No other natural wonder can compare to the Great Blue Hole – an enormous sinkhole off the coast of Belize seducing divers with its mysterious allure and heart-pounding descent.
At the centre of Lighthouse Reef, 43 miles away from the mainland, the giant hole took shape hundreds of thousands of years ago. But it did not reach its current level of worldwide fame until the 1970s, when underwater pioneer Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the world’s top five dive sites.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Blue Hole is the icon of Belize’s dive scene. It even wows from above, with its deep indigo pupil and aquamarine border which contrast dramatically with the lighter shades of the surrounding reef, and is a must-see when on a Central America yacht charter.
On the surface, the hole forms a 1,000ft-diameter circle. Below, it’s thought to be around 430ft deep. Divers drop quickly to 130ft and, from here, swim below an overhang adorned with eerie stalactites measuring up to 12 feet in length.
Those who plunge into the blue abyss are often joined by hammerhead sharks, but this is the only marine life to be seen. Due to the depths of this dive, there’s not much light and the emphasis of the experience is on the otherworldly geographical features.
Marine life does however thrive on the hole’s inner rim and reef nearby. Trigger fish, angel fish, squirrel fish, blue tang and grouper are just some of the sea creatures who call these waters home and make the area a fantastic place to snorkel as well as scuba dive.
The sinkhole hit the headlines again in 2019 when a team of scientists including Sir Richard Branson undertook a ground-breaking mission to uncover the secrets at the bottom of the abyss. Using submarines, the team took new footage capturing never-before-seen stalactites.
The Great Blue Hole
Lighthouse Reef, Belize