This circular underwater formation, with its magnificent blue-to-black hues surrounded by neon water, is emblematic of Belize itself; this submerged shaft is a karst-eroded sinkhole with depths exceeding 400 feet. In the early 1970s, Jacques Cousteau and his crew explored the tunnels, caverns, and stalactites that were angled by past earthquakes.
Most dive groups descend to a depth of about 135 feet. Technically, this is not a dive for novices or even intermediate divers, though many intermediate divers do it. It requires a rapid descent, a very short period at depth, and a careful ascent. For a group of 10 or more, at least three dive masters should be present.
Critics write the Blue Hole off as a “hyped-up macho dive,” but my personal experience there—descending with an entourage of 15 circling reef sharks and turtles—was extraordinary. The lip of the crater down to about 60–80 feet has the most life: fat midnight parrot fish, stingrays, angelfish, butterfly fish, and other small reef fish cluster around coral heads and outcroppings.
Half Moon Caye Wall
They just don’t come much better than this. Here on the eastern side of the atoll, the reef has a shallow shelf in about 15 feet of water where garden eels are plentiful. The sandy area broken with corals extends downward till you run into the reef wall, which rises some 20 feet toward the surface. Most boats anchor in the sandy area above the reef wall. Numerous fissures in the reef crest form canyons or tunnels leading out to the vertical face. In this area, sandy shelves and valleys frequently harbor nurse sharks and gigantic stingrays. Divers here are sure to return with a wealth of wonderful pictures.
On the western wall, “Three Coconuts” refers to trees on nearby Long Caye. The sandy bottom slopes from about 30 feet to about 40 feet deep before it plunges downward. Overhangs here are common features, and sponges and soft corals adorn the walls. Another fish lover’s paradise, Tres Cocos does not have the outstanding coral formations you’ll see at several other dives in the area, but who cares? There’s a rainbow of marine life all about. Turtles, morays, jacks, coral, shrimp, cowfish, rays, and angelfish are among the actors on this colorful stage.
The shoals of silversides (small gleaming minnows) that gave this western atoll site its name are gone. But, Silver Caves is still impressive and enjoyable. The coral formations are riddled with large crevices and caves that cut clear through the reef. As you enter the water above the sandy slope where most boats anchor, you’ll be in about 30 feet of water and surrounded by friendly yellowtail snappers. Once again you’ll see the downwardly sloping bottom, the rising reef crest, and the stomach-flipping drop into the blue.
Farther north and about even with the Blue Hole, West Point is well worth a dive. Visibility may be a bit more limited than down south, but it’s still very acceptable. The reef face here is stepped. The first drop plunges from about 30 feet to well over 100 feet deep. Another coral and sand slope at that depth extends a short distance before dropping vertically into very deep water. The first shallow wall has pronounced overhangs and lush coral and sponge growth.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition