The sounds of sirens and car engines can be heard in the distance. But inside Marepolis, a newly opened diving center in the X-Madrid shopping mall in Alcorcón, time stands still. A type of fish tank, in which divers tumble and glide, welcomes visitors to the center. But the attraction of this 2,000-square-meter site is at the far end of the pool – an enormous 20-meter deep tube for diving experiences far from the sea.
You don’t get the feeling of being so deep, mostly because the visibility is very goodBeatriz Rico, diver at Marepolis
Marepolis opened last month after its first site in Las Rozas closed down. The team behind the project was invited by the management of X-Madrid, which is also home to Citywave, an outdoor wave pool, and the indoor rock-climbing center Climbat. It took around a year to build Marepolis, given its specific characteristics, such as the enormous 20-meter deep tube, which lies beyond the diving equipment store and reception area.
Visitors don’t have to be experienced divers. Novices are welcome and are talked through the equipment, which, if hired, is carefully disinfected after use. They are then taken to the smallest part of the pool, which is three-meters deep. This is the tank that is visible to the public.
Experienced divers can use the deepest part of Marepolis directly, though naturally, a monitor is present at all times for safety reasons. “You can do technical, recreational or free diving,” explains the company’s head of marketing, Paula Sánchez, who adds that while there is no maximum age, the minimum is eight.
Once a diver plunges into the pool, all external sounds are blocked out. The echo within the premises, the background music and car engines outside are silenced and the only noise audible is their own breath.
A buoy marks the midpoint in the center of the huge tube, which is seven meters in diameter to avoid causing feelings of claustrophobia. For divers without full certification, the descent is limited to 18 meters.
The view of the tube from the outside is vertiginous, but it is easy for divers to lose perspective – there is nothing to remind them that they are at depths equivalent to a seven-story building. “You don’t get the feeling of being so deep, mostly because the visibility is very good,” says Beatriz Rico, a 30-year-old engineer who began diving in the summer.
Wetsuits make the 26ºC water temperature agreeable – any warmer and divers would feel tired and air tanks would deplete faster. And the water is both chlorinated and salty to reproduce the buoyancy of the sea.
The center also runs talks and courses on different aspects of the sport, such as the difference between diving indoors and out in the open sea, handling diving computers and courses for certification. “Madrid has as many diving certifications as the rest of the country put together,” says one of Marepolis’ instructors.
“The center is also set up for social events, such as corporate team building,” says Sánchez. “And we are in contact with the state security forces so that they can do their training here as the pool has some unique characteristics.”
Night-diving simulations are also available, since the facility has dark purple light, which gives the appearance of darkness. And for those looking to get their open-water diving certification, which requires outdoor experience, Marepolis organizes diving trips to destinations across the world. Although due to the coronavirus pandemic, these activities have been restricted.
Marepolis is open from 11am to 10pm by appointment. Reservations at 91 626 61 38 / 657 19 50 51 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Recreational diving: €25; also with vouchers for 10 and 20 dives. Novices: €30. Courses from €225.
Marepolis features a restaurant that serves typically Mediterranean cuisine by chef Joaquín Felipe. Diners can savor dishes such as squid croquettes and mushroom risotto, while watching the divers in the pool.
“After immersion, the diver can have something to eat or drink, just as if they were at a beach bar,” says head of marketing, Paula Sánchez.
Of course, for those who prefer to keep their heads above water, the restaurant can be accessed directly.
English version by Heather Galloway.