in, for example, the Oceanarium in Lisbon under the theme Sleeping with sharks. The Oceanarium also offers other experiences, such as a fado concert for families.

Restaurant Under, Lindesnes
The underwater restaurant Under in Lindesnes, Norway, opened in 2019.

4. Restaurant Under, Norway

From the outside, it would appear as if a modern concrete colossus had crashed into the sea outside a small town in southern Norway.

Yet this is not a failed construction project but Europe's first underwater restaurant called Under, at five meters below the surface. It was designed by the architecture company Snøhetta, also known for the Oslo Opera House. The kitchen is run by Danish Nicolai Ellitsgaard, who was given a mission of getting a Michelin star for the restaurant.

Under was opened in March 2019 and got its star the following year. The menu obviously includes fish and other seafood from the local waters, but also lamb, sea birds and algae from the archipelago. While eating you can enjoy ocean life through a panorama window.

The restaurant has received a fair amount of acclaim: Time magazine included it on its list of the world’s 100 greatest places.

Museo Subacuático de Arte MUSA
MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) is the world’s largest underwater art museum.

5. Underwater museum, Mexico

Art collections displayed on the seafloor are found in various parts of the world, such as Grenada, Lanzarote and Gili Meno, Indonesia. The largest ”underwater museum” is in Cancún, Mexico. The Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) consists of about 500 works of art. They were made by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor and a group of Mexican artists. DeCaires Taylor specializes in underwater art, and his work is available elsewhere, too.

The sculptures are designed in a way that corals and plants will attach to them, so they become part of the seascape. The MUSA artwork is visible from the surface when snorkeling, but to reach it, you must buy a ticket for the boat ride, and be able to swim well.

Manta Resort, Sansibar
In this floating hotel room, visitors sleep four meters below the surface.

6. Hotel room under the sea, Zanzibar

Hotel resorts in warm destinations offer underwater fun, such as a restaurant and spa in the Maldives. Underwater hotel rooms are also available in various places, and one of the most stunning ones is off Pemba Island in Zanzibar. The Manta Resort includes a floating building to which the customers are taken by boat.

Upstairs, in the small house you can enjoy the sky, while the bedroom is under the surface level. The bedroom has windows in all four directions. And the price is also quite something, about 1,500 euros per night with a minimum reservation of three nights. The building was designed by a Swedish company, and the upper part resembles a Scandinavian luxury cottage.

Blue Hole Gozo
Gozo’s diving paradise is only a short ferry ride from the main island of Malta.

7. Blue Hole, Gozo

The Gozo Island, close to Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, has one of the world’s most fascinating diving locations. The Blue Hole is located on the island’s west coast. Famous diving locations by the same name are also found for example in Belize and Egypt. 

The Blue Hole in Gozo is a vertical, water-filled cave with a tunnel at the bottom that leads to the open sea. The water is clear and as you dive you can see marine life ranging from sardines to sea bass and parrotfish. The tunnel to the open sea is at a depth of about 15 meters.

The water is clear and as you dive you can see marine life ranging from sardines to sea bass and parrotfish.

Even if you do not dive yourself, the Blue Hole is still worth seeing. From a nearby rock, you can see the tunnel from the top and watch as divers descend into the depths.

Within sight of the place used to be Gozo’s most famous tourist destination, the Azure Window. It was a natural arch rising from the sea, but it collapsed in a storm some three years ago. Now its remains have become a popular diving destination.

Text: Pekka Hiltunen and Valtteri Väkevä Photos: All Over Press, Getty Images, Snøhetta and The Manta Resort

The story was originally published in Mondo's issue 1–2/21.

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