OK, let’s get this out of the way right up front. If you’re going to dive Belize, the most famous spot is the Blue Hole, right? So the question is, is the Blue Hole worth the effort?
I spent two grueling hours crossing open water from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye to reach this spot. We went through seas so rough that twice crewmembers fell and a third of the passengers became ballast at the stern, where they spent their time puking up their breakfast. As it turns out, we were the only boat that left for the Hole that day for safety reasons.
Now, you will probably be luckier than that and spend your two hours on a pleasant sunny trip. In fact, after we arrived at our destination, the sun came out and the sea calmed right down as if on cue. But you’ll still spend all day doing this dive (along with two others) and you’ll spend over $300 in the process. Is it worth it?
To answer that, let me tell you what the dive consists of. It’s basically a 120-130 foot wall dive in the center of an almost perfectly round, perfectly navy blue hole that was created when a cave was flooded fifteen thousand years ago. It’s in the center of a coral atoll known as Lighthouse Reef, which is part of the Belize Barrier Reef System.
You’ll probably have two Dive Masters due to the depth of this descent and it will go relatively quickly and easily. The profile will only allow you 8 minutes of bottom time, so use it wisely. As you descend, you’ll see giant stalactite formations, which are the main attraction of the dive, and are truly unique in my experience. They hang vertically from the undercut sidewall of the hole and swimming between them gives you an otherworldly sensation, as if sharing the deep waters with giants. In any event, the only spectrum of color that seems to penetrate the hole is blue, lending an even more mysterious aura to the proceedings.
On the ascent you will likely encounter Caribbean Reef Sharks or Nurse Sharks, but other marine life is uncommon because of the anoxic (oxygen poor) nature of the dive. There is a mandatory 12-minute safety stop at a buoy positioned around the 30 foot mark. Total dive time is only about 25 minutes.
Additional notes? Since you are not encouraged to wear a wet suit, I didn’t and was very comfortable even at depth. On the surface, you’ll hear a lot of people discussing the depth they reached instead of the dive itself.
So, back to the question. The answer…it depends. Now don’t throw eggs right away! What I mean is this: if you want to a do a deep dive, this is a great one to do first. It isn’t technically difficult, the water is clear, and there is no discernible current. Plus, as I said, there is a LOT of supervision. But you may not be hung up on this syndrome. Personally, I could care less. I want to see things when I dive, not have deep-water bragging rights.
On that score (seeing things), there isn’t any marine life to speak of that you can’t see elsewhere far more easily. And even if there were, you won’t get the riot of color that you can expect at more shallow depths under better lighting conditions.
So $300 plus sounds like a lot of money for a mediocre experience so far, right? Not so fast! This is the only place in the world that I know of where you can see this sight. Some people say that at 140-150 feet you can even see stalagmites standing tall from the bottom of the 400 foot chasm. I don’t know. But I do know that just swimming between these mighty columns is an incredible feeling.
And did I mention that the other two dives that are always included in this trip, Half moon Caye and long Caye, both offer exceptional reef diving and marine life? In fact, a lot of people say these two side trips are their favorite part of the Blue Hole Tour.
And there’s one last thing: at the end of your trip, when you’re describing your dives to your friends, if they know anything at all about Belize, they’re going to ask you: “what did you think of the Blue Hole?” Do you really want to have to say you didn’t do it?