By Karlie Marrazzo
The next big stop on our Iceland road trip was the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, in southeast Iceland, just off of Route One between Höfn and Skaftafell. Even though you can still have a fantastic visit without leaving the shore, we really wanted to immerse ourselves in it, so we had booked a Zodiac boat ride long before we left home.
Our ride was booked for 16:30, but we couldn’t contain our excitement and arrived at the lagoon at 15:00. You can start to see some icebergs while you’re still driving on the road. I was practically jumping out of my seat with excitement as soon as I saw them. Even the view from the parking lot is incredible.
We decided to check in with our tour before we went down to the shore to take pictures. As we walked up to the trailer for the company we were to take the ride with, the first words out of the staffers mouth were “I have horrible news”. My heart sank. She told us that the icebergs had shifted and were in the way of where their boats launch, and they had been waiting all day for them to move. She suggested we not even come back because they likely wouldn’t be going out.
We hoofed it over to the visitor centre to see if there were any other companies offering what we wanted. We could see big, touristy amphibian boats that can’t go out nearly as far and held way more people, but we also saw a few other Zodiac boats dotting the shore, so we had hope. Lucky there was one other company that offered a Zodiac trip and they had one more for the day, so we were safe!
Since I started traveling five years ago, I’ve had another travel companion besides Dave, my stuffed penguin, Percy. I always take pictures of him in front of famous sites, etc., but this was the best picture of Percy by far, and definitely his favourite place 😉 We took a handful of pictures and even saw a seal from where we were standing.
The time came to get ready for the boat ride. We went into another trailer to get prepared – a set of super warm coveralls complete with a giant hood, and lifejackets over top.
There were three other couples on the boat, along with the captain. I’d never been on a Zodiac boat before, which is a small inflatable boat with a hard hull. There aren’t proper seats – you can either stand or sit down or lean on the edges.
As soon as we started sailing, I was awed and amazed by our surroundings. Even though we were speeding through the water, everything felt calm and still. The cool air was perfectly silent – I have never heard such silence. We alternated between going full speed with the engine running and drifting softly in pure silence. The icebergs were scattered all about, some small ones that looked like glass, some huge ones that were twice the size of my house, and all shapes and sizes in between. They were white, blue, striped with black (volcanic ash) and clear. They were sharp, they were flat, and some of them had holes straight through. We all know that 90% of an iceberg is under the water, but it’s a pretty incredible feeling to be on a tiny boat beside an iceberg that is as tall as a three story building and trying to fathom how much more is below the surface. Seeing only the tip if the iceberg, if you will.
Our boat went up to about 200 yards of the Vatnajökull glacier, one of the largest glaciers in Europe, which covers 8% of Iceland. We floated there for a while and had time to observe and think. I felt so calm and peaceful. To me, it was nature at its most pure. Sensing a bit of a recurring theme here, it felt to me like what a peaceful death would feel like, and what heaven might be like. I felt so happy there, I never wanted to leave.