Sometimes mother nature needs a little help from her friends. When a natural reef is lost due to storms, pollution or climate change, an artificial reef provides a replacement habitat for fish and other underwater life.
In the Arab World we have contributions in this area in Dahab, Egypt there’s an Underwater Sculpture Museum, and Jordan has its Underwater Military Museum, but the world’s largest Underwater Theme Park can be found in Bahrain.
Out of our desire to provide something new to our readers, we have reached out officials from Dive Bahrain, the largest underwater theme park in the world.
We contacted Mr. Hamad AlMahmeed, the project lead in charge of managing all aspects of Dive Bahrain.
What’s dive Bahrain and the theme park, and tell me about the idea?
Once completed, Dive Bahrain will be the world’s largest underwater theme park/dive site spanning an area of 100,000 m2. The park includes a 70-meter long Boeing 747 as its centerpiece and will include, at later stages, other structures such as a replica of a traditional pearl merchant’s house, sail structures and ships, among other items that will be submerged in the future.
Dive Bahrain Goals
From the outset, Dive Bahrain was envisioned as serving multiple purposes. Firstly, Bahrain is eager to protect and preserve its unique natural environments – we recently launched the National Plan to Revive the Pearling Industry.
Artificial reefs offer a habitat and therefore enhance biological productivity. In doing so, they can, with time, introduce a new ecosystem in otherwise biologically depleted areas.
In fact, just days after submerging the aircraft, an inspection found that schools of fish have already started to explore the new structure. Today, only two months in, we are amazed by the amount of fish, coral and marine growth on and around the aircraft. Progression of time will only further facilitate biological accretion and marine colonization of the reef structures.
Secondly, Bahrain wanted to have a one-of-a-kind tourist attraction to both attract new visitors and offer existing visitors a new experience.
And finally, we wanted Dive Bahrain to act as an education tool. The various parts of the park may be used as a ‘live lab’ for marine biologists and environmentalists while also education school and university students about the importance of protecting natural habitats.
Tell us about the Boeing 747 submerging, and the challenges you faced
The transportation and preparation of the 747 was probably the most complex element of Dive Bahrain. The aircraft had to be transported from Fujairah in the UAE to Diyar Al Muharraq in Bahrain before it could be towed out to the dive site.
The plane was lifted by cranes over the airport fence in Fujairah, driven on a truck through the streets of Fujairah to the port, transported through the Strait of Hurmuz by barge to Diyar Al Muharraq. Once there, the extensive decontamination process, begun in Fujairah, continued to ensure the aircraft offered no danger to the environment once sunk.
After over six months of preparatory work, the plane was towed by military vessels to the final dive site and successfully submerged in June.
What are the phases of the theme park?
The first phase of Dive Bahrain was the successful transportation and submersion of the Boeing 747. This has now been completed and is open to divers. The remainder of phase one will include the sinking of a number of ships to provide further habitats for aquatic flora and fauna.
Phase two will comprise the ‘building’ of a replica pearl merchant’s house. The house will be built on a larger than standard scale, maximizing the surface area and volume available for habitat growth.
Future stages of the park will include the submersion of sail structures, reef balls and other, yet-to-be-determined features.
How to dive in the park?
To ensure the safety of divers, divers can only access the park with dive centers that are registered in Bahrain. Before opening the park to the public, the dive centers underwent an induction and training session where they were familiarized with the rules and regulations of entering and diving the park.
The dive centers also inspected the aircraft and offered valuable advice to Dive Bahrain’s management team on how to ensure the dive is enjoyable and safe.
An Open Water diving license allows you to dive the outside of the aircraft while an Advanced diving license or higher allows you to dive both outside and inside the aircraft. A list of registered dive centers can be found on our website Dive Bahrain.
Each dive center charges a different rate based on the package they offer.