A typical December morning in Brussels, with its freezing rain and gloomy skies, is an appropriate excuse to bundle up and hibernate, not strip down to a bathing suit and go for a swim. Take a short drive outside the city center, though, and discover Nemo 33, the world’s deepest pool. At over 33 meters deep, this giant, solar-heated aquarium is filled not with fish but scuba divers! Designed by diving expert John Beernaerts, the facility opened in 2004.
The fresh, ultra-filtered spring water here is maintained at a heavenly temperature of 30-33° C (86-91° F), eliminating the need for a wetsuit and the unwieldy feeling of wearing one. Divers are provided with Aqualung brand equipment (though you may bring your own mask and regulator if desired). The transition to the water is seamless and relaxed without waves, visibility perfect. There may be no wildlife to see, but for divers, such natural immersion is as close to being a fish as one can get.
Experienced scuba divers must present their certification cards upon entry and are then free to dive to the depth allowed by their training level. The price per day to dive starts at 22 Euro, with small fees for renting a dive computer or if you have forgotten your card.
If you are new to diving and wish to learn in a safe, comfortable environment, Nemo 33 presents the ideal opportunity. Beginning, advanced, and instructor-level courses are taught in multiple languages and students earn certification through the internationally-recognized PADI diving organization. Emergency first response courses are also available.
Once in the water, divers can explore the multiple levels and cavernous rooms built into the pool. Floating calmly in their artificial sea, they drift like astronauts through space. Without the distraction of sharks or shipwrecks, diving in this pool is reflective, meditative, simply the peace of being submerged.
The facility has been creatively converted to appeal not only to divers but to clientele who wish to stay dry as well. The foyer features a trendy bar and restaurant outfitted in scuba décor, which is often packed midday, so a reservation is recommended.
Projected on one wall are continuously-running films of marine life – polar bears, penguins, exotic deep-sea creatures. Look through the many windows cut into the wall behind the bar to catch glimpses of the scuba divers as they swim by. They blow bubbles and kick their fins mere inches from diners enjoying lunch.
Beyond just leisure, Nemo 33’s unique pool environment has been employed for underwater filming, medical research, prototype testing, fitness classes, and naval exercises. Their facilities may be reserved for corporate events, training programs, or unique celebrations, and even if you don’t dive, the Nemo 33 restaurant is a fun place to come for a one-of-a-kind meal experience. Good conversation for a first date.
Especially in the wintertime, or if you are in Brussels for business, Nemo 33 offers both mental and physical tranquility. This is a true indulgence, better than all the Belgian chocolate in the world.