Diners are constantly looking for new ways to enjoy their food - and this underwater restaurant might be just the thing they're looking for. Here's the fascinating story of the unique eatery hidden beneath the waves.
These days, there are countless options for amazing and interesting dining experiences in most cities. Foodies and adventurous eaters have so many experiences to choose from, it can be hard to stand out.
Restaurant owners who want to provide a unique experience can find themselves competing with establishments that take their customers hundreds of feet in the sky or put them in dark rooms to enhance their taste buds. But this next eatery is really setting the bar high - despite being hidden below every establishment in the area...
And on that note, let’s venture to the city of Eilat, in the south of Israel. This used to be the location of a restaurant and bar - one that was located entirely underwater. Today it lies eerily abandoned, but it was believed to have once been a very popular hub.
The remains were found by a group of scuba divers who glanced into the windows of the abandoned site, where they saw the skeleton of a restaurant, club, and bar. Even in that state, it was easy to imagine revelers enjoying a drink and a meal. But there was one person in particular who helped the mysterious discovery gain traction.
That would be a man named Gil Koplovitz, a marine biologist who stumbled across the bar and restaurant while visiting Eilat. He was interviewed by The Huffington Post about the incredible discovery that so many other explorers in the region had missed.
Up until this point, Gil had spent a decade exploring the ocean in many parts of the world due to his career. He worked in phytoplankton ecology, chemical ecology, and Antarctic biology - a very impressive resume that allowed him to visit some of the most incredible sites of the world’s waters.
The Dive Of A Lifetime
According to his HuffPost interview, Gil had been in Eilat for work, exploring that particular area of the Red Sea due to its incredible coral reef and over 1200 different species of fish. Interestingly enough, this part of the ocean was not known for any significant abandoned underwater sites.
Everything had seemed standard at first. Gil certainly wasn’t expecting to find anything out of the ordinary. Needless to say, as he floated through the water observing marine wildlife, he was shocked to find a looming structure before him. And what he saw inside made it all the more surreal.
A Closer Look
The moment he peered through the windows of the underwater structure, he understood exactly what he was seeing. It was an abandoned restaurant still fitted with its original furnishings! And upon further inspection, he realized it had been both a restaurant and a nightclub.
On one side of the room were tables stacked on top of each other, and in the center of the room was a clearly marked dancefloor and pole in the center. To make matters even more amazing, Gil happened to have a camera on hand. Eagerly, he began filming the entire experience before uploading it to YouTube.
Question After Question
But just like any other mysterious discovery, the knowledge of this strange underwater site only prompted more and more questions. Everyone could see that there was an abandoned underwater restaurant, but when did it close? Who built it? And of course - why was it underwater?
Soon enough, journalists at The Huffington Post took it upon themselves to answer at least some of those questions. They reached out to Gil for an in-depth interview. We’ve managed to fill in the rest of the story via our own research; keep reading for this remarkable aquatic tale.
Introducing The Nymphas Show Bar
According to Gil Koplovitz, the abandoned building was once a nightclub that went by the name Nymphas Show Bar. Unfortunately, Gil couldn’t say when the restaurant was opened, for how long it operated, or even when it was formally abandoned. But he did learn a few interesting things.
For example, he knew that patrons did not enter the restaurant via scuba diving, as so many people thought. Instead, there was a more traditional front door. "The entrance is above water," he told HuffPo. "People just crossed a 230-foot bridge and went down a flight of stairs. No need to get wet."
Some More Discoveries
But let’s answer some of those more urgent questions. The venue dated back to the early 1990s, when it first opened as a bar/restaurant by the name The Red Sea Star. In the first few years, it was a famous destination, with countless tourists and locals flocking to enjoy a meal below the waves.
According to the website Travel + Leisure, guests could try "any of the bar's fruity, umbrella-ed frozen cocktails to complement the under-the-sea theme." Naturally, the venue capitalized on its unique setting and was promoted "as the world's first and only underwater restaurant."
Things Go Awry
There’s no doubt that as a concept, the underwater restaurant was an incredible idea practically guaranteed to pull in thousands of sightseers. Who wouldn’t want to dress up to the nines and go enjoy a meal on the ocean floor? But if it was such a good idea, what went wrong?
Even today, there are no definite answers as to what happened to the Nymphas Show Bar. Over the years, the owners focused more on the club side of things than the restaurant. And eventually, the owners closed its doors for good in 2012. Rumors swirled about its closure, but it seemed likely to be the result of a technical issue.
For example, a post by Redditor nautilusmaker put forth the compelling theory that it suffered serious infrastructural issues. "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."
