Australia's first underwater hotel is set to open on the Great Barrier Reef in the coming days, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in one of the world's most spectacular natural environments.
Situated about 40 nautical miles off Airlie Beach at Hardy Reef's reconstructed pontoon that was badly damaged by Cyclone Debbi in 2017, the 10 million-Australian dollar (6.8-million-US dollar) Reefsuites facility has two rooms with glass floors, walls and ceilings.
Set to take Australia's long-standing tourism hot spot to "another level," Luke Walker, CEO of the experiential travel company Journey Beyond, said creating the aquarium-like space without harming the ecosystem was the top priority of the 14-month construction process.
"It's a balance of allowing people to immerse themselves in this World Heritage-listed natural wonder without doing any damage," he told the Australian Associated Press on Thursday.
"In everything we do, the sustainability of the reef is part of the conversation, it's a live topic on the table with any decision we make."
In total around 4,000 pieces of coral were sustainably removed and replanted onto the existing reef wall in a week-long process that's believed by the company to be the largest-ever natural coral transplant anywhere in the world.
Set to officially open on Dec 1, Walker said a marine biologist and a master reef guide will be part of the pontoon's staff and be on hand to educate guests about the history and future of the iconic reef.
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