Écomusee Sous-Marin, Cannes - Jason deCaires Taylor's Underwater Museum
Dive from your chartered yacht and dip your head just below the azure blue waterline of the Mediterranean Sea, just off the coast of Cannes, and you'll find more than fish and seaweed. You'll discover a stunning artificial seascape of huge portrait sculptures split into two connected but distinct halves.
You'll have discovered the magical and otherworldly Underwater Eco-Museum designed by artist Jason deCaires Taylor. It was created not only for the enjoyment of Cannes' many visitors but also to promote biodiversity and ensure the marine life in the area flourishes.
While you're not likely to discover the museum by accident, as we were facetiously suggesting above, if you're looking for an exhilarating underwater experience that is also good for the environment, this is the place for you.
Visiting the underwater eco-museum in Cannes
Situated on the French Riviera, Cannes is a city known for its world-renowned film festival, pristine beaches, and ability to attract media glitterati from across the globe. With its designer stores, world-class hotels, and a wealth of fine dining restaurants to choose from, it's not hard to see why many decide to spend their summers in Cannes.
Yacht Charter in Cannes
If there is anything more relaxing and fulfilling than staying in one of the opulent 5-star hotels in Cannes, such as the Hotel Martinez and Hotel Barriere Le Majestic, it's enjoying the luxury a private yacht charter offers.
Cruising over the azure blue waters with the warm sun beating down and a refreshing Mediterranean breeze keeping you cool and comfortable will likely make you extend your tour for as long as you can.
There's no shortage of destinations to explore by yacht around Cannes, and you don't have to travel far to get to one of the most interesting ones, Île Sainte-Marguerite island.
Île Sainte-Marguerite is a shining jewel in the Mediterranean, packed with all types of fauna and flora. It's best known for Fort Royal, one of the three French prisons where the Man in the Iron Mask was held close to the end of the 17th Century. The clear, shallow waters around the island make it a great place to go snorkeling. But rather than just wander around without a clear plan, visiting Écomusee Sous-Marin should be your goal.
Écomusee Sous-Marin (Underwater Museum)
Perhaps the most famous and popular of all the attractions located around Île Sainte-Marguerite is the breathtaking Eco-Museum built by Englishman Jason deCaires Taylor.
The museum, which consists of 6 giant face sculptures, is located about 84-132m from land and approximately 3-5m deep. This makes the location perfect for snorkeling (diving with an oxygen tank isn't permitted without a permit). Indeed, the entire area where the Underwater Museum is situated is protected from boat mooring, which means it's safe for visitors and good for the ecosystem.
However, if you're visiting the island during a yacht cruise, you can still moore close enough that a short swim will get you to the museum. You can also take advantage of a tender to get closer than the yacht is allowed.
Commissioned by David Lisnard, Mayor of Cannes, Jason deCaires Taylor's Underwater Museum was designed not only to be a spectacular attraction for locals and visitors to enjoy but also as an ecological project encouraging biodiversity and restoring an area previously home to refuse from disused marine infrastructure.
The faces, made of PH-neutral materials, are designed specially to cause no harm to the surrounding ecosystem. Indeed, they have been crafted to promote biodiversity, with nooks and crannies for fish and other sea life to hide in and rough surfaces so they can be easily gripped by larvae and used as anchors by algae and corals. Over time, Jason deCaires Taylor's faces are expected to become an artificial reef to facilitate the flourishing of local sea life and resuscitate an area of the Mediterranean Sea that was once almost barren due to human misuse.
The underwater museum is truly a sight to behold and should be on the to-do list of anyone visiting Cannes or any nearby city. The faces or masks, as they are also known, stand at 2m tall and weigh roughly ten tons each. Every face depicted is of a member of the local community, including Maurice, an 80-year-old local fisherman, and another of Anouk, a 9-year-old elementary school pupil. However, it's worth noting that deCaires Taylor made 40 castings to begin with and then narrowed them down to the final six, which he blew up in size and split in two.
The split in the masks is quite deliberate and symbolic, with the outer part connecting to the Man in the Iron Mask's imprisonment and the inner to the theater and performing arts linked to the Cannes area. The inner and outer masks also symbolize the two very different sides of the ocean. One represents the strength and brutality that the ocean can so often express, while the other reminds us that it is a fragile ecosystem in the midst of decay, largely due to the actions of humans.
Jason deCaires Taylor's Other Underwater Projects
Spectacular as it is, deCaires Taylor's underwater Eco-Museum in Cannes is not the only one of its kind. The sculptor is responsible for several similar museums and underwater sculpture parks throughout the globe, including the stunning Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) in Mexico.
Situated between the coasts of Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc in Cancún, MUSA is home to over 500 life-size human sculptures.
Other sculpture collections by this skillful artist include Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park in Grenada, Ocean Atlas in the Bahamas and Museo Atlántico in Spain.
Learn more about our experience at Écomusee Sous-Marin: