Diving the Great Blue Hole of Belize
What is it?
The Great Blue Hole is one of those places you see a photo of and then dream of visiting for the rest of your life.
Situated towards the centre of a coral reef and almost perfectly spherical in shape, it’s a natural sinkhole roughly 300 m in diameter and 125 m deep.
Stalactites in its underwater caves confirm that part of this geological marvel was once above ground. Scientists believe that a series of dry caves was flooded by the melting of the last Ice Age. Under the pressure of so much water, the ceilings caved in, giving rise to the spectacular formation we see today.
What makes the Great Blue Hole so impressive is the ring of coral reef that surrounds it. Here, the ocean is so shallow that the reef is occasionally exposed at low tide. From the air, this creates a spectacular effect, but even from a boat, the contrast between shallow turquoise water and the great depths of the sinkhole is clear to see.
The famous underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau declared the Great Blue Hole to be one of the world’s top ten dive sites and, in 2012, the Discovery Channel ranked it first on its list of the ’10 Most Amazing Places on Earth’. It’s also a Belize National Monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
See also: Skydiving into the Blue Hole, Belize
Diving the Great Blue Hole
To explore the Great Blue Hole, you have to don scuba gear. Series 16 of The Bachelor was a bit misleading, when Ben and one of his suitors jumped gallantly from a helicopter before snorkelling at its centre. It was definitely a good plug for the Belize Tourist Board, but from this vantage point, they would have seen absolutely nothing beneath the surface.
Even if you dive, you could be disappointed if you’ve come to the Great Blue Hole to see marine life. Although some animals do inhabit it, they’re usually not the main attraction.
So, why do divers come?
1. It’s an exhilarating experience. Passing over a ‘drop-off’ and sinking 40 m into a deep, dark void is not something you get to do every day.
2. If you go down to the depth limits of recreational diving, there are some fascinating rock formations.
3. While there may not be any colourful fish in the depths of the Great Blue Hole, divers are often greeted by a shiver of Caribbean reef sharks. At first, they appear as nothing more than shadows in the abyss, but gradually they grow in size and clarity as their inquisitive nature gets the better of them.
4. This has become known, to the dismay of some, as a ‘bucket list dive’. If that’s your reason for visiting, so be it. The chances are you will indeed gain some street cred for your troubles.