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Belize Scuba Diving: Descending 130 feet into the Blue Hole

Belize Scuba Diving sites are among the best in the world! I had always wanted to dive in Belize because it is conveniently situated on the world’s second largest barrier reef, so you can imagine the amazing aquatic life one can see while diving.

The Blue Hole is as infamous as scuba diving sites get and was recently named one of the 8 wonders of the world. It is said to be a dizzying 408 ft deep and 1000 ft wide. It’s no wonder that many divers and travellers alike cross the world to see the hole from both above and below.

After getting my PADI scuba diving certification, I wanted to ‘get my feet wet’ so to speak, with more diving in one of my dream destinations: Belize.

Belize Scuba Diving

Belize Scuba Diving: Descending 130 feet into the Blue Hole

The blue hole is a collapsed cave that turned into a giant sinkhole. Since it’s not a reef dive, don’t expect to see much marine life in comparison to other Belize scuba diving sites. The main motivation for divers to visit the blue hole is for deep diving, with a maximum bottom depth of 130 feet. There are also staggeringly big underwater stalagmites and the possibility of seeing reef sharks (and supposedly a lone hammer head that roams the waters).

However, let me start this post off with the disclaimer that I got nitrogen narcosis on this dive and strongly encourage you to first complete the PADI advanced diver course before attempting a depth of 130 feet. In fact, the dive shop should not have let me do this dive with only an open water diver certification, which trains divers for a maximum depth of 60 feet.

Belize Scuba Diving

Getting to the Blue Hole

The blue hole is approximately 2.5 hours from San Pedro by boat (one way) and 2 hours from Caye Caulker by boat (also one way). Since it is quite far, dive shops tend to run the trip differently than other Belize scuba diving sites that can be planned more spontaneously. The Blue hole is run in large numbers with a minimum of 10 divers per boat. We ended up going with with Ramon’s Village Resort, a 5-star PADI resort, but there are a number of PADI certified dive shops in Belize that offer this trip.

Thankfully I had a full week when we stayed in San Pedro, because our trip was cancelled multiple times due to high winds. Luckily we were finally able to go out on our very last day in Belize!

Belize Scuba Diving

Our captain!

Related | Dive Equipment 101: All you need to know about scuba equipment

Belize Scuba Diving

You leave at 5:30 am so you can expect to watch the sunrise from the boat!

Belize Scuba Diving: What to Expect

Arriving at the blue hole, you will be able to clearly see the color difference between the ‘hole’ itself and the outside water. Once you descend about 20-25 ft you reach a sandy ledge that literally drops off into nothing. It’s like falling into darkness. The guides recommend you to look at the rock wall while descending, otherwise it can be really disorienting and off-putting to stare out into the deep, dark hole.

Once you reach 100 ish ft. you will start to see the huge stalagmites that have been formed over centuries and are still growing!

Belize Scuba Diving

At 130ft. you can swim through the stalagmites or simply gaze at them in awe. Keep your eyes peeled for passing reef sharks in the hole! We saw a 7 footer off in the distance.

P.s. you can tell by the crappy quality of these photos that a red camera lens is necessary for underwater photography at these depths, everything looks a bit dark and distorted at 130ft below!

Belize Scuba Diving

For me personally, diving 90-100ft I was completely coherent and felt fine. Once I hit 130 feet, I felt a bit odd. Suddenly I realized I could feel the immense pressure on my body and began to panic slightly because I didn’t want to go any deeper. In checking my pressure and O2 gauge to see what depth we were at, I realized I couldn’t differentiate between them. It took me a few moments to realize what was happening – I had nitrogen narcosis!

If this happens to you, remain calm and keep breathing. Some people laugh, some people get scared and others don’t feel the effects at all. Regardless, recognize what is happening and remember that you will feel back to normal once you begin to ascend. Let your buddy know what is going on and stick with them. In my case, within a minute we had already begun our ascent and after only a few meters up I began to feel back to normal.

The slow ascent involves a loop route to the surface. You will eventually make it back up to the sandy ledge area and be rewarded with sunbeams streaming down through the water. There you will take your safety stop. Next is a short ascent up to the surface.

Belize Scuba Diving

Passing the sandy cliff on our way to the surface!

Belize Scuba Diving Safety

It is important to be aware of the risks and responsibilities of deep diving before attempting this type of dive. Though PADI recommends a max. depth of 18 metres or 60ft for open water certified divers and 30 metres or 100ft for advanced, many (if not all) of the dive operations down in Belize will still take you to the blue hole’s max depth of 130 ft. regardless of your level of training. This is quite a jump in depth for novice divers and can be downright dangerous if you do not have the skills required to reach this depth.

