Exploring the majestic Great Blue Hole on a scenic flight is an adventure of a lifetime. While the Great Blue Hole is famous in the scuba diving community, it is even more spectacular to see from the sky. Soaring above an immense, deep blue abyss standing out against the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea seems unreal.
Discovery Channel named the Great Blue Hole in Belize one of the most amazing places on earth, and once you see it, you will understand why. We took a one-hour private charter scenic flight over the Great Blue Hole with Tropic Air, In this article, we will share everything you need to know about visiting the Great Blue Hole.
The Allure of the Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole is a giant marine sinkhole, about 300 meters (984 feet) across and 124 meters (407 feet) deep. Located off the coast of this beautiful Central American country The Blue Hole is renowned for its nearly perfect circular shape and deep blue color, visible from above. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was popularized by Jacques Cousteau, who declared it one of the top scuba diving sites in the world. Since then, tourism has expanded to include scenic flights, snorkeling trips, and boat tours.
Originally, The Great Blue Hole was part of a limestone cave system during the last ice age. As the ice caps began melting and sea levels rose, the caves were flooded, and their roofs collapsed, leading to the formation of this circular, deep blue void. The Great Blue Hole is a must-visit when traveling to Belize.
Location and How to Get to the Blue Hole
Located in the center of Lighthouse Reef, a tiny atoll some 70 km (43 miles) from the mainland of Belize, the Great Blue Hole is accessible by boat and air.
When we first visited Belize 20 years ago, the only way to see the Great Blue Hole was on a scuba diving trip, but things have changed and even non-divers can now experience this natural world wonder.
We booked a flight from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye for our scenic flight to the Blue Hole which lasted for one hour. This flight to the Great Blue Hole was without a doubt, the best scenic flight we’ve ever taken. And we have done a lot!
Most people visit the Great Blue Hole in Belize by boat or when scuba diving. Trips to the Blue Hole can be booked from Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and Belize City. While boat trips offer a sea-level view, and scuba divers can dive deep into the depths of the dark cavern for bragging rights, aerial tours offer the most breathtaking perspective of this natural wonder.
The Experience of Flying Over the Great Blue Hole
Flying over the Great Blue Hole is nothing short of spectacular. We left Ambergris Caye in our private four-seater plane and spent an hour in the air overlooking the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize is another jewel in Belize’s crown of natural wonders. This marine sanctuary was established in 1987 and spans approximately 18 square kilometers (7 square miles). It is a haven for an astonishing variety of marine life, especially, graceful sea turtles, manta rays, and gentle nurse sharks.
The name ‘Hol Chan’ comes from the Mayan language, meaning ‘Little Channel’, which aptly describes the reserve’s natural break in the Belize Barrier Reef. This break creates an ideal environment for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Our Great Blue Hole Flight
The trip began from San Pedro airport and took us over Ambergris Caye to see the city, its shoreline, and some gems like Secret Beach.
We then continued to fly over neighboring Caye Caulker, where we had a bird’s eye view of the famous Caye Caulker Split. Caye Caulker was split into two parts by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. The fierce storm carved a narrow channel known as The Split, creating a distinct north and south division of the island. If you visit Belize, we highly recommend spending a few days on Caye Caulker.
We then flew out over the Belize Barrier Reef to see some of its 400+ cayes and atolls. We saw a private island that is being transformed into a luxury five-star retreat that will be a private escape for the rich and famous and we saw other private islands scattered between the Belize mainland and the Blue Hole during our 70 km flight.
The Belize Barrier Reef
The Belize Barrier Reef is a spectacular natural wonder. It is the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere and the second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. We have taken a scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef in Australia as well and found the Belize Barrier Reef to be just as beautiful (if not more) than its more famous cousin. ,
Spanning over 300 kilometers (190 miles), this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to over 500 species of fish, numerous types of corals, and an array of marine mammals. We even saw giant rays from the plane during our scenic flight.
