Sleep the night surrounded by sharks at the Paris aquarium

Airbnb and the Aquarium of Paris offer contest winners a night underwater sleeping with sharks and create a research platform for “misunderstood” shark species.

PARIS, FRANCE (MARCH 14, 2016) (REUTERS) – A few lucky contest winners will be granted the chance to spend a night amongst sharks through an event organised by the Aquarium of Paris and holiday rental website Airbnb, creating a research platform in the process.

Contestants must enter the competition through the rental sharing website and write a bit about themselves including why they should be the ones to win by midnight on April 3.

Following the selection, different sets of winners will be flown to Paris and hosted on April 11, 12, 13, treating them to an experience unlike anything they have ever encountered.

“During the evening, the winners will have a private tour of the aquarium, our host Frederic Buyle will spend time with them as well as the biologist. The idea is to explain the life of sharks, how they live, and explain their different behaviours. They’ll be able to feed the baby sharks, and after they’ll have dinner. Finally, they’ll be able to go into the structure, which is right there, and be able to look at the thirty-five sharks of six different species,” said Airbnb partnership director Anne-Sophie Frenove.

Safety conditions such as weight, medical fitness and age have been set by both organising parties. The two guests have to be over 18 and together must weigh less than 190 kg and be able to climb in and out of the bedroom.

The structure, a 360-degree underwater bedroom sitting in three million litres of water, took months to build by Etienne Clamagirand of Architeuthis and was tested for durability in the Mediterranean Sea.

Though Architeuthis, a company based in Marseille in the south of France, specialises in marine and underwater projects, Clamagirand was first wary when confronted with building such a structure. At first, he said it was impossible. The pressure, so to speak, was too great.

While Airbnb’s scheduled event begins and ends in April, the structure will remain intact hopefully long after the contest winners have checked out of their underwater humble abode.

The bed and pillows will be removed, morphing the structure into a hub for scientists and biologists to conduct research, the first of its kind, on the Aquarium’s sharks.

For the director of the Aquarium of Paris, Alexis Powilewicz, the event is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what a structure like this could signify for shark research.

“To have succeeded in immersing such a structure so deep in the aquarium, offers us a point of view that we did not have. Indeed, we can send divers into the aquarium, they actually dive very often in the aquarium, but they can dive what? A few minutes, a few hours. From this structure, in the middle of the aquarium, our specialists will be able to study the way the pool operates, the cohabitation of its occupants — there are 35 sharks in there — on a permanent basis, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s huge,” he said.

Hailing from Belgium, the host of the event is world-record holder, freediver and photographer Fred Buyle. A shark enthusiast, he has been diving with sharks since he was thirteen.

Buyle dives and swims about the shark tank in harmony with his finned friends. For Buyle, an event like this represents a unique opportunity.

By spending time with the winners and teaching them more about the shark species, as they make the shark tank their home for a night, Fred hopes to alter the misconception regarding sharks.

“Sharks are animals who are obviously really really misunderstood. In the seventies there was the famous Jaws that did a lot of harm to sharks because now everyone thinks that they are blood-thirsty killers who eat divers, boats and even helicopters. I’ve been diving with sharks since I was thirteen or fourteen years old, never had a problem. So actually when you dive with them, you realise that they are animals who have absolutely no interest us, were not on the menu. So there are a lot of bad interpretations regarding their behaviour and all that, so it’s important to show that you can spend time in the water with sharks and that everything goes well in the end,” he said.

For him, it is imperative to change public opinion because of the vital role of sharks within the ecosystem.

Buyle will help Airbnb and the Aquarium of Paris pick the contest winners, selecting those who display a keen interest in sharks and marine study.