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Snorkelling the Clearest Waters in the World in Sub-Zero Temperatures – Incredible Iceland

January 7, 2017
Scuba Iceland Snorkel Silfra review

It’s not everyday you snorkel in water that floats around 2 degrees, tucked into the rift between two tectonic plates but that’s exactly what we got to do in Iceland!

With snow on the ground and a chill in the air, we were promptly picked up from our hotel by Scuba Iceland and after collecting another two sets of guests, made our way out to the Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir).

Warming up inside the visitors centre, Astrid, our guide, filled us in on both the geographical and political significance of the area.  Much more than just a national park, the rift valley has an interesting history, having been home to the viking parliament in Iceland (where they understandably only met in the summer time!) and now one of the best examples anywhere in the world of the effects that consistent tectonic plate movement can have.  Looking back over the valley, it’s clear where the American and Eurasian plates stop and the gap in between – the rift valley – provides the perfect spot to snorkel and dive in some of the clearest water in the world.

Back in the van, we headed over to another site, only a few minutes away to get suited up.  With water temperatures staying a daily constant 2-4 degrees regardless of the time of year, the same equipment is used year-round.  We stripped down to our base layer of thermals (no need for swimming togs as with any luck, you won’t really get wet!) and donned smooshy marshmallow-like onesies for warmth.  On top of those went wooden socks and then the hard part – getting into our dry suits.  After a fair bit of pulling, squeezing and manoeuvring, we were snuggly in our suits.  With seals checked, we added neoprene mittens and hoods, masks and snorkels and flippers to our outfits and were ready to go.

We began the relatively short walk over to the entry point at the start of the fissure, where a platform and stairs have been built to assist adventurers in getting in.  Good thing too as after waiting around for about 30 minutes in sub-zero temperatures, we appreciated having an easy point of entry to the water!

Tentatively making our way into the fissure, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  It was the first time in a drysuit for any of us and the feeling of water closing in around first our boots and then our legs and torso, whilst remaining dry was an interesting one.  

Before we knew it though, it was time for our hands to enter the water and our faces – suddenly we had first-hand knowledge of just how cold the water was!  Throughout the snorkel, our hands and face/head were the only things exposed to the elements but it was a good thing that was all as I don’t think my fingers have ever been so cold!

After approximately 30 minutes in the water, we curved back into a sheltered lagoon where the option to continue snorkelling around was given.  With hands like ice-blocks, I charged right for the steps and clambered out of the water to begin thawing them out.  Standing there, looking back on the water, I couldn’t help but feel like we’d just experienced something that most people would never get to.

After making the relatively short walk back to the vans, we got out of our gear (which was a heck of a lot easier than getting into it!), warmed up in our own clothes and enjoyed a delicious treat of the most amazing hot chocolate (complete with cookies to dunk).

Snorkelling through the Silfra Fissure was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  We were mesmerised by the beautifully crisp, clear water and the rock formations surrounding us.  Jumping in was a real adrenaline rush and as we snorkelled along, it was hard to believe that we were in the middle of two tectonic plates, swimming through an Icelandic fissure that was covered in snow with crystal-clear water that hovered just above freezing – one for the bucket list for sure!


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Scuba Iceland Snorkel Silfra Rift Review

Thank you to Scuba Iceland for allowing us to join them for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

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