SNORKEL BETWEEN TWO CONTINENTS...
When one thinks about a country named ICE-land, their first thought isn’t “The snorkeling must be nice there!” but BOY would you be wrong! Is it cold? YUP! However, I’m here to tell you it was one of the coolest (no pun intended) things I’ve ever done!
If you remember anything from your old geology class, you’d know that the Earth is made up of tectonic plates that move and shift. This is why we have earthquakes and tsunamis! What you may not have realized is that, in Iceland, you can visibly see the rift between two tectonic plates that actively pull apart little by little each year! There are areas of the country that you can visit and walk through, but for those who want a little more adventure, you can actually snorkel between two continents in the worlds cleanest waters!
A Brief History Of Silfa...
As stated above, Silfra is a fissure between two tectonic plates. Specifically, the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and is located in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park. In 1789, Iceland suffered a major earthquake that caused fissures, or cracks to open up in the Earth. Silfra, in particular, cut open a ground spring with the melted glacial waters from the nearby Langjökull glacier and so the fissure became filled with crystal clear and clean fresh water! In fact, since the glacial water is also filtered through lava rock as it makes its way from glacier to fissure, it is said to be the clearest and purest water in the world with over 100 meters of visibility underwater(that’s about 328 feet!)
Picking A Tour...
There are many tour companies that offer snorkeling and diving (you must be certified to dive!) on various websites such as viator, tripadvisor etc. We chose www.dive.is which was a fantastic and professional company! The tour was approximately $120 per person. It included all the gear such as your dry suit, snorkle and gloves, your group guide and hot chocolate with snacks once you got out of the water!
The Chilling Experience...
We arrived to Thingvellir National Park that morning with some time to explore before the tour. This is a stunning area and we recommend you make time before or after your tour to take a look around at the amazing rock formations and waterfalls. We finally made our way to a gravel parking lot with some trailers set up in one area. We found the trailer for our tour company, signed in, and started getting changed immediately! Something to note is that dry suits are very constricting. The tour reached out to us once we booked online for our height and weight. As tempting as it may be, do not lie about your weight! Your dry suit is so tight, that you have one or two guides that help shove you into it! If you give the wrong size the pre-picked suit may not fit correctly and that could mean frigid water filling into your suit!
Some suits are also older than others and so the rubber neck area is a little more worn and stretched. In that case they will fit you with a collar. Yes. A collar around your neck to tighten this opening from water! With that being said, it is important to be mentally prepared if you have any claustrophobia tendencies! This is a worry that I faced and I told them right away. Our guide, Stephen, was so kind and understanding as he helped me suit up. I luckily did not need a collar but my sister did. While she is not claustrophobic, this definitely made her a little nervous! Try not to let the suits discourage you, we quickly forgot our nerves as we started walking to the water and our excitement kicked in to high gear!
After a safety briefing, we descended down the steps into the water in pairs of two. It was FREEZING! To put that into perspective, the water is 35 degrees fahrenheit and the freezing point of water is 32 degrees fahrenheit! You are swimming in water that is about as cold as it can get before it turns into ice! The suits however, kept us dry and my body adjusted enough. The worst part was that your face and hands get soaking wet and so they are freezing! (Pro tip, if you just float and kick with your legs and don’t move your hands, it’ll keep fresh, cold water from rushing into the gloves!)
As soon as you put your face into the water, you are astonished at the beauty that was hidden from you above the surface. You enter a new world of the most gorgeous blue, clear water! There are no fish or wildlife to see, but that is not the purpose of the snorkel. The purpose is to experience swimming between two tectonic plates, how cool is that?! Eurasia to your left and North America to your right. How many people can say they swam in frigid waters between two continents? It is truly an adventure not fit for the feint of heart!
We swam and explored the fissure for about 30 minutes before we made it to the exit platform. When I exited the water my hands and lips were numb, and the water had been so cold that the air outside (that made me freeze my butt off that morning) felt warm! We made our way back to the changing trailer and our guides assisted us to take off the gear and provided us with much appreciated hot chocolate and cookies!
Overall, it was an amazing adventure and I’m so incredibly grateful to have done it, but perhaps it was a one and done experience for me!