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The Great Blue Hole: Belize’s Mysterious Natural Wonder

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The Belize Blue Hole is a massive sinkhole in the Caribbean Sea. It’s a one-of-a-kind physical feature that attracts local and international tourists who come to look at this breathtaking phenomenon.

Neither researchers nor visitors have even begun to comprehend this giant, blue, water-filled hole, what led to its formation, or why it’s still there. This deep blue hole imaginable is seemingly mysterious!

One thing for sure is that the Blue Hole is a major tourist destination for its unearthly beauty. It is also a top spot for experienced divers who want to test their skills to the limit and people who explore the Great Blue Hole’s geological formations and marine life.

Let us give you an insight into this stunning natural formation and what to expect when you visit.

Quick Facts About the Belize Blue Hole

Great Blue Hole Belize Aerial View
Sona / Adobe Stock

The Belize Blue Hole, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a unique sea hole located in the Caribbean Sea, about 62 miles from the mainland of Belize. The Great Blue Hole is a near-perfectly round hole near the center of the Lighthouse Reef atoll. This submerged cave is filled with rising water levels. Like all similar caves, it formed during the last ice age over 10,000 years ago.

The Great Blue Hole’s name comes from its clear blue waters and the fact that it is the world’s largest known sea hole. It was publicized by a British diver, Ned Middleton, who is famous for his book Ten Years Underwater.

Its diameter is 984 feet, and it is 419 feet deep. Even experienced divers have difficulty reaching the bottom, and at least two divers have died attempting to do so.

In December 2018, two small submarines attempted to map the hole’s interior and bottom. They found the water at approximately 300 feet without oxygen and completely pitch black. They also discovered the bodies of two divers at the very bottom.

It is part of a vast barrier reef, the second-largest barrier reef after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and offers one of the best diving spots for seasoned divers.

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Visitor Information

The Great Blue Hole in Belize
Photo: wstera2

Several mysteries exist about its formation, marine life, geological structure, and visitors’ activities. Let’s get into the details.

Formation

Belize Blue Hole Aerial View

The present-day Belize Blue Hole was once dry land. It was formed about 15,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age when the sea waters rose from 400 feet to 500 feet.

It all started as a limestone cave system during the last glacial period. The end of the ice age caused a continuous rise in water levels that flooded the caves.

As a result of the dissolving limestone, the roof collapsed. At the end of that long process, a nearly perfect circle with a pupil-like appearance formed. This is the present-day Belize Blue Hole.

The Belize Blue Hole is the world’s largest feature of its kind. It is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Geological Formations

Belize Blue Hole  Cave Formations

The Blue Hole of today was initially part of an onshore cave system before the ocean rose after the last glacial period. The rising sea levels flooded the caves, creating underwater caverns that only experienced divers can explore.

The Great Blue Hole is one of the most famous diving spots because of its geological formations. Its popular underwater structures include stalactites and stalagmites, formed during the last great ice age before the cave was flooded.

Some stalactites and stalagmites are up to 40 feet long. These are some of the unique scenes that divers can enjoy below the surface. More experienced divers can further discover bedrock ledges and underwater dunes. Deeper down the hole, divers find a limestone shelf.

No one has ever explored the entire depths of the Belize Blue Hole because it gets darker as you go down. Many people believe it is full of silt that has accumulated over the years, but the truth is, no one knows what exactly is there.

If you explore the deeper depths of the Belize Blue Hole for more geological formations, remember to carry a torch or two. That will help you navigate the extensive cave systems of one of the most amazing places on Earth.

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Marine Life

Underwater fish in the Great Blue Hole, Belize. Two silver fish swimming in the deep blue.
klevit – stock.adobe.com

Discovering the true marine life in this deep Blue Hole beyond the coral growth is difficult. Only experienced divers and special submarines can explore the deep waters of this hole. Nevertheless, the Great Blue Hole is still a top wonder of nature.

Over 500 fish species and more than 106 coral species call it home, with Elkhorn and Brain Corals being the most common in the shallower portions. But as you go deeper, you will uncover a new world of marine life.

Corals of the Great Blue Hole in Belize
Photo: jayhem

The area is also home to Pederson’s shrimp, neon gobies, angelfish, groupers, and purple sea fans. You will also meet different shark species, including bull sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, black tip sharks, hammerhead sharks, and nurse sharks.

Other animals in the hole include neon gobies, angelfish, giant groupers, and purple sea fans. The Great Blue Hole shows it is a rich habitat, given the different animal species that live in it.  

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Diving Activities

Group of Divers

The Great Blue Hole is a favorite spot for scuba diving because of its stunning blue waters and depth. But you can also visit it to marvel at the panoramic view of the site. Its aerial pupil-like shape and remarkable coral reefs are all worth your time.

This one of the world’s largest natural formations attracts divers worldwide and is a world-class destination for recreational scuba divers. However, it is only for skilled divers.

Scuba diving operators offer the best way to explore the Belize Blue Hole. You can easily judge that getting through from the surface is easy.

Many novice divers are unaware of the extensive cave system submerged under the water. Navigating these geological features demands skills and experience that a newbie cannot showcase.

Only scuba divers who have logged 24 dives or more can go in. And even the experienced ones do not go beyond 135 meters deep. That’s because it gets darker and darker as you go deeper. There is also a fear of Caribbean reef shark attacks and disturbing other sea life.

