2.1.2014

The Manta Underwater Room

Imagine yourself encapsulated within a turquoise blue bubble, watching shoals of reef fish swimming lazily by - sometimes in three or four layers of different species above the reef floor.

“Magic beyond magic”
This is the heart-stopping experience that awaits you in the underwater room. The floating structure, Swedish engineered, provides three levels, those above the water clad in local hardwood, and each an experience in itself.

The landing deck, at sea level, has a lounge area and bathroom facility. A ladder leads up to the roof which has a lounging area – for sun worshipping by day and by night you can lie back in the starlight and wonder at the extraordinary clarity of the stars, planets and above all, the edge of our own galaxy – the wonderful Milky Way – all seen without any light pollution. Sleep under the stars to the soft murmuring of the sea.

Then downstairs – the magical feeling of lying on a soft double bed surrounded by panes of glass affording almost 360 degrees viewing – watching the shoals of reef fish and exquisite, often rarely seen individuals visiting your windows. Some have taken up residence around the room, which affords them some protection from predation. For instance, three bat fish and a trumpet fish called Nick who is always swimming around and seemingly looking in!

By night, the underwater spotlights beneath each window around the room attract the shyer and more unusual, for instance squid. Coral is already establishing itself on the anchoring lines and around the underwater structure. Octopus and even spanish dancers have been seen attaching themselves to the glass panes. The reef inhabitants can simply not resist attraction, which makes for exciting watching and a truly unique experience!

We opened The Manta Resort in August 2008. We have 16 rooms with the underwater room now making it 17. After many years of planning, we finally opened The Manta Underwater Room to guests on the 1st November 2013. The inspiration began as a work of installation art in a Swedish lake has now reached the Indian Ocean island of Pemba.

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A single underwater room in a Swedish lake near Stockholm. The Utter Inn is the brainchild of Mikael Genberg, an artist and public speaker who has chosen to focus on the “making art for the public”. The single room of the hotel lies 3m below the surface of Lake Mälaren in Västerås, Sweden and contains only twin beds and a table. It opened in June 2000. It has been a great success. Not only did all the untested solutions work, and work to this day, but it also attracted a people from all corners of the world.

Genberg Underwater Hotels company, a Swedish company, was formed in 2006 with the express aim of developing the concept and launching more underwater rooms around the world. Living underwater is the essence of the concept, a fascination worldwide. It is an adventure in the truest sense of the word. A uniquely absorbing experience.

The Blue Hole is an anomaly in the coral reef clearly visible from The Manta Resort terrace. Approximately 250 meters off shore it falls to 12 meters deep at high tide and is roughly 50 meters wide in diameter. A circular hole inhabited by a number of large coral heads and abundant marine life. A perfectly protected spot for your floating underwater room.

Many interesting stories so far with only 6 guests having stayed, only just opened. I would describe the reaction as more in awe of what can happen around the room. For example, huge shoals of silver bait that engulf the room with predators lurking in the background. An action packed event at night with the underwater spotlights on, feeding time. The small stuff is attracted to the light like moths to a flame and the squid, garfish, pipefish and other predators have a feast every night. We have had an octopus crawl over one of the windows. A rare visit from a spanish dancer that also crawled across the glass. It is really something to experience. You can hear dolphin when snorkelling around the room in the evening but we haven’t had a visit yet. It really gives you the feeling of being part of the very special underwater world. I guess the word for it is “privilege”, you certainly do feel privileged to be part of this new world.

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It also has to be said that our guests love The Manta Resort for what it is. It is not a five star luxury resort, it is unpretentious and a genuine place where the people are real. We have had some very well known people stay with us on Pemba which we keep to ourselves of course. What we do hope is that this kind of tourism will inspire all to make a positive contribution to Pemba Island. Guests that will feel fulfilled by being part of a real, genuine African island experience and communities that will feel fulfilled by sharing their culture and hearts.

This is truly an amazing location, paradise as you would imagine it to be. However, this is dwarfed in comparison when meeting and working with the people here. We are the Manta family and have been on a mission to protect and develop the island in a sustainable way by setting the example of what is possible in tourism. And it is.

A big story is of course that Pemba is still unexploited but the tipping point is near and the future of the island depends heavily on the impact that tourism will have. Tourism has only just begun influencing change here and it is our mission to contribute by sharing our culture we call “KWANINI”, meaning “WHY” in Swahili, the predominant language in East Africa. Through work with the local communities and workshops with the government and all stakeholders in the industry, we have articulated a vision for the future of Pemba and found common belief in this pursuit.

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It has brought everyone together and is now the driving force for our work, from the President, Vice Presidents and the Minister of Tourism through to all involved in education, health, environment, land, investors and local communities. When discussing the future we always pose the simple question “Why do we want tourism on Pemba Island”. You can imagine what transpires following this question and have held two workshops, the latest being last June 3rd and 4th 2013, based on the resounding success of the last one. The workshop/seminar is called “Kwanini Utalii Kwa Wote” which translated means “Why Tourism For All”. This has the potential of securing a brighter future for a the whole region.

Note copyright: Genberg Art UW Ltd

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