Local News


June 12 -18, 2019

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille


The first phase of construction of the world’s largest underwater theme park went swimmingly and the 72m-long Boeing 747, which will be part of the amusement area, has already created a big splash of interest with divers and eco-warriors across the globe.

The decommissioned American wide-bodied commercial jet airliner was transported from Diyar Al Muharraq to the diving park area north of Amwaj Islands on Monday morning following a press conference staged by the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), in collaboration with the Supreme Council for Environment (SCE) and the private sector.

Shaikh Khaled Bin Humood Al Khalifa, BTEA’s CEO, said: “We are proud to launch this eco-friendly project in partnership with local diving companies, in cooperation with the Supreme Council for Environment and the private sector.

“The new theme park will undoubtedly emerge as a global tourist attraction. The project covers an extensive area and will provide a differentiated and enjoyable experience for tourists and diving enthusiasts alike.”

The jumbo jet shell is the first feature of the 100,000sqm diving park, which organisers aim to officially open to the public in August. It was purchased from the UAE and when in commission would have flown more than 400 passengers to their destinations.

Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani, the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, shared details about the Dive Bahrain project at the launch event, alongside SCE’s chief executive Dr Mohamed Mubarak bin Daina and Bahraini diver representative Hassan Janahi.

The project, journalists were told, was implemented in accordance to strict environmental standards and international best industry practices in the field of environmental sustainability. The 20m deep site was chosen following ‘rigorous field investigations’ and talks with the Survey and Land Registration Bureau (SLRB).

The park is within a protected area with safety procedures strategically put in place in order to ensure no harm comes to the existing marine life and structures as well as to help the habitat thrive, the planners promise.

Dr Mohamed said: “We have experience in matters such as this. We have had 2,300 artificial reefs placed in different locations since 2010. Now, the eco system is improving and attracting a lot of fish.

“What is unique about this project is that it not only serves the tourism sector but also our own environment. Protecting the area with an artificial reef is added value.”

The Royal Bahrain Naval Force and Coast Guard were placed on full alert during the conference with jet ski-riding officers securing the site around the plane, with a drone soaring overhead.

After the event, the aircraft was carefully positioned onto the water and pulled by two tug boats to the dive site. It took 20 hours to reach the dive site which is 50km from the project launch area.

The buoys holding up the aircraft were showly deflated and then the jet was gently lowered onto the seabed to be installed as the centrepiece of the underwater adventure attraction. It will then take two days for the plane to be fully submerged so it should be ready and settled in place later today.

Hamad Al Mahmeed, lead project manager of Dive Bahrain, said: “The environmental concerns were addressed from the very start. We underwent rigorous environmental procedures to ensure that there are no contaminants. We worked with the Supreme Council for Environment and all the other relevant entities to make sure it was environmentally friendly.

“All plastic has been removed, bolts have been cleaned and all oil residue and gas had to be cleaned away too. We spent six to eight months on the task. We could have dropped the plane in much earlier but safety in all its forms has to come first.

“The plane remains as is for divers to swim to. The cockpit remains intact and you can actually sit in the pilot’s seat and take an underwater ‘selfie ‘if you like! This is the largest plane ever to be placed in this manner anywhere in the world.” Aside from the jet, there will be a replica of a traditional Bahraini pearl merchant’s house, dive spots, artificial coral reefs and other marine sculptures to provide a safe haven for coral reef growth and a habitat for marine life. Future phases of the project are still being studied but they are likely to include reef balls, ships and sculptures.

The BTEA is working closely with Diyar Al Muharraq to design and build the 900sqm pearl merchant’s house which is 30m x 30m and 12m high. The aim is to attract tourists interested in diving as well as researchers and university students specialising in marine biology.

“Aside from the fully-fledged pearl house, we are also building sail structures that will be pointing towards the pearl beds as well as other monuments and structures such as ships and wrecks,” added Hamad.

“We have so many entities supporting this project such as the BTEA, The Royal Bahrain Navy, the Coast Guard, the SLRB, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, as well as the office of the First Deputy Prime Minister. This is all part of ‘Team Bahrain’.”

The minister also told members of the media and invited guests that plans are underway for a special Dive Bahrain package to attract tourists and divers from all over the world to the site.

Hamad said he understands that national carrier Gulf Air is looking at linking up with a popular route taken up by the water sport community to the Maldives and another favoured diving destination, Sharm el Sheikh.

“Both are spectacular dive sites that are top notch,” he said. “Now, with this underwater theme park in Bahrain, Gulf Air will propose a diving package that takes people from all around the world to these spots, via Bahrain.”

Water sport enthusiasts and tourists interested in participating in the underwater experience can enjoy their explorative journey by booking with a registered and accredited diving centre in Bahrain.

“The dive centres are free to charge what they see fit,” added Hamad. “It will depend on the type of boat used, the type of food available and the length of the trip. That being said, it is roughly estimated to be BD30 per person up to BD50 per person depending on the package chosen.”

To find out more, check out @divebahrain and @tourismbh on Instagram for more details or visit www.divebahrain.com and www.btea.bh.

More on Local News