This magnificent reef system, which includes several offshore atolls, hundreds of sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons, and estuaries, plays a crucial ecological role. It acts as a natural barrier against strong waves, protecting Belize’s coastline and supporting the country’s fishing industry.
It was fascinating to see the distinct divide between the barrier reef and the Belize coast open up to wide open blue waters.
Approaching the Blue Hole
As our plane circled the site, we were giddy with excitement. Our captain made four passes around the Blue Hole – two on either side of the plane, so Dave and I both had ample views of the natural wonder.
The stark contrast between the dark blue of the hole and the lighter blue and vibrant turquoise of the surrounding shallow waters was magnificent. We were lucky as there were no boats inside the hole when we arrived, so we had pristine views of the hole all to ourselves.
Planning Your Trip
Plan your trip during Belize’s dry season to experience the best of the Great Blue Hole from above.
Light clothing, sunglasses, and cameras are must-haves for this adventure. It was hot inside our plane and we were happy to be in shorts and a light T-shirt.
Most, importantly, ensure your camera has enough memory and an extra battery, as you’ll want to capture every moment of this incredible experience. We didn’t get to the Blue Hole until about 30 minutes into our flight and we already took a ton of pictures as the coast and waters of Belize are beautiful in their own right!
Flights typically last around one hour, offering ample time to marvel at this wonder. The best times for flights are during the dry season, from late November to mid-April, when skies are clear and the visibility is unparalleled.
Cost and Booking Tips
The cost of flying over the Great Blue Hole varies, typically ranging from $200 to USD 500 per person, depending on the tour operator and the aircraft used. Private charters can run typically around USD 1200. The cost is completely worth it. We’ve taken several scenic flights around the world that last only ten to twenty minutes. An hour over these beautiful waters is like nothing you’ve ever seen.
You can check the Tropic Air Website for rates and availability. Make sure to arrive 30 minutes before your flight to check in and have a photo ID with your Passports.
We recommend booking your flight in advance, especially during peak tourist season, to secure your spot. Some tour operators offer package deals that include other attractions in Belize, so be on the lookout for those to make the most of your trip.
Other Ways to See the Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole is a world-renowned diving site. Diving here allows you to explore the crystal-clear waters, see the massive underwater stalactites and stalagmites, and possibly encounter marine life like sharks and other fish species. Note that diving in the Great Blue Hole is recommended for experienced divers due to its depth and unique conditions. Dive shops will require proof of deep and advanced open-water diving experience.
If you’re not a diver, snorkeling around the edges of the Great Blue Hole is a fantastic alternative. You won’t see the deep, darker depths, but the surrounding reef areas are teeming with vibrant marine life. There are many snorkeling tours available that provide equipment and guidance, making it a safe and informative experience.
Several companies offer boat tours to the Great Blue Hole, often combined with stops at nearby attractions like the Half Moon Caye or the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. These tours usually cater to divers and snorkelers, making them a good choice for groups with mixed interests.
Belize is one of the top scuba diving destinations on earth and there are many companies that over overnight trips. For a more immersive experience, consider a liveaboard trip which includes multiple dives in the Great Blue Hole and surrounding areas over several days. These trips often include other top dive sites in Belize,
Some tours combine a visit to the Great Blue Hole with other activities in Belize, such as river tubing, jungle treks, or visits to Mayan ruins. If you have a short time in Belize and want to see the best of the beaches and jungle, this is a great choice providing a well-rounded experience of the country’s diverse attractions.
Located off the coast of this Central American paradise, the Great Blue Hole offers a unique aerial spectacle unlike any other in the world. A flight over the Great Blue Hole is more than just an aerial tour; it’s an encounter with one of the world’s most stunning natural wonders. This journey promises awe-inspiring views and unforgettable memories. Belize awaits with its open skies and the enchanting Great Blue Hole at its heart. Embrace the adventure!