Nassau, Bahamas -
Bahamas At Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas it is completely natural to feel scared, excited, fascinated, confused and awed - all at the same time. You see - true to its name - it's a magnificent dark blue circle of water that plunges over 200 metres into an abyss.
Usually blue holes, also known as sinkholes, simply look like ponds, but Dean's is special in more ways than one.
Connected to the Atlantic Ocean by a light blue inlet, it is framed by scooped-out cliffs on one side and perfect arches of white sand beaches on the other.
As the deepest blue hole in the world it attracts sightseers, curious beachgoers, amateur snorkellers, brave scuba divers and free divers.
Our affable tour guide, Sanfred Rolle, certainly knows how to build blue hole drama.
"I explain it to everyone on the drive here. But you never believe it until you see it. It becomes the highlight of everyone's trip."
In keeping with the tension building, Rolle doesn't let us near the water at the beginning.
First we hike to the clifftop to marvel at the perfect dark water that marks the hole. There are multiple exclamations of beauty and numerous photos are taken.
Then it's finally time to get in the water. From the beach in snorkel gear the initial swimming is through shallow water filled with darting fish.
The shallows, white sand bottom and fish abruptly disappear as the hole immediately plunges to 202 metres and the water takes on an eerie but calming, presence.
It's one of nature's great wonders suddenly witnessed through a snorkel mask.
At 30 metres across, the blue hole's majesty isn't derived from its surface area but from its incredible depth and mystique.
As such it constantly shows up on Top 10 lists of the best and coolest places to swim in the world.
Dean's Blue Hole is on Long Island, one of the Bahamas' Out Islands.
They are so called because they are the 700-some islands that are "out" from the populous and mega-resort areas of Nassau on New Providence Island and Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is promoting The Out Islands of the Bahamas as a brand and experience that goes beyond the famous sun, sand and sea to embrace uncluttered and unhurried places with incredible sightseeing, fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving and eco-tourism.
Vacationing on the "Outs" takes a little extra time and effort.
After arriving in the capital of Nassau, an inter-island flight lasting as little as 10 minutes or as long as an hour is needed to reach the "Out" of your choice.
Besides Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island is also famous for ocean snorkelling and scuba diving, beaches and an abundance of the Bahamas' national food (conch), national bird (pink flamingo) and national beer (Kalick).
Snorkelling and diving can be combined with the beach in the excursion offered free to guests of Stella Maris, the resort where we stayed that is on the lush grounds of the former Adderley's Cotton Plantation.
More island hopping will bring you to Andros, the largest land mass in the Bahamas, and the remote and rustic Small Hope Bay Resort.
The resort only has 21 rooms in a string of beachfront bungalows and the vibe is incredibly chill with its help-yourself bar, honour-system gift shop and communal dining.
Steve MacNaull visited the islands as a guest of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.