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Arguably, one of the top attractions in Belize is the Great Blue Hole. This iconic 100-foot-near-perfect-circular reef is situated approximately 96km (60miles) from Belize City in Lighthouse Reef Atoll. But what is it like to dive Belize Blue Hole? Or more to the point is it worth the price tag?
Scuba Dive Belize Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is a bit of a Marmite attraction where Belize is concerned; ask people if they’d recommend you to ‘Scuba Dive Belize Blue Hole’ and you get a mixed response. People either rave about how awesome it was or grumble about how over-rated the diving in the Great Blue Hole is
Regardless of people’s opinions, scuba diving in the Great Blue Hole was the top thing on my Belize bucket list. There was no question about should I or shouldn’t I part with a small fortune, donning the scuba gear and jumping into the World’s biggest sinkhole.
The GREAT Blue Hole, Caye Caulker – a few facts
- Belize is home to the biggest underwater sinkhole in the World, there are other blue hole dive opportunities in Malta, Egypt and Mexico to name a few, but this is the granddaddy of them all.
- It is situated in an area called Lighthouse Reef just over 60miles from Belize City.
- Lighthouse Reef is situated in the Caribbean Sea and is approximately 35km long and 8km wide.
- It’s nearly perfectly circular and with a diameter of 318m and a depth of 125m.
- Lighthouse Reef contains both The Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye, both boast some of the best dive sites in Belize as well as both having UNESCO world heritage status.
Blue Hole Belize Map
So where is the Belize Blue Hole?
So is scuba diving The Blue Hole worth it?
A $300-350 shaped hole in your pocket is what you’ll be left with after the Blue Hole dive. That’s a big chunk of money just for a single day trip. In a single word YES! It’s totally worth the price tag for the Blue Hole diving experience.
But why does it cost so much to dive Belize Blue Hole?
Belize Blue Hole is situated in Lighthouse Reef, a National park in the middle of the Caribbean. It’s a 2 ½ hour journey by boat to get there. Also, Belize is a relatively expensive country, it’s based on the dollar! And then some of that $300-350 goes towards the Park Entry (around $40 of it).
What’s included when you book a Belize Blue Hole tour?
- A full 12 hours excursion, it’s a long day trip!
- Pick up and drop off at your hotel
- A massive buffet breakfast at the dive shop while the crew load the boat
- Fully equipped and comfortable boat to get you there and back
- 2 ½ hour journey to get to the reef and then back again – that’s quite a lot of fuel
- The crew to man the boat
- All your equipment
- Small dive groups – 4 people maximum per divemaster
- Three dives (just for perspective, a single dive in Belize from Caye Caulker or San Pedro costs around $40 a tank) the first is the Blue Hole, then two neighbouring sites, ‘Half Moon Quay’ and ‘The Aquarium’
- A decent Lunch, and as much tea/coffee/soft drinks/snacks throughout the day
- Unlimited rum punch at the end of the day for the 2hour journey back to the mainland.
- A visit to the Nature Reserve to see the Red Footed Boobies
- Amazing memories of one of the top dive destinations in Belize!
So all in all, you do get quite a bit for your money!
About the dive inside the Great Blue Hole
The Belize Blue Hole dive is classed as a deep recreational dive; you’ll get to a depth of approximately 130 feet / 40m. Because of the depth of the dive, you will have very little ‘bottom time’. The dive is done with regular air (Nitrox wasn’t an option here).
Expect this dive to be done and dusted within about 35 minutes. That’s split into a relatively fast descent, short swim to the perimeter of the Blue Hole at approximately 12m deep at the drop-off, bottom time of about 10 minutes, ascent and safety stop.
This is the shortest and deepest dive of the day.
If you have a dive computer it will be going mad on this dive, you’ll hear constant beeping from everyone’s dive computers. Although I’d naturally want to have a longer bottom time, 10 minutes is enough time to see what you go there for– the awesome rock formations!
Do I need to be PADI trained to dive the Blue Hole in Belize?
In short, yes! You need to have passed AT LEAST your Open Water certificate. However, to dive the Blue Hole, you do not need to have passed the Advanced Open Water certificate.
Despite this, it’s always sensible to have a few dives under your (weight) belt – haha see what I did there! So you are 100% comfortable with the fundamentals of Scuba Diving.
As a recommendation, it’s probably sensible to complete either some deeper Adventure Dives or complete the Advanced Open Water certificate prior to this
Another point to remember – make sure your travel insurance covers you to do a deeper dive. The standard depth is around 60 feet/ 18metres, you may need to purcchase a bolt-on to your standard policy to make sure you are fully insured.
What can you see when you Dive Belize Blue Hole?
If you’re expecting colourful corals and tons of aquatic life, then think again. The main reason for diving the Belize Blue Hole is to see the awesome rock formations.
You might see a few reefs and their fishy residents around the perimeter wall at the top of the decent (this is what the snorkelers in the group will be looking at). But as a scuba diver, you’ll get the whole awesomeness of the open beautiful blue abyss before you.
This abyss goes down beyond visibility. Deep down into this massive errrr Blue Hole. The sheer straight walls on the decent are a sight to be marvelled at; it’s downright impressive!
