The Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 70 kilometres (43 mi) from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, over 300 metres (984 ft) across and 124 metres (407 ft) deep. As the ocean began to rise again, the caves were flooded. The Great Blue Hole is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
At the center of Lighthouse Reef is the world famous Blue Hole Natural Monument (marine fee BZ$80). The Blue Hole is an incomparable natural wonder and an unparalleled diving experience. It may not be the best dive in
Belize, but it certainly ranks among the most popular. The image of the Blue Hole – a deep blue pupil with an aquamarine border surrounded by the lighter shades of the reef – has become a logo for tourist publicity and a symbol of Belize.
The Blue Hole is a perfect 1000ft-diameter circle on the surface and it is said to be 430ft deep, but as much as 200ft of this may now be filled with silt and other natural debris. You can drop to 130ft to swim beneath an overhang stalactites above you and, usually, a school of reef sharks below you. You might see four or five varieties of shark. Although the water is clear, light levels are low as you swim along the formations. A good dive light will enable you to appreciate the sponge and invertebrate life. Because of the depth, ascent begins after
eight minutes; the brevity of the dive does disappoint some divers.
This trip is usually combined with other dives at Lighthouse Reef. Most experienced divers will tell you that the other dives are the real highlight of the trip. But judging from its popularity – most dive shops make twice weekly runs to the Blue Hole. On day trips the Blue Hole will be your first dive, which can be nerve-racking if you’re unfamiliar with the dive master and the other divers, or if you haven’t been underwater lately. It may be worth doing some local dives with your dive masters before setting out cold on a Blue Hole trip. An alternative is to take an overnight trip to Lighthouse Reef.
Snorkelers can enjoy a trip to the Blue Hole, too, as there’s plenty to see around the shallow inner perimeter of the circular reef. But it’s an expensive trip and you’ll probably have to tag along on a dive boat.
To visit the Great Blue Hole, numerous dive operators can provide day and/or overnight dive trips from Ambergris Caye, Belize City, or other offshore Cayes and Atolls.
To get to the Blue Hole, contact Aqua Scuba Center or Ambergris Divers for tours and diving trips leaving from San Pedro. Some packages includes the boat trip out there, breakfast, lunch, purified drinking water, 3 tanks and weight belts.
The trip involves two hours each way by boat in possibly rough, open waters. Also, there’s a BZ$80 marine-park fee for diving or snorkeling at the Blue Hole, usually separate from the dive fees.