The Great Blue Hole of Belize was named by Jacques Cousteau as one of the world's top diving sites.

I am not a SCUBA-certified diver and I may never be. Instead, I free dive and have been for about 13 years, mostly along the coast of California, and I have no interest in introducing tanks, tubes and pressure valves to the simple relationship I have with the water. I can only imagine the burden of swimming with all the mechanical gadgetry and gear on my back that tank divers must wear, or the logistical nuisance of having to fill the tanks prior to each dive. Free divers must fill only their lungs, and sometimes just 5 or 10 feet beneath the surface we find all that we might ever hope to: the mangrove thickets of Belize, alive with nurse sharks, reef fishes and even crocodiles, or the kelp beds of California, where many divers spoiled by tropical reefs may be born again as they discover this unmatched habitat. But SCUBA technology grants access to a deeper world that I, again, can only imagine. And I think that the magic of SCUBA diving can be simmered down to one flat and obvious fact which an old friend and diving buddy once illuminated for me as we debated the pros and cons of air tanks:

"Dude," he said. "You can breathe-underwater!"

There's no arguing with that. And so we go, tanks and tubes and valves flowing with pressurized air, into the finest SCUBA diving destinations in the world.

Great Blue Hole, Belize. Jacques Cousteau visited this site in 1971 and declared the Great Blue Hole of Ambergris Caye to be among the best diving locations in the world. The Great Blue Hole is a wonder of geology, a 410-foot deep sinkhole located within the Belize Barrier Reef system and was created through forces similar to those responsible for the underwater caves of the nearby Yucatan Peninsula. The Hole is more than twice as wide as it is deep, making it less like a bottomless pit than a huge pothole, yet the vertiginous void may offer divers something of the feeling of facing off with the edge of the world. Descending into the hole, one will encounter local residents like groupers, various sharks, great barracuda and a diversity of other species. Bottom topography consists of sand, reef, many varieties or coral and ancient limestone stalactites, as well as caves and dramatic outcroppings that look like cathedrals. Visibility may exceed 150 feet and surface water temperatures rarely dip below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

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