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There are only a handful of diving spots around the world that can truly be considered legendary. The Blue Hole Belize is one such location, drawing divers from all around the planet to that small Central American country to experience its natural majesty. You have likely encountered pictures of Belize’s photogenic Great Blue Hole before, but we’re going to give you in-depth details about what the Blue Hole actually is, and what makes it such a sought-after spot for diving fanatics.
What Is The Blue Hole?
In this article, we’ll begin with background information on the Blue Hole Belize, and then we’ll proceed to offer you what need to know if you choose to book it as your next diving destination.
There are several Blue Holes around the world, each the result of a unique geological phenomenon. The Blue Hole Belize stands out as one of the biggest, prettiest, and best overall. Located in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Blue Hole Belize is nearly 1,000 feet in diameter and over 450 feet deep.
Encircled by a ring of coral and tinted with deep turquoise water, the Blue Hole is easily among the most picturesque diving spots when viewed from above or from some distance. This beauty is surpassed by its sublime inner caverns, however. Its stunning looks from above beckon people in, but the submarine caves below maintain this spot’s reputation for unparalleled beauty.
The Blue Hole has long been a popular destination for divers, but it skyrocketed to a new level of renown in 1971, when Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the planet’s top 10 diving sites on his TV series. As a further boost to its reputation, the Blue Hole was recognized on an international level when it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It continues to attract seasoned divers and casual snorkelers alike, remaining a must-see spot for anyone remotely interested in diving.
What Natural Forces Made The Blue Hole Belize?
The creation of the Blue Hole Belize began over 150,000 years ago years ago during several ice ages. After this phenomenon began its geological life as a cave above sea level, thousands of years of earthquakes and climate changes led to the collapse of the cave’s roof. This pushed it downward and resulted in its current submarine elevation.
As a result of these changes over the eons, the Blue Hole Belize is adorned with grand stalactites (which point downward), stalagmites (pointing up), and columns (when the two meet). Some of the stalagmites hang at an unusual 12-degree angle, indicating to geologists that the cave was rocked by an earthquake.
The Contemporary Climate
These thousands of years of changes have miraculously shaped the Blue Hole of Belize into a diver’s dream. Here are a few things to know about the contemporary makeup of the hole:
- As a result of its origins, most of the marine life is concentrated around the hole’s outer rim.
- Conditions inside the hole are limited by the amount of sunlight blocked by the walls
- There isn’t much marine life inside the hole, and at certain depths, there isn’t even enough oxygen to sustain life
- Intricate calcium formations give the Blue Hole Belize its distinct appeal and make it worth diving
Ultimate Guide To Diving The Blue Hole
When To Go
As with any in-demand diving trip, it’s best to plan an excursion to the Blue Hole Belize well in advance. The best time of year to visit is the dry season, with the most prime weather conditions happening in April and May. As the name indicates, the Blue Hole Belize is in Belize, Central America, and you’ll want to make sure that you have an up-to-date passport or a tourist visa if you’re from a country that requires it.
Aside from the Blue Hole, Belize is a fantastic tourist destination in its own right, so you may want to book a ticket for considerably longer than the day, or few days, that you plan to spend diving. The official language of Belize is English, and you will be able to get around fine without speaking any Spanish. However, as only 62% of the population speaks English, it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on your Spanish skills before going.
Once you’ve decided you want to dive the Blue Hole Belize, there are a lot of factors to consider. The first is how you plan to actually get there. The Blue Hole Belize is approximately 60 miles off the coast of the mainland, and it takes roughly 2.5 to 3 hours by boat to reach it, depending on where you’re taking off from. There are two main launching points for the Blue Hole: Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. From both launching points, you can expect a bumpy ride. You’ll be crossing open water and even in the best weather, there will be some choppiness, so if you get seasick easily, plan ahead.
From either launch point, a day trip will set you back about $300, and that should include visits to sites such as the Half Moon Caye and Long Caye Aquarium as well as the Blue Hole. Equipment rental is not included in that price. Both Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are fine launching points, but there are slight differences between them worth noting.
Launching From Caye Caulker
Two tour operators that make this trip are Belize Diving Services and Frenchie’s Dive Shop. Both cater to divers and snorkelers alike but are more oriented toward the former. Because there are so few shops that make the trip, it is highly recommended that you book your tour in advance. Spots can fill up fast.
Either company is reliable, but Belize Dive Services has the slight edge with more comfortable boats. For a choppy, five-hour round-trip journey, that matters. Finally, be wary of smaller shops that purport to be offering tours; we found that they often just outsource your business to these two shops.
Launching From Ambergris Caye
There are more options if you depart from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. The journey takes a little longer at around 3 hours, versus the 2.5 hours from Caye Caulker, but the extra time is counterbalanced by the variety of shops to choose from, and therefore the higher chance that you’ll get a spot. There are many reliable shops to check out, including Belize Pro Dive Center, Ambergris Divers, and Ecological Divers.
The Dive Itself
Once you’ve finally made it to the Blue Hole of Belize, you’ll be struck by the breathtaking sight of the rich coral reefs surrounding the outer rim. This is also the area with the most marine life. Some common species include the Caribbean reef shark, and the occasional hammerhead or bull shark.
You’ll begin your dive in the reef and approach the hole like you would a wall dive. The rim begins with a depth of 32 feet, sloping to around 50 feet before it drops straight down. This edge marks the height of sea level 8,000 years ago. It’s also important to note that divers should stay close to the sides of the Hole to avoid disorientation. As you get further down, you’ll notice temperatures dropping and then visibility improving as you hit a thermocline.
As you proceed, you’ll be greeted with the entrance to a recessed cave. Here you’ll find formations of stalactites, stalagmites, and columns lining the edge, and the real beauty of the dive begins. During calm conditions, you’ll be able to explore both the caves and surrounding reefs, and the combination of these two environments makes a trip to Blue Hole Belize one of the most enchanting dive experiences you can find.
As we mentioned, all dive packages are sold as day trips, so in addition to the Blue Hole Belize, you’ll also get to dive Half Moon Caye and Long Caye Aquarium if you choose. Although neither site has quite the name recognition of the Blue Hole, each offers beautiful diving with luscious coral formations and plenty of colorful fish.
Only 25 minutes from the Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye is a superb dive spot in its own rite. It has excellent visibility, vibrant flora, and swarms of unique marine life. The Aquarium is a coral wonderland loaded with Bermuda chubs, creole wrasse, and trumpet fish. Each site contributes unique strengths that make a trip to the Blue Hole a well-rounded, top-of-the-line diving experience.
A geological marvel thousands of years in the making, the Blue Hole Belize is a truly one-of-a-kind diving destination. For the relatively inexpensive price of around $300, you can dive the Blue Hole along with Half Moon Caye and Long Caye Aquarium, making for a trip that’s sure to be memorable. Airfares to Belize in the dry season are generally affordable, so there’s no better time than now to prepare for your next dive vacation. Whether you’re a casual snorkeler or a hardcore diver, the Big Hole of Belize is one of the wonders of the diving world and well worth a trip.