Belize's Great Blue Hole: Is It Really Worth Diving ?

Belize’s Great Blue Hole Is It Really Worth Diving

This is a question that is repeatedly asked on the many dive message boards across the internet and the answers it receives is sometimes misleading depending on the experience of the diver whom answers.

This article is written to provide an unbiased factual information source based on the reaction of hundreds of divers that I have had the opportunity to speak to after diving the Blue Hole.

Since I was a dive operator in Belize for many years and love the country, there will be some readers that say, of course I will promote the Blue Hole in a positive manner but the real truth is I personally think for 90% of divers it's a great experience a great dive and a great addition to diving Belize.

[inline=left]http://ambergriscaye.com/pages/town/art/blueholemed.jpg[/inline]The Great Blue Hole of Belize is 1000ft across and 460ft deep and forms an almost perfect circle. It has been a favorite fishing ground for Belizean fishermen for many years and in 1970 it was introduced to the public by Jacque Cousteau whom on his boat the Calypso charted the Blue Hole for the first time and highlighted its wonders in a TV documentary.

The Belize Blue Hole is unique in many ways, one being that it is the only Blue Hole in the world that can be seen with the naked eye from outer space.

It is a fact that thousands of years ago the Blue Hole was a cave that was above sea level, the reason we know this is because Stalactites and stalagmites cannot form underwater, and can only grow with the constant drip drip that can be seen happening to the stalactites in many above ground caves systems today.

When you consider that it takes more than 100 years for a Stalactite to grow just one inch, it’s a spectacular sight to see a 40ft stalactite that has taken literally thousands of years to reach that size. The Stalactites can be found in the Blue Hole starting at 100ft, hanging suspended from the ceiling some more than 40ft long. The Blue Hole and the surrounding area has been designated a World Heritage site due to is uniqueness and is another one of Belize's many protected areas.

(Did you know that almost one third of the country of Belize is designated as protected reserves?)

Many people don't realize it but there are only 2 dive able spots in the Blue Hole, The north side which is the more popular side for the larger boats, due to fairly easy access to that side, and then their is the south side which generally only the smaller boats can access due to wind direction and the fact that it has to be dove from within the circumference of the hole itself.

Each has only about 300ft or so of Stalactites hanging down after that is just a flat wall of basically nothing. On the North dive-site you only have Stalactites (those that hang down) with nothing but the abyss below you, on the South side it has both Stalactites and Stalagmites which can be found at around 145ft where there is a small ledge that has some Stalagmites, this is the side you are more likely to encounter the resident Shark population. In many message board posts you will read that some divers see lots of sharks while other divers see none and there is a simple explanation for this.

I dove the Blue Hole for more than 12 years and while today the Blue Hole has a large population of Caribbean Reef Sharks it will depend on how you dive the Blue hole and whom you dive it with whether you will see the resident sharks or not.

Many years ago before this large population became a near daily occurrence, we did on occasion see sharks in the Blue Hole but always on the South side, and almost NEVER when we dove the North side which was 99% of the time, because as mentioned the size of the boat we were using only allowed us to dive the south side when winds were favorable..

So why do some divers see sharks and other do not? Here’s the scoop

Nearly all the boats that dive the Blue Hole from San Pedro see the sharks on many occasions, and the reason for this is that they get to the Blue Hole FIRST before the Aggressors and other large boats, resorts etc that are located in the area.

(Make a mental note here that normally it’s the very experienced divers that usually book the liveaboards and stay at the remote Atoll resorts because that is where the best diving in Belize can usually be found)

Being the first to dive the Blue Hole affords them better visibility since the first group to dive the Blue Hole gets the best vis, the reason for this is, as you descend it causes the silt to dislodge as the bubbles rise and releases the silt causing visibility to become reduced.

(these days due to the large number of boats and divers visibility is nearly always quite bad compared to the other fantastic dives at Lighthouse Reef)

When you consider that San Pedro sends many boats a day to the Blue Hole you can understand why those that dive it later in the morning under the pretext (Lets wait till the San Pedro boats leave so its less busy) dive a site that has had probably 50 divers through it already before they get the chance to dive it.

This puts them at a distinct disadvantage as to the quality of the dive especially in the area of visibility since 40-50 divers and there bubbles will reduce visibility by up to 50% in some cases, in addition there are the Sharks.

