While Kate and I usually use up all of our vacation each year, nine months of pregnancy and another 10 months of infancy with Ellie have led to a large stock pile of vacation time. Now that little Ellie is getting bigger we thought it was time to head out for a much needed getaway. We packed our bags and headed to Ambergris Caye in Belize for some wonderful Scuba Diving, Bonefishing, and some R&R. One of the highlights of our trip was a dive in the Great Blue Hole.
According to Jacques Cousteau, the Blue Hole is one of the top 10 dive sites in the world! The blue hole is about 300 ft in diameter and between 400 and 500 ft deep. The trip out was quite a ride and on a windy day, land lovers would be wise to stay back at the hotel. The boat ride was almost 60 miles and 2.5 hours each way and included two open water crossings which were quite rough.
Once we got there we had an extensive pre-dive briefing. We then suited up and jumped in turquoise water at the hole's rim and waited for everyone else before we began our descent. Kate and I dropped down to about 20' where we met the group on the sand bottom. We made sure we could all equalize ok and then with a few kicks we headed out over the ledge. From here the hole has near vertical walls and we dropped almost straight down staying about 10' from the wall. It was an eerie feeling dropping into the abyss below with seemingly no bottom. Letting the dive master lead the way I checked my depth gauge in amazement - 90', then 100', then at 110' the hole opened up with a large undercut with enormous stalactites hanging from the ceiling - almost 50' long and too big around to get your arms around. As we started to swim under the overhang and through the stalactites my dive computer alarm started to sound, we had just passed 130'. At this depth, "bottom time" will be very short - approximately 8 minutes and they went by very fast! We slowly started our ascent being very careful not to come up too quickly.
Looking up towards the surface, in the distant darkness of the hole, the outline of sharks start to take shape - Reef Sharks - about 7 - 9 feet long! They were circling overhead and the only way back was straight though them - no choice in the matter. As you can imagine this is a bit exhilarating, if you get over excited you can start to suck down your air way too fast and not have enough to complete your dive (remember we were still about 90' down at the time) or you panic and head up too fast and almost guarantee yourself the Bends and have a long and very painful 2.5 hour ride back to a decompression chamber. Best course of action: admire the view, stay calm, take your time and remember that if worse comes to worse, technically speaking of course, you only need to swim faster than your dive buddy.
After a couple of friendly encounters and with the carnivorous homosapious marine life we made it back to the sandy ledge at 20' to do a 10 minute safety/decompression stop. As with most deep dives, a spare tank and reg set were hanging from the boat in easy reach in case someone had sucked down the air supply - fortunately Kate and I still had about 900 psi left and were in good shape. With our safety stop complete we headed back up to the dive boat to get ready for the next dive. Once the last person was back in the boat, it was feeding time! The dive masters threw over the remains of last nights catch (fish heads and guts) and the frenzy ensued. Sharks everywhere! An exciting end to an amazing Dive.
More interesting info on the Great Blue Hole can be found here: