Diving the famous Great Blue Hole is all in a day’s play on Ambergris Caye.
BY ERIN LENTZ
“MIND IF WE CHUM THE WATERS?” ASKS OUR DIVE MASTER. I’m 60 miles off the coast of Belize. in the middle of the famous Great Blue Hole. A giant marine sinkhole. As our dive boat pitches back and forth and 15 advanced scuba divers defog goggles, check tanks and test regulators, my eyes bulge at the thought of a shark frenzy, but seeing no one else’s hands shoot up to answer, yes!, I instead dutifully pull on my fins, tighten my mask and giant—stride into the new blue sea.
First explored by Jacques Cousteau and a UNESCO World Heritage site, The Great Blue Hole. from an aerial vantage looks akin to a giant pupil in the ocean—a brilliant concentric limestone sinkhole lined with gorgeous hues of teal and blue. The dive is not for novices. For one, it’s a deep dive—130 feet—and if lucky. reveals schools of hammerheads, reef sharks and giant groupers. So though I’m thrilled to be on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, my heart races as I descend inter the deep blue.
As I reach the 130-foot mark, I constantly check my depth gauge. The water becomes drastically colder the deeper we dive, and then suddenly—whoa! —ethereal stalactites dramatically drop from a giant overhang. I look to my dive buddy. who gives me the shark sign and points toward the surface. As I look toward the brilliant blue above a school of hammerheads circles above our group. Big. Beautiful. otherworldly. And though alert. I‘m surprisingly not frightened. To witness these creatures firsthand [and so many”, is a bucket-list check. As we make our way back toward the surface, a feeding frenzy of reef sharks is glimpsed from 30 feet underwater (once on the surface. I’ve never made my way back to a dive beat so fast]. It remains my most memorable dive experience.
If planning your own Belize escape there’s plenty to be explored with ancient Mayan ruins to rival those on the Yucatan Peninsula, the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere, and lush rainforests, here’s what’s not—to—miss on Ambergris Caye.
Cheat Sheet > Ambergris Caye
HELI HOP. Your flight departs from the Grand Caribe Heliport in Ambergris Caye. Once you’re wheels up, experience an aerial view of North Ambergris Cay, San Pedro, Belize Barrier Reef. and Shark Ray Alley.
SEA STAR. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is arguably one of the best day trips for snorkeling and diving. Mayan for “little channel.“ the reserve is a small cut through the reef, or quebrada, and is just 25 yards wide, 30 feet deep, and home to more than 160 species of fish and 40 species of coral.
DESIGN FIND. Shop Graniel’s Dreamland for all things Belizean chic, including clam chairs, bowls and furniture sourced with local rosewood and teak.
SAVOR. Don’t miss the Austin-inspired Truck Shop, a collective of colorful food trucks in San Pedro that dishes pad thai, pizza, arepas, and ice cream in refurbished shipping containers. For something fancier, reserve an ocean view table at Palmilla Restaurant at the Victoria House.
Stay > Cayo Espanto
Your own private island off Ambergris Caye? Well, why not. Located three miles off the coast of San Pedro, Cayo Espanto’s seven oceanfront villas each have private plunge pools and decks. The full island rental includes all villas, for up to 18 guests, the luckiest of which can stay at Casa Ventanas, a 1,100-square-foot, over-water bungalow surrounded on all sides by the Carribean.
Dreaming of an island retreat? Enter OFFER M19866 on our website and immerse yourself in Caribbean adventure.
Cover Photo: Home on the Ocean in Ambergris Caye, Belize / (c) Can Stock Photo / slickspics