Written by Cordelia Chapman. Edited by Alondra Silva Munoz.
In your excitement of visiting the wonderful land of ice and fire you’ve read about snorkeling between the continents and you’re now wondering what that really involves and will you really freeze in melted glacial water? Learn why this is one of Iceland’s most popular activities. You’ll be surprised by all the wonders that snorkeling Silfra involves: located in UNESCO World Heritage Site, the famed and historically rich Thingvellir National Park and world’s oldest parliament, what National Geographic has described as the clearest water on earth with mind-blowing visibility, and so much more! Read on, fellow troll.
1. Description of the tour
Once you have arrived and been to the toilet (you’ll be zipped into the drysuit for maybe a couple of hours and we do our best to make sure they stay dry on the inside and we ask you to do the same!), we will start getting you in the suits. First off is the thermal layer which will keep you lovely and warm and then it’s time to fight your way into the drysuits, this is quite an entertaining process (and a bit time consuming so, please, be patient with us). Once you are comfortably in the suits we’ll give you some background information and a safety briefing. Listen to the safety briefing as it gives you valuable information to enjoy your tour to the fullest and also to keep you safe in the challenging environment.
Don’t worry, all our guides are professionally trained and are there to help you. Before we head off to the entry steps your guide will check the neck and wrist seals to ensure they are tight enough to stop the water getting in, we have additional collars to ensure a good fit but they are unlikely to feel 100% comfortable as you are not going to be used to wearing them. We will also give you a neoprene hood and gloves to help keep you warm, a mask and snorkel and a pair of fins.
While we wait for our turn to enter the water your guide will help you put your mask and fins on as it is quite difficult while wearing the drysuits and gloves! The first thing to strike you as you lean forward and put your face in the water is the amazing clarity, it really feels like you are floating on air. The depth as you first enter the water from the platform is about 10m and it is the most beautiful blue colour. There are often exclamations and squeaks of wonder from customers at that first view, it’s almost enough to make you forget the cold water on your face… almost!
Once we’ve floated over the shallows we swim into Silfra Hall, where the fissure opens up and we can see all the way through to the end of the Silfra Cathedral, the colours through here are beautiful and it can feel like you are flying like superman. The last area we swim to is the real Blue Lagoon, one of my favourite areas, the rock formations here are amazing and the colours unreal. Once you’ve finished there is another set of steps to help you out of the water, once the group is all out you will head back to the van to change and your guide will serve hot chocolate and cookies to help you warm up. You will be in the water for about 40 minutes.
2. What should I wear?
We will provide you with a big thermal ‘onsie’ which I promise will keep you toasty warm under your drysuit! All you need to wear under this ‘onsie’ is one thin base layer, for example leggings and a t-shirt or shorts and a t-shirt. Hoodies are definitely not recommended as they will feel bulky and uncomfortable under the drysuit as well as interfere with the fitting of the neck seal. Jeans are also not recommended as they will likely be very uncomfortable and bulky inside the dry suits. Plus, on the off chance that they get wet you will get very cold and uncomfortable.
You will also need to wear a warm pair of socks, or possibly two pairs if you feel the cold (wool socks are best). We also ask customers to remove all jewelry and watches, this is to protect the delicate wrist and neck seals of our suits as well as being much more comfortable for you.
3. What should I bring?
It is about a 5 minute walk from P5 parking area to the snorkeling carpark so make sure you have suitable clothing for the weather, in Iceland 90% of the time this means something warm and waterproof! An extra layer to put on when you change out of your toasty warm ‘onsie’ is a good idea for colder days. In the winter or bad weather a hat and gloves are also advisable as it takes a while to get you kitted up and give our briefings before we enter the water and afterwards you will definitely be glad of a hat and gloves to help you warm up.
Although we do our very best to keep you totally dry within the drysuit we can’t guarantee it and they can sometimes leak a little around the neck and wrists so it is always recommended to bring a second set of clothes just incase – prepare for the worst and hope for the best! In preparing for the worst we also ask you to bring a towel, this is also useful to dry off hair if you plan on hiking around the area afterwards.
If you would like to bring your camera we would only recommend taking it in the water if you can attach it to yourself as if you drop it it is lost to the depths of Silfra for ever! But don’t panic, we take cameras with us and will take plenty of pictures to record your adventure through Silfra!
4. What is a dry suit?
A drysuit is a big ‘onsie’ which totally encloses your body from neck to wrists and should keep you completely dry by ensuring that no water gets into the suit. They keep you warm by keeping a layer of air between you and the ‘very refreshing’ water in Silfra. In order to prevent water getting in the wrist seals and neck seals need to be quite tight which can make the neck feel a bit uncomfortable, I’ve heard it described as wearing a tight tie! A heavy duty waterproof zip runs across your shoulders sealing you into the suit.
The suits are quite big and heavy and can make moving quite restricted, but once you are in the water they are amazing. The layer of air trapped within them will help to keep you very buoyant in the water and the whole adventure is a little like liquid meditation, you can totally relax into the suit and it will keep you floating on the surface. As a side note, the suits do not work the same as wetsuits, they are more like Vegas, what happen in them stays in them so top tip is to use the bathroom before you join us for the tour!
5. Is this tour for me?
Those who suffer from claustrophobia or vertigo can find this tour more challenging due to the restrictive suits and clear waters respectively. Don’t worry though, we will always help and encourage you, and once you get settled in the water your are more than likely going to have a fantastic time and your guide will always ensure your safety. If you really don’t like it you are able to get back out at the entry point. Although for most of this tour you are following a gentle current in the water you do need to swim against this current at one point so you must be able to swim for your own safety.
For your safety there is a medical form to read and sign as you book your tour and if you have any neurological, circulatory or respiratory problems or underlying diseases, battled any illnesses or have any physical problems you may have to turn in a physicians allowance to participate in this tour. You must be between 12 and 65 to participate in this tour.