The Art of Now

05.14.14

The World’s Craziest Underwater Adventures

From snorkeling with elephants to dining in Davy Jones’s locker, check out these wild undersea vacations.
lexus-presented-by

Snorkel With an Elephant

Retirees, this one’s for you! At the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, you can snorkel with a retired Asian elephant Rajan. Ragan, who is 60-some-odd years old, is one of the last remaining swimming elephants that were once used as a taxi service in the islands. Unable to rest despite being replaced by motor boats, the five-ton elephant can be seen swimming at 4 a.m. every morning (he hates the heat in the middle of the day).

Dive a Flooded Industrial Quarry

There’s ruin porn, and then there’s underwater ruin porn. Martha’ Quarry in Lebanon, Tennessee was the site of a working quarry that was immediately flooded when miners hit water, interring everything 60 feet deep. That includes a bridge, forest, a coach bus, pumphouses, a rock-crusher house, and a pickup truck. Oh, and make sure to get caught up on Hillbilly Handfishin because there are also lots of catfish, bluegill, sauger, and bass in the quarry.

Florida’s Underwater Cemetery

This gives a whole new meaning to a watery grave. Pay your respects to the departed off the coast of Florida, in a surreal underwater memorial site constructed to look like the Lost City of Atlantis. Hundreds of people have chosen to be cremated and have their remains mixed with cement and turned into concrete blocks that are specially deposited in the city by divers. The Neptune Memorial Reef was constructed as an art project, featuring bronzed lions guarding a gate into the watery grounds and soaring structures that are slowly being covered with coral. Families and visitors are welcome to dive the site and explore what has become the world’s largest man-made reef.

Mermaid Shows

We already knew Florida was the capital of kitsch, but the Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show just outside Tampa takes it to a new level. The show, which takes place in a town with a population of four, is an underwater “mermaid” performance at the Newton Perry Underwater Theater. Performed daily, it features divers with attached fishtails performing signature songs like “We’ve Got the World By the Tail.” It was created by its founder Newton Perry in 1947, and the theater was built out of a natural 117-feet-deep spring along the Weeki Wachee River.

Built with an entirely clear ceiling 16 feet under the sea level, diners enjoy a full view of the blue ocean, surrounding coral gardens, and swarms of fish, eels, and stingrays.

Sleep Underwater in Zanzibar

If a private island with an underwater bedroom sounds like a scene from a horror movie to you, skip this one. For everyone else, the recently unveiled Manta Underwater Room in Zanzibar sounds like a dream come true. Marooned off the coast of the African island is a one-bedroom hotel room, with a luxurious underwater bedroom located 13 feet under the Indian Ocean’s surface. The rest of the room, featuring a lounge, deck, and rooftop terrace provides spectacular above-sea views to rival those of swimming fishes and octopus found down under.

Underwater Pompeii

Yea, OK, so Pompeii has movies with Jon Snow, songs, and millions of visitors—but is it under water?! No, that would be Baia, a popular Roman resort once described by Seneca the Younger as a “vortex of luxury” (sign me up). It not only has the requisite beautifully preserved floor mosaics, private rooms, statues, and theater required of any respectable Roman ruin, but also has the magnificent Tempio di Mercurio, which has a dome pierced by an oculus that predates the Pantheon.

Australia’s Cage of Death

Do you miss Fear Factor? Do you REALLY miss Fear Factor? Well then hop on a plane to the Land Down Under because at the Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin City, Australia, you might just get some sense scared into you. Essentially, you, and if you want, one friend, are put into a glass cylinder which is then lowered into the water full of five-meter-plus-long crocodiles. Oh, and one time the “Cage of Death” broke with two people inside.

Grenada’s Snorkel Sculpture Park

You won’t be snacking on wine and crackers at this gallery—you’ll be sucking in oxygen from the tank on your back. Off the coast of Grenada, the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park allows snorkeling art patrons to take their viewing beneath the sea. Crafted by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, there are 65 cement sculptures anchored to the seafloor and scattered through the bay. The surreal figures are wrapped in a circle holding hands, or typing away at a typewriter, but this art isn’t stagnant—they’re slowly becoming a sanctuary for coral and fish.

Dine with Fishes in the Maldives

Reservations might be tight in this 14-seater restaurant, but the view is worth it. In 2005, the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant in the Maldives became the world’s first underwater restaurant. Built with an entirely clear ceiling 16 feet under the sea level, diners enjoy a full view of the blue ocean, surrounding coral gardens, and swarms of fish, eels, and stingrays that float through. The restaurant is part of the Conrad Rangali Resort, which spans two private islands in the Maldives. This fine dining may be under the sea, but it has rules: smart dress and no children allowed at dinner. Honeymooners, this romance can’t be beat.

Stroll the Ocean Floor in Mauritius

Non-swimmers still curious to check out what’s beneath the deep blue sea will like the opportunity to get their sea legs with this tour in Mauritius. Don an astronaut helmet-like apparatus, strap yourself into a weighed belt, and descend to the bottom of the ocean floor for a stroll. Meant for those without diving experience, this “undersea walk,” will guide you on a short tour of the coral reef and its inhabitants. Thankfully, no one will be judging your unfashionable headwear under water.