You’ll reach your bottom-most point of the dive at the alcove. The alcove is filled with stalactites, columns and rock formations from a bygone time when the Blue Hole was actually above sea-level.
This is nature at its best. I guarantee you’ll be impressed and no picture or video can quite pay justice to how awe-inspiring it is to see first-hand.
What can I expect booking a Great Blue Hole tour?
There are a string of companies offering Great Blue Hole diving on both Caye Caulker and San Pedro. I’m picky with which dive outfitters I choose and after entering several dive shops and reading reviews I chose Neptune’s Cove.
To get the best deals, contact them directly via email by clicking the link above to be sure to ask if they have any deals on, especcially if you plan on doing more than one days worth of diving in the region.
5.20am – Pick up time
A small boat (or gold buggy if you are staying inland) picks you up from the dock outside your accommodation
5.30am - Breakfast is served!
Before the boat sets off the dive shop need to check your equipment, and dive certificates. This happens over an amazing buffet breakfast.
6.00am – Set off on the 2 ½ hour journey to Lighthouse Reef.
A definite highlight with being up before the crack of dawn was watching the sunrise from the top deck over this vast expanse of nothing but open sea. Pure bliss!
During this ride out, the Dive Masters who you are grouped with will come around at some point and ask to see your certification, to check your dive experience/level and generally get to know you a bit. You will also have your briefing on the boat, put into groups and buddied up.
8.30am - Dive #1 – The Blue Hole
Time to kit up and get ready to dive the Great Blue Hole. Into the water, one dive group at a time until we were given the go-ahead to descend. You can read the section above about what to expect on the Blue Hole Dive.
9.15am – Second breakfast & surface ‘tour’!
The theme for the day is certainly food. Our interval time is spent on the boat, sailing around the perimeter of the Blue Hole. There are plenty of photo opportunities, but in all honesty, the pictures taken at sea level were not very impressive. The Blue Hole only shows up as a slightly darker or lighter patch in the photographs taken at sea level.
10.45am – Dive site #2 – Half Moon Caye
After the jaunt around the perimeter of the Blue Hole and the ride to the next site our interval time is up. Time to don the wetsuit again for dive number 2, Half Moon Caye.
Half Moon Caye is a colourful dive with corals, rock formations and an abundance of fish to look at. This is also a much more typical dive in terms on bottom time too. Some highlights on this dive; Moray Eels and Caribbean Reef Sharks!
12noon - Lunchtime on Half Moon Caye Reserve
More food! Lunch is served on land at Half Moon Caye Reserve. The stop off here is about an hour.
This Caye was made into Belize’s first designated site for wildlife protection in 1928. It’s home to a huge colony of Red Footed Boobies and Frigate Birds. There is a look-out tower conveniently placed at nesting height where you are pretty much eye-to-eye with the birds – nosy and smelly but each with a cute ball of fluff in its nest.
Don’t forget to look down and watch your step! There are hundreds of cute Hermit Crabs. At first, you don’t notice them, but then the more you look you realise that the ground is crawling beneath you.
1.30pm – Dive #3 - Aquarium
Again, much like the previous dive spot at Half Moon Caye, there is a ton of stuff to see at this dive site. As its name suggests, there are a lot of pretty fish!
Corals, rays, eels, along with a plethora of vivid fish, this is certainly the most visually stunning dive with regards to colour!
2.30pm – Homeward Bound and Happy Hour
With the third and final dive done and dusted, you’ll be on the home straight and the long journey back to San Pedro. But first off, as if we hadn’t eaten enough all day outcome the Snicker bars! My first chocolate since being away! one couple even smuggled out a second one (Myron & Danika, I’m talking to you!).
With the return of the obligatory pukers from the morning bumpy boat ride sat at the tail end of the boat again left the rest of us to get on with the rum punch; Pineapple and Malibu (or their local equivalent of it). Served with plenty of ice it’s a much welcome treat to finish the day off with.
The cocktails kept flowing, which certainly made the journey back go quick. Despite our cups being constantly refilled, it was questionable as to how much actually made it to our mouths! Trying to get said drink into your mouth while on a boat in choppy seas meant that most of us were covered in sticky rum and juice come the end of the journey. I’m pretty sure the boat deck got the lions share.
5 pm – Arrive back in San Pedro
Back onto land at the main dive shop, don’t forget to collect your stamp to say you did the Blue Hole Belize Dive, and then the transfer to your accommodation.
So, Scuba Dive Belize Blue Hole, is it worth it?
YES YES YES! And another big fat YES!
The Dive at Belize Blue Hole was THE BEST thing I did in Belize. It was everything as amazing that I had hoped it would be, and more.
From the quality of the dives, the sheer awesomeness and grandeur of The Great Blue Hole, meeting ton of new friends who I shared this experience with, to beautiful aquatic life we saw under and above the waves topped off with enough food to last me a week!
Overall a fantastic action-packed day and in my opinion well worthy of the $350 price tag.
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Hopefully, I’ve included a ton of information on why you should dive the Belize Blue Hole! If I’ve missed something off, please comment below. If you are in Belize, into adventre and want to tick off another UNESCO site, then you’d love the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves (ATM Caves). A real life Lara Croft adventure, deep into a river cave to see the stunning (and slightly creepy) calcified Crystal Maiden.