BLUE HOLE NATIONAL
Inland Blue Hole
& Right: St. Hermans Cave
The park is very easy to reach, set right
next to the Hummingbird Highway. There are two access points,
the visitor centre/parking area for Herman's Cave, and the
lay-by just above the Blue Hole. The two are only a mile
and a half apart. The National Park is just 12 miles southeast
of Belmopan (on the right coming from that direction), and
can easily be reached by bus. Tours also run from San Ignacio
and Belize City. Exploring the park takes about half a day.
Anytime though Blue Hole gets decidedly muddy
after a heavy rain.
The park has a visitor center. If you are coming from Belmopan,
it is on the right hand side of the road. next to a large
grass parking area. St. Herman's Cave is just 10 minutes
walk from here, along a forest trail. Blue Hole is a mile
further, also on the right hand side. It has a guard station,
with staff on hand to offer further guidance if needed.
The Fireline Trail connects the Hummingbird Loop to the
trail leading to St. Hermans. and is just under a mile.
The St. Hermans and Jungle Walk Trails that go through the
cave. The National Park is open daily from 8 am to 4
pm and is managed by
the Belize Audubon Society, who have a small
pamphlet about it. Entrance fee: $8.
site has rest areas, benches, parking facilities, a visitor
center and 1 guard house. While it has had trails since the late
1980s, the first phase of a new trail system has been constructed,
This consists of a loop trail, a cross-park trail,
and St. Hermans cave trail. From approximately 520 visitors
a year recorded during its early history, visitor numbers reached
4634 in 1991 (64% non-Belizean) and 7459 in 1993 (69% non-Belizean).
All these are under-estimates because of under-recording of visitors.
After heavy rain, the Blue Hole can turn decidedly muddy and rather
unpleasant for swimming.
Blue Hole National Park:
This park has a lot to offer. Adjacent to a parking
area, steps lead to the pool that gives the park its name (not
to be confused with the other Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef.
The stairway leads down through the forest, and birds can often
be seen resting on over-hanging vines, especially emeraldgreen
Jacamars and Blue-crowned Motmots. Also took out for
the Scarlet-rumped Tanager and listen for the Nightingale Wren.
Another common bird around the Blue Hole is the Long-tailed
Hermit, a mainly brown hummingbird with white tail, which
often dips into the water for a quick drink.
in geological time, the pool itself was a stretch of underground
river cave, but it lost its cover when the roof collapsed.
Since the Hummingbird Highway was built, it has been a favorite
swimming spot, with refreshing cold water. If you have a snorkel,
bring it so you can peer down into the eerie blue cavern where
the water comes from. The strearn carries on about 40 yards before
descending down a siphon through an echoing cave full of bats
(and a few Cliff Swallows in the winter months), and later on
re-emerges to join the Caves Branch River. If you're coming from
Belmopan, you will already have driven over it. The surrounding
limestone is full of caves, and it was only by tracing coloured
dyes that it was ever discovered that this was the hydrological
park has a small trail network, particularly good for
birding because the forest canopy is low. This Hummingbird
Loop can be walked in an hour or longer for those wanting
to linger and see more. As well as the trees. the rich forest
contains a wealth of bromeliads, mosses and ferns. more visible
than normal because of the steep lay of the land.
The other park features which offers a respite from the heat is
St. Herman's Cave. It's another part of lattice of sink holes,
caverns and creeks that riddle the area. Its relatively small
opening is draped in lianas, but steps are provided to descend
into the dark interior. If you bring a torch and go with a guide,
the cavern can be followed for almost a mile. The trail then emerges
and loops back through the forest to the starting point. You can
admire the delicate cave formations, but as the stalactites
and stalagmites take about 800 years to grow an inch, definitely
don't touch them.
The Blue Hole National Park, protected under the National Parks
System Act of 1981, was established in December 1986. Located
12 miles southeast of the nation's capital, Belmopan, are the
three park entrances. BHNP includes an area of some 575 acres,
covered with primary and secondary forest growth. From its northern
boundary, the Hummingbird Highway, this rugged karst landscape
quickly rises to elevations in excess of 200 meters. Through
and under BHNP flow some of the upland tributaries of the Sibun
River, one of Belize's principal watercourses. Much of this central
area of Belize is limestone of Cretaceous age and includes such
karstic features as underground streams, rivers, sinkholes, cenotes
and extensive subterranean caves systems.
The reserve has no permanent resident population. Belmopan (capital)
is roughly 7 miles northwest, while the closest significant settlement
is the farming village of Armenia (population roughly 400), 4
miles to the north- and the estate camp of Caves Branch (population
approximately 70) is 2 miles west. To the east of the park, and
adjacent to it, is the small (7 family) farming settlement of
Features & Climate
The site covers a well developed karst landscape, centered around
Blue Hole. This surface collapse feature, known as a cenote, was
created by the collapse of an underground limestone cave. In this
case, the river running through the original cavern still flows
through the cave system, and forma a clear deep poll at the bottom
of the cenote. The river itself is a tributary of Caves Branch,
which later flows into the Sibun River. It rises 60 W to emerge
at Blue Hole, and flows 100 feet before returning underground-
There am two other sink holes and St. Hermans cave (Mountain Cow
and Petroglyph fall outside the site). St Hermans is the base
of a large sink hole with a main passage which exceeds 50 50 feet
in height in places, and 100 feet in width. The cave's stream
is perennial, though its water levels vary considerably according
to season and rainfall. The distance from mouth to mouth of the
cave is, depending on the route taken, about 2500 feet. The Blue
Hole is at the northeast comer of the park, while St Herman's
is in the southwest. The 2 are apparently connected by an underground
strearn. The site's elevation ranges from about 200 feet above
sea level by the Hummingbird Highway, to over 650 fed in the hilly
interior. It receives on average approximately 85 inches of rain
a year, and experiences a dry season that typically Lists from
January to April.