Attractions, Belize

Exploring the Great Blue Hole in Belize

the great blue hole in Belize

The Great Blue Hole in Belize could easily be described as one of the greatest wonders of the world. It one of the best marine habitats sites ever discovered and it is an experience of a lifetime.

It was reportedly made famous by the late marine scientist Jacques Cousteau who visited the hole in 1972 to examine stalactites. In 1997, geologist Robert Gill and a team from the Cambrian Foundation collected stalactites for further examination and analysis.

Are you interested in a taking a trip to the Great Blue Hole in Belize, but not sure where to begin? We’ll take you through the history of the great blue hole, how to get there and how to plan a trip to this coveted scuba diving and snorkelling site.

History of the Great Blue Hole in Belize

The great blue hole is a natural creation that has intrigued scientists and marine enthusiasts for centuries. It is believed that the hole was formed during the ice age through a series of glacial events. Incidents of erosion of rock and deposition of material in the area, are believed to have created the wonder that is called the Great Blue Hole.

The cavern is located just about 60 miles off the Belize coast and is near the center of the Lighthouse Reef atoll. It is part of the Barrier Reef Reserve System and was designated a world heritage site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) in 1996.

The aerial view of the hole shows an almost perfectly circular dark blue abyss surrounded by coral and gorgeous turquoise waters. The contrast of dark blue and turquoise is an eerily stunning sight that beckons visitors and teases about the true depth of the hole.

However, this view does not prepare you for the unique positioning of stalactites and stalagmites and other limestone formations which are accessible only by a diving session. The area is a popular tourist spot, and is often described as a must-see on a trip to Belize.

coral in the great blue hole in belize
Image Credit: Lonely Planet

The circular hole is a limestone sinkhole with dimensions of 300 feet wide and 412 feet deep. There is a coral reef which surrounds the hole and gives the impression of an eyelid of a dark blue eye. The total diameter of this phenomenon measures 1,000 feet and creates a natural home for marine life.

The Great Blue Hole itself does not have much marine life, but the surrounding reefs are home to several interesting aquatic species. There are several varieties of fish including butterfly fish, parrot fish angelfish, groupers, octopus, shrimp, sea anemones, coral and turtles.

There are several varieties of sharks which have been spotted in the waters near the hole. Nurse sharks, bull sharks, black tip sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and hammerhead sharks have been spotted in the surrounding areas and on very occasions, in the hole itself.

Planning a Trip to the Great Blue Hole in Belize

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The best time to visit the Great Blue Hole is the period of January to May. This is considered to be the dry season and when chances of excessive rain and tropical storms are almost nonexistent. June to December is the rainy season and visibility is diminished.

A visit to the great blue hole can be done by plane, helicopter or boat and there are hotels located on the atolls and islands surrounding Belize. If you are visiting Belize strictly for a visit to the Blue Hole, you should consider staying at one of the resorts situated on the Turneffe Atoll, Caye Caulker or Anbergris Caye. Turneffe Caye is closest to the hole.

Aircraft Tours

visit the great blue hole in belize by aircraft
Image Credit: Derek Low

Planes and helicopters provide aerial tours which provide a bird’s eye view of the hole and surrounding islands. Tours depart from a several areas in Belize including Belize City, Caye Caulker and San Pedro and usually last an hour.  Approximate travel time by boat ranges from thirty minutes to two hours.

Boat Tours

visit the great blue hole in belize by boat
Image Credit: Derek Low

Several companies offer day boat trips to the hole, and because of its allure, the area is in high demand. Tour packages include a combination of scuba diving or snorkelling, lunch, transportation to the hole and back as well as island lodge accommodation. Approximate travel time by boat ranges from two to six hours depending on the departure point.

Accommodation

The Belize Tourist Board‘s website has an extensive list of accommodation for visitors. There you will find luxury resorts, family-friendly hotels, vacation rentals, condos, guesthouses, campgrounds and live-aboard vessels on the mainland and on the associated atolls, islands and cays. Listings include contact information, rates, amenities, activities and location.

Rules for the Great Blue Hole in Belize

Because the Great Blue Hole is a protected area, there are specific rules which must be followed. The Belize Audobon Society co-manages the Blue Hole Natural Monument and has effected strict rules and regulations for vessels and snorkellers and divers.

Vessels

Vessels must carefully navigate the areas surrounding the blue hole and keep a watchful eye for swimmers and divers. Boaters must inspect the three permanent mooring buoys within the hole prior to tying and must no anchor outside of the designated sites. These buoys are available for everyone to utilize and must be shared by all. Mariners should be cautious when refuelling in the area and are prohibited from dumping and waste into the ocean. Jet skis are not allowed in the area.

Swimmers, Snorkellers and Divers

Swimmers, snorkellers and divers should remember that no life guards are on duty at the site. Divers should be extremely cautious, because only intermediate to expert level divers should participate in deep diving. It is advised that visitors should partner with a buddy or a licensed tour guide. Fishing is not allowed in the area. Removing anything from the reefs or the entire area of the protected reserve is prohibited.

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