In 1971, explorer Jacques Cousteau deemed Belize’s Great Blue Hole one of the top dive sites in the world. He would later go on the feature the massive underwater sinkhole on his TV show The Undersea World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Since then, the iconic Belize attraction has been a go-to for divers seeking an almost otherworldly experience exploring its depths.
Cousteau was known for his unending love of the ocean. In fact, he and French engineer Émile Gagnan co-invented the aqua-lung. Throughout his life, and long after, he has inspired countless divers, ocean lovers, and even marine conservationists.
This year makes 80 years since Cousteau helped invent the thing that would forever change the world of scuba diving. In honor of that feat, Dive Magazine – a scuba diving print magazine – this week shared some of the renowned explorer’s favorite dive sites, the Great Blue Hole included.
Celebrating 80 Years of Jaques Cousteau’s Favourite Dive Sites
Blue Hole, Belize
The Belize Blue Hole was featured in The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau after his first dive there in 1971 – he called it one of the top 5 scuba diving sites in the world. Many thousands of years ago, the Blue Hole was part of a limestone karst formation, consisting of sinkholes and caves above the surface of the water, before rising ocean levels caused the cave to flood and collapse.
Part of the Belize Barrier Reef System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second-longest barrier reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Blue Hole has been measured to a depth of 124 m (407 ft), and has only recenly been mapped explored by submersible.
Diving the Blue Hole requires an advanced open water certification as it is best explored at depth (if not the maximum depth!). It can be dark in the interiror so it’s best to bring a dive light, and the water is often a few degrees cooler as you descend deeper into the hole, so 3-5mm full-length suits are recommended.
Getting to the Blue Hole takes around three hours by day boat from Ambergris Caye Island, and up to four hours from Placencia, and is best dived by liveaboard. Belize has fantastic year-round diving conditions, although the rainy season lasts from April through to October.
Jacques Cousteau’s Grandson Visits the Blue Hole
In late 2018, Fabien Cousteau would follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and explore the Great Blue Hole. This expedition, which involved a team of scientists, led to groundbreaking discoveries regarding what lies at the bottom of the sinkhole – depths which no one had ever reached before.
A quick glance down reveals a sandy shelf at 170 feet – the only visible marker until the dark abyss below. Bringing wonder and just a hint of trepidation, the dive certainly makes you wonder how majestic the cave formations must have looked before submersion.
-Carolee Chanona, “Diving The Great Blue Hole: What Lies Below In Belize“
What did they find? Never before seen stalactites, along with one of the few places in the world with very little signs of human impact.
“It’s neat that there are spaces on our planet – and most of them in the oceans – that are exactly the way they were thousands of years ago and will remain exactly the way they are thousands of years in the future,” said Erika Bergman, the expedition’s chief pilot.
The Belize Blue Hole 2018 Expedition was broadcast live on the Discovery Channel on Sunday December 2, 2018.
Explore Belize’s Depths with Splash Dive Center
Interested in diving the Great Blue Hole? Splash Dive Center in Placencia, Belize offers day trips (and overnight trips) to the site in their ‘Belize Blue Hole and Whale Shark’ package.
In operation since 2000, Splash is more more than just you’re average Belize dive shop. In addition to helping you arrange your most memorable dive trips, they also can arrange snorkel trips, PADI courses, inland adventure tours, even accommodation catering to single divers, families and groups.
Featured Photo by Leonardo Melendez