These days, it seems restaurants do whatever they can to offer customers a unique dining experience to attract the masses. This discovered abandoned underwater restaurant seemed to have been onto something...
Adventurous diners are always looking for the next big thing. Somewhere they can go for good food and escape their lives in an immersive dining experience. And it seems the options are just about endless.
From dangling hundreds of feet above the ground to eating in a pitch-black room, the 'unconventional dining' experiences on offer have perhaps never been better. One particularly popular option spreading worldwide is underwater dining - which is where our story starts...
The Mystery Begins
In the south of Israel, in the city of Eilat, there lies beneath the water a restaurant and bar. Although it is now sadly abandoned, it is believed to have once been the social hub of the city. At least that's what a group of scuba divers believed after they stumbled upon its remains.
Curious as to wait awaited them, the divers reached the abandoned structure and peered through the windows. Through the glass sat the remnants of a once alive club, restaurant, and bar, where it's easy to imagine visitors once drank the night away. But the unexpected discovery actually traces back to one person in specific...
It all started with Gil Koplovitz. A passionate marine biologist who was in Eilat for a one-off working visit. In one day, he had found something many before him had missed. During an interview with The Huffington Post, he explained how his incredible discovery came to be.
For decades, Gil had been exploring the earth's waters. With a focus on phytoplankton ecology, chemical ecology, and Antarctic biology, it's fair to say he had seen some incredible marine wonders over the course of his diving career. But as he soon revealed, nothing compared to what awaited him under the waters of Israel.
A Dive Like No Other
He told the publication that he had gone for a dive in the area as part of his job assignment in the area. While the Red Sea is famous for its beautiful coral reef and 1200 species of fish, it's not often noted as a site for abandoned wreckages. Therefore, for Gil, it was set to be a dive like most others.
He could not have been more wrong. Whilst admiring the fish in the distance, he noticed some peculiar-looking structure ahead of him and decided to swim up to it to learn more. When he looked through the windows, he couldn't believe what he was seeing...
A Look Inside
Instantly, Gil understood he had found an abandoned restaurant beneath the water surface. A few more minutes of observations later, he realized it was no ordinary restaurant. The furniture and design of the room indicated it was also an elegant nightclub.
Numerous tables were stacked together at the sides of the venue, while a dancefloor and pole were visible in the middle. He was filming the encounter the entire time and later posted it on YouTube in a video now watched by thousands of people. Additionally, his photographs have been published by many publications.
With the discovery of this seemingly abandoned restaurant, Gil and his diving partner, as well as the rest of us, understandably had many questions. After all, the history of the place remained a mystery. They never expected to stumble across such a structure.
The Huffington Post took one for the team and reached out to the diver for answers. We have included some of his answers within this article, as well as the findings of our own research. Read on to discover what he had to say and to see more pictures of this incredible underwater mystery.
The Nymphas Show Bar
Koplovitz explained that the night venue was Nymphas Show Bar, a then-popular nightclub that has since been deserted. Gil wasn't too sure how long it had been since it was in operation as a club or for how long it was open, but he was able to explain how the guests entered.
Although we were already picturing people putting on the wetsuits and swimming up to the club entrance, Gil gave a less-exciting answer. "The entrance is above water," he explained to The Huffington Post. "People just crossed a 230-foot bridge and went down a flight of stairs. No need to get wet."
Further research revealed that this structure was actually first built in the early 1990s and was designed to be a bar and restaurant-style venue named The Red Sea Star. During its time operating, it attracted many visitors from the surrounding tourist resort who were all desperate to dine amongst sea life.
The Travel + Leisure website recommended that visitors order "any of the bar's fruity, umbrella-ed frozen cocktails to complement the under-the-sea theme." At the time of opening, it was truly unique "as the world's first and only underwater restaurant."
What Went Wrong?
This incredibly unique idea to offer guests a chance to experience underwater life while keeping their finest dining attire completely dry and intact seemed to be a million-dollar idea. So much so, that we're wondering how no one thought of it before.
It's unclear why the restaurant eventually shut down, but it is believed it was converted into a club for a while before shutting down entirely in 2012. While there could be a myriad of reasons for its closure, one suggestion claimed it was due to a technical issue rather than a lack of popularity.
A Reddit post by the username nautilusmaker theorized that infrastructural failures were the reason for its abandonment. "This is a good example why seasteading on base of marine steel structures is not feasible. It was built from marine steel plating – steel needs to go to drydock and get sandblasted and then re-painted."
"You do an ultrasound to see if it is compromised by marine corrosion to the point where it needs to be replaced. How do you get a tower with a coral garden as ballast to a drydock to do this process? You simply can't do it – so you need to close it down permanently for security reasons once the plating becomes critical."
