The Great Blue Hole is a large submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 70 km (43 mi) from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, over 300 m (984 ft) across and 124 m (407 ft) deep.
It was formed during several episodes of quaternary glaciation when sea levels were much lower. Analysis of stalactites found in Great Blue Hole shows that formation took place 153,000; 66,000; 60,000; and 15,000 years ago. As the ocean began to rise again, the cave was flooded. The Great Blue Hole is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
This is a popular spot among recreational scuba divers who are lured by the opportunity to dive in sometimes crystal-clear water and meet several species of fish, including Midnight Parrotfish, Caribbean reef shark, and other juvenile fish species . Other species of sharks, such as the bull shark and hammerheads, have been reported there, but are not regularly sighted.
Usually, day trips to the Great Blue Hole are full-day trips from the coastal tourist communities in Belize. The trips normally include: one dive in the Blue Hole, a dive on Half Moon Wall and Dive sites to the East of Long Caye.
Diving has also been offered from the island Long Caye in the Lighthouse Reef only a few kilometers away from the Great Blue Hole. The dive operator on Long Caye offers two dives in the Blue Hole: North side; and South side.
On-shore caves of similar formation, as large collapsed sinkholes, are well known in Belize and in the Yucatan Peninsula, where they are known as cenotes. Unlike the mainland cenotes which often link to underwater cave systems, there is little evidence of horizontal development in the Blue Hole.
In 2012, Discovery Channel ranked the Great Blue Hole as number one on its list of "The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth".