The Great Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef Atoll is one of the world’s most fascinating dive spots. Once a cave that existed above ground, it became a sinkhole as the sea level rose in the area. The weight of the rising water caused its roof to cave in, forming a perfectly round blue hole in the ocean. It is three hundred feet across and four hundred sixty feet deep, though if you include the surrounding Lighthouse Reef, its diameter is closer to one thousand feet at its outer limits. It is a favorite destination for scuba divers and snorkelers alike, and though it is not necessarily recommended for inexperienced or resort-certified divers, those who have experienced it all agree it is one of the most spectacular dives they have ever done.
The inside of the cave is covered in intricate formations of stalactites, caves and passageways unlike anything imaginable. It’s a humbling realization to think that at one time in history it existed solidly above ground, becoming the sinkhole that it is now only after the last ice age. The drop-off occurs at about thirty feet, but the gigantic stalactite formations do not begin to appear until you have submerged to a depth of more than one hundred feet, the caves lying even deeper at about one hundred thirty feet. One diver’s comment described it as like swimming into a giant’s mouth, but every single person who has experienced it will agree that it is definitely one of the wonders of the marine world.
The Lighthouse Reef surrounds the hole almost completely, except for two narrow inlets conveniently big enough for dive boats to pass through. If you are not an experienced diver, there is still plenty of wonder to be had, diving or snorkeling in shallow waters. The coral reef reaches to the surface in some places, and teems with sea life such as anemones, sea fans, angelfish, butterflyfish, and sometimes, small groupers. It is also not unusual to see bull sharks, blacktip tiger, or hammerhead sharks, though not guaranteed.
There are a handful of tour operators on Ambergris Caye who take excursions out to dive the Blue Hole. A full day of diving might run upwards of $250 per person, though it does include breakfast, lunch, snacks and refreshments as well as all necessary dive equipment. Some resorts cater to divers and offer full dive and accommodation packages, which may be a great way to go for serious scuba divers. For those who prefer to stay on the dry side of the Blue Hole, there is even a small plane or helicopter flyover available. Though you’ll pay dearly for the aerial tour, by all accounts it is well worth it.