Ensure you have proper scuba diving insurance by searching for policies on TravelInsurance.com or World Nomads adventure travel insurance plans.

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Freediving

Diver on a Dive

The Great Blue Hole also attracts freedivers for its bottomless depth. Freediving entails descending or swimming in deep waters without a breathing apparatus, unlike scuba diving. Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site is an incredible experience for skilled divers.

Freediving offers therapeutic and enjoyable benefits. However, it requires training and experience to hold your breath underwater. And as mentioned, the Great Blue Hole is not where you can perfect your skills. Try them out at shallow pools and reefs before discovering the undersea world at Belize Blue Hole.

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The Lighthouse Reef

Coral Reef

According to the Discovery Channel, the Belize Hole is the most amazing place on earth. The Channel ranked it first for the breathtaking features it offers visitors. Well, it’s hard to argue with them!

Experienced scuba divers get to explore the Great Blue Hole better than novices, free divers, and snorkelers. They explore the geological formations and admire the marine life in the Great Blue Hole.

However, regardless of your ability, you never fall short of panoramic views that wow you. You don’t have to get yourself wet to marvel at this natural wonder of the world.

The Belize Blue Hole is located on the Lighthouse Reef in the Caribbean Sea. Colorful coral reefs cover its entire circumference, and the limestone-covered ridges provide ideal conditions for reefs to thrive.

As stated earlier, the sea level rose after the last ice age. It aided in the growth of coral that covered the outer waters and shallow depths inside the lagoon. That phenomenon created a unique coral reef appearance that attracted scientists and tourists globally.

Another reason to visit the Blue Hole is its deep blue waters and pupil-like shape. Using a drone camera or flying in a helicopter can allow you to capture the best aerial views of this hole, which was once an enormous cavern. Skydivers also have a better view of the blue water and surrounding coral reef walls.

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The Inland Blue Hole

Inland Blue Hole and Plants

The Great Blue Hole is not the only natural marvel in this area. Most visitors visit the “other Blue Hole” after their day trips to the Belize Blue Hole.

The Inland Blue Hole is located about 12 miles south of the City of Belmopan. It is an inland water hole on the Hummingbird Highways, making it more accessible than the Great Blue Hole.

This Inland Blue Hole is on the St. Herman’s Cave System under the National Park Administration. It is also one of the tourist’s favorite spots for its cool freshwater pools. A parking facility is also available on sight.

Once you reach the hole, you use stairs to descend 30 feet to the water. The Inland Blue Hole is a sinkhole formed after the underground river channel collapsed. The Cave’s Branch River replenishes the cool turquoise water. The pool of water remains clear and cold all year round, thanks to the dense forest around it.

Travel Tips for Visiting

Proper planning for your trip is the best way to enjoy a visit to the world’s famous Blue Hole. Pick the right time and arrange your visit in advance.

Most tourists to this region take flights to Cancun and connect with another flight to Belize City. Once in Belize, you can take a bus to Ambergris Caye or another connecting flight. This island is often crowded with international tourists. So, you will have to make hotel reservations in advance.

To have the best experience, plan to visit the Blue Belize Hole the following morning. Ask the hotel staff to help you reserve a speedboat to take you to the actual place. You may also need experts to guide you in minimizing the chances of accidents.

The return journey is just the reverse of the previous steps. Your speedboat should be ready to pick you up and take you back to San Pedro Town.

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Places to Stay Near the Great Blue Hole

Luxury beachfront cabin in San Pedro, Belize surrounded by lush tropical foliage and palm trees.
Marek Poplawski – stock.adobe.com

Most visitors stay in San Pedro, the only town on the palm-frocked island of Ambergris Caye. There, you can find hotels and resorts with comfortable rooms and excellent services where you can relax after a long trip to and from the sinkhole.

Search for the most comfortable and budget hotels online at Booking.com or Hotels.com to make your reservations. You have many options to choose from, but we recommend the following hotels:

FAQs

How long does it take to get to the Belize Blue Hole?

The trip to the Belize Blue Hole usually begins from Ambergris and takes 3 hours. You can also start your journey from Plascencia in Southern Belize, but it will take an hour longer. Also, prepare for a rough boat ride to the site.

Is snorkeling in the Blue Hole Belize worth it?

Aerial view of the Blue Hole and Lighthouse Reef in Belize showcasing vibrant coral formations within the atolls.

Yes. Belize Blue Hole offers a large area for snorkeling. It may not give you the best fun, but it is ideal if you make it part of your day trip to other amazing places in Belize.

Can you swim in the Great Blue Hole in Belize?

Yes. You can swim in the shallow waters of the Belize Blue Hole as you admire the coral reefs around its perimeter. However, diving is only reserved for skilled divers. Just stick to the shallow edges if you are inexperienced.

Are there sharks in the Blue Hole?

Yes. The Belize Blue Hole is home to various sea creatures, including sharks. These include Caribbean reef sharks, nurse sharks, and hammerheads. Many non-swimmers visit the hole to admire its biodiversity.

How deep do you dive into the Blue Hole?

Open-water divers can go up to 70 feet deep and experienced divers with certificates can extend to 130 feet below the water surface. The Belize Blue Hole has complex geological formations that are difficult to navigate. It also gets darker as you dive deeper.

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