Sometimes known as the “Blue Hole of Belize,” the Great Blue Hole of Belize is a natural phenomenon located approximately 60 miles (100 km) offshore of Belize City.
Formed by a cave system that collapsed hundreds of thousands of years ago, the Great Blue Hole of Belize is almost perfectly circular, measuring 980 feet (300 meters) across and some 400 feet (125 meters) deep. Named for its startlingly deep blue waters, the Great Blue Hole is surrounded by the Lighthouse Reef, a small coral atoll that is a popular snorkeling destination.
Legendary French documentary maker and oceanographer Jacques Cousteau visited Belize in 1971 and declared that the Great Blue Hole was one of his top 10 favorite dive sites in the world.
The waters of the Great Blue Hole of Belize are home to several types of reef sharks as well as giant groupers, but the main attraction for divers is exploring the gothic expanses of the collapsed cave, navigating between enormous stalactites and stalagmites that reveal the Great Blue Hole’s origin.
Due to the complexity of the dive, only experienced divers are allowed to dive the Great Blue Hole of Belize. But many divers come from around the world to experience this unique underwater world. Most expeditions to the Great Blue Holeinvolve one dive from Lighthouse Reef and two additional dives at nearby reefs.
The Great Blue Hole is part of the Barrier Reef System, the second-largest barrier reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lighthouse Reef, which surrounds the Great Blue Hole, is a curious geological anomaly. One of just three atolls found outside the Atlantic Ocean, Lighthouse Reef first began forming atop limestone covered ridges that were slowly covered with coral.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, as the last Ice Age came to an end, water levels began to rise. But the coral growing in the area continued its upward expansion, effectively creating a steep wall around the perimeter of what would become the Great Blue Hole of Belize.
This drop off is part of what makes diving the Great Blue Hole so exciting as divers literally feel as though they are descending into a mythical underworld. Charles Darwin, who visited the Blue Hole in 1836, noted that the coral reefs in this area were among the most remarkable in the entire Caribbean.
Caves Branch is one of the top jungle lodges in Belize and has partnered with numerous resorts and hotels on the Belizean coast to offer a variety of Belize vacation packages for the intrepid traveler.