Snorkeling Silfra was something that we absolutely had to do in Iceland. I didn’t care the cost or how cold it would be. I was doing it. Silfra is a UNESCO world heritage site and a nature preserve as not only is it a small glacier stream that feeds the largest natural lake in Iceland but it is also where the American and European tectonic plates meet or rather, where they are spreading from.
Every year Silfra is getting larger as the earth pushes the American and European plates farther apart and you can FREAKING SNORKEL OR DIVE THIS GIANT FISSURE IN THE EARTH! So ya, it was awesome. However, there were some things we wish we would have known ahead of time.
I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world but I would have liked to have been prepared so I didn’t have to change in a portapotty….
So here it is, our ten tips for snorkeling Silfra:
1. Dry suits. If you have never used dry suits before for snorkeling than you may be unsure of what this means. A dry suit is not really a type of wetsuit so you don’t need to worry about bringing a bathing suit. You actually go in fully clothed. Dry suits were explained to us as the “wetsuits” that James Bond uses in order to dive and then come out perfectly pristine in his tux so leave your bathing suits at home. It is awkward if you bring it…..
2. You probably don’t want to get into your dry suit in jeans. When we arrived I was wearing jeans because well, I am from California, have no winter clothes and it was the coldest May in Iceland in 40 years and I had no idea what a dry suit involved. Needless to say wearing jeans would not have been comfortable so I had to change in the lovely portapotty into leggings. They say that for the dry suits to keep you warm you don’t want to wear too many layers. I wore leggings and an under armor type shirt and Alex wore long underwear and a tshirt. We also both wore wool socks. We were as warm as you can be in 2degree celsius water.
3. Remove all jewelry before putting on the dry suit especially if you have a watch or a bracelet. The dry suit has rubber along the wrists to stop water from getting in and jewelry hampers this. Also the rubber at the wrists is also the most delicate part of the suit so you do not want to poke a hole through it. A woman in our group had to get her wrists taped because she forgot to take off her watch and they did not want water to get in.
4. If you are snorkeling Silfra, wearing your GoPro on your head won’t really work. You are going to want to hold it in your hand. We don’t have a stabilizer for ours yet (Even though we really need to invest in this GoPro The Handler) so we had the tour leader strap Alex’s camera to his wrist and then we also put a leash on it. You do not want to lose your camera down there as some sections are over seven stories deep. Make sure you get it strapped on!
5. You are only in the water for 35-40 minutes. This may seem like a short time especially since it is a four hour excursion but believe me you will be freezing by this point. So don’t be disappointed when you hear that, your body can’t take more time in the water anyways.
6. If you are meeting the snorkeling company in your car, make sure you are at the right information center. It is pretty easy to get to but there is a Visitor’s Center and an Information Center so make sure you are at the Information Center (if you are snorkeling Silfra with Dive.IS. For other companies check with them). The Information Center is after the Visitor’s Center if you are coming from Reykjavik.
7. Your clothing may get wet so it is good to have something to change into afterward. It doesn’t happen to everyone but it happened to me. My dry suit was not completely dry and I did get wet and I didn’t change. Then the whole day afterward I was uncomfortable. Save yourself the trouble and just bring a spare set of clothes to change into.
8. If you want to take your time go last, not first. We thought going first would be best so we would not have any other people in our video shots. This would have been great… if our group was patient but they were all in a rush. I actually felt rushed because people kept swimming into me and not realizing that there were people ahead of them. Silfra is quite narrow at some points and this can be uncomfortable. So my suggestion is to go last. That way you can take your time and enjoy it without anyone rushing past you. For me, it is something I might not ever do again and I wanted to be able to go slow and enjoy it.
9. Check out the giant crevice in the lagoon just past the rocks in the center. Once you reach the lagoon at the end it is pretty shallow but there is another crevice just past the rocks at the center. Swim over there carefully as it is quite shallow and you will be rewarded with another very deep crevice and you can have it all to yourselves.
The deep crevice is just past the rocks in the middle of the lagoon.
10. If you are lucky your group will dive back into Silfra after the swim from the cliff just before the entrance. Our group didn’t get to do this but as we were walking back to take pictures we saw a group jumping off the cliffs into the water. I don’t know what you have to do to be able to do this but it looked awesome!
And here is a bonus for you…
11. Don’t accidentally erase your video footage like we did. Yup, we did that. So just be careful with your footage!
Have you snorkeled Silfra before? Any other tips you would add to the list?
Heading to Iceland soon? Don’t forget to buy travel insurance! Sure you may not use it but its always good to have. We recommend World Nomads which we have been using for years and have always made us feel secure as we travel around the world!
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