A Float in The Dead Sea

A visit to the Dead Sea is a highlight for many visitors to Israel and Jordan. It is the lowest point on the earth’s land surface, at over 420 meters below sea level. It is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, which makes conventional swimming almost impossible. 

Due to the it’s salinity, few plants and animals flourish in such a harsh ecosystem. The unique chemical and mineral makeup of the sea’s water and bordering land have been used for many things. Dead Sea mud is world famous for it’s healing qualities for skin problems, like psoriasis and dermatitis. Another mineral, potash is used in the production of fertilizer. 

I’d spent the second week of my Israel trip in the north, finishing in the Tel Aviv area. I rose before 6 A.M. for the drive across the country. After a brief stop at Qumran, site of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery, I headed south along the shore to Mineral Beach. 

I’d asked a number of people I met while traveling the country about the best place to do my dip in the Dead Sea. The overwhelming impression I got from people (and the guidebooks I’d read) was that the most popular place to do this was the resorts in or near the town of Ein Gedi. This also sounded like the most crowded place, something I was eager to avoid. A couple of American girls had told me about the resort at Mineral Beach, less crowded and off the tour bus path, and this sounded perfect to me. 

The admission fee for a locker and towel at Mineral Beach was 50 Shekels (about $13 USD). I dressed and showered in the locker room, and then locked up my valuables in the provided locker, as advised by all the guidebooks. Apparently, theft is a big problem on the beaches of the Dead Sea (but not as much at private resorts like Mineral Beach). Being by myself, I had locked up my good DSLR camera in the car and brought only my point-and-shoot to the beach area with me.

 A short walk down the hill lead me to the beach area. There were two different signs spelling out the different rules of the resort and advice for people taking their first swim in the Dead Sea. Most of these I had read about before, both in numerous blog posts and in my guidebooks. The big ones, emphasized over and over again, were to be cautious about the getting the water in your