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“We can’t go to Belize without seeing the Blue Hole,” is pretty much the way my friend summed up her opinion about our upcoming trip. Our group of five girl fiends was booked on a kayaking and snorkeling adventure with Island Expeditions, which would see us explore South Water Caye, Glovers Reef and Tabaco Caye. But the plan had us some distance from Lighthouse Reef, the area where the Blue Hold is located. Since we had added three days to chill out on Caye Caulker, prior to joining the tour departing from Dangriga, we decided to charter a plane to fly over of the Blue Hole on the way.

Getting to the Blue hole: By air or by sea?

There are two ways to see the Blue Hole in Belize: from above in a plane, or at sea level by boat where you can dive it. Diving tours do depart from Caye Caulker, but it’s an all-day outing, and restricted to licensed and experienced divers only.

Chartering a flight

Our charter was with Maya Island Air. Our pilot Kenny picked us up like rock stars, from the airstrip located at the southern tip of Caye Caulker. Flying out over the coastline, ocean and various reefs presented an endless pallet of aqua-blues. We were all eyes, with good views, but I was grateful to accept the co-pilot seat for having arranged the booking. The actual flight to Dangriga, including tour took about 1.5hrs. Scheduled group tours from Caye Caulker take about the same amount of time, but you are subject to their flight schedule coordinating with your plans.

How did the Blue Hole form?

The Blue Hole in Belize is basically a giant marine sinkhole. It was formed at the end of the last ice age when rising sea waters flooded a series of enormous caverns. The caves first formed 153,000 years ago, and were completely submerged 15,000 years ago. The Blue Hole feature was formed when sea levels were much lower, and at one time, it was actually above ground.

Where is the Blue Hole in Belize?

The Blue Hole is surrounded by the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. This coral atoll has an inner ring of shallow light-colored water that forms a ring for the deeper sapphire blue waters of the deep-water cave. The walls of the cave contain stalactites and stalagmites up to 12 meters (40 feet) in length. The presence of stalactites help confirm the theory that the formation was previously above sea level.

In addition to admiring the striking natural beauty of the Great Blue Hole, here are 15 fun facts:

1. Perfectly circular

The Blue Hole is perfectly circular at 300 meters (984 feet) across and 108 meters (354 feet) deep.

2. Largest sea hole in the world

While the South China Sea has the deepest sea hole in the world, named the Dragon Hole,  at 300 meters (987 feet) deep, it is not the widest. There is another sea hold called Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas, but no other is as large as the Blue Hole in Belize

3. Jacque Cousteau documented it in 1971

Arguably the world’s most famous diver, Jacque Cousteau first brought attention to the Blue Hole, after which it has become a mecca of sorts for experienced divers.

4. Ranked #1 amazing place on Earth

According to the Discovery Channel, the Blue Hole is the #1 Most Amazing Place on Earth. Who are we to argue?

5. A World Heritage Site

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was inscribed into the Unesco World Heritage Site in 1996. The designation protects seven areas, including the Blue Hole Natural Monument.

6. The second largest barrier reef in the world

The Blue Hole is located within the vast barrier reef off the shores of Belize. The reef second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.

7. Charles Darwin visited

Ok, so it was a while back, but in 1836 Charles Darwin visited the Belize Barrier Reef and declared it the “most remarkable barrier reef in the Caribbean.”

8. Experienced divers only

Only Open Water Certified divers with a minimum of 25 logged dives are allowed to dive the Blue Hole. PADI certification is accepted worldwide. The depths reached demand skill and experience to navigate safely. Even at that, in 2018 when two submarines descended into the Blue Hole in an attempt to map its interior, they discovered the bodies of two divers at the bottom, out of three believed to have gone missing while diving there. The number of Blue Hole fatalities is not accurately recorded. However, one source estimates 130 divers died during the period of 1997-2012, and averaged eight per year. Another source claims as many as 200, which apparently includes a few snorkelers, unrelated to the depths reached. For some people, diving the world’s deadliest site is a challenge to embrace. Like I said earlier, the plane ride and view from above was awesome!

9. What’s at the bottom of the Blue Hole in belize?

Locals joke that there are two things at the bottom of the Blue Hole: sharks and GoPro’s. I guess in light of #8, we should add a third: bodies.

10 The dive is short, but the memories endless

Divers go to a depth of 130’ in their accent into the cave of the Blue Hole. As a result, the length of the dive is about 25 minutes, due to the depth and requirements to resurface safely. For the massive anticipation credited to the activity, the brevity of the dive comes as a surprise to some.

11. Accessible

The Belize Blue Hole is located 100km (62 miles) offshore of Belize City, within the Lighthouse Reef, a natural coral atoll. While it’s not exactly a short boat ride from the city, it is one of the more accessible sea caves in the world.

12. Who named the Blue Hole?

British diver Ned Middleton named the blue sea cave in Belize the “Great Blue Hole” in his book “Ten Years Underwater” published in 1988. While it’s certain the Spanish charted the waters initially, there doesn’t appear to be a recorded name they gave to the feature. Some have credited Jacque Cousteau with the name, when he first dove the location in 1972, but this is in fact not true.

13. Skydive the Blue Hole

Yes, you can skydive from a plane and then descend into the Blue Hole. It’s been done, and there is photo evidence on Instagram to prove it. The group shot with sky divers linking arms in a circle, and the Blue Hole in the middle is pretty cool. I’m sure there’s a video out there too!

14. Rare plant life

There are over 500 rare forms of animals and plant life found in the Blue Hole of Belize.

15. The Blue Hole gets lots of visitors

Each year, more than 200,000 people come to visit the Great Blue Hole from all over the world. Of course those numbers include both by sea and by air, but it’s an impressive number attracted to this unique ocean formation.

Our group was grateful for this once in a lifetime experience in Belize. It was a fine way to shake off Covid travel restrictions, and get out there to see the world again!

If you go

Flights can be booked through Maya Island Air and Tropic Air. In addition to scheduled group flights, private charters can also be arranged. With the exception of private or chartered vessels, the only other way to access the Blue Hole is to join a dive tour group. Belize Diving Services, Big Fish Dive Center and Frenchie’s Diving Services are a few of the operations you might want to check out. All were highly recommended in the Belize Lonely Planet guide book. Keep in mind the dive certification qualifications required to join a trip. Apparently, snorkelers can also join dive trips, but spots may be limited due to diver demand. And costs are likely to remain the same whether you dive or not, since a tour spot has been otherwise occupied.

More Belize Adventures

Check out these articles for more Belize travel inspiration!

25 Things to See and Do in Caye Caulker

Island Expeditions Belize Kayaking Adventure

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