Take a tour of world’s most intriguing underwater sites
From a submerged post office to entire hidden cities, these underwater marvels are a sight to see.
Our planet is a truly astonishing place, particularly if you are willing to look beyond what’s at eye level. Hidden under the ocean waves are a bevy of incredible and often overlooked sights. And we’re not just talking about the kaleidoscopic marine life that swims about the seas. There are more unexpected underwater attractions to be seen on the seabed, ranging from submerged museums and sculptures to the remnants of thousand-year-old civilizations.
Below, we take a tour under the sea...
Underwater Post Office, Vanuatu
It may not be practical, but the underwater post office situated in the Hideaway Island marine sanctuary, in the Republic of Vanuatu, is certainly novel. The post office comprises a large fiberglass water tank completely set on the seabed with its own cut-out counter. Just a few kicks of the flipper away is the subaqueous post box. Adventurous travelers can don snorkeling gear and swim out to the office to drop off their postcards for delivery to any global destination. Needless to say, you won’t get far with regular paper postcards, which would of course fall to pieces in the saline waters. Instead, you can purchase special waterproof postcards from the gift shop on the island.
Atlit Yam, Israel
A site that earns regular comparisons to the mythical underwater city of Atlantis, this eerie millennia-old city can be found between 26 and 40 feet beneath sea level on the ocean floor off the coast of Israel, just south of Haifa. Some experts believe this Neolithic town, which dates back to sometime between 6900 and 6300 B.C., was abandoned after being hit with a tsunami brought on by a volcanic collapse on Mount Etna in Italy. Another theory is that it submerged due to rising sea levels. Among Atlit Yam’s many interesting features are various megaliths, houses and walls ruins, and human skeletons. Underwater excavators have also uncovered tools made from stone, wood and flint.
The Neptune Memorial Reef, Florida
Designed by Florida artist Kim Brandell, this underwater installation functions both as a cemetery and an artificial reef. Among those who are interred on the site is Bert Kilbride, a famous name in the diving community. Not only is Kilbride credited with making significant discoveries on wrecks such as the RMS Rhone in the Caribbean, but he was also declared by Guinness World Records as the oldest living scuba diver in the world. Even if you aren’t scuba obsessed, you will still appreciate the water-weathered ruins and architecture here, with every new kick of the flipper revealing a new sight, whether it is carved lions, impressive underwater gates or stone roads.
MUSA Museo Subacuático de Arte
Gaining access to this museum requires a little more effort than normal, thanks to its location on the seabed between resort town Cancun and Isla Mujeres in Mexico. The project began back in 2009 with just three submerged sculptures and now contains some 500 pieces, ranging from algae-covered human figures to a coral-encrusted car. The sculptures are displayed in two separate galleries. The first gallery, Salon Manchones, is about 26 feet deep and requires visitors to snorkel or scuba dive their way around. The second gallery, Salon Nizuc, is shallower and therefore not suitable for scuba diving, but is open only to snorkelers and to those who peek down at the exhibits through a glass-bottomed boat. The sculptures were all chosen with the existing reef in mind, and were designed to encourage coral growth and the proliferation of marine life.
Underwater Falls, Mauritius
Located at the southern tip of the island, this strange geological phenomenon is actually not a waterfall at all, but an optical illusion. Sand is pushed away from the island’s shoreline by oceanic currents and plunges down a drop-off into the darker ocean depths, thus creating a waterfall-like effect. Though it may technically be a fraud, this Mauritius icon is nevertheless a spectacular sight to behold. It is best seen from overhead, ideally by helicopter.
Baia Underwater Archaeology Park, Italy
Back in the glory days of the Roman Empire, the ancient city of Baia in the Bay of Naples was the go-to spot for the pleasure-seeking elite. This former Italian spa town served as a swanky holiday resort for Rome’s rich and powerful. But rising water levels have now entirely swallowed what was left of the Roman settlement. Today, the ruins of luxury vacation villas, bath complexes and temples are hidden from human view, concealed beneath the rising waters of the bay. Now a designated underwater archaeology park, Baia welcomes curious scuba divers and snorkelers who can swim around the Roman vestiges. If you would rather stay dry, the site can also be viewed during glass-bottomed boat tours.
Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote
Following in the footsteps of Mexico, Europe opened its very own underwater gallery on the seabed off the coast of Lanzarote. Fifty or so feet below the surface sit submerged sculptures, many of which are inspired by timely, real-life events. There are stone figures taking selfies and another with an iPad in hand. The pieces were chosen not just for their artistic merit but also to help stimulate coral growth and marine life, meaning the sculptures are destined to change appearance as organic matter takes over and distorts their form.
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