Like CAPTAIN bigzeke, I just have to put my two cents in on this thread. We dove the Blue Hole in October 1997; at that time, we had logged just 25 dives. The dive lasted a total of 19 minutes, with the first two minutes being the descent from 0 to 130 feet. The next 6 minutes were spent at the 130 foot depth, and we had a 5 +/- minute ascent to 20 feet, where we spent 5 minutes in a safety stop. Today, we have logged over 175 dives in various locations, many of these local dives in the San Pedro area. Also, we have completed the Advance OW course. Now, having said all of that, it is my opinion that the Blue Hole dive is definely an advanced dive; and should be undertaken, as such, by divers having considerably more experience than we had in 1997. What is the magic number? I don't know, but I think that an AOW certification is one criteria that a diver should have to undertake this dive. And, I definitely agree that a diver that hasn't been in the water for a while should take several local dives prior to undertaking the Blue Hole trip. We were accompanied be 3 dive masters that kept a close look after us and nothing bad happened to us. Were we just lucky on that dive? I don't know. But it probably had a lot to do with the skill of the DMs. It was an interesting dive, because of the large stalagtite formations at 130 feet. And we saw a large barracuda at that depth. Other than that, there is not too much else to see at the 130 foot mark. All the bright colors have disappeared and only the dark blues, grays, etc are left. I am glad that I experienced this dive once, but I am not in any rush to do it again.
As far as the local dives around San Pedro are concerned , I have always enjoyed them immensely. For one reason, it is only a 5 - 10 minute ride to the dive sites, rather than a 2+ hour ride . . . sometimes through rough open water. On our last several dives in SP, we saw many grouper, nurse shark, many turtles, one large bull shark in the distance, and numerous other types of sea life. Cypress Canyon, Pillar Coral, Tackle Box, and Hol Chan are some of our favorite local dive sites.