The Sharks will sometimes follow you throughout the dive but are mainly utilized at the end of the dive since you have an extended safety stop of 10 minutes or so and while waiting out that time on the sandy ledge located at 15ft you are buzzed and entertained by up to 30 Caribbean Reef Sharks.(Not Guaranteed) The sharks are induced to come to the surface by baiting the water with sardines this will bring them to the surface from the depths of the Blue Hole and give the diver the opportunity to view these magnificent creatures during the safety stop.

The liveaboards do not bait the water or the local resorts and if this is not done the likelihood of seeing any sharks is reduced by 90% so you can clearly see that most divers that dive the Blue Hole from a liveabord or an Atoll resort will have a far inferior dive due to these reasons.

Baiting is now not allowed however some operators still do it to try and get the sharks up from the depths

In addition it is normally the very experienced divers that are usually the ones that are on the liveaboards because this normally affords them the best diving opportunities in Belize and that is absolutely correct with the EXCEPTION of the Blue Hole dive based on how they are currently running that dive.

Over the years a repeated question is posted on the various diver message boards is the Blue Hole Worth diving? And you will see the same answers time and time again from don't bother it’s a waste of time to it’s a great dive well worth it and everything in between.

Why is there such a vast difference in peoples opinions, my answer is that most regulars on message boards, that is those that post at least once a week etc are normally very active divers and have lots of experience and have had the opportunity to dive multiple places around the world and give there advice freely to others. This however can do an injustice to a fairly new diver that happens upon a message board and asks the question is the Blue Hole worth diving??

Most of the answers I have seen on message boards are negative when asking this question, mainly I believe because its a very experienced diver that maybe has 1000's of dives under his belt and when he dove the Blue Hole it was probably from a liveaboard after a bunch of other divers had dove it and because of his worldly experience he was less than impressed with the Blue Hole, so he makes his experience heard to this fairly new diver that has only dove cozumel since certification and has 20 dives under his belt, he of course thinks this expert diver knows exactly what he is talking about so decided NOT to dive the Blue Hole because of what he has been told.

When this fairly new diver gets to Belize and is asked do you want to dive the Blue Hole I receive the answer OHH no I have heard its not that good I then I ask who told you that, and I receive an answer of I read it on a message board, or my friend came to Belize and he told me, so I ask did he dive the Blue Hole while he was here then?? and I receive an answer Oh no but he had heard it was not worth it either so did not dive it when he was in Belize. I hear this time after time after time.

I then explain the Blue Hole trip and hopefully I had some guests in house that have just come back and then I don't have to say a thing they will sell them a trip for me but if I do not have divers in-house then I will tell them about the trip and encourage them to go and I usually add that if they don't think it was worth it I will refund there money, needless to say to this date I have never refunded anyone’s money normally they are extremely appreciative that I talked them into it and let them make there own mind up and I am happy to break the cycle of the OH No I heard it was not worth it mode.

Why do I do this if I made more money keeping them in house? the reason is that I am the first to say that Belize has many different areas to dive and each unique in what it has to offer, based on what a specific diver is looking for in a vacation (that's another Belize article to follow soon) I want the visiting diver to go back with a positive impression of diving Belize and anything I can do to increase there enjoyment of diving Belize then I will do that. The Blue Hole is a unique dive that if dove correctly can be an excellent addition to any divers logbook it will be less impressive to those divers with thousands of dives under there belt but the other 95% of divers will really enjoy the dive and view it as a positive DIFFERENT enjoyable dive.

So next time you see a question posted on a message board asking about the Blue Hole be sensitive to the experience of the diver asking when you answer it. Divers whom have been lucky enough to travel all over the world with thousands of dives under there belt will find it less of a thrill however the average diver will enjoy diving the Lighthouse Reef and The Great Blue Hole of Belize the possibility of sharks the eerie feeling and sheer difference, it will be a memorable diving experience for them, give them the chance to make there own judgments.

