The Great Blue Hole of Belize is one of the most astounding dive sites to be found anywhere on earth and lies right in the center of Lighthouse Reef one of the three atolls found in Belize.
It is a large, almost perfectly circular hole approximately one quarter of a mile (.4 km) across.
The Blue Hole is more than 300 feet across and 412 feet deep. The array of bizarre stalactites and limestone formations which mould its walls seem to become more intricate and intense the deeper one dives.
The diameter of the circular reef area stretches for about 1,000 feet and provides an ideal habitat for corals to attach and flourish. The coral actually breaks the surface in many sections at low tide. Except for two narrow channels, the reef surrounds the hole.
The hole itself is the opening to a system of caves and passageway that penetrate this undersea mountain. In various places, massive limestone stalactites hang down from what was once the ceiling of air-filled caves before the end of the last Ice Age. When the ice melted the sea level rose, flooding the caves.
The temperature in the Blue Hole at 130 feet is about 76 F with hardly any change throughout the year at that depth.
For all practical purposes, the over 400-foot depth makes the Blue Hole a bottomless pit. The walls are sheer from the surface until a depth of approximately 110 feet where you will begin to encounter stalactite formations which actually angle back, allowing you to dive underneath monstrous overhangs.
Hovering amongst the stalactites, you can’t help but feel humbled by the knowledge that the massive formation before you once stood high and dry above the surface of the sea eons ago. The feeling is enhanced by the dizzying effect of nitrogen breathed at depths.
The water is motionless and the visibility often approaches 200 feet as you break a very noticeable thermocline.
In the deeper waters of the Blue Hole itself, you might see a curious blacktip tiger or hammerhead shark, but on most dives you won’t see anyone except your dive buddy. But as you venture into the shallows around the rim of the Blue Hole to off-gas after your dive, you will discover a wonderful area filled with life.
Pederson’s cleaning shrimp are everywhere inhabiting the ringed and knobby anemones. With the frantic waving of their antennae, these shrimp invite you, along with passing fishes, to be cleaned. Neon gobies also advertise their cleaning services from the various coral heads. Angelfish, butterflyfish hamlets and small groupers are also commonly seen. Elkhorn coral grows to the surface and purple sea-fans, resplendent of their rich hues, sweep at the calm surface waters. If you look up, you will double your pleasure as you catch the reflections of sea fans in the aquamarine mirror of the calm water.
A rare and wonderful dive, The Blue Hole is a once in a lifetime must see for all serious divers.
An entire diving trip to Belize is worth the effort and expense for this single dive.