Everyone is different and you know your body best – so being prepared by knowing the dive plan, having a dive buddy, knowing how to act if you experience equipment malfunction, nitrogen narcosis or discomfort under water, is incredibly important. I highly recommend taking the PADI advanced diver course before attempting this dive, because the course specifically focuses on deep diving with the safety of an instructor.

Alternatively, PADI also offers an ‘Enriched Air (Nitrox) Diver’ Course, which certifies divers to use nitrox air (which was less nitrogen), meaning you have longer dives and shorter surface intervals.

My Experience with Nitrogen Narcosis

On my trip to the Blue hole, we had a group of 13 divers but not everyone was paired up with a buddy. There were quite a few solo divers and there was no mention of people finding a buddy to dive with. This meant the dive master was more responsible to check in with everyone individually, versus a buddy system of two people checking in with each other consistently.

Once under the water, our large group felt a little chaotic and some of the divers had trouble controlling their buoyancy, which is a huge safety concern in deep diving. The entire bottom time for the blue hole is only 8 minutes from the initial descent so by the time you actually get down to 130ft, you don’t stay down there for long. Other than relying on the dive master, it would be completely impossible to track the bottom time from the initial descent without a dive computer, because it goes by so fast.

At the maximum depth of 130 feet, it became very dark and disorienting and it was difficult to tell the dive master apart from the other divers. Staring out into the hole, instead of focusing on the rock wall on the inside, was very disorienting and gave a strange feeling of being ‘lost in the abyss’. Some divers without computers in our group required cueing to not drift off and stay at the appropriate depth. If the dive master was not quick to respond, these people could have gone too deep, or ascended too quickly and may have gotten really sick. Since my buddy had a dive computer and knew the dive plan, we could appropriately compensate for these factors.

I would recommend that you don’t simply rely on your dive master, because the number of divers on this trip can be high. A good option is to rent or purchase a dive computer so you can access personalized depth and time ratios and safety stop calculations. We rented a dive computer for the blue hole, and it made such a big difference in my confidence in doing the dive.

Overall…

I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and even though I got nitrogen narcosis, I learned a lot from the experience and do not regret having tried the blue hole dive in Belize. However, if I were to do it again, I would absolutely NOT do this dive before doing the PADI advanced diver course and the dive shop should not be allowing anyone without this certification to go to this depth. There are so many Belize scuba diving sites suitable to open water certified divers which still offer amazing reef dives with abundant nurse shark populations!

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Belize Scuba Diving

Looking for other epic dives? Check out the 15 best scuba diving locations in the world.

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Lynn Julie said:
Love this review! Sounds like a crazy adventure! Would love to try it - but feel like it would freak me out that you're diving into a big hole of "nothing"! Keep up the great work, Lynn Julie!
July 24, 2020 at 11:57 am
Marteen said:
This place looks amazing! I can see why so many divers are drawn here. All I need now is to get over my fear of open water :)
March 16, 2017 at 12:29 pm
Aireona- Nightborn Travel said:
This is definitely something I have wanted to check out, and I had no idea what it would look like under the water. It is so interesting! Great pictures and great tips.
March 15, 2017 at 9:42 pm
Livi Bee said:
Unfortunately, I can't swim :( I was, however, able to explore beneath the surface of the ocean when I rode an underwater scooter and a submarine. That's about as close as I'll get without those swimming lessons. Did I mention I'm scary? Lol. I have always wanted to visit Belize though!!
March 15, 2017 at 8:44 pm
clare said:
That looks like a great place to dive, with some different things to see. I still haven't tried diving, but maybe one day I will. Belize is beautiful, so I wouldn't say no to a trip back there.
March 15, 2017 at 7:43 pm
Joanna said:
What an amazing experience! I am actually going to Belize this year (I just booked the flights yesterday, yay!) and I want to visit the Blue Hole. I don't have a padi certificate so I won't be diving but I would really love to see it even if from above. Do you know how much it costs?
March 15, 2017 at 1:16 pm
Liz said:
This is a really thorough guide!
March 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm
Candiss said:
Wow this looks amazing! If suba diving didn't freak me out I'd have to do this!
March 15, 2017 at 1:09 pm
Maggie said:
What an awesome experience! I've been to Belize several times but have never done this. It's definitely on my list!
March 15, 2017 at 12:53 pm
Lorena said:
You are so brave, diving more than 130 ft. It looks scary and beautiful at the same time though. I wish I could do it someday, although I might have to let go of my fear of the deep.
March 15, 2017 at 12:42 pm
Tatum Skipper said:
ahhh scuba diving. I've only done it once in Dubai but the experience was awesome. Love the tips you have on safety and such. It can get pretty chaotic down there so I'm glad you addressed that. I haven't been to Belize yet so will definitely be adding this to my list! That water is to die for.
March 15, 2017 at 12:41 pm