Gaz Cooper

21 Responses

  1. Couldn't agree more! The blue hole was my first "true" deep dive after I finished my advanced open water and the feeling of truly dropping into nothing was amazing. During the dive you swim between the hanging rock formations and then watch them disappear as you swim out towards the middle to begin the ascent to your safety stop. I only saw a few sharks in the distance during the ascent, as the swept in and out of view.<br /> I haven't met anyone else personally that has done the dive, but anyone that says it is not worth it, then simply think about the lighthouse atoll to follow! My understanding is that shops generally pair them together, and if the hole wasn't brilliant enough the wild life of the atoll should be! <br /> A big thumbs up to Belize! <br /> <br /> P.S. Is it possible to find D.M. positions in Belize, or is it simply who you know type situation? I'd trade my teachers salary for a one room on Caye caulker in a heart beat!
  2. Thank you for offering a very different perspective on this topic. I have been very guilty of making negative comments about the Blue Hole. I went while on the PH Sundancer in 2009; we saw no sharks and the viz was poor. The disappointment was palpable after all the build up. I probably won't go again, but I will not summarily dismiss it when I talk to other divers in the future.
  3. <blockquote><strong>tcdamsel;6381266 wrote:</strong> I went while on the PH Sundancer in 2009; we saw no sharks and the viz was poor. </blockquote>If you want to see the sharks, dive off a day boat. They congregate at that mooring because the boats feed them—or at least they used to, when I was traveling there. I doubt there would be sharks in the blue hole otherwise.
  4. I'd like to dive it but in a way that makes sense to me. Doubles and deco tanks. Quick bounce on an 80? What's the point??
  5. <blockquote><strong>ianr33;6381386 wrote:</strong> I'd like to dive it but in a way that makes sense to me. Doubles and deco tanks. Quick bounce on an 80? What's the point??</blockquote>Safety issues aside, to me it actually does make sense to bounce down, see the stalactites, say "cool", and head up. Of course, a lot of divers would say the same about the coral reefs I can linger for hours on.
  6. The blue hole was not my favorite dive site in Belize, but a couple of the other sites on the schedule for the same trip as the Blue Hole were great so i would do it again just fornthose sites.
  7. Long boat ride for a quick bounce dive to 140fsw, followed by more standard reefs and a long boat ride back. I just didn't think the diving in Belize was all that impressive, I guess - though the blue hole was paramount among the disappointments.
  8. A "fairly new diver" should not be diving the blue hole and be taken down to 145ft as you are saying. that is the definition of a "trust me dive" and not a smart thing to do. T<br /> <br /> On my last trip to Belize I was on an excursion with two girls that were just certified. For their very first dive after passing their OW certification the dive shop in San Pedro took them right to the Blue Hole. That was not the first time I had heard of that happening either. Going to the Blue Hole from San Pedro is quite a bit more expensive than the local reefs and I see it as a complete money grab from operators with a complete and utter lack of concern for the safety of their customers. Your post supports this even further. <br /> <br /> Also, some of the "facts" that you have about resorts in the atolls are simply false. Turneffe Island Resort gets to the Blue Hole way before any San Pedro boats can make the long haul out there. I cannot speak for the other resorts.
  9. I loved the Blue Hole and would definitely dive it again. The follow up dives afterward were the icing on the cake for me "The Aquarium" was amazing and we also hit a nice wall. Those dives were at shallower depths where the sunlight on the reefs was spectacular. Our lunch at the Blue footed Boobie sanctuary was a nice added bonus as well.
  10. My wife's and my first true dive after openwater cert was from San Pedro, in the finger canyons near Hol Chan. We were told that the BH was basically a "bounce dive" after a long boat ride. We were so overwhelmed by the stunning reef off San Pedro that we thought the BH wasn't worth losing more and longer dives closer to Ambergris.<br /> Maybe in the future....
  11. <blockquote><strong>OttoDog;6382548 wrote:</strong> My wife's and my first true dive after openwater cert was from San Pedro, in the finger canyons near Hol Chan. We were told that the BH was basically a "bounce dive" after a long boat ride. We were so overwhelmed by the stunning reef off San Pedro that we thought the BH wasn't worth losing more and longer dives closer to Ambergris.<br /> Maybe in the future....</blockquote>Ah, but you missed the dives on Lighthouse Reef that are usually included in the package, and are generally considered to be better dives.