The Red Sea Star
While no officials have confirmed the infrastructure failure theory, it's a pretty convincing explanation for its closure. Original photos of the restaurant released as part of their advertisements show the long entry bridge described by Koplovitz.
We can also see the large sign on the building with the institution's name, The Red Sea Star. Photos found online of the inside of the restaurant during its time of operation show the beautifully designed bar area decked out with jellyfish barstools.
The Jellyfish Bar
According to the Atlas Obscura at the time, "each table of the restaurant has two large windows, one at its side, and one above the table. At night, the coral gardens around the Red Sea Star are softly illuminated with a light, designed not to disturb the fragile eco-system."
As mentioned, in addition to this thematic bar, there was also a dining room under the water surface. Overall, Atlas Obscura described, "the underwater area roughly resembles the shape of a star, hence the name of the place." Above the surface was a third section named the Metro Bar.
A Further Update
A video uploaded to YouTube in March 2013 by an account named Ada Wittenberger documented a tourist visiting the site. The clip gave us a further glimpse into the restaurant's interior, even though it is believed that at this point, it was already closed for business.
Despite the video's low quality, it interestingly showed us what the venue would have looked like, filled with people and indicated the site was still accessible to visitors back in 2013. So how about three years later, in 2016? What remained of the structure?
The Red Sea in HD
Another video posted on YouTube in 2016 by an account with the username Ron2812sr, took us into the depths of the Red Sea and showed us around the abandoned restaurant. With his professional camera, he provided a detailed and clear view of the building's exterior.
Additionally, he supplied footage of the surrounding coral reef and some views of the interior from the external windows. Already showing signs of decay, we were desperate to know how the structure would look another two years later. Then we found another video...
Closer Than Expected
Published on YouTube in 2018, a video by the user pavel kliot, gave us a necessary update on the site. Here, we saw two friends explore the building's exterior with a far lensed camera from a nearby bridge. What stood out most from the footage was the club's short distance from the shore.
Additionally, it seemed to be surprisingly not as deep below the water's surface as we first thought. Based on the fact the guys are wearing just snorkels and fins, we can surmise that reaching the venue did not require particularly deep swimming. While this means it's easier to access than we imagined, it's still not a safe adventure.
"We Had to Look Around"
Amazingly, another diving duo, under the username of Slava and Karen, managed to swim up to the abandoned restaurant and get inside. Uploaded in July 2015, these swimmers also wore just snorkels and fins and took the cameras with them on the adventure.
Alongside the video, Slava wrote, "we wanted to jump off the bridge to the water, but first we had to explore what is underneath and if the water is deep enough.. it ended up being deep enough and also containing an underwater nightclub we had to look around and then we wanted to explore what is inside."
Getting Onto the Deck
They soon realized that swimming up to the site may have been easy - but getting inside the club was a whole other challenge they would need to overcome. With their sights set on the deck that was believed to have been the service entrance, Slava and his friend began to form a plan.
Climbing onto some pylons beneath the water surface, they then had to do a major pullup to get themselves up onto the deck. Once they had found their balance and recovered from the physical strain, they looked around and were shocked to discover they were not the first ones to have made it that far...
Following The Signs
Once they were on board, they noticed some graffiti presumably painted by a previous visitor. Walking past it, they then began to navigate their way toward the club. Curiously and excitedly, they followed the path past the bathrooms, and down the hallways.
As the sunshine streamed through the water, blue light flooded into the halls through the windows, creating an additional layer of spookiness to the already unsettling setting of abandonment. Finally, they found the main event hall... and the footage did not disappoint.
The Big Reveal
As soon as the boys reached the restaurant, there was a palpable sense of excitement. They had incredibly navigated their own way onto the deck and down to the club without any professional assistance and were relieved to see so much of the venue still standing.
Most importantly, they were excited to discover the dancer pole still in its place and even hilariously entertained their viewers with a dance show on it! But what remained of the jellyfish bar which the site had become famously loved for? The duo set off to answer that question themselves.
Like Nothing Changed
Fortunately, the jellyfish tables first discovered by Koplovitz were still in their places. While the venue was, of course, pretty lifeless, the built-ins of the structure were still there. A cup filled with liquid was even left sitting on the table!
Once they had seen all there was to see and captured everything they could on camera, they set off to return to shore. Footage of them swimming back again emphasized how close the site was to the coast. But now that it's been closed for business, is the building completely abandoned - or perhaps is it being used for something else?
