Friday, December 03
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A night out swimming with fish

18 Jan 2021 By MOHAMMED TAHA

Aquarius Tours & Events’ semi-submarine offers an overnight underwater experience with dinner and breakfast, besides dolphin watching and water sports

A tourism company led by a father-son duo has transformed a semi-submarine vessel into a luxurious underwater suite that can accommodate four people – arguably the first such facility in the region.

Measuring 16m in length and more than 5m in width, the semi-submarine has three toilets – two on the top deck and one, including a shower, in the bottom deck. It also has a small kitchen equipped with modern conveniences.

On board are three staff members – one for catering services; one for safety, hygiene and cleaning; and the captain to overlook everything. “We offer an overnight underwater experience with dinner and breakfast, fun fishing, dolphin watching, beach hoping, snorkelling, kayaking and other water sports. We also have day trips for those who don’t feel comfortable sleeping in an underwater environment. We can also do small events,” Hisham Hamood al Maskari said in an exclusive interview to Muscat Daily. 

Maskari co-founded Aquarius Tours & Events with his father Hamood Sulaiman al Maskari a year ago to showcase the hidden treasures of Oman to the world. “We concentrate mostly on sea tourism. Our semi-submarine specialises in overnight underwater experiences and small events.”

He claimed pride in the fact that Oman is likely the first country in the region to have a semi-submarine with an underwater fully furnished bedroom suite. Repurposing and refurbishing of the vessel was completed in December 2020 and it is now operational.

“My father and I saw an opportunity when we came across a semi-submarine that was owned by the Ministry of Tourism two years ago. We bought it and rebuilt the whole thing from scratch. The project took us about eight months to complete,” Maskari recounted how the project started. 

“We started operating by providing tourists the opportunity to view the underwater marine life in Bandar al Khairan. The semi-sub is big enough to accommodate over 50 guests at a time. The project was successful as it was the first of its kind in the Gulf region providing a glimpse of the underwater world to those who don’t know how to dive, snorkel or swim.”

Unfortunately just as the semi-sub was gaining popularity, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. “Like the rest of the world, the tourism industry in Oman was hit hard. So we had to adapt. We could no longer accommodate 50 people at a time due to the risk of spreading the virus and we needed a new concept for the semi-sub.” 

The Maskaris started renovating the semi-sub again in September, converting the underwater deck into a suite that can accommodate a maximum of four with a fully functioning bathroom.

“Oman needs this kind of projects more than ever now in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Social distancing’ was one of the most used words in 2020 and with the semi-sub we are minimising the risk of the virus by cutting down from 50 to only two to four people. Plus it’s a unique and fresh idea,” Maskari said.

He noted that every country is looking to improve its tourism sector and he believes that “our new project will help contribute to the success of the tourism industry in Oman”.

The biggest challenge was renovating and refitting the underwater suite. “We had to make the underwater room as comfortable as possible for a one-of-a-kind experience. It is fully equipped with the comforts of a hotel room or your own home,” Maskari said. 

While they have not yet sought help for their semi-sub project, Maskari said they have always had the support of the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, family and friends.

“As it’s the first project like this in the Gulf region, we would greatly appreciate the support of everyone locally and internationally in spreading the word and by coming onboard and spending the day with us. If we can make this a success and have people talk about it worldwide, it’ll encourage more people to visit this amazing country and that’ll contribute to the local tourism sector.”

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