TODI Mermaids3 okt 2017
“As far as I know, I am the first professional mermaid in Belgium,” she grins with water droplets on her shimmering face, which is expertly painted with the same waterproof make-up used by competitive synchronised swimmers. We’re in the pool of TODI Dive School (todi.be) in Beringen ‒ an hour east of Brussels ‒ where Van de Voorde has agreed to give me a lesson in mermaiding. The incredible venue – which opened late last year as part of an extensive, tourism-driven renovation of the former BE-Mine mining site it stands upon – is the only subtropical aquarium, scuba diving and snorkelling centre in Europe. Home to almost 2,500 fish that swim in the 6.5million litres of fresh water filling the huge tank – along with decorative elements such as caves, car wrecks and ancient ruins – it’s attracted more than 90,000 visitors in its first nine months of opening. But it’s not just the site’s state-of-the-art diving facilities and lifelike underwater setting that they come for. It’s also the only venue in Belgium with resident mermaids. It turns out, Van de Voorde isn’t the only Belgian making a living out of being half-human-half-fish. Mermaids Evi, Lelie, Naomi and Ariel Starfish also work regularly at the venue alongside her. While you may get lucky and spot them on the odd occasions the mermaids pop by for a dip ‒ their colourful tails sparkling through the water’s haze as they play in the depths with the grace of a dolphin ‒ you’re guaranteed a sighting on ‘Mermaid Mondays’. Running the third Monday of every month, it starts with a mermaid meet and greet in the venue’s stylish brasserie at 6.30pm, followed by a group synchronised performance in the water that’s watched, filmed and photographed by hundreds of delighted humans from the underwater viewing gallery. “People’s faces instantly light up when they see us, and children believe we’re real,” says Van de Voorde. “It’s a really magical feeling.” Afterwards, the spectators can join the sirens in the water; snorkelling for €15 or scuba diving for €37. On other days, you can book a two-hour ‘mermaid initiation course’ for €69, where you’ll be provided with a monofin and fabric training tail to swim alongside a mermaid instructor.
Source: SN Airlines - Inspired