The Dead Sea has always been a fascination of mine based on what I’ve learned about it over the years. I’ve always considered it to be on the phantom Bucket List, the list of things I’ve always wanted to do but have never formalized or written down. There have been events I’ve done or places I’ve seen that I later realized qualified as Bucket List but had never considered it possible before hand (such as my stay in an Ice Hotel).
I was granted the opportunity during my last trip to Tel Aviv for work when I took a day trip out to the ancient fortress of Masada and the Dead Sea.
What is special about the Dead Sea?
It is the lowest elevation on earth, sitting at 1.4k miles beneath sea level. It becomes apparently when entering the area around the Dead Sea as you have to pass through a set of “mountains” and make your way down towards the Sea. As we traversed this unique landscape it took me a few minutes to identify that the “mountains” were actual sea level land and that we had descended down beneath sea level to reach this stunning part of the world.
The sea itself is receding with the water evaporating and leaving behind a very dense salt concentration. This, plus the natural minerals in this area, are what make the Dead Sea so special and unique. The water is so dense due to the high salt concentration that it is impossible to swim in the Dead Sea, instead you can only float. This level of salt also ensures that no plant or animal life can survive in this environment, further leading to the name the Dead Sea.
The receding Sea has left a unique area around it with very unstable ground due to the nature of this environment. Sink holes have become more prevalent in the area and have become a nuisance. At one point as we made our way along side the Dead Sea our road took an interesting turn and our guide pointed out that the road had previously continued straight but had been consumed by a sink hole.
What impressed me about the Dead Sea?
I mentioned before that it’s not possible to swim in the Dead Sea, which leads to another interesting observation – that it’s not possible to drown in the Dead Sea. The beach we went to had life guards present and I was able to talk to one of them about his job and duties. He confirmed my observations that the life guards seemed to be focused on helping floundering guests back onto their back, and telling them not to try and float on their stomach. And helping floaters to avoid getting salt in their eyes (which seriously stings, and I barely got a drop in mine).
I visited in the summer and it was over 30°C / 86°F – when I stepped into the water the first thing I noticed was how warm it was. It was very close to the same temperature as the air around me, and there was nothing about it that felt refreshing (that would come later when I showered off the water).
It was suggested that we bring water shoes (and I would recommend doing so, though I did not), because salt often crystallized at the bottom of the sea and could cut into a foot as it was quite sharp. Given the salt density you did not want to be in the water with any open wounds or cuts. I didn’t cut my foot but it was occasionally difficult to walk on the crystallized salt.
As I got further out I could feel the thickness of the water and by the time it reached my stomach I could already sense the difference in buoyancy. I pushed forward away from shore and finally my feet lifted of the ground. When I normally swim the water will come up to my neck but this time it was below my chest, and the feeling was surreal. I bobbed along while trying to find my “stride” as it were in the water to figure out how best to move in this surreal environment.
I’ve been swimming in a variety of bodies of water for my entire life – I had never experienced anything like this in my life.
Floating is truly the only way to explain it but that word does the experience and the sensation on justice.
If you ever have the opportunity to experience it I would highly recommend making the visit. And you’ll be at loss for words to describe this surreal, unique and incredible experience.