30 Nov 2009 - 9:48 am

Not new but still impressive Ithaa, the unique Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa undersea restaurant on the Rangali Island (that opened in April 2005). Ithaa — a word meaning “pearl” in the local Dhivehi language — is a tiny restaurant  (seats only 12 people), but it offers diners a “spectacular underwater view of colorful fish, sharks and other sea life in the surrounding coral reefs through curved, transparent acrylic walls.” Guests begin their visits with drinks on a deck overhanging the Indian Ocean, then descend to the restaurant (16 feet underwater) via a spiral staircase, where they indulge in meals of contemporary Maldivian fusion cuisine served in four courses.

Created by MJ Murphy Ltd, a design consultancy based in New Zealand, Ithaa’s distinctive feature is the use of curved transparent acrylic walls and roof, similar to those used in aquarium attractions including Sydney Aquarium, Ocean Park Shark Aquarium in Hong Kong, and the San Sebastian Aquarium in Spain.

“The fact that the entire restaurant except for the floor is made of plexi-glass makes this unique in the world,” continues Schieck, “We are currently planting a coral garden on the reef to add to the spectacular view, and when the restaurant opens in early 2005, we will hold daily fish-feeding sessions to attract the rays, sharks and other fish to the reefs near the restaurant.”

“We have used aquarium technology to put diners face-to-face with the stunning underwater environment of the Maldives”, says Carsten Schieck, General Manager of Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. “Our guests always comment on being blown away by the colour, clarity, and beauty of the underwater world in the Maldives, so it seemed the perfect idea to build a restaurant where diners can experience fine cuisine and take time to enjoy the views without ever getting their feet wet.”

The five-metre by nine-metre transparent arch, which spans the entire room, provides a feeling of being completely at one with the underwater world while submerged beneath the surface of the ocean. Set with the resort’s renowned house reef one side, and a clear lagoon on the other, diners enjoy their meal within Ithaa’s translucent shell as the underwater drama unfolds on all sides.

(The cost per person for dinner ranges from $187 to $220.)

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