The world's first 'coralarium' has launched in the Maldives - but what exactly is it all about?

1st Aug 18 | Lifestyle

A new underwater art gallery is boosting coral regeneration projects.

Although stunning at the surface, the Maldives has far greater treasures buried deeper down. The marine life brings thousands of divers and snorkellers to the region, and now there’s a new underwater attraction to add into the mix – the world’s first coralarium situated around the atoll of the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi.

Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi (Fairmont/PA)
Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi (Fairmont/PA)

What is a coralarium?

Essentially, it’s an underwater art gallery located in the heart of a coral regeneration project along the resort’s house reef. Sculptures have not only been designed to reflect the underwater environment; materials used in their construction (pH-neutral marine-grade compounds free from harmful pollutants) also attract the settlement of biomass, meaning the works will eventually become part of the reef itself.

What’s in there?

A sculpture in the Coralarium

There are three levels of artwork for people to explore, all concentrated around a stainless-steel cube structure at a depth of three meters in the lagoon. Along with rooftop sculptures placed at the top of the cube, there are  underwater art pieces and others placed on plinths at various heights to highlight tidal movements. Human-like figures are entwined with foliage and stand on the roots of Banyan trees, covered in sculpted sponges, mushroom corals and staghorn coral formations.

How does it work?

A snorkeller admiring semi-submerged artwork

An underwater pathway leads from the resort’s infinity pool, allowing guests to swim, snorkel and participate in the propagation of corals along the way. Small group guided tours led by the resort’s resident marine biologists are available several times a day. At night, the exhibition lights up to attract marine life.

Who came up with the idea?

The semi-submerged gallery is the work of naturalist and British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who has worked on previous underwater art projects and was commissioned by Fairmont and AccorHotels.

“Over the years I have realised that the really humbling thing about what we do is that once we submerge the sculptures they’re not ours anymore. As soon as we sink them, they belong to the sea and nature takes over,” he says. He hopes the project will raise awareness for the protection of coral reefs.

© Press Association 2018