Travel photographer Jesper Anhede originally went to Pemba Island off the coast of Tanzania to start a surf school with a friend at The Manta Resort
But he ended up with an even bigger challenge: photographing the resort’s underwater hotel room — the first of its kind in Africa — anchored over 13 feet deep in the Indian Ocean.
The shoot took the veteran photographer two weeks to finish.
“You have to take the photos at exactly the best time, considering water clarity, angle of the sun, strength of the sun, when are there the most fish around, currents, tides, wind, and waves.” Anhede wrote in an email to Business Insider.
He has a CMAS scuba diving certification, and during the shoot was largely focused on the light and color distortions that happen underwater, which he said were both a blessing and a curse. The turquoise water made the room look spectacular, but choosing the right indoor lighting and sheets were difficult since colors appear distorted 13 feet below the surface.
Despite these challenges and even in the middle of the island’s rainy season, Anhede still made some fantastic shots of the three-tiered underwater suite.
“Sleeping in the room is a fantastic experience,” Anhede wrote. “But sleeping on the sky deck of the room under the clearly visible Milky Way is almost even more fantastic. Two other things that really stuck out were swimming around the underwater room during the night, when there is phosphorus that lights everything up, and taking a dive first thing in the morning and hearing the dolphins chatter.”
At $900 a night as a single or $1,500 a night as a couple, it sounds like a worthwhile experience.
Before setting out to Pemba Island, the crew visited a small village in Tanzania on the eastern coast of Africa, which consisted of only a few huts.
Anhede practiced his aerial shots with a remote-controlled flying camera he rigged in a Tanzanian jungle before shooting the underwater hotel room.
Pemba Island, home to The Manta Resort’s underwater hotel room, is most easily reached by plane from Tanzania. Anhede said the flight was a “very bumpy ride.”
Here, Anhede photographs a village school on Pemba Island. His friend saved up money from working at The Manta Resort to build the school.
The Milky Way is very easy to see from Pemba Island, which has next to no light pollution.
Anhede licks the lens of his underwater camera to prevent water droplets from sticking to it.
“I have been a three star CMAS diver (certification that allows diving down to 66 feet) for over 20 years now. With that experience I don’t have to think about the diving and can completely focus on taking photos,” Anhede said.
Anhede took some photos from a ngalawa, a traditional boat on Pemba Island that operates like a trimaran. It moves very quickly when the winds pick up.
A small team helped Anhede strategize the photo shoot of the underwater hotel room. Here they’re fixing a sun bed on the upper deck for models to pose on.
To get a clear shot into the room from underwater, Anhede used a squeegee to clean the windows.
“Since we are four meters (13 feet) under the surface, all colors are distorted and the color of the sheets up in the sun look completely different than down in the room,” Anhede explained.
Matthew Saus, The Manta Resort’s managing director, tested a handful of different lamps to see what lighting worked best underwater.
The ultimate selfie: Anhede and the underwater room, plus some models for The Manta Resort.
And the finished project. After two weeks of work, The Manta Resort’s underwater hotel room looks spectacular.
Licking his camera lens really helped Anhede get a clear shot of the hotel room above and below the surface of the water.
Here’s a view from inside the underwater bedroom.
The underwater hotel room has three tiers: the sky deck, the lounge and the underwater hotel room beneath the surface of the water.
Anhede took this shot using the remote controlled camera he rigged. It shows off the top two tiers of the underwater hotel room.
Here’s the bed Anhede and his team built on the sky deck. When he spent the night here, he could easily see the Milky Way.