When you start scuba diving, you hear very quickly about “The Blue Hole”, you might naturally think first there is only one in the World and that its name sounds mythical. You finally think “Ooh I have to go diving there!” So why is it so famous? From a tourism marketing point of view, this is an excellent brand but does it keep its promises? What can you expect to see?
What is a blue hole?
A blue hole is a kind of submarine cave, usually in shape of a vertical tunnel, this is the depth of the tunnel that gives this deep blue colour. It used to be a limestone cave during the last ice age when the sea levels were lower, but when the water rose again, the top of the cave collapsed and the water flooded the entire hole to form this amazing deep blue cavity.
The most famous blue holes in the world
Dean’s blue hole in the Bahamas: the deepest Blue Hole in the World. The Bahamas are famous for their many sinkholes especially Andros Island.
Dahab Blue Hole in Egypt: the most dangerous one, many casualties trying to reach “the Arch”. Beyond the blue hole, Dahab is the most chilled out place to stay in Sinai to go scuba diving and experience Bedouin lifestyle in the desert. I dived there in May 2010 but it was way before I was an underwater photographer so no picture here for the moment, I need to go back!
Guam Blue Hole: Guam is a USA territory in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
Gozo Blue hole in Malta: Gozo is the sister island of the most British of the Mediterranean countries.
Update: I dived the Gozo Blue Hole in July 2016, since then, unfortunately, the Azure Window next to it, collapsed. Read the full story of my dive trip to Gozo.
Modra Spilja in Croatia: one of the incredible dives of the Croatian Islands between Split and Dubrovnik.
Update: I went to Croatia in May 2017, The Blue Cave has now been forbidden to swimmers, snorkellers, free divers and scuba divers to protect it. So I visited it only from the boat. I did dive that day in another incredible cavern though: the seal cave! Read the full story of my dive trip to Croatia.
The deepest blue hole in the World, at 202 metres, is Dean’s Blue Hole, in the Bahamas. In the bar chart below you see the different depth of the most famous Blue Holes in the World which go from 35m to 202m deep. The great blue hole of Belize is the 2nd deepest but is the largest by its diameter size of 300m whereas Dean’s blue hole has only a diameter of 30m.
You will find on the map below these famous blue holes. With the satellite view and by zooming in, you can actually see these blue holes in Belize, Bahamas and Egypt!
The Great Blue Hole in Belize: more than a famous picture
First of all, be sure to include some time to discover Belize inland side when you are going to dive the Great Blue Hole, because, while relatively unknown, this country is absolutely amazing. A tiny piece of land South of Mexico and East of Guatemala with a coastline along the Caribbean Sea, that gather no less than 4 quite different communities, making it an incredible patchwork of cultures. Being a Commonwealth country, it is the only country in Central America where English is the official language, but besides this fact (and the Queen being on all the notes), in Belize you will meet the Afro-Caribbean community, the Latin-Mayan community, the Chinese community and the last but not the least the Mennonites originally from Germany (a community similar to the Amish in Pennsylvania in the USA).
Beyond the quite chaotic Belize City the economic Capital, take a “chicken bus” for a couple of dollars, in the direction of Belmopan, the Capital of Belize and then San Ignacio near the border of Guatemala to see the life in this surprising country while exploring its hills and jungles.
When you are ready to go diving, take the speed boat in Belize City to Caye Caulker. It is both the cheapest place to stay in Belize Cayes and the most chilled-out place to enjoy both Caribbean lifestyle and scuba diving. In addition to the Great Blue Hole, you will dive in the pristine waters of the Hol Chan Marine Park, Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef all most extraordinary than the other.
Report of a diving day at the Great Blue Hole and Turneffe Atoll
Discovered by Jacques Cousteau, the Great Blue Hole in Belize measures 305m (1,000 ft) across and 123 m (400 ft) deep, it is almost perfectly circular and can be found in Lighthouse Reef Atoll. The most interesting part starts at around 30-33 meters, with incredible limestone formations but few get to see what they look like as not every diver is qualified to go deeper than 18m, and even fewer are qualified to go down to 40m (deep diving specialty is necessary in this case) although many flout the rules. Remember, safety first, and remain within the limits of your training.
To go to the Great Blue Hole, it was a two-hour journey on a small boat in choppy waters, and so it was a very bumpy ride. But it was worth it. The boat arrived at the Great Blue Hole at about 8.00am (yes, it was an early start at 5.30am). Because of the circular reef around, the seas are not so rough so entering the water was no problem.
Our first dive at the Great Blue Hole is a unique geological feature and quite a spectacular dive. After entering we descended straight to 40m. From there we could see the stalactite formations that make this dive so special. The area is known for marine life too, in particular, the Caribbean reef sharks, which could be seen circling the waters around us. At 25 minutes the dive is short (because of the depth), and this disappoints some divers, but it is definitely 25 minutes well spent!
The second dive of the day was at a site named Half Moon Wall, which on any normal dive expedition would be a highlight. It’s home to garden eels, spotted eagle rays, barracuda, turtles and all sorts of other marine creatures. Between the second and third dives, we had some surface time – and some lunch – on Half Moon Caye, a natural monument in Belize and a UNESCO world heritage site. It is home to the red-footed booby. Our final dive of the day was spent at the Lion’s Den, which was a fine dive in itself. Again, the marine life is beautiful and, even after the two spectacular dives of the morning, is not to be underestimated as a dive site.
As a conclusion, we really think going diving to the Great Blue Hole is worth the price, whether it is for its unique geological formations, its special blue light or the thrill of an exciting deep dive. The Belize Great Blue Hole made it to my list of the best diving in Americas & the Caribbean.
This article has been co-written with my fellow World Adventure Diver Glyn from the UK, living in Belgium and who has followed me on the adventures of Nemo 33 in Belgium, Costa Brava in Spain, Koh Tao in Thailand and Marseille in France. He explored Belize for the first time this November 2014 after my trip to Belize in December 2010. We wanted to cross our experiences to share with you the best article as possible.
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