Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Underwater tourism: There's nowhere to go but down

Construction will soon begin in Dubai for the Water Discus, the first five-star underwater hotel.

As Richard Branson and James Cameron make high-profile submarine dives deep into the ocean and millionaires purchase luxury subs to sit on the decks of their yachts, a growing interest in underwater tourism is fueling a number of out-of-this-world projects.

The latest architectural wonder to call Dubai its home is none other than a half-submerged hotel, complete with underwater rooms offering views of life below the surface of the sea. Christened the 'Water Discus Hotel' , this spaceship-shaped building is set to be the first of several planned across the region. Designed by Deep Ocean Technology (DOT), this hotel will surely please the so called “water baby’s” who love exploring the depths of the deep blue sea. 

What a suite will look like at the Water Discus hotel.“People have always been fascinated with what’s underwater,” said Bruce Jones, president of Triton and U.S. Submarines Inc., which is building what hopes to be the world’s first underwater resort in Fiji. Jones, however, has some competition to serve this new booming market.

The hotel will comprise of two main discs, one above water and one below. These two discs will be connected by three 'legs' which contain lifts and stairways to plunge guests from the sunshine above down beneath the surface of the sea. The underwater section is located up to 10 meters deep and comprises of 21 rooms adjacent to the submerged dive centre and a bar. Offering a view like no other, the designers will make use of special lighting to illuminate the flora and fauna outside. What is more, guests will also be able to zoom in and take a closer look at even the tiniest creatures using macro photography. What is more, the hotel will be built to the highest safety standards. The top disc is built high enough to withstand a tsunami and any flooding, while the underwater disc automatically surfaces at once in the event of any danger. 

With the announcement in May that Dubai will also build an underwater hotel, the Water Discus, the race to become the first underwater five-star destination grows fierce. The Dubai proposal will have 21 rooms at least 30 feet below the surface in a giant disc. A disc above the water will have recreational facilities – a spa, garden, and a swimming pool. Other discs will house a helipad and diving center and emergency flotation pods, with a central shaft connecting the upper and lower levels, making the complex look like a spaceship. 

The entire hotel can also be raised above the water in event of an evacuation or for repairs – and should tourism go south in Dubai, it can be towed somewhere else.Dubai previously planned to build the $300 million Hydropolis – a 250-suite underwater resort. But that project collapsed during the economic downturn. This current proposal, backed by Dubai construction company Drydocks World, Swiss brokerage firm BIG Invest Consult, and designed by Poland’s Deep Ocean Technology, will cost between just $50 and $120 million. It's the first of many planned for the region.

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