Relics of the Past
Sadly, this theory has never been confirmed, either by public officials in Eilat or by any of the original owners or employees of the venue. Thankfully, though, there are still some original photos taken of the restaurant when it opened in the early 90s.
These particular photos were taken for the restaurant's advertisements. They show the aforementioned entry bridge, as well as a large entrance sign with The Red Star emblazoned across it. There are even promo photos of the restaurant's interior, including the jellyfish-themed bar.
Sea Star And Jellyfish Bar
In a copy of the Atlas Obscura, it was written that "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."
Beneath the waves was the funky Jellyfish Bar and a dining room, which was described as such: "the underwater area roughly resembles the shape of a star, hence the name of the place." But not every part of the venue was under sea level - the third part (the Metro Bar) was above the water.
In 2013, the wider world was given another glimpse into the insides of this very unique establishment. A YouTuber named Ada Wittenberger uploaded a video of a tourist visit to the abandoned nightclub. Despite the video’s low quality, it showed another facet of the structure we hadn’t yet seen.
Despite being closed for business, the building was still open to the public, and this video showed its short-lived life as an accessible tourist site all those years ago. And three years later, in 2016, we would be given another look at the building from a different perspective.
Another HD Exploration
By 2016, another YouTuber took a shot at sharing this compelling structure with people around the world. User Ron2812sr shared a video on YouTube showing his exploration of the desolate restaurant’s exterior - all through the clear lens of his professional camera.
This footage included views of the building exterior, the coral reef that had surrounded the former restaurant, as well as a few glimpses through the windows of the structure. By this point, it was already beginning to decay. Luckily we managed to find another video showing the building a few years later.
Simpler Than Expected
The third video was published in 2018 by a YouTube user name pavel kliot. This would be the next update on the underwater restaurant since 2016, and it showed two friends diving near the site and filming its exterior with a far-lensed camera. The video revealed something very interesting...
The original building was much closer to the shore than many people thought. Both people in the video were only equipped with fins and snorkels, meaning that deep-sea scuba diving was not a necessity for reaching the exterior of the building. But that didn't mean it was easy to access.
"We Had to Explore"
Just ask Slava and Karen, the username of a pair of diving YouTubers who uploaded a video of their own back in July 2015. Not only did this adventurous pair dive around the abandoned underwater building, but they also managed to get inside the building with just a pair of fins and separate snorkels!
In the caption of the video, Slava noted that "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."
All On Deck
While it was much easier to enter the building than they initially expected, getting into the nightclub was going to be a whole different ballgame. They had enough information to know that the service entrance was accessible via the deck, so they knew what they had to do.
The pair scaled a set of underwater pylons, exerting as much upper body strength as they could to pull themselves onto the deck of the club. And when they had finally recovered from the intense mini-workout, they realized they were not the only explorers who had made it on deck.
An Impromptu Tour
As it turned out, the entrance to the club had been decorated with graffiti by aquatic explorers who had already had the same idea. The duo continued on into the building, walking past empty bathrooms and through expansive hallways, fascinated by the underwater structure that was unfolding before them.
The windows in the hallways let in the sunshine from above, which streamed through the water and bathed the hallways in blue light. It made the empty hallways feel both magical and somewhat eerie. They pushed on regardless until they finally found themselves standing in the main hall of the building.
The Main Event
The two men stepped foot inside the restaurant, filming everything as they went. They could barely contain their excitement as they wandered onto the deck and downstairs, where the remains of the nightclub still stood. It was a welcomed surprise to see that most of the structure was still intact.
And what’s more, the dancer pole from the old nightclub still stood in its same place, reaching from floor to ceiling in the center of the room. They tried out a view dances to entertain their viewers before moving on to explore the remains of the famous jellyfish bar.
Stuck In Time
They were surprised to see that much of the bar that Gil Koplovitz would later discover was still largely intact - as if the bar had only been closed up a few months ago. All of the built-in furniture had been left behind, and they even found a drink left on one of the tables.
The two men captured as much as they could with their cameras, eager to share the space with their viewers. They then set off back to the shore, filming as they went to further demonstrate the short distance between the abandoned nightclub and the shore. Their footage was enlightening - but there was one question it didn’t answer.
Were there any future plans to use the space, or was it going to remain empty underwater for the indefinite future? After all, the space could still be easily transfigured into a beautiful restaurant and bar again. Interestingly enough, the building had been purchased - but not for hospitality purposes.
