Imagine you are floating through a crack in the earth between two continental plates that is filled with crystal clear water, and the rocky surface below you is covered in the most incredible shades of blues and greens that you could ever imagined. You’d think this only exists in a dream right? Wrong. It is located in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park in the Silfra fissure. The Silfra fissure is a crack between the two continental plates of North America and Eurasia. More importantly is the crystal clear water that fills the fissure, and the lake, have come from the glaciers and filtered underground, through the volcanic rock of the island for over 100 years, before breaching the surface resulting in one of the top dive locations on the globe.
After parking down the road from the address on google maps, we walked to the meeting location at 8:30AM. It had been raining all morning, but now it was coming down quite heavily and we were stuck outside waiting for the rest of our group and the guides to arrive. Note, we, like everyone else, did not have any of the gear since it was provided by Extreme Iceland. Thankfully suiting up into the gear was quite efficient and quick. First, we hop into a snuggie-like insulated suit that would be our under-layer. Next, came the heavy, constricting dry suits. These puppies, once zipped up, made us look like we just came off the set of Interstellar. Once everyone had their dry suits on and sealed, we all tried getting the neoprene gloves and hoods on, which became quite the sight to see since it was way harder than any of us expected. After all that, we were covered head to toe and making fools of ourselves trying to pretend we were in outer space before given the snorkel, mask, and fins.
At the dive platform, we spit inside our masks to prevent from fogging up while diving, which surpassingly worked and I had never even known about this before (they were washed out before we put them on our face). Then, one by one, we took the plunge into the 38F, crystal clear water. Fortunately the suit was sealed, as promised, and I kept dry as my neoprene hood and gloves began to absorb water that my body would then heat up and keep me comfortable. Then the most incredible part happened as I tilted my head down, submerging my goggles under the waterline, and witnessing the most beautiful sight of my life. Pictures will never do this location/experience justice. Above the water, you are surrounded by dark rock, overcast skies, rain soaked moss, and snowy mountains in the distance; but under the water is a whole different world of the brightest blues that contrast with the prettiest greens.
The water has a visibility of over 100m, which is more than most swimming pool’s. You look to your left, look to your right, and then you look down the narrow fissure and realize you’re finally here and swimming between a crack in the earth that separates two continents. I immediately wanted to dive and explore, but for any of you that have tried to dive in a wetsuit, will know it’s difficult. But now imagine trying to free-dive in a drysuit which is 3x more buoyant since it traps air inside. With shear determination, and a little coaching from our guide, Frasier, I was able to break the surface and submerge myself a few meters at a time. I just wish I learned to clear my ears a little better, I regret it for sure.
The fissure itself is broken up into four distinct sections, which our guide explained beforehand. First is the Big Crack, next is Hall, followed by Cathedral, and last is the Lagoon. The depth will vary throughout the fissure, from one meter (3ft) to 18 meters (54ft). There are a few locations, especially the beginning, to dive down and touch both sides of the fissure, which means you are technically in two continents at the same time. Pretty sweet. One of the most unique part of the experience, besides the views, is that there is a current that pushes you through all the sections, which means you will barely have to swim at all, just float. The four of us; however, were constantly diving over and over again, seeing how deep we could go and trying to swim under and around rock. Because the suit and hood is so restricting, especially as the pressure increases during a free-dive, it becomes very disorienting to know where your body position is and how deep you are. This resulted in all of us constantly knocking into one another when we came back to the surface.
During one of my dives, I almost got trapped under a shelf of rock. Because the current kept pushing me forward and I couldn’t really look around as I dove; during my assent I looked upward and only saw the blackness of a rock above me as the current kept pushing me into a cave like spot. I’m not going to lie, I had a split-second panic, but once I recovered I kicked as hard as I could to fight the current and used my arms to push off the rocky shelf to reach the surface again. Luckily everything was fine, but my buddy saw the whole thing and definitely made fun of me for it.
The experience ends with a free swim around a lagoon that is the size of a basketball court. The sand is a pristine shade of white and only a couple meters below, allowing you to dive down to run your hands through it. We all explored the lagoon in search of some wildlife and to look into the cracks. By this part of the snorkel, you will have zero feeling in your fingers, but don’t worry they are still attached and you’ll regain feeling in them by the time you reach the gear vans again, so keep swimming.
Once all four of us exited the water and got our picture taken, we couldn’t stop retelling the sights and experiences that happened only a few minutes before. I call that, “reminiscing immediately”. By the time we got back to the vans to remove all the gear, we couldn’t get our gloves off because none of us had mobility or feeling yet. The guides helped us out of our lobster gloves and soon enough, we were out of the drysuits and back into our plain clothes. Extreme Iceland provided all of us with hot chocolate and cookies in the attempt to warm us up as quickly as possible.
This experience will be one I plan to retell and talk about for the rest of my life. I cannot say this enough, for anyone who intends to go to Iceland, this is a MUST! This whole snorkeling tour, which includes the rentals and a guide who floats in front of you the whole time (and takes pictures for you to buy at the end), cost only $138. Which is quite cheap, in comparison, for a guided tour in Iceland.