KEY LARGO, Florida Keys —Located underwater in a Key Largo lagoon, Jules' Undersea Lodge has served as the United States' only submerged recreational hotel for divers for more than 30 years.
Co-developed by Ian Koblick, an explorer and aquanaut who has devoted his life to the scientific study of the oceans and the responsible utilization of marine resources, the lodge was initially called La Chalupa, a research laboratory that was one of the most technologically advanced habitats of its kind at the time.
In the 1980s the habitat obtained a new name, inspired by novelist Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and was transformed into a two-bedroom, one-bath retreat with an entrance 21 feet beneath the surface.
The submerged habitat to date has hosted more than 10,000 overnight visitors. The experience offers diving guests the world's only Recreational Aquanaut specialty scuba diving recognition through Professional Association of Dive Instructors and National Association of Underwater Instructors scuba-certification agencies. Visitors who are not certified divers can take a short Discover Scuba course with an instructor.
The lodge's seafloor neighbor is the MarineLab Undersea Laboratory, designed in 1973 as part of the United States Naval Academy's ocean engineering program. MarineLab operates as an underwater research and environmental education facility and nearly 200,000 students have participated in field trips to the lab for educational outreach programs to learn more about diving technology.
In 2014, two Tennessee college professors spent a record-setting 73 days in the Jules' Undersea Lodge habitat during a "Classroom Under the Sea" underwater living mission. Before the pair's endeavor, the longest recorded time spent underwater was 69 days and 19 minutes, achieved by Richard Presley in 1992, according to Guinness World Records.
During their lengthy stay the duo streamed weekly live online programs about marine science, addressing the importance of the world's oceans, as well as broadcasting video interviews with leading scientists, explorers, archeologists and astronauts about topics such as conservation and undersea exploration.
"Hundreds of divers, their families and students all come back to tell us how their experience here changed their lives," said Koblick at the 30th anniversary celebration in November 2016.
"People who were here at age 14 as a first-time diver became inspired and now are teachers, marine biologists, scientists ... it gives me goose bumps," he added.
Jules' Undersea Lodge is located at Key Largo Undersea Park, 51 Shoreland Drive.
Jules' Undersea Lodge information: jul.com
Key Largo visitor information: fla-keys.com/keylargo or 800-822-1088
Located underwater in a Key Largo lagoon, Jules' Undersea Lodge has served as the United States' only submerged recreational hotel for divers for more than 30 years.
In 2014, two Tennessee college professors, Jessica Fain and Bruce Cantrell, spent a record-setting 73 days in the Jules' Undersea Lodge habitat during a "Classroom Under the Sea" underwater living mission.
The submerged habitat to date has hosted more than 10,000 overnight visitors.