The former restaurant had been taken over by a diving center! According to Shutterstock photos from 2019, the structure was being used as the Custo Club and Dive Resort. It was being primed as an amazing diving experience for scuba divers of all experience levels, with accommodation options for visitors too.
A Puzzling Inconsistency
At least, that was according to the diving center’s website. But a further look into the details revealed a different story. Although the diving center was listed on Google Maps with the very same coordinates as the underwater structure, a quick look at the Google 360-degree view said otherwise.
All signs pointed to those aforementioned Shutterstock photos being uploaded and registered in 2019 - but the actual photos were likely taken years earlier. Then again, it was possible that the new changes to the building seen via Google were added since the photos were uploaded. What was going on?
A Closer Look at the Bridge
Let's stay with the current Google 360-degree view. By zooming in, we saw a sign on the former restaurant's door that said, "Diving Club Is Under the Bridge" with a downward arrow. This implied that the diving club was only using the underwater portion of the structure.
In another twist, Google also held the dates for all of this 360-degree footage, and this particular area was filmed in February 2019 - around the same time that the Shutterstock photos were uploaded. With all of these discrepancies and confusion, it’s no surprise that people were curious about the current state of the building.
So what can we make of all this? Well, it seems most likely that the sign was put up after the photos were taken, and the top part of the building (above water) is no longer in use. When it comes to the service entrance, it’s hard to say - perhaps some intrepid divers are willing to find out?
Until then, we’ll be keenly waiting for new footage of the abandoned underwater restaurant in its current state - likely from divers exploring the waters around Eilat. In fact, it’s hard to say if the original structure is even still there or if erosion had finally worked its magic on the foundations of the building...
The Journey Continues
Some people will probably read this story, and their hearts will sink. But thankfully, the Red Sea Star isn’t the only underwater dining experience in the world. There are actually a few of them on offer, including in two of the most alluring places in the world: Norway and the Maldives.
These incredible locales allow visitors to wine and dine while surrounded by fish, coral, and other underwater sights. It may be a little awkward eating seafood in front of them, but there’s no doubt that this is a must-see dining experience. Let’s take a look at some of these incredible attractions.
A great example is Norway's Under restaurant, located on the southern coast of the country, five and a half meters underwater. This foodie paradise takes its customers "beyond their comfort zone" as they descend into the North Atlantic Ocean to the restaurant.
Not only do guests get to dine on Norwegian delicacies, but they also get to enjoy the country’s unique marine ecosystem while they do so. The building is made of concrete and designed with its surroundings in mind, built in unison with the environment by working as an artificial reef and being able to sustain water pressure.
Next Stop: Ossiano
Next up is a restaurant that is technically above the waves, but it still gives many other aquatic-themed eateries a run for their money. Ossiano is a restaurant located in the Atlantis The Palm restaurant in Dubai, which sits inside one of the largest aquariums in the world!
Ossiano and Atlantis are a favorite for many jet-setting celebrities, and it’s not hard to see why. The aquarium holds over 65,000 sea creatures, and restaurant and hotel guests can watch fish, stingrays, and sharks float by while they enjoy a 5-star meal crafted by Chef Gregoire Berger.
The Fuyang Theme Park
Let’s move further east to China, where we can find the Fuyang Ocean Park in the Anhui province. While the ocean park isn’t entirely underwater, it is built around various aquatic activities, including dolphin and sea lion shows for children and interactive games for young visitors.
But many guests visit the Fuyang Ocean Park for one thing - the park's main restaurant, which technically is underwater! The restaurant is built into a large aquarium tunnel and even comes with restaurant violinists who serenade couples and families while they enjoy dinner under the waves.
Mesmerized in the Maldives
For those who are lucky enough to take a trip to the Maldives, keep your eyes peeled for the stunning and exclusive restaurant Subsix Underwater, located on the private islands of Niyama. A visit to the restaurant requires a speedboat ride and descending three stories below the ground... but it’s more than worth it.
As some may have guessed, the restaurant's unique name comes from its location six meters deep in the ocean. The venue even has an underwater nightclub and is fully marine-themed, from coral reef chandeliers and chairs that look like coral to mirrored floors that have a dreamy underwater effect.
More To Uncover
While stumbling across an abandoned underwater restaurant may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it's just an example of how little we really know about what goes on below sea level. According to Oceana, humankind has only explored around 20% of the planet's oceans, with 80% remaining unexplored.
It seems like underwater restaurants are just the beginning of what can be found under the waves, from aquatic mysteries to long-forgotten shipwrecks. We can’t help but think that Eilat’s abandoned eatery is just the first of many fascinating deep-sea discoveries we’ll be reporting on…