Is Diving the Blue Hole in Belize Safe?

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Safe to Dive the Blue Hole?

According to the U.S. Gov. Travel Advisory to Belize the simple answer is not really:

U.S. Gov. Travel Advisory to Belize:
Rental diving equipment may not always be properly maintained or inspected, and some local dive masters fail to consider the skill levels of individual tourists when organizing dives to some of Belize’s more challenging sites.

Deaths and serious injuries have occurred as a result of the negligence of dive tour operators, the lack of strict enforcement of tour regulations, water taxis diverging from routes when tourists are in the water, and tourists’ neglect of their physical limitations.

The Embassy strongly recommends that anyone interested in scuba diving or snorkeling while in Belize check the references, licenses, and equipment of tour operators before agreeing to or paying for a tour.

The Embassy further recommends that U.S. citizens be forthcoming in reporting pre-existing medical conditions to their dive tour operators, and comply when a dive tour operator prohibits participation in such activities due to a U.S. citizen’s health condition.

Safety precautions and emergency response capabilities may not be up to U.S. standards.

The reality is that as a “Certified” open water diver you are responsible for yourself. Too many divers come down on holidays and because the Dive Master is guiding the dive assume that the dive master is responsible for their well-being. When is the last time you checked (smelled) your air the way your were trained to in your open water certification course? What about the pre-dive safety check B.W.R.A.F. (BCD, Weights, Releases, Air and Final). Do you dive with your buddy? What about continued education, do you strive to be a better diver? Have you taken a Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty or moved on to become and Advanced Open Water Diver? Do you dive within your limits? Did you take a refresher if it’s been a while?

The Blue Hole is a bucket list dive for many tourists coming to Belize. Unfortunately as there is no regulatory body for Scuba Diving in Belize the standards are much too slack. In my opinion the standards should include a minimum number of dives and a minimum number of dives deeper than 90 feet. They should also be keeping the Maximum depth of the Blue Hole to 140 feet. When I dove the blue hole my max depth was 137 feet and I was plenty deep enough to see the stalactites. It is well-known that the Blue Hole dive breaks the recreational diving limits. I personally don’t see the seven extra feet I dove as an extreme breach compared to the 20-30 feet some unexperienced divers are doing.

The following are my suggestions for a safe(r) Blue Hole Dive.

  • do get some warm up dives in prior to the blue hole or/and take a refresher
  • don’t dive the day before
  • choose a reputable operator
  • check your equipment
  • dive with a buddy (I usually tell couples to hold hands)
  • be the last down to depth, the first to start on the way up, and the last to leave the safety stop
  • watch your air consumption and neutral buoyancy
  • ascend slowly
  • do not dive if you have any medical history that has not been cleared by a doctor (preferably a Dr. that knows something about diving!)
  • if any of these suggestions don’t make sense to you learn more about diving before diving the blue hole!

Definitely Belize does have some issues with diving safety, not all dive shops are created equal and more importantly too many tourists are all too willing to relinquish their own responsiblity for their diving. Plan your dive, dive your plan!

Safe Diving!

Cheers,

Carlos

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One response »

  1. Good article. I don’t completely agree about the diver being solely responsible though; the DM guiding the dive should still be laying out a plan based around the proven experience (i.e. logged dives, not just cert cards). The diver is still responsible for their own actions afterwards though. I do completely agree with your idea for a minimum number of dives/dives to depth prior to going though; that was a normal thing for a lot of the dives I did in Bali, and it definitely increased the safety margin!

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