Then Vs. Now
While the infrastructure there would allow for a new restaurant, bar, or nightclub to slip right in with ease, the venue was surprisingly taken over by a very different type of business - a diving center. Photos published on Shutterstock in 2019 show the structure to be the Custo Club Diving Center.
A visit to the diving school's website revealed the center provides divers of all levels with the ultimate diving experience, accompanied and led by professional instructors who are trained to the highest level. They additionally offer accommodation for their visitors in the Custo Club and Dive Resort.
Not What It Seems
Despite the fact that Google Maps itself sights this structure as the exact coordinates of the diving center, further evidence suggests that all is not what it seems on the surface. Using the Google 360-degree view on the site tells a different story.
The findings indicate that the prior 2019 Shutterstock photos were out-of-date and were possibly taken long before the time they were uploaded. Alternatively, the updates to the building seen from the new 360 views could have taken place in the time since the upload.
Under the Bridge
Zooming in on the 360 footage reveals a sign posted on the door of the structure at the end of the entry bridge. With the note "Diving Club Is Under the Bridge" and an arrow pointing downwards, it seems the diving club is not using the upper portion of the venue, despite contrary beliefs.
Confusingly, Google notes the footage to be from February 2019, the same time as the stock photo upload date. Many detail-oriented users had questions after noticing the discrepancies mentioned above and began to wonder what this all means for the site and its current use.
The conclusion, we believe, is that these photos were taken before this sign was put up and access to the building from above is sadly no longer possible. As for the service entrance below? Only the bravest divers will find out if that entryway is still accessible.
We eagerly await more recent footage from divers who reach below the surface and provide this information for us all to examine. While we assume the underwater structure is still there, we can only imagine the erosion that has likely taken place, perhaps destroying its incredible legacy.
Not the Only One
Although the Red Sea Star restaurant is no longer, for those whose interests have been peaked and are now wishing to experience underwater dining, there are plenty of other options around the world offering this service. From Norway to the Maldives, it's always worth checking if there's an underwater restaurant nearby.
Surrounded by swimming fish seen through the glass windows below the water surface, guests can enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience, where they can somewhat awkwardly eat what they can see – seafood. Here's a look at some of the ones attracting thousands of visitors each year...
First up is the Under restaurant, located in Norway - five and a half meters below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean. They aim to take guests "beyond their comfort zone" with their unique underwater dining experience. Showcasing the wonders of the Norwegian marine ecosystem, they take underwater tourism to a new level.
Conscious of and sensitive to its surroundings, the concrete structure was designed to integrate flawlessly into the local environment, acting as an artificial reef for the local marine inhabitants. Moreover, it was built to last, designed to withstand the pressures and shocks of the rough sea waters.
When Atlantis Meets Dubai
Technically, this restaurant is not located underwater, but it is surrounded by one of the world’s largest aquariums which offer breathtaking views of marine life while dining. Located in the Atlantis The Palm hotel in Dubai is the Ossiano restaurant, frequently visited by the rich and famous.
The stunning aquarium feature wall is home to more than 65,000 marine creatures, including stingrays, sharks, and fish of varying sizes. Guests can stare at it while enjoying the finest quality food in a multi-course meal cooked by the world-famous Chef Gregoire Berger.
The Underwater Theme Park
The Fuyang Ocean Park in the Anhui province is an aquarium-style theme park suitable for all the family. The park offers a range of themed activities, including dolphin shows and interactive games. Their sea lion show is also incredibly popular with the children.
A standout experience they offer is their underwater restaurant which gives guests the chance to eat within an aquarium-style tunnel - whilst listening to a violinist and admiring the fish. Diners are recommended to keep their eyes peeled as mermaids are known to swim by!
-6 In The Maldives
Visitors to the Maldives looking for the ultimate culinary experience should look no further than the Subsix Underwater Restaurant on the Niyama Private Islands. It may take a speedboat and steep three-level staircase to get there, but its spectacular underwater experience proves worth it.
Appropriately named, this restaurant is located six meters below sea level and is decorated beautifully to represent that fact. With mirrored floors, chandeliers that look like dangling coral reefs, and coral-like chairs, guests are fully transported into marine life. They also offer an underwater-themed nightclub twice a week.
Just The Beginning...
Although divers across the world are constantly exploring the oceans and reporting back to us on their remarkable findings, we surprisingly have a lot more to explore. In fact, according to Oceana, 80% of our oceans remain unexplored because of low visibility, high pressures, and cold temperatures at the greatest ocean depths.
Simply put, there's still lots to learn out there. With this in mind, we can only imagine what other abandoned wonders there are below the surface, waiting for someone to find them. From abandoned underwater restaurants to long-lost shipwrecks, we'd say this story is far from over...