There’s a good reason Bond villains build themselves elaborate undersea bases from which to conduct their nefariousness. Who doesn’t love the idea of being down there among the fish, the dappled light and the quiet? Problem is, traditional diving holidays can be a bit, well, divey.
All that slapping around the place in your flippers applying aftersun. A more civilised alternative is the underwater hotel. From Dubai to Texas to North Korea (yes, North Korea, honeymooners), the smart holiday money is all about the deep. There’s even an underwater nightclub – Subsix – in the Maldives. Whatever your tastes, here are five fantastic watery getaways whether you scuba do or scuba don’t.
Sleep with the fishes in a Swedish lake
The Utter Inn is Sweden’s only underwater hotel and consists of a traditional cabin topsides and a bedroom below the surface of Lake Mälaren. Guests are rowed out 1km to a small floating deck, given instructions and an inflatable boat and are left there. A helpful local will ferry meals out to you and at bedtime, a ladder takes you ten feet below the surface to your room, with stunning views of the fish doing whatever fish do at night in Sweden.
One night’s self-catering from Dhs1,024 for two people. Deluxe package (breakfast and dinner delivered) from Dhs1,358 for two people. Lake Mälaren, Västerås, www.visitvasteras.se (+46 2139 0100).
Scuba to your sunken suite in Florida
Want to visit the world’s oldest underwater hotel? Then don your diving suit. Guests booked into Jules’ Undersea Lodge plunge 21ft beneath a lagoon in Key Largo, where they discover what looks like a sunken static caravan, actually a former 1970s marine lab. The vibe is aqua-hippy: you enter through a ‘moon pool’ in the floor of the lodge and towel off before heading into the main area of a living room, kitchen, shower room and two bedrooms. Through porthole windows you can watch tropical angelfish, barracuda, sponges and feather-duster worms.
A single-person overnight stay starts from Dhs2,479. 51 Shoreland Drive, Key Largo, Florida, www.jul.com (+1 305 451 2353).
Nest among the Balinese fishing nets
Found at the Bambu Inda Hotel in Ubud, Bali, Udang House offers the ‘authentic fishing village experience’ without the smell of cod’s heads. Formerly a Javanese bridal home, and built over a freshwater pool, the 100-year-old house is kitted out with shrimping pots, paddles and fishing nets. Chill out while glass floor panels reveal the aquatic activity beneath your much-Instagrammed feet.
One night’s bed and breakfast from Dhs716 for two people. Bambu Indah, Banjar Baung, Desa Sayan, Ubud, Gianyar, www.bambuindah.com/houses/udang-house (+62 361 977 922).
Dive into a vanishing alpine lake in Austria
In winter, Tragöss country park echoes to the sound of walkers clomping around it. Then in spring, there’s a magical JG Ballard transformation as millions of gallons of melted alpine snow fill it with chilly emerald green water. The Green Lake reaches a maximum depth of 40ft in June before disappearing until the following year. Divers pay €10 (Dhs40) to see everything from trout to submerged bridges, trees and park benches. Are they looking at the possible future of Western Europe?
Tourismusverband Tragöss, Tragöss, www.tragoess-gruenersee.at (+43 3868 8330).
Relax on a remote Aussie reef
Not great if you’re scared of water or big open spaces, ReefSleep on the Great Barrier Reef is an isolated diving pontoon 40 nautical miles off Australia’s Whitsunday Coast, which accommodates just six guests at a time. If you’re cool with all that, though, it’s magical. As the sun sets, you climb into your ‘swag’– a cosy, low tent on deck with clear viewing panels and snug beds – and catch some kip beneath the stars. You can spend the days diving to the depths of the world-famous reef, before being rocked to sleep by the waves and waking up amid the great blue nothing beneath the infinite arch of the cerulean empyrean. It’s bliss mate!
From Dhs1,465 per person (including all meals, travel and accommodation). Cruise Whitsundays Reefsleep, The Whitsundays, Queensland, www.cruisewhitsundays.com/gbra-reefsleep.aspx (+61 748 467 000).