Leisure: Dive in into Brussels’ Blue Lagoon – the world’s deepest diving pool for 10 years.
According to Popular Mechanics, NEMO33 is also one of the ‘strangest’ pools in the world. Intrigued? Until the completion of Y-40 in Padua in 2014, NEMO33 held the world record from 1 May 2004 as being the world’s deepest diving pool, at a cool 34.5 metres (113 feet). Now, that is deep – given that your humble scribe does know a little about how to dive, but my lessons came some years ago in a swimming pool, 8 feet, it would be fair to say that I would have some trepidation about approaching such a blue whale of a pool.
But, as NEMO33 creator, Belgian diving expert John Beernaerts explains, there is no need whatsoever for nerves: “The water is sun-heated to 33°C for comfort, and it is spring water, from which chlorine is completely absent, to protect your skin, and here at Nemo33, our very first priority is safety. For 13 years this has been demonstrated, with more than 400,000 dives and not a single injury to any of our customers.”
So, what was the inspiration behind NEMO33? Says John: “I remember the long training sessions in not-so clean swimming pools late at night, and that on top of all that you had to stay for long periods in cold water. And after you finished your course in confined waters, you had to go and do several dives in a lake or in a quarry where the water temperature could be as low as 5°C – they used to tell you that you were only a ‘real man’ if you had no fear of diving under those conditions!
But, on the other side of the world, men learn how to dive in a blue lagoon… learning to dive was easy, the pleasure was immediate, and discovering an underwater world did not require suffering. One evening, while waiting for a friend, I drew the first design of a unique and deep pool. The objective – recreate the conditions of Bora in Brussels! It
took me three years’ study to define the boundaries of the project, and 21 versions were tested before I arrived at my final pool.”
And what a pool – it contains 2,500,000 litres of non-chlorinated, highly filtered spring water maintained at 30 °C (86 °F) by a solar heater and holds several simulated underwater caves at a 10-metre (33ft) depth. Due to the warm temperature in the pool, divers can dive for extended periods without a dry suit. John intended it to be a multi-purpose diving instruction, recreational and film production facility, and Popular Mechanics has given it the ultimate accolade of a rating as one of the top 18 ‘strangest’ pools in the world – it would be interesting to know how mechanics define ‘strange’, don’t you think?
Never dived before? Have no fear – all you have to be is aged 12 or over and in good health – John’s expert diving instructors will take you very much in hand, as all divers must be either certified or supervised by a trainer and must have a certified diver as a dive buddy.
You can begin with an introductory dive (TSD type), which introduces you gently to the marvellous sensation of weightlessness. Or, why not go straight for Indoor Diver certification, which allows you to acquire experience by diving at NEMO 33 as often as you like. Then, when you are ready, you can go diving at an external location with trainers to convert your Indoor Diver into an Open Water Diver certification, which is recognized worldwide.
The price of the dive includes all equipment (they don’t let you bring your own), and a pre-dive briefing is provided, in French, Flemish and English to accommodate everyone. The pool also includes a couple of tunnels and ‘caves” in which you can surface. The caves are painted so that when you surface in them it looks like you are on the moon!
And there is also plenty to do as a spectator – the facility has a restaurant, bookshop, swimwear store, souvenir store, rooms for other water activities, and there are also numerous underwater windows that allow visitors to look into the pools at various depths.
What better way to spend a day in Brussels? The experience of a lifetime awaits – come on in, the water’s fine! www.nemo33.com/en