Like mountain climbers, polar explorers, and other adrenaline junkies, scuba divers are always looking for the next big thrill. This year, Bahrain hopes to tempt traveling divers with a bucket-list-worthy theme park purpose-built for marine exploration.
Last week, the Kingdom of Bahrain announced plans to open the world’s largest underwater theme park. The site will encompass more than one million square feet of aquatic space to include art installations, artificial coral reefs, and a full-sized replica of a Bahraini pearl merchant’s house. The biggest draw, however, is likely to be a sunken Boeing 747 which divers — especially wreck divers — will be able to explore inside and out.
The 230-foot-long decommissioned jet will be carefully prepared to serve as the park’s centerpiece before it’s lowered into the Arabian Gulf. Environmentally speaking, it might seem like a poor decision. But, Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Environment told CNN Travel that, “All aircraft surfaces will be subjected to a high-pressure wash with bio-friendly detergents to ensure all post-production coatings, oil and grime are removed … A vast amount of time has been spent removing contaminants from the aircraft. This has included removing all wiring, all hydraulic, pneumatic and fuel systems, and all adhesives, insulation, plastics, rubbers, chemicals or other potential toxic substances.”
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Creating an artificial reef by sinking a full-sized aircraft is unusual, but this isn’t the first time it’s been done. Divers in Mermet Springs, Illinois, can explore a sunken Boeing 727 that was used in the ‘90s blockbuster U.S. Marshals. Likewise, Turkey is home to a sunken Airbus jet along the Aegean Coast, and the remains of a Boeing 737 lie in Chemainus in the waters of British Columbia’s Stuart Channel.
Interest in underwater attractions has exploded in the last few years as travelers seek lesser-explored destinations (read: those that haven’t been Instagrammed to oblivion). In the last year alone, an underwater art museum near Florida’s Gulf Coast, a stunning submerged hotel in the Maldives, and the opening of the world’s largest underwater restaurant in Norway have all made headlines.
If you’re hard-pressed to find Bahrain on a map, you’re not alone. While more than 12 million tourists visited the tiny island nation in 2018, it’s not exactly a hot-spot for American travelers. Yet, it’s been quietly making a name for itself, particularly among expats who ranked the country #5 on the list of the world’s best countries to live and work abroad.
An official opening date has yet to be announced for Bahrain’s underwater theme park, but sources expect it to be sometime in the summer of 2019. Think of it as the perfect in-the-field training ahead of this year’s opening of the Titanic wreck site.