The Great Blue Hole

of Belize

The Great Blue Hole  of Belize

It was 5:30 am, my second day in Belize and I had just walked 4 minutes on the beach from my Hostel to get to the Amigos del Mar diving center on the pier. Other people that were going to dive the Blue Hole were gathering there having some coffee and breakfast. The boat would leave at 6am. These are the crazy things you do when you travel, wake up voluntarily at 5:15am!!! But it was well worth it. It’s been one of the best days of my life.

What was I getting so excited about?


What is a Blue Hole?

A blue hole is an underwater cave or sinkhole, which is open to the surface and has developed in a bank or island composed of limestone or coral reef. Blue holes are circular formations with steep walls and have a contrast between the dark blue of the deep waters and the lighter blue of the shallow area around them.

There are different ones in the world but from all the blue holes, there is just one ‘Great Blue Hole’, which is the blue hole of Belize. The symmetry of Belize’s blue hole is exactly like a circle which makes it look even more beautiful and special.

The diameter of the top entrance of a blue hole ranges typically between around 25–35 metres/ 82–115 ft (as for example the Dean’s Blue Hole) to 300 metres/ 980 ft (as the Great Blue Hole in Belize).


Where is the Great Blue Hole of Belize?

The Great Blue Hole lies 70 km (43 mi) off the coast of Belize at the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll.


How long is the boat ride to the Great Blue Hole of Belize?

The boat trip takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes from San Pedro, so we got there at 8:40am. When you arrive, the Blue Hole does not look like in the postcards, as these pictures are aerial views taken with a drone. It looks like this!


Map Great Blue Hole

How deep is the Blue Hole in Belize?

The Great Blue Hole is circular, 318 m (1,043 ft) across and 124 m (407 ft) deep.

To put things in perspective, the deepest blue hole in the world is in the South China Sea (Dragon Hole) at 300.89 meters (987 feet) deep. The second deepest blue hole in the world is in Bahamas (Dean’s Blue Hole) at 202 metres (663 ft). Other blue holes around the world are half that deep including the Great Blue Hole of Belize.


Can you dive to the bottom of the Great Blue Hole in Belize?

The Blue Hole of Belize is around 124 m (407 ft) deep and the dive tours organised by the dive centers that go there every day, dive between 110 and 130 feet. This recreational dive is roughly 45 minutes of lifeless darkness, walls, stalactites and an occasional shark.

At the 130-foot plus level, there are some cave openings in the great blue hole which can be explored when using special cave diving and technical/ industrial diving equipment only. Due to the great depth, amount of equipment necessary, as well as the time a technical diver spends decompressing on the way back to the surface this is not something that is done often and cave-diving training and experience is vital.

Why are diver deaths so common in Belize’s Great Blue Hole?


What caused the Blue Hole in Belize?

The Blue Hole was formed during several episodes of glaciation when sea levels were much lower. Stalactites found in the Great Blue Hole show that their formation took place around to 153,000 years ago. When the ocean began to rise again, the cave was flooded and this caused the Blue Hole of Belize to look like it does now.


What animals live in the Great Blue Hole?

Their water circulation is poor and together with the low-light environment in blue holes is usually unfavorable for most sea life, besides bacteria. When you descent the Great Blue Hole you see the walls of the hole, stalactites, darkness and an occasional shark. The Blue Hole of Belize is virtually devoid of sea life.


What type of sharks are in the Great Blue Hole?

From the 360 species of sharks in the oceans, those that have been seen in the Great Blue Hole of Belize most often are the hammerhead shark and reef shark but also the black tip shark, bull shark, lemon shark, nurse shark, tiger shark and the migratory whale shark also swim there.

Nurse sharks are known for being particularly gentle and docile towards humans and for example in Shark Ray Alley, (70 km from the Blue Hole) divers throw food at nurse sharks to be able to swim with them and touch them.


Why I preferred to snorkel the blue hole instead of diving it

One of the main reasons I choose to travel to Belize is to go and snorkel, dive and free-dive the reef so I was looking very forward to see the jewel of the crown of the Barrier Reef of Belize.

Before going to Belize, I watched many videos of people scuba diving into the Great Blue Hole. To my great surprise they looked horrible! Utter darkness, no life, stalactites and walls. I love diving because it makes me feel as if I am flying, weightless with like a mobile elasticity and having a great colourful 3D view.

If I am going to dive and first have no view and second feel like I have to hurry up and down the dark tunnel almost vertically like in a lift, to see nothing but a couple of sharks in the darkness, I am just not going. If I want to see sharks, any other place is better as any other place has more light.

I don’t work with bucket list. I just do things I really want to do and like. I can understand some people may like descending in darkness though, but I don’t.

I choose to snorkel the Blue Hole of Belize and I am so glad I did. I snorkeled and free-dived all around the inside of the circle of the Great Blue Hole and saw the most healthy and colourful, beautiful corals I saw in all Belize. The sun was out almost all the time while I was snorkeling and so the colours and shades were brightly illuminated most of the time.

The slopes running down from the Great Blue Hole are dotted with elkhorn corals and anemones and teeming with tropical sea life.

The Great Blue Hole is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Great_Blue_Hole of Belize

Ecotourism & Green Travel in the Caribbean

HOP CARIBBEAN is an independent travel blog providing you with tips and advice to make traveling to the Caribbean cheaper, better, longer and greener.

Belize Destinations

Check below the Things to Do in Belize, in WATER (swim, snorkel, sail) on LAND (hike, see ruins, caves, nature parks) or in URBAN areas.


Ambergris Caye (San Pedro)
Caye Caulker
Great Blue Hole
Shark Ray Alley
Lighthouse Reef (Half Moon Caye)
Glovers Reef
Turneffe Atoll
Tobacco Caye


Belize Zoo
Caves Nohoch Che’en 
Hummingbird Highway
Blue Hole Park
Toledo District (Tiger Cave)
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve
Mayflower Bocawina National Park


Belize City
San Ignacio

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Images – Blue Hole

Images – Snorkeling the inner ring of the Great Blue Hole

Images of The Great Blue Hole of Belize


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