You could soon be frolicking with Spongebob Squarepants himself beneath the waves of Palawan Island in the Philippines, if plans for the world’s first underwater theme get off (or, rather, under) the ground.
Nickelodeon has announced plans to build a theme park and resort in partnership with Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc., Asia’s first underwater resort developer. The 400-hectare development is slated for completion in 2020.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Coral World Park to open the world’s first undersea attraction and Nickelodeon’s first resort in Southeast Asia as we continue to expand on our theme-based attractions in Asia and across the world,” said Gerald Raines, senior vice president for global recreation for Viacom International Media Networks.
The park is set to reside 20 feet below sea level, featuring underwater restaurants and lounges peppered with some of Nickelodeon’s most iconic characters, like Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer.
“Located amidst a cluster of 16 white sand islands,” reads an official statement, “visitors can expect a multi-island experience...that includes island hopping, hidden lagoons, hot springs, an animal reserve, and world-class diving amidst shipwrecks.”
Not everyone is on board with the plans, however. Palawan is one of the most ecologically significant regions of the Philippines and is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, prompting protestors to launch an online petition expressing their concerns for the park's potential environmental impact. The petition has already garnered nearly 200,000 signatures.
In response to the controversy, Nickelodeon representatives said developers will not drill into the sea-bed, therefore the park won’t pose any environmental risk. Instead, the attraction will feature a floating structure with an underwater extension.
While marine experts have also pointed out that boat traffic to and from the structure could pose an environmental risk, Nickelodeon intends to push on with the plan. Developers say they are “completing the final master plan” in efforts to “proceed with the other requirements the government needs.”