With vast stretches of gorgeous, empty beaches, the stunning azure waters of the Caribbean teeming with marine life, and deep, verdant jungles filled with exotic creatures and ancient Mayan mystery, Belize is one of the world’s most exciting vacation destinations. About as far from the manicured luxury resorts of Sint Maarten or Cancun, it is a complex, remote, enigmatic spot, under the radar and off the beaten track, but all the more magnificent for it.
There are many reasons why you might choose to make Belize a part of your itinerary if you are cruising to the western Caribbean, or as a full-on vacation destination in its own right. From extraordinary scuba diving and snorkeling, and glorious paradise island retreats, to crumbling Mayan ruins covered in lianas and adrenaline-fuelled jungle adventures, there is an awful lot to like about Belize. But one of the main attractions, and most exciting and awe-inspiring sights, is the Great Blue Hole.
What is the Great Blue Hole?
Lying in the Caribbean Sea a mere 60 miles off the coast of Belize is a vast, dark expanse of water. An almost perfect, blue-black circle, it is an arresting sight when seen from the surface, and even more impressive when viewed from above. This is Belize’s Great Blue Hole.
The Great Blue Hole is an enormous sinkhole on the bottom of the ocean, a remarkable geological feature that many scientists believe is the largest in existence. At nearly 1,000 feet across and over 400 feet deep it is a chasm of mystery and wonder that stands out starkly from the clear, turquoise waters of the Lighthouse Reef lagoon where it is situated.
In a similar fashion to the sinkholes of Florida and the Bahamas, and the cenotes of the Yucatan in Mexico, the Great Blue Hole started out as a limestone cavern beneath the surface of the Earth, which flooded when the seas began to rise, and eventually collapsed in on itself. Whereas in ordinary, land-based sinkholes this just creates a delightful swimming hole, this formed a deep, dark expanse of water that plunges way below the surrounding sea bed.
What can you do at the Great Blue Hole?
Just arriving at the Great Blue Hole is an experience in itself, and for many the chance to gaze at this unexpected, jaw-dropping natural wonder is enough of an attraction.
But the Great Blue Hole is more than just an extraordinary sight. It was described as one of the top ten best scuba diving locations in the world when it was discovered back in 1971 by the legendary Jacques Cousteau, and it remains a site of pilgrimage for divers and underwater explorers to this day.
Although there are plenty of dive sites around the world, and indeed in Belize, where you will see more fascinating marine life and beautiful coral, the sheer scale of the Great Blue Hole is what makes it a truly stunning dive destination. It boasts some unbelievably cool rock formations, including vast stalagmites and stalactites that stretch over 40 feet from the sides, floor, and overhang of the cave, and the sheer vastness of the expansive limestone cavern itself is a sight to behold.
All that being said, there is plenty to see for the non cave diving fanatics as well. The water in the Hole is exceptionally clear, with great visibility, and the calm, protected waters are full of vibrantly colored exotic tropical fish, as well as larger marine life like the Caribbean reef shark. There are also some reef formations at the edges of the Great Blue Hole, so snorkelers can enjoy themselves as well.
What is the best way to visit the Great Blue Hole?
You can get to the Great Blue Hole by boat, by helicopter, or by light aircraft. Most tours tend to leave from Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker, although you can find trips that depart from Belize City as well.
It is worth noting that the Great Blue Hole is a challenging dive site, only accessible for advanced scuba divers who have completed at least 24 dives. But given its majesty, mystery, and general amazingness, it is worth a visit even if you are only planning to snorkel!