Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure
For our second visit to the land of Fire and Ice, we decided to try some different and unique expeditions. We had visited the Blue Lagoon and toured the Golden Circle during our first visit a couple of years ago. While at a viewpoint on our Golden Circle tour last time our guide showed us the continental divide and the American and Eurasian plates. He told us that we could snorkel or scuba dive the Silfra Fissure. Not knowing when we would return, my husband and I agreed that we would try it on our next trip to Reykjavik. Well, we were returning so we booked our place on the snorkel adventure.
We met our guide at 7 AM on the morning of our snorkel. He was so excited to take us into the very cold water that morning. He told us it was a warm day in Reykjavik as the temperature was 55 °F. Coming from Atlanta, this temperature was equivalent to about February or March for us. But the sun was out and the wind was not as strong as usual, so it was a beautiful day.
We arrived to the Silfra site and were one of the first groups to arrive. We were given a thermal layer to put on over our own long sleeve and long tight clothing. The thermal layer was similar to a human shaped sleeping bag, at least that is what our guide called it. We were wearing two pairs of thick socks to help with insulation once we got into the water. Our next layer was the dry suit. The reason it has this name is because it keeps all water out. This is different than a wetsuit that allows water to penetrate the suit, but helps with trapping a warm layer of water around your body. Wetsuits come in different thicknesses, but even the thickest wetsuit at 9 millimeters, would not allow for adequate protection when diving or snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure. The dry suit has rubber seals around the neck and wrists so that water does not seep into the suit. The suit has attached boots so that you do not need ankle seals as well. Our next piece of equipment was neoprene mittens. These allow our thumb and index finger to operate individually, but puts your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky all together. The mittens are pulled up over your wrist seals and you are told not to use your hands to swim in the water. This method allows your hands to warm the water around your hands and fingers and not be moved away. Constantly getting new cold water next to your hand is what makes the swim unbearable. I opted for keeping my hands out of the water in front of me or placing them on my back. This kept my hands dry for the entire swim and they did not get cold. We finally put on neoprene hoods to keep our heads warm. At this point only our eyes, nose, and mouth were not covered by the dry suit or a thick layer of neoprene. We received our mask, snorkel, and fins and set off to the entry point for our swim.
The water we were about to enter comes from a glacier, so it is extremely pure and crystal clear. No fish or other aquatic animals live in this water because it is so pure. You usually have to be careful when clearing your snorkel in the ocean because you do not want a large mouthful of saltwater. On this snorkel adventure you could drink the water, but not too much, because the dry suits keep water out of the suit and in the suit. We received help donning our fins and then made our way into the water. Having never been in a dry suit I did not know what to expect as I entered the water.
I floated very easily! And my face is freezing! Our guide told us that our lips would take about 2 minutes to go numb and then we would not feel the cold water anymore. He was correct! As I floated along I had to remind myself I was in water. As an avid scuba diver I have never dove in fresh water and nothing as clear as the Silfra fissure. The sunbeams coming through the water looked magical. And the green algae tinted the water and put it in contrast to the various shades of blue that were made in other parts of the lagoon. It was very easy to move forward using your fins more with a sidekick and not an up and down flutter kick. Since we were on the surface a flutter kick only allowed slight movement because your fin came out of the water half the time. We spent about 30 minutes in the water and came to the exit point. I had a hard time keeping a tight seal on my snorkel, so I knew my lips were very numb and could no longer keep the water out of the snorkel that is how I decided it was time for me to end my snorkel adventure.
We walked back to the lot and took off our dry suit, thermal layer, and neoprene equipment. As our lips were no longer numb we drank some hot chocolate and soaked up the sun. I noticed that there were now lots more guests waiting to get into the water both at the entry point and in the lot. I told our guide I was glad that we were the first group of the morning as it was very peaceful and not hectic during our snorkel.
If you are into adventure I highly recommend this tour. We booked our snorkel with Dive Iceland, and as the name suggests you can also do this tour with scuba tanks and all the same cold-water gear. We did the snorkel because we are not dry suit certified and were not sure if we would ever want to dive in other places that require a dry suit.