  12. Thanks for the article. I have not been to Belize yet but have been reading the SB posts and noted with interest the divergent opinions on the Blue Hole. Your article helped me better understand both what to expect and why there is such a varied spectrum of opinion. As with most opinions expressed on SB and on travel websites such as Tripadvisor, ones expectations play a part in ones experience and how far the two were apart I think explain how two people can experience the same dive, trip, hotel etc and come away with two wildly different opinions. Would like to dive Belize one day and still undecided about making a Blue Hole trip. Would love to see it by helicopter. Not sure for me whether it would be worth a long boat ride. Maybe I need a heli ride I can dive from. Thanks again.
  13. I dove the Blue Hole many years ago. My wife and I were the first guests at Lighthouse Reef Resort in 1989 or so. We dove there for about ten days, as I recall. The reason I mention this is because the reefs were not heavily dived back then. We named most of the sites we dove. So, I don't know what the reefs are like today. I do know for a fact that EVERY dive we did was better than the Blue Hole. We dove the South side of the hole on a small boat. We were the first boat there, because we were staying at Lighthouse Reef. I think another one showed up as we were leaving. There were just the three of us, as it was all week, my wife, me and Bruce, our divemaster. The viz was good, maybe 75-80 feet, as I recall, but definitely not as good as any other dive we did. Every other one of them was virtually unlimited. I think we got down to about 130 feet in the Hole. You really have to go that deep to get a good look at the stalactites and stalagmites. That part of the dive lasts for five minutes or so and the rest of the time was spent off-gassing in the shallows, where there was very little to see. I'm not disappointed we did it. It was a very good novelty dive. If you're diving there the whole week, go see it! If you're riding a boat from the mainland, you would be better off to see any of the fabulous wall sites, particularly Half Moon Caye. It's a world class dive. You can visit the red-foot booby reserve and have lunch while doing a long surface interval before making another wall dive!
  14. I have been looking for the blue hole on google earth without any luck. Does anyone know where it is located or have some coordinates for it? Thanks
  15. <p style="text-align:left;"><span style="font-family: arial;">17.315653, -87.531425</span></p>
  16. Have to say that I was completely underwhelmed. A bounce dive to 145 feet on an AL 80 to see rock formations. Then 20 min offgassing in the shallows with nothing much to see. The vis was actually pretty good. Sharks would have improved the dive, but it was still a long trip for a bounce dive to spend 5 min at depth.<br /> <br /> Would much rather have done another dive at Half Moon Bay, but if rock formations are what you want to see then by all means do the dive - I prefer life, colour and long dives.<br /> <br /> Would not do this dive again. Not very many dives on my list of dives fall into that catagory.
  17. <blockquote><strong>Darnold9999;6389554 wrote:</strong> <br /> Would not do this dive again. Not very many dives on my list of dives fall into that catagory.</blockquote> I loved the dive and would not do it again.
  18. I was underwhelmed with the Blue Hole in Belize when I did it a few years ago. If given a choice, I'd much rather do one of the reefs. However, some of the other divers I was with were thrilled with the Blue Hole. So, its value as a divesite is certainly subjective.
  19. Yes, it is quite subjective. <br /> <br /> The first time I did it, my thoughts were similar to those who say that it is worth the trip because the stopover on Half Moon Caye and the ext too divers are really good. I was quite underwhelmed by the Blue Hole experience. <br /> <br /> The next time I was in Belize I was the leader of a group of divers, with none of them having a great deal of experience. I was hoping to talk the group into doing other special excursions instead, but a person who added onto our group at the last minute immediately started talking it up so enthusiastically that it had to happen. Then, the night before that excursion, he got so thoroughly drunk that he stayed in bed while the rest of us went on the trip he insisted we had to do. My feelings about the dive itself were the same as before, but in surveying the group after the trip, every single one of them thought the Blue Hole was the highlight of the entire trip, and they said that with enthusiasm. So, I guess making it a part of our trip was the right move after all, even though I didn't want to do it.
  20. <blockquote><strong>surreal73;6382422 wrote:</strong> I loved the Blue Hole and would definitely dive it again. The follow up dives afterward were the icing on the cake for me "The Aquarium" was amazing and we also hit a nice wall. Those dives were at shallower depths where the sunlight on the reefs was spectacular. Our lunch at the Blue footed Boobie sanctuary was a nice added bonus as well.</blockquote> <br /> We had a similar experience as surreal73 with "The Aquarium" and lunch at the booby sanctuary after which were both very neat. We saw huge grouper and reef sharks right below the boat at the Blue Hole and it was pretty cool to see the huge stalactites at 140'. I'm glad we did it once but wouldn't make a point to go back to the Blue Hole.
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