The Blue Hole is on any diver's bucket list, so when we booked our trip to Belize I was stoked to get to check it off. The Blue Hole is a submarine sinkhole that is about 984 feet across and 354 feet deep. The dive profile for this site is 130 feet maximum depth with a bottom time of 4-5 minutes. As such, this dive is for experienced divers only, and warranted research for which dive operator to use.
We dove with Belize Diving Services as it was the most recommended in all of my research. It is also one of the more (if not the most) expensive dive operators based out of Caye Caulker. However, the extra money is definitely worth the peace of mind when doing a more technical dive like the Blue Hole. There were a couple runners-up, but once on Caye Caulker I knew we had made the right decision after visiting the BDS shop and seeing other operators' set ups. BDS's equipment is well taken care of, the crew is amazing and the overall operation was solid.
Since it had been over a year since our last dives, I didn't want our first dive of this trip to be the Blue Hole. We opted for two days of diving: one at Turneffe Atoll and one at the Blue Hole & Lighthouse Atoll (a standard combination for Blue Hole trips). With how our itinerary panned out and BDS's schedule there was only one possible day to do the Blue Hole dive. When planning a trip to the Blue Hole make sure to check availability and reserve ahead to guarantee your spot.
Turneffe Atoll is the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in Belize. This day was a 2 tank dive and while the boat ride out was choppy, the ocean offered some excellent visibility beneath the surface.
Our first dive of the day was Mini Elbow. It is an 80 foot dive with a bottom time of 1 hour. During this dive we saw a lot of turtles, rays and barracudas.
Black Coral Wall
The second dive was Black Coral Wall. It had a similar dive profile to the first dive. We saw more of the same: excellent reefs with highlights of turtles, rays and barracudas.
Both dive sites in Turneffe were like swimming through jungle of corals. It felt good to be back in the water and I felt confident for the next day at the Blue Hole.
Blue Hole/ Lighthouse Atoll
The day I had been looking forward to the most: Blue Hole day. Call time for this dive was 6 a.m., which meant we had to be at the shop no later than 5:30 a.m. However, BDS offers breakfast for this trip so we made it there by 5:05 a.m.
Travel time to the Blue Hole is around 3 hours. Thankfully we had calm, glassy seas the whole way there. We were also joined by some dolphins: a good omen for the day ahead! The further we went the more surreal the ocean became, it was like living through the Life of Pi scene where Pi is stranded in his boat and the ocean blends with the sky.
Once inside the sinkhole, from the surface it's hard to tell that you're actually in the Blue Hole. Where we were docked it just looks like a small reef system. But if you let your eyes travel, you can tell that the shelf drops off quickly. The Blue Hole is a funny dive because it's not a one where you're going to see a dazzling array of sea life. It's more about the experience and the depth. Our dive profile was 130 feet maximum depth with a bottom time of 4-5 minutes. If you don't have an advanced dive certification or are not as experienced as required, BDS offers a shallower dive profile of 80 feet.
Descending through the Blue Hole is like landing on an alien planet (I imagine). It's dark and stark and watching the limestone walls is unlike any dive I've done. There weren't really any signs of sea life (some corals and little fish here and there) so I concentrated on following our divemaster. Towards our maximum depth we got to swim through a stalactite formation, such a cool experience. During this dive I did get narc'd (experienced narcosis) but had the presence of mind to remind myself that our bottom time was very short and it would be reversed once we started ascending. Although irresponsible to admit, this was my first time being narc'd and it wasn't my least favorite thing at all (not that anyone should dive with the intention of getting narc'd). Being down so deep in a submarine sinkhole was very eerie and spooky. We had a little light from some flashlights, but everything looked blue and gray.
During our ascension we saw about 8 reef sharks. I loved seeing them up so close. I also had a false sense of security because I thought they were nurse sharks at the time. Unfortunately we didn't see any hammerheads, which also frequent the Blue Hole.
Half Moon Wall
This dive profile was 60 minutes with a maximum depth of 60 feet and was more like the dives from the previous day. We saw lots of little garden eels (always fun), more turtles and even a lion fish. We also got to swim through sort of a natural slot in the coral, during which I had a staring contest with a huge grouper fish.
Half Moon Caye
Lunch was on Half Moon Caye and we also had some free time to explore the little island. A bunch of the group did a walk through the forested area, Matt and I followed the nature path for a bit but decided not to go all the way. I'm glad we didn't because people came back with stings. Half Moon Caye is a beautiful little piece of paradise, it looked like a screen saver: bright green palms, soft white sand and vibrant blue sea.
Long Caye Aquarium
This dive profile was 60 minutes with a maximum depth of 60 feet. This dive was very much a wall dive, to my right was open ocean. The corals on this dive were so vibrant and I took pleasure in just watching all of the smaller sea life go about their day. We saw lots of fish but no large life during this dive.
Read about the rest of our trip to Belize here.