Although your mind likely goes right to the colorful fish of the same name, Nemo 33 has nothing to do with the fictional tale of a family member gone missing in the vast ocean. Located in Brussels, Belgium, Nemo 33 entices divers around the world to go on a one-of-a-kind swimming adventure. This remarkable freshwater facility boasts underwater caves and passageways, as well as a deep-sea Thai restaurant.
Nemo 33 is the brainchild of diving expert John Beernaerts, who began developing the idea in 2001 after spending many years diving in his home country of Bora Bora. Its name is inspired by the fabled captain of the famous French novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. The pool opened in 2004 as a multi-purpose diving instruction and recreational facility, but has also found a niche in film production.
World’s Second Deepest Swimming Pool
Until 2014, the Nemo 33 pool held the Guinness World Record for being the deepest indoor swimming pool in the world for its 113-foot (34-meter) plunge, which is about the size of a 10-story building. This impressive dive site is spring-fed, filtered, and maintained at a comfortable temperature of 91.4°F (33°C). The entire depth is filled with non-chlorinated fresh water, which engulfs a series of attractions fit for a diver’s playground.
Into the Depths of Nemo 33
Image from: Official Nemo 33 website
Nemo 33 features numerous structures meant to simulate the experience of deep-sea diving, including intricate passageways and underwater caves submerged in 660,000 gallons (2.5 million liters) of water. Endowed with surreal vastness and astonishing architecture, visitors can participate in aquatic activities like swimming, scuba diving, and freediving.
Nemo 33 is designed with multiple platforms and one circular pit that plunges up to its maximum depth. As you explore its waters, you’ll find that Nemo 33 is filled with underwater caves at varying depths. If you ever tire yourself in the middle of a dive, some caverns are designed with pressurized rooms that are constantly pumped with fresh air.
Check out this cool video taken by the Sub Aqua Club Wiltz to savor some of Nemo 33’s attractions.
The Pearl is a 6.6-foot-wide sphere located 16 feet (five meters) below the surface. With a maximum capacity of four occupants, this underwater restaurant gives divers the experience of a lifetime, letting them down champagne, foie gras, and lobster salad. After leaving their scuba gear on the floor and entering the air-filled bubble from below, customers can even change into fancier clothes to match their gourmet meal! Dining in The Pearl can be a bit costly at 99 euros (a little over $111) per person, but you can always just admire this scuba restaurant from the outside.
Watch this video to learn more about The Pearl:
For a while, Nemo 33 was home to a collection of underwater photographs by the world-renowned freediver and photographer Fred Buyle. Fourteen images of deep sea encounters hung at depths ranging from 4.9 to 32.8 feet (1.5 to 10 meters), mainly highlighting sharks and whales. The exhibit ran from February 2015 until April 2015.
Check out this video to relive the underwater exhibit at Nemo 33:
The facility is geared towards both experienced and novice divers, but all divers must be at least 12 years of age and either scuba certified or are currently being trained by a certified instructor. To gain full access to its maximum depth and enjoy freediving, you need to present your certifications or be accompanied by a trainer. You can also rent gear from the facility or buy from their dive shop.
Swimming and Diving Lessons at Nemo 33
Image from: Official Nemo 33 website
Nemo 33 isn’t just a curious destination for divers as it’s also a learning academy where students as young as 12 can take diving lessons. Depending on the course, prices range from 69 to 675 euros (a little over $77 to $757). Beginners start practicing at a maximum depth of 19.6 feet (six meters), while advanced students can descend up to 108.2 feet (33 meters).
Apnea diving courses are also available for divers who are at least 15 years of age. The objective of the program is to train students to plunge into deep waters confidently without a breathing apparatus. Here, you will learn how to control your breath while freediving. The allowable maximum depth will be determined by your skill level and the instructor’s discretion.
On the other hand, you can start swimming lessons at Nemo 33 as early as three years old. While the tourist spot is famous for its immense depth, it is also built with areas that are manageable even for children (with safety gear and supervision, of course). Lessons take place at four feet (1.3 meters), and last around 30 minutes for private swimming courses or 45 minutes for collective swimming courses. You can progress to deeper sections of the pool as you get promoted from beginner to intermediate and advanced levels.
Other Services and Attractions
Bar and Resto
Locals and tourists also flock to Nemo 33 for its exquisite bar and restaurant. The facility serves the most mouthwatering Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese food in all of Brussels, as well as delectable pies and salads. There is also a fine selection of wines that are occasionally sold at bargain prices. Built with a number of giant windows, the restaurant lets you dine in an extraordinary atmosphere as you are afforded a great view of divers and performing sirens.
The diving center also offers aquagym modules at select days and schedules. Each session employs a water aerobic routine that lasts for about 50 minutes, and costs 20 euros (a little over $22). Participants are encouraged to divulge existing medical conditions or the inability to swim to their instructors before engaging in the activity. They are also expected to wait for the lifeguard before stepping in the water and to stay away from dive zones.
Nemo 33 has an entire platform filled with AquaBikes. A single AquaBike may be reserved for five sessions for 50 euros (about $56) or ten sessions for 95 euros (about $106). Both packages are inclusive of swimming pool entrance fees and may be consumed within a month’s time. Participants aged 12 to 65 years are welcome to try aquaspinning with the right gear (ex: proper swimwear and aqua slippers). For older participants, a medical certificate needs to be presented before exercising. Such visitors may secure a physician’s go-signal before heading to the facility, or have themselves checked by one of Nemo 33’s in-house doctors.
How to Get to Nemo 33
Nemo 33 is located in the town of Uccle, which is a southern suburb of Brussels. You can get there via the Thalys high-speed train from Amsterdam and then take a tram to the south.