From Iceland — Scuba Diving + Jeeps = F-U-N

Scuba Diving + Jeeps = F-U-N

Published May 8, 2009

Reykjavík Activity Center Tour

This particular tour is very convenient for folks who don’t know their way around Reykjavík, as the good people of the Reykjavík Activity Center pick you up right at your front door, given that you let them know where you’re staying. That seems easy enough. For this Grapevine reporter, it wasn’t. I like to sleep in. Thus, my activity tour started with a lot of wild flailing for clothes and some desperate running out the door.

During all the confusion, shaking hands and attempts to shake off a hangover, I got word that the first thing on our schedule was to go snorkelling in Silfra located at Þingvellir, the Icelandic National Park. Naturally I got very excited: Silfra is rated as one of the top 3 cold water diving sites by various divers magazines. I did get a little nervous upon hearing that the waters in Silfra dance between 2–4° C in temperature. I just shook my head and tried to think of the cold showers I’m prone to taking to freshen up on weekend mornings.

Diving in

After a short (approx. thirty minute) drive, we arrived at Silfra and were handed our very own wet suits. If you haven’t tried putting one on, let’s just say it’s like trying to get the whole of your body into a 7mm thick regular sized condom using only talcum powder as lubricant. I think I broke three nails trying to get the sucker on. Once in the wet suits we were provided with all the basic gear: snorkels, gloves, webbing and hoods, before being lead into the water.

The first thing you notice upon entering the cold, cold water is that it’s surprisingly hard to keep one’s balance. And the fact that the pristine waters of Silfra offer an almost 150 metre visibility in prime conditions does not add to your comfort. My suit started leaking immediately, but I only really felt the cold on my hands and face, both of which immediately stiffened up. The viewwas absolutely breathtaking though. I could compare it to magically floating in the air nine stories up, but that would be a total understatement. The amazing underwater colours add to the experience in a way that can hardly be described with words.

We apparently missed a much greater spectacle due to the sky being cloudy. Our guide informed us that watching the colour spectrum in the water as a thousand rays of sunlight pierce the surface is quite the vista. Better luck next time.

I soon came to the conclusion that snorkelling – while fun in and of itself – is not a wholly fulfilling experience, since you don’t actually get to submerge yourself in the water. It’s more like an appetiser that leaves you wanting more of the same. However, floating in the water and looking down to the seemingly bottomless deep was enough for me right now. And as soon as my face got used to the temperature, I discovered the most pleasant way of viewing the sights: facing the water belly down and submerging my ears to eliminate any aboveground distraction. It really does feel like the sort of awesome dream where you fly through a totally silent lagoon.

The next rite of passage our guide had in store was to jump off a four metre high cliff into the water. Without our diving hoods. It felt a bit like a numbing slap from an ice cold wet rag that smothers your face and threatens to suffocate you.

When I finally got out of the wetsuit, I discovered to my horror that I was actually a lot wetter than I had assumed. From my old woollen sweater to my longjohns, every thread of fibre in my body’s vicinity, was soaked through. And in my hung-over state, I had forgotten to bring extra clothes. So heed my advice: bring extra clothes. You will need them. Things did get more comfy as the guides offered us homemade sandwiches and a small sip of Gammel Dansk to inject some heat into our bodies.

Land Roverload

Next on the schedule was a jeep-trip across a route near Þingvellir, called Hengill. I myself have never fully understood the concept of these jeep tours, but that might be because I can count the times I’ve driven a motorized vehicle with the fingers of my right hand. Also, one thing that subtracted from the overall enjoyment was the lack of view since the snow was coming down hard in huge sloppy flakes. This became worrying after we couldn’t get through the third snowbank we came across on the on the road. The wet snow – called “slydda” – had defeated the Land Rover beasts.

After getting stuck in the snow, we were supposed to go paintballing for some reason. Alas, our paintball guide had apparently bailed on us while we were getting un-stuck. So the very special fun of getting into the surplus amounts of beer brought along for the trip seemed like the only thing left to do.

The trip was pleasant and, trying to see it from a non-local POV, there are a lot of things that are sure to cause great excitement. The tour guides were great people, and that, in my opinion, is one of the most important things in this kind of excursion. All in all it was a great experience; I highly recommend it for people trying to get the most out of a short visit to Iceland.

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