It is dark and cool. Almost silent. On one side is the abyss. A black, still, unfathomable depth. On the other, a wall. Light brown, slightly rough, it’s a touchstone in the dark, an anchor holding me steady. We continue down until an anvil rests on my chest. My air seeps slowly through what feels like a pinched straw. At 135 feet below the surface of the water in the Blue Hole of Belize, I can feel the panic trying to take hold.
I had listened carefully to the pre-dive briefing. I knew Nitrogen Narcosis was possible at this depth. The dive master cautioned us about feeling anxious or euphoric, and to not panic. I never thought I would become anxious. That is so not me! But there was no denying my feelings in the dark. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and it was not making me feel confident of my ability to survive this dive. I put my palm to my chest, and the Dive Master noticed and grabbed my hand. He towed me into a cave where we swam through the stalactites and stalagmites. He pointed out anything of interest to distract me. It was a real struggle to focus on what we were looking at. I kept staring into the darkness, half expecting a shark or some other creature to come bolting out of the deep. Rushing to the surface was not an option, so I concentrated on the hand in mine.
After a short time in the caves we began our ascent. I felt the pressure decrease. Air flowed freely and the panic receded. By 100 feet, I was feeling good. During our safety stops, I finally looked around and appreciated where I was. This was one of those adventures that was more fun once it was over!
We did two more dives that day. At Half Moon Wall, we descended to 60 feet and had fun swimming through arches and tunnels. There were very curious Reef Sharks that cruised amongst the divers. They got so close it was hard to get a clear photo! Our last dive was called the Aquarium, and it was obvious why. As in all the best aquariums, there were lots of different, pretty fish to see. A Moray Eel got so close to a diver that it had to be pushed away.
A highlight of the day was the visit to Half Moon Caye, where we had a great picnic lunch and hiked to see the Red-footed Boobies nesting. Like their Blue-footed brethren that we saw in Galapagos, they were very photogenic and unafraid of the humans staring at them. There were also Frigate birds, iguanas and huge hermit crabs.
Beautiful weather, amazing dive masters, delicious food, and close encounters with nature made this a wonderful day. Surviving a dive into the Blue Hole made it an accomplishment!
Can I do this adventure?
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult.
Courage Level: 3 You need to be certified to do this dive. If you have not been this deep before, just prepare yourself mentally for what is to come! I did not do that because I naively thought I was someone who would never panic. Not everyone has a problem. My husband was perfectly fine.
Fitness Level: 2 This dive is not more physically difficult than any other.
I would highly recommend the dive shop that we used, Amigos del Mar. https://www.amigosdivebelize.com/ They were professional, friendly and knowledgeable. The entire crew worked together to make a wonderful day for us all.
We stayed in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. It is a wonderful island. There are few cars, with most people using golf carts, and sand for many roads. There is a nightlife if you have enough energy after a day exploring. There are a lot of nice restaurants with great views. We walked everywhere from our Inn, Caye Casa https://www.cayecasa.com/ which we absolutely loved. Our room overlooked the ocean, with outdoor seating in both sun and shade. The suite comes with a small living room and kitchenette, where we stored our drinks and snacks. There are bakeries very close by where you can get fresh pastries for breakfast. Small supermarkets provided anything we needed.