The Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize is one of the worlds natural diving wonders. Appearing to be almost a perfect circle, it spans over 980ft across and is approximately 400ft deep. This bucket list dive draws scuba divers from all over the world for a once in a lifetime experience. According to estimates The Great Blue Hole started to form over 150,000 years ago. It is consistently ranked one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world.
There are many dive outfitters will take you diving to The Great Blue Hole. In order to make your trip as enjoyable and safe as possible here are some things you should know before you go.
Set proper expectations
The landscape is magnificent, but may seem stark and without much color or marine life. If you are expecting to see colorful reefs full of life, you will be disappointed. As you descend into the depths of The Great Blue Hole, the absence of light naturally conceals any colors that do exist. Expect to see amazing stalactites. Many say this dive is like “being on another planet”. The most likely marine life that you will encounter during your dive are the Caribbean Reef Sharks. Swimming with sharks alone can be worth the price of admission.
Prepare for a shorter dive
Generally speaking, larger divers consume more air, so consider it a bonus if you are shorter and slight of build. Simply put, the deeper you go in the water column, the more air you will use. The reason for this is directly related to pressure. At 66 feet, you will consume approximately 3x as much air as you would sitting on the boat breathing from your regulator. So at 140ft max depth, your dive time will be shortened considerably. In general, you can expect your dive to last only about 25-30 minutes with the majority of that time spent descending and ascending.
Nitrogen Narcosis may occur
Nitrogen narcosis is an altered state of mind caused by breathing nitrogen at high partial pressure. Simply put, the deeper you dive, the higher the pressure of nitrogen will be in your air. Scuba diving The Great Blue Hole is not without dangers, even with an experienced dive master present. In order to be safe, you must be able to recognize symptoms of nitrogen narcosis and react accordingly. Narcosis may cause you to feel euphoric emotions or stressful emotions, both of which can be dangerous. If you are diving deep and notice these emotions are present, pay attention and remember your training. You don’t want to panic and ascend too quickly, nor do you want to run out of air by not paying proper attention to your tank reserve pressure. Keep in mind that narcosis slows and impairs your mental abilities. Your reaction time and coordination will be impaired as well as the speed of your thinking. Don’t rely on your buddy to help you, he/she may be experiencing narcosis too. Finally, if you lack experience as a deep water diver, get some experience before attempting this dive.
Choose a Proven Dive Operator
Diving can be a Zen-like experience when you can be fully present and relaxed. Part of your peace of mind will come from knowing that you are using newer, properly maintained, and reliable equipment. Having confidence in your training, experience, and dive master are vital as well. Make sure the operator/dive master you choose has been diving The Great Blue Hole for years. For comfort and safety, make sure they have a great boat with plenty of shade and have made a substantial investment in high quality dive equipment.
Choose an Experienced Dive Buddy
Everyone needs a buddy when diving and staying close and keeping track of each other is part of your job description. It is very easy to get distracted by the amazing underwater scenery, but this can have disastrous consequences. A diver in trouble needs to be able to call his buddy and breath from his alternate air source quickly. To drive home the point, according to the “Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) 2010 Dive Fatalities Workshop Report,” 40% of diver fatalities occurred during a period of buddy separation. Bottom line, choose your buddy wisely and be a good buddy on every dive.
Be Prepared for the Costs
Diving The Great Blue Hole of Belize is not inexpensive, but it is worth every cent. Generally speaking, expect to pay at least $199 per person for the day. Most of the time rates for the day will be closer to $300 per person. This will generally include the boat ride to and from The Great Blue Hole, gear rental, park fees, meals, a tropical island visit and 3 dives. Still a good deal when you think of it like that.
Prepare for Rough Seas
Nothing will ruin your day like thowing-up all day. The seas can be rough or become rough without warning. “Motion” or “Sea sickness” is caused by the brain receiving conflicting information about your surroundings. When equilibrium sensors in your ears tell your mind that the world is moving but your eyes are telling your brain it is not, your digestive process can shut down and the result can be less than pleasurable. Without medication, you may have to rely on your mind to get your sea-legs under you. Use the power of suggestion, tell yourself “I don’t get sea-sick over and over”. Try concentrating on the horizon until it appears steady and keep your attention off of the movement of the boat. To be prepared ahead of time, bring some Dramamine and take as directed. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure”.
Count on a Full Day
From Ambergris Caye it is a long boat ride of about 3hrs to The Great Blue Hole. Count on being gone from just before sunrise to just before sunset. In Belizean time that means 5:30am to about 5:30pm. 6 hrs in travel time on the water equates to a good road trip on winding mountain roads so prepare accordingly. Stay out of the sun as much as possible and wear plenty of sunscreen to protect from reflective rays off of the water. A hat and sun glasses are a good idea as well. Finally, stay hydrated, eat appropriate amounts of food, and drink plenty of water all day long.