The number one, coolest thing we did in Belize was taking a bucket list scenic flight over the Great Blue Hole! We can’t stop telling people about it because it was AWESOME! If you’re interested, there are a few different ways to experience this incredible natural wonder. We opted to see the Great Blue Hole with Tropic Air Belize and had a stellar viewing experience. All the details are in this post as well as some helpful tips regarding all of your options to see the world’s largest marine sinkhole.
The Belize Barrier Reef & The Great Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is part of the Belize Barrier Reef, which is a 190 mile stretch of coral reefs. Off the coast are 3 atolls, Glover’s Reef, Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef Atoll, where you will find the Blue Hole. If you look at a map of Belize, you will see that the Belize Barrier Reef is an extension of Mexico. The whole area from Cancun down through Belize to Honduras is part of the larger, almost 1,000 mile long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. It’s the largest in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s why this portion of the Caribbean has such incredible diving, fishing and gorgeous blue water.
The Blue Hole, a Unesco World Heritage site, used to be above sea level. It was similar to a cenote (cave) we see in Mexico and Belize. The Great Blue Hole was formed 14,000 years ago during the last ice age. As the water levels rose on Earth, the cave was flooded. Scientists know this because the stalactites that are found starting at 130′ deep are only formed when water drips down rocks. Amazingly, the Blue Hole is 410 feet deep and 984 feet across – that’s equivalent to 2 football fields!!
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What The Tropic Air Belize Flight to the Great Blue Hole is Like
Our experience started at the Pan Pedro Airport. The flights are weather dependent so you need to confirm your flight in the morning. You wait at the small airport terminal along with everyone flying to multiple locations. They call your flight to line up at the door and then onto the tarmac. One of the employees told us that we could fly in the co-pilot seat so Guy hopped up there immediately. Get in line first if you want the chance to do the same. Each passenger has a window seat so anywhere you sit is a good spot.
The girl sitting in front of me didn’t like small planes and she was nervous. I’m not a fan of propeller planes but any potential worry was immediately replaced by awe and excitement. The pilot was also highly experienced, which put us at ease.
The flight to the Great Blue Hole is absolutely exhilarating! Seeing the coastline of Ambergris Caye, the Belize Barrier Reef, the gorgeous blue water views and of course The Great Blue Hole itself was SO MUCH FUN! It took about 15 minutes to get to this beautiful blue wonder, flying past Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Atoll along the way. The pilot circled around it three times in both directions so that everyone has a chance to check it out and take tons of photos. The experience was an absolute A+! The only downside to seeing it by plane is that you aren’t able to fly as low as a helicopter. The price point, however, is so much more affordable.
Interesting Facts About The Great Blue Hole
- At water level, you can’t actually see the Blue Hole. It’s best seen by air.
- The Great Blue Hole is the world’s largest marine sinkhole but it’s not the only one. Dragon Hole in the south China Sea is the deepest at 987 feet. There are others in the Bahamas and Egypt.
- When the scientists went to map the Blue Hole, they found a coke bottle and a GoPro at the bottom. They also found a few bodies of people who sadly perished at the site. This dive is only for experienced divers.
Cool Things You Will See on a Tropic Air Belize Great Blue Hole Tour
- Cargo Ship Wreck – A cargo ship ran aground in 2005. It is not unheard of for boats to run aground in the Belize Barrier Reef System, typically due to bad weather.
- You will fly over 2 of the 3 atolls that make up the Belize Barrier Reef, Lighthouse Reef Atoll and Turneffe Atoll,
- The coastline of Ambergris Cays from the air. We took the ferry to Ambergris Caye so this flight was a fun opportunity to see our Belizean vacation spot from the air. It’s just so pretty!
How to Book a Scenic Flight to the Great Blue Hole
There are a few different ways to visit the Great Blue Hole, but the most economical and convenient way to do it is by plane. The cost is approximately $250 per person. It’s an expensive excursion but so worth it! You can book ahead of time or have your hotel help you. Both of the places we stayed Ka’ana Belize and Victoria House coordinated trips.
- Tropic Air Belize was the company we chose for our Great Blue Hole flight seeing tour. We had the best experience and recommend them highly. Our flight was a 1 hour round trip from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Each passenger gets a window seat and there are 1-11 passengers per plane. To make a reservation, click on the Tropic Air link for their phone number or email. They were very responsive and helpful in the booking process. Flights take off from 4 locations, multiple days per week. Contact Tropic Air for the most current information. This schedule is from January 2020.
- San Pedro, Ambergris Caye – Tuesdays & Wednesdays 11am, Sundays 1pm
- Caye Caulker – Tuesdays & Wednesdays 11am, Sundays 1pm
- Belize City – Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Sundays 11am
- Placencia – Wednesdays 11am
- Maya Island Air is the other option Monday, Wednesday & Thursday at 1pm from San Pedro Airport on Ambergris Caye.
- Astrum Helicopters has two different helicopter tours – a regular private tour or a happy hour tour with champagne. The huge advantage to the helicopter tour is being able to see everything so much closer. The 1 – 1.5 hour private charter departs from San Pedro and Belize City. The price is quite a bit higher but the experience is amazing.
Related Post: Packing List for Belize: 10 Things You Can’t Forget
Other Ways to See the Great Blue Hole
- Diving – If you are an experienced diver with an Advanced PADI certification, scuba diving in the Great Blue Hole is probably on your bucket list. While it’s not filled with colorful fish, the stalactites that start 130 feet below the surface and the reef sharks are the real attraction. It is a dangerous dive without adequate experience and sadly some people have died there. Most dive companies require 24 prior dives for participants.
- Snorkeling Trip – If you’re not an experienced diver, you may be tempted to book a snorkeling trip. There are some pros and cons to snorkeling at the Great Blue Hole.
- Pros: Snorkelers will be able to see the dark blue abyss, some fish and even reef sharks on occasion.
- Cons: You can’t see the Blue Hole from water level so snorkeling might be disappointing. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is closer and a better place to snorkel. It takes 2 hours each way to get to the Blue Hole by boat and only 15 minutes by air.
We highly recommend travel insurance but you should definitely have travel Insurance for Belize. If you are going diving or doing active adventures, you will want to know that you’re covered.. World Nomads is a great company and you’ll have the peace of mind that you’re covered if anything happens.
Cool Things to do in Belize
Seeing the Great Blue Hole was one of the highlights of our entire year. Truthfully a trip to Belize wasn’t even on our radar but we did it for our World Travel Challenge. What’s great about the challenge is that it pushes us to do things we may not have done otherwise.
Belize is a great place for people who love adventure. In addition to the Blue Hole, you can go cave tubing, have a jungle experience, see Mayan ruins, cenotes and so much more. Check out our other Belize posts to help you with planning your trip to Belize.
- 15 Essential Things to Do in Belize Plus 10 More
- Packing List for Belize with 10 Important Things You Might Be Forgetting
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