Belize's Natural Wonder: The Blue Hole
Discover the Blue Hole in Belize
Located 50 miles east of Belize City, the Belize Blue Hole lies in Belize’s outer atoll, known as the Lighthouse Reef, which was made famous by Jacques Cousteau in the 1970s. The Lighthouse Reef was once an island, but now it is a magnificent underground sea world. The main attraction in the Lighthouse Reef is the Belize Blue Hole. Visiting the Blue Hole is an awesome travel adventure that should be added to the bucket list of all adventure seekers.
What is the Blue Hole?
The Belize Blue Hole is literally a hole in the sea encircled with coral that was formed during the Ice Age. The Blue Hole used to be a series of caves that became engulfed with water when the ocean water level rose after the Ice Age. Now, it is known as a karst-eroded sinkhole that forms a perfect circle measuring 1,000 feet in diameter and 450 feet deep. The shaft descends to the bottom of the lagoon into a complex network of crevices and caves composed of stalagmites and stalactite formed over one million years ago. There are caves underneath the entire reef, but the roofs of the caves are punctured where the Blue Hole resides. The tremendous depth gives the hole a deep hue of blue that can be seen all the way from outer space.
The Blue Hole is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which hosts the northern hemisphere’s largest barrier reef and the world’s second largest reef. The reserve system encompasses 100s of sand cayes, wildlife, such as manatees, crocodiles and marine turtles, estuaries and lagoons. The reserve consists of seven main sites, including three major atolls. The Lighthouse Reef, which includes Belize’s Blue Hole, is one of these atolls.
Can You Swim in the Blue Hole?
The Blue Hole is a magnet for scuba divers and snorkelers, as you can experience over 500 species of fish, 350 types of mollusks, a plethora of sponges, many marine worms, 65 different corals, a slew of crustaceans and 45 kinds of hydroids. Additionally, a handful of shipwrecks have occurred over the century in this area, which assists in forming artificial reefs and fabulous tourist attractions for the scuba diver. The most recent and notable shipwreck in this area is the Ermlund, which sank in 1971.
If you choose to go scuba diving, you will have to go with a chartered company, and these trips can range from approximately $200 to $500 per person for the day. Due to the depth of the Belize Blue Hole, you are diving much deeper than a typical 80-foot dive. Instead, you will probably go 145 feet under water. You will most likely find breathing at this depth much more arduous and may experience nitrogen narcosis, a condition that causes you to become delirious.
The government of Belize has designated the Blue Hole as a National Monument so restrictions apply to the usage of this legendary place. Only five swimmers are allowed to swim in the Blue Hole at any one time. However, you can sit on the outer banks of the hole and watch the fish. If you get a chance to swim across the Blue Hole, you may experience a disorienting effect, as you will have no sense of anything beneath you. Snorkeling and scuba diving are allowed as long as federal guidelines are followed to preserve this natural wonder.
How Do I Get There?
The Blue Hole National Park is located at mile marker 45 on Hummingbird Highway approximately 100 feet from the road. You can take a day or overnight trip to the Belize Blue Hole from San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Hopkins or Belize City. Once you are there, you can camp on Half Moon Caye with permission of the Belize Audubon Society or stay in the luxurious resort on the reef, known as Lighthouse Reef Resort. If you decide on a day trip, you can travel to the Blue Hole National Park by car and park in the main parking lot at mile marker 45 of Hummingbird Highway. You must register at the warden’s hut before visiting and pay $60 if you are not a Belize national. There are steps that lead down to the hole from the reef. There are bathrooms and a changing building between the Blue Hole and Saint Herman’s Cave.
Within a short distance distance from Belize’s Blue Hole, you will find Saint Herman’s Cave, Half Moon Caye and the Oasis Bar and Restaurant. Saint Herman’s Cave is an above-ground cave that offers an adventurous hike through dark, meandering passages. Half Moon Caye National Monument is an exciting attraction in and of itself. The 1820 lighthouse, 45-acre ecosystem, 98 species of birds, iguanas, lizards, turtles and the biggest hermit and land crabs you have ever seen provide an unforgettable experience. The Oasis Bar and Restaurant is the nearest food stop from the Blue Hole and offers a variety of activities, including horseback riding, swimming, dancing and, of course, good food.
Diving in the Blue Hole is not child’s play. A number of diver’s have died trying to go into the depths of this ancient mystery. Diving in deep waters can cause difficulty breathing and increase your risk of losing your mental capacity, as breathing too much nitrogen can cause you to experience a state of insanity. Do not try this dive if you have never gone scuba diving before. Try scuba diving a couple of times before taking on the Blue Hole.
Additionally, because the Belize Blue Hole is a popular tourist attraction, thieves often hide in nearby bushes and break into cars once tourists make it down to the hole. Furthermore, there have been a handful of assaults reportedly occurring over the last decade among individuals visiting the reef. Take proper precautions to insure your personal safety and secure your valuables.