Diving Silfra Fissure in Iceland
We can definitely tell you that water in Silfra is perfectly safe for drinking. We swallowed more than a few gulps while adjusting our buoyancy. This was our first dry suit dive.
What is the Silfra?
The Silfra in Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park is the separation between the North American & Eurasian tectonic plate. It has been rated as one of the top 10 dives sites in the world for its unique visibility & geology. With a reputation like that we had to take this bucket list dive in Iceland!
You will need to be a certified scuba diver by a recognized organization. If you do not have a scuba diving certification, you can still check this off your bucket list and snorkel in the Silfra. Whether you're diving or snorkelling the dry suit will be your best friend. While a wet suit keeps you warm by keeping a layer of warm water in between you and your suit, a dry suit keeps you warm by keeping a layer of air in between you and your suit. We felt comfortable during our dive outside of the water and in the water. It was the coldest day during our 14 day trip in Iceland at -8°C (18°F) and the dry suit kept us warm.
Silfra is a fresh water rift with a visibility of over 100 meters (300 feet)
Water comes from an underwater spring of melt water from the Langjökull Glacier
The clarity of the water is from lava filtration - a process taking 30 - 100 years
Consistent water temperature of 2-4°C (36-39°F)
Dry Suit Diving
Although dry suit certification is not required, we would have benefited from some prior experience. Dry suit diving is a bit different than wet suit diving and we have found a lot less intuitive. It takes more experience to master the buoyancy.
We decided to book this with Arctic Adventures. Under your dry suit, you wear a thermal layer. The tour company provides a fleece top, overalls & fleece socks. Then you are suited up in a dry suit where the shoes are attached in one piece. After this only your head & hands will be exposed. Afterwards the seals at your wrist and neck are checked and closed off. Finally you put on a neoprene hood & gloves. Your head & hands will be wet during the dive & kept warm by the thick neoprene layer. You will need to provide you height & weight at the time of reservation to make sure that they will have the correct size dry suit for your dive.
Although you are suited up very close to the dive site across the small gravel road, it was not an easy walk with over 50 lbs of equipment on your body (almost half Jessie's body weight!). You are fitted with a 6 lb weight belt, 8 lb weighted vest, followed by your BCD (Bouyancy Control Device) and tank.
The buoyancy check they perform prior to your dive is to ensure that you could sink. The reason for this is because the layer of air under your dry suit will make the diver more buoyant. The air in the suit is controlled by a button in the centre of your chest (sort of like Iron Man). You would continue to use your BCD to control bouyancy.
It was very cold the day we dove, so we had to make sure we do not allow our equipment to freeze. Even your glove would freeze to the metal railing if you held on for longer than 5 seconds. Once in the water, all equipment must stay in the water and you cannot breath into your regulator outside of the water to prevent freezing. Once I stepped off the platform, I sunk like a rock. Mission accomplished! The problem came when it came to rising back to the surface by inflating my BCD. My BCD was frozen and no matter how hard I pressed it, it wouldn't inflate so our guide had to help bring me back to the surface.
Following our guide through the Silfra, we had to follow one after another because there were some narrow parts. The problem with this is that if you have a situation, it would be difficult to communicate with everyone's back turned to you. Just as our guide checked if we were okay and we had both signalled back that everything was fine, I started dropping suddenly at what seemed to be the deepest part of the fissure. I shouldn't be panicking but I really was as I could no longer equalize my ears as fast as I was descending. My BCD may have been slightly frozen inside or maybe my hands weren't as dextrous under the slightly large gloves. After what seemed like an eternity, Mitch turned around, swam down & held on and inflated his BCD. Thank goodness for dive buddies!
The challenge with dry suit diving is anticipating when you are too buoyant and dumping out air as soon as possible. By the time you realize that you're too buoyant, next thing you know you pop up next to the snorkelers above!
Halfway through the dive, my legs started feeling cold as if I were wet but shrugged it off as maybe the cold was finally catching up to me. Mitch & I are at the exact maximum and minimum height and weight for the dry suits, so I figured it must be because of my small size that the cold would affect me more. Finally when the dive was over & it came time to remove my suit, I was soaking wet underneath. It wasn't so bad. The water was actually kind of warm.
Despite the challenges, we had a very memorably dive and would highly recommend this experience to divers & snorkeler alike! Although there was no marine life to speak of, the Silfra is a beautiful dive with the sun rays piercing the clear glacier water. Definitely one of our most memorable dives and we hope to dive again in Iceland.