Sleeping with the fishes
$73k a night for Kiwi’s underwater hotel
Michael Murphy is helping luxury tourists sleep with the fishes.
The Auckland engineer, who has created aquariums and underwater restaurants around the world, has now helped design the world’s first underwater hotel villa.
The two-level Muraka, which cost $22 million to make and is part of the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort, sleeps up to six adults and three children and costs from $73,000 a night.
Occupants can gaze out at sharks and manta rays as they recline in bed five metres below sea-level. The bedroom, living room and bathroom have 180-degree views of the
Indian Ocean through curved acrylic windows.
Murphy, 70, was the structural engineer and involved in the concept design.
“It’s one of the most challenging projects I’ve had. And super exciting at the same time,” Murphy told the Herald on Sunday.
Murphy has his “fingers crossed” he may one day spend a night there.
With the undersea bathroom having full-length windows, he jokes he “might shock the fishes”. Human privacy is assured, however, with the residence set apart from the rest of the resort.
Guests get exclusive use of the resort’s yachts and speedboats, 24-hour access to a butler, housekeeper, security team and personal chef; return flights by seaplane from the capital Male; endless alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and daily spa treatments.
The top floor above the sea includes two bedrooms, butler’s quarters, bar and dining area, living room and an infinity edge pool.
Guests can descend to the underwater level down a spiral staircase or an elevator.
Creating the underwater quarters was an engineering feat. The 610-tonne structure was built in three pieces in Singapore and taken by barge on a four-hour journey to
meet a crane ship which took it to Rangali Island. Two cranes lowered the villa on to steel piles driven into the sea floor.
“That’s the most fragile time, before you concrete them in. It’s sitting there exposed,” says Murphy, who helped oversee the operation.
Divers with microphones and underwater cameras liaised with the ship’s captain, giving instructions to the crane drivers. The two-year venture is not the first project Murphy has helped design for the resort from his Manukau office. Its underwater Ithaa restaurant, which opened in 2005, is 5m below sea level has been voted by many publications as the most beautiful restaurant in the world. Other projects by Murphy include a shark tank at Palma Aquarium in Mallorca, Spain, a 5m-wide acrylic tunnel at Malaysia’s National Science Centre aquarium and a 10m underwater tunnel at Spain’s San Sebastian Aquarium.
Murphy also helped design underwater viewing windows for the penguin display tank at Christchurch’s International Antarctic Centre, Auckland Zoo’s sea lion pool, and the set of action TV series Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess.
An Auckland University civil engineering graduate, Murphy worked on roads, bridges and industrial buildings before setting up MJ Murphy Ltd in 1982. He specialised in design in the coolstore/food processing industry. In 1984, he was involved with construction of a 730-berth floating marina at Auckland’s Westhaven Marina which led him to concept plans for Kelly Tarlton’s.
Left and above, the Muraka, designed by Kiwi Michael Murphy. Below, his earlier-designed underwater restaurant, the Ithaa.