Set in the former coal mines in Beringen, west of Antwerp, Wouter Schoovaerts and Dirk Heylen opened Todi, the first indoor diving experience with fish in Europe, three years ago. Today, Todi is home to over 5,000 tropical freshwater fish. “It is not just about diving, it is also about respecting the underwater world, which has so much beauty to offer,” explains Schoovaerts.
TEXT: MICHIEL STOL | PHOTOS: TODI
Avid divers themselves, Schoovaerts and Heylen wanted to create a place in Belgium where people could appreciate diving as if they were on holiday. “We used to dive in lakes and the Oosterschelde ourselves. The water there is blurry and cold, and there is not much beauty to see. We wanted to change that,” continues Heylen. So, in 2016 they opened the doors to Todi. “One of the issues we faced before opening was finding the necessary filtration systems because, of course, the use of chlorine is a no-go with fish. Eventually, we found a solution and were the first in Europe to do so,” says Heylen. Todi is located in two former coal washing buildings of the closed mines, and is surrounded by industrial heritage. “For us it was the most logical location, not least because of its size.”
Diving, underwater walks and more
At Todi, you can go scuba diving or go on an underwater walk and see thousands of bright-coloured fish, from small ones to big black Pacus. They also offer initiation dives, full diving courses, snorkelling and even freediving. Afterwards, you can relax and catch your breath in the brasserie. “It exudes the industrial heritage of the mines. The menu is very rich and healthy, with several meals by Pascale Naessens, one of Belgium’s best-known television cooks,” reveals Schoovaerts. The brasserie is also popular with cyclists who ride through the mines.
Todi is an experience for the entire family, with events such as a monthly fairytale-day. On these days, you can learn to swim like a mermaid and have a professional photoshoot. “We are also the host of the International Mermaid Convention, where mermaids and mermen from around the world come together.” Todi is also the perfect place for a wedding or for a team-building exercise.
“The underwater world has so much beauty to offer,” smiles Schoovaerts. “We want everybody to be able to enjoy it so that they not only learn to love it, but also respect it. It is the best place on earth!”