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What It's Really Like To Dive The Great Blue Hole of Belize

Rated by French marine biologist Jacques Cousteau as one of his top 10 dive spots on the planet, people from around the world continue to visit Belize in order to dive the Great Blue Hole.

Sometimes known as the Blue Hole of Belize, the Blue Hole gets its name from its naturally dark blue waters. Surrounded by the lighter-colored waters of Lighthouse Reef approximately 43 miles (70 km) from Belize City, the Belize Blue Hole is perfectly circular in shape, measuring 984 feet (300 meters) across and 354 feet (108 meters) deep. Formed by the rising waters of the last Ice Age some 15,000 years ago, the Belize Blue Hole is a giant sinkhole filled with gothic wonder and magnificent stalactites.

Once little known except by local fishermen, today the Belize Blue Hole is considered the gold standard of diving in the country. Off limits except to experienced divers with at least two dozen dives under their belt, the Belize Blue Hole is completely unlike any other dive site in the country. Whereas other dive spots are known for being "color" dives replete with a kaleidoscope of fish species and exotic fauna, the Belize Blue Hole is known as a "dark" dive.

Diving the Belize Blue Hole

The dive begins with a descent to around 40 feet (12 meters) to reach a natural limestone shelf. Following the coral down until a depth of around 18 feet (6 meters), divers will then encounter a gentle incline that leads into the abyss. After taking a minute or two on the shelf, divers will then enter the Blue Hole proper, a vast, somber space with grays and muted colors.

At around a depth of 60 feet (18 meters), certain shapes begin to appear out of the gloom. Small groups of reef sharks might investigate divers, but otherwise, the waters are generally free of inhabitants. As divers continue to descend, it is around the 100-foot (30-meter) mark that the first large columns can be seen, marking the entrance to the vast submarine cavern.

It is this moment that continues to seduce divers. Entering the cavern leaves many divers with an otherworldly feeling. In total silence, divers thread their way through the stalactites and stalagmites until they reach their maximum depth at 132 feet (40 meters). After five minutes that feel like 30, it's time to ascend, slowly ascending towards the light and the safety of the boat.

Adventures in Belize offers a number of different snorkeling and scuba diving packages that include guided dives of the Belize Blue Hole.