Slipping into the water, you avert your eyes from the surface to gaze down into a deep, blue abyss. You leave the boat and enter the Great Blue Hole, one of the best dive spots on Earth. Enveloped in endless blue, you look towards the boat again through the crystalline turquoise water over your head. As your eyes adjust, your heart and brain synchronize in adrenaline-fueled focus.
Suddenly you tense up when you see the shadowed form of a Hammerhead shark about 3 meters away. His eyes bulge out like binoculars, but thankfully he’s not zooming in on you. His grey, slick body eases past in the water. Your fear gives way to fascination. The hammerhead looks to be about 5 feet long, with a white belly and… a slight tan. These sharks actually get a little color from swimming around in sunny shallows. Hammerheads are one of the only animals, aside from humans, that can tan. His utter indifference to you makes you wonder if he encounters people fairly often. But hammerheads only occasionally visit the Great Blue Hole. You realize that the last ten minutes held one of the rarest experiences of your life.
The Great Blue Hole in Belize makes every avid scuba diver’s bucket list and offers the exhilarating opportunity to see frightening, unique, and beautiful aquatic species. Few creatures go very far into the hole, except for the sharks divers often meet on their descent. Most of the marine life congregates on the rim of the sinkhole, thriving in a diverse coral reef environment. Great Blue Hole species surround this cavernous void, creating a lively, colorful circle around the diving destination.
Caribbean reef sharks, blacktip sharks, and nurse sharks live near the waters of the Great Blue Hole. Nurse sharks, the most “sluggish” of the three, are known for being particularly docile towards humans. While most sharks look sharp, angular, even sinister, the nurse shark appears gentle, rounded, and soft. All three of these reef sharks prefer shallow water near the coral, so they don’t venture much farther than the hole’s drop off. Although Caribbean reef sharks and blacktips sometimes get a little inquisitive, even aggressive, the sharks you see around the Great Blue Hole will more than likely pay you no notice. Sometimes it’s nice to be ignored.
The scary-looking fish you’ll find at this diving destination may creep you out, but that just makes your dive more exciting! A giant grouper, shrouded in the shadows of the coral, waits to prey upon the next octopus to hazard past his hideout. With his stout body – grouper often exceed 100 kilograms – over a meter in length, he can’t keep up with the quick little swimmers. Instead he prowls along the reef. Keep your eye on the shadows while diving near the Great Blue Hole.
Not a fan of sharks or freaky fish? For you, the reef offers a chance to witness sea turtles and a world of swimming color. Frequent sightings include parrotfish, angelfish, and butterfly fish.
The Great Blue Hole and its surrounding waters hold many distinct species and just as many secrets. In August 2011, the dive crew at Amigos del Mar Dive Shop, San Pedro, discovered a strange deep sea fish floating near the Great Blue Hole. This 5-foot-long, jet black fish looked similar to prehistoric species. With huge eyes and a large gaping mouth containing tiny serrated teeth, the fish resembles other known deep-sea-dwellers. The crew reported it dead in the water. They believe it may have come from one of the caves inside the Great Blue Hole. Further examination of the strange fish revealed that it may actually be a species of grenadier (also known as the rattail fish ). You have to wonder what other unidentified creatures inhabit the depths of this sinkhole. They might not be the sort of creature you want to encounter when you’re 65 feet below the surface.