Last weekend the boyfriend and I headed to Þingvellir National park and ticked off an item on my bucket list that has been there from what seems like the beginning of time: snorkeling in Silfra. I’ve actually had many opportunities to do this tour, the nice folks at Dive.is had for example invited me to join them numerous times, but the time was never right somehow. Plus I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to the cold and in my mind the only way a snorkeling tour in 2°C (ca. 36°F) warm water could end was with hypothermia. I wasn’t exactly in a rush to jump in.
We could not have asked for a more beautiful day for this tour. The air was chilly but the golden sun lid up the gorgeous autumn colors in the national park: Þingvellir had never looked more amazing. We met our guides by the service center in Þingvellir and after signing some papers and waiting for the rest of our group to arrive we followed the guides towards Silfra fissure where the snorkeling would take place.
I was surprised how many other groups were there at the exact same time and worried that this would impact our experience in a negative way. I later found out that these worries were unfounded because once we were in the water it was like we were in our own little world with no one around. But more on that later.
I can’t write this post without addressing some of the concerns I had the days leading to the tour. First of all I was convinced I would freeze to death so I spent the night before our tour googling bloggers that had snorkeled in Silfra in winter to see what they had to say about it. They confirmed my worst fears: they all practically froze to death. People complained most about cold hands and the walk back from the fissure to where you change into your clothes again. They also all mentioned that the tour had been worth it despite the cold which, I must admit, was reassuring.
Second, every time I do activities that require me to borrow clothing from the company involved I get the same vision in my head: I arrive at the spot and the gear doesn’t fit me so I get left behind while everyone walks into the sunset laughing at the big fat Icelander. This, by the way, has never happened but for some reason the picture of the Michelin Man with my face on it wobbling around trying to get into tiny clothing always pops into my mind. I have some problems.
The gear in question this time around was unusually complicated. You are supposed to wear thermal underwear underneath the gear you get from dive.is. Because I’m the master of being cold I wore two sets. I don’t necessarily recommend that though as you don’t need it. Then you get an insulating layer that you wear underneath your dry suit. It’s basically like a neat little sleeping bag that you happen to wear and its only purpose is to keep you warm. Finally you put on a dry suit that the guides will have to help you get into. You then get some mittens and a really sexy hood (think squashed ninja with big cheeks) and of course the mask, snorkel and flippers.
Because all of these things need to fit quite tight dive.is asks you to send your height and weight to them when you book the tour so they can match you with the right size. Where their system fails is that height and weight alone doesn’t tell you how a person is built so I was faced with my worst nightmare when I put on my insulation layer: it didn’t fit. It was fine on top and around the legs but my butt was too big so I couldn’t zip it up. I was mortified and had to hold back the tears. They would walk into the sunset laughing without me after all.
Thankfully, the super nice guides (seriously, SUPER nice) were very sweet about my predicament. It also turned out that you don’t need to be able to zip the insulation layer, you just have to get it on. And that I could – success! However, it was very tight and made it difficult for me to move and had I known then what I know now I would have skipped the insulation layer all together since I was wearing two sets of really good thermals anyway.
The reason I mention this is not because I love revealing my weaknesses to the world. I simply want to suggest that you are truthful with your height and weight and if you know that you carry more weight in one place than another I would let them know about that too.
The beautiful blue waters of Silfra fissure
After the big task of getting everyone into their dry suits it was finally time to get in. One by one we waddled down the stairs and into the clear blue water. The guides had warned us that the temperature of the water could be a little bit difficult to get used to at first but I can honestly say that it wasn’t bad at all. My hands were fine too. I do know that a lot of people that did this tour and complained about cold hands did it with another company so maybe they use a different type of mittens – at least I was not cold in these.The combination of the dry suit and the insulation layer does an excellent job of keeping you warm and the neoprene mittens and hood are almost as effective.
On top of that, you don’t really care whether or not you are cold once you’re in the water because you are too busy enjoying the amazing view. The water is so clear and the blues so blue that you get mesmerized on first sight and it lasts until it’s time to get out again. It’s beautiful and I’m so happy I finally did this.
Oh and the walk back was nothing to worry about either.
This tour is so worth it and I would recommend Dive.is to anyone wanting to try it. The equipment was really good, the guides really attentive and everything from the briefing before the tour started to the hot cocoa and biscuits at the end of it made the whole experience even more enjoyable.
The only thing I wish I had done differently was to not worry so much about everything. Now that I know how everything works (and that I’m not going to die of cold or get left behind) I really wish I could do it all over again. At the same time I’m quite proud of myself for conquering my fears and finally taking the plunge.
One small step for humanity, one giant step for the timid blogger.
A special shout-out to our guide Louis
When it was finally time to get into the water I felt really uncomfortable and was on the verge of having a panic attack. I felt very constrained by the gear and was still worried about the cold. This of course was all my problems and had nothing to do with Dive.is, the equipment or their guides. I’m also not used to the snorkel and having to breathe through it overwhelmed me. Until the moment I actually put my face into the water every fiber in my body wanted me to get out of there.
What made all the difference was the guide Louis. He first went out of his way to make me comfortable during that whole equipment debacle and when I mentioned I was feeling uncomfortable on our way into the water he calmed me down by talking me through it. Once we were in the water he held my hand while I was getting used to the water and he didn’t let go until he was sure I was OK. He never once made me feel bad about myself and I was amazed how nice he was. When we left I was so thankful that I had to stop myself from hugging him.I didn’t want to be that girl.