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Iceland Mag

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Park rangers want stricter rules at Silfra: poorly prepared divers, some "barely know how to swim"

By Staff

  • Silfra The combination of the volcanic rock, and the crystal clear waters makes diving in Silfra an unforgettable experience. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson.

Park rangers at Þingvellir National Park want to limit the number of visitors to the popular diving destination Silfra fissure. Park authorities fear that too many, and more importantly too many poorly prepared guests, make it impossible to protect the safety of visitors. An American traveller died while snorkelling in the fissure on Sunday. Since 2010 five serious accidents have taken place at the fissure, including three fatal accidents.

Read more: American traveller drowns while snorkeling in Silfra fissure in Þingvellir National Park

The park lacks the legal authority to impose limits either on the number of visitors or tour companies operating at the fissure. A bill which would grant the park authority permission to impose limits on visitors at the fissure is currently in preparation, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV reports.

A higher entrance fee, stricter rules
A spokesman for the National Park told RÚV that the park authorities were worried about the rapidly growing number of visitors at the fissure. 50,000 people visited last year. The growing numbers and frequent accidents make it crucial that the park have a permanent guard at the fissure. The park wants to hire a trained diver who could both monitor the operations of the tour companies who sell tours to the fissure and come to the assistance of anyone in distress.

To finance a permanent expert guard at the fissure additional funds were needed, requiring the hiking of the admission fee to the fissure from the current 1,000 ISK (9 USD/8.4 EUR) per diver to 1,500 ISK (13.3 USD/13 EUR).

Visitors should be required to have more experience diving
Monitoring the diving at the fissure is further complicated by the fact that Park Rangers are not charged with monitoring tour companies operating at the fissure. This is the responsibility of the Icelandic Transportation Authority.

In an interview with RÚV a park spokesman also points out that the tour companies who operate at Silfra are in a difficult situation, as their customers are frequently completely unprepared for what they are getting into. Even those who claim to have diving experience are often unprepared for the dive. But their experience is diving in the Caribbean, where conditions are completely different from the icy water of Þingvallavatn lake:

"The water is just three degrees Celsius (37.4°F), and I just have to tell it as it is: Many of the people who go down into the fissure don‘t even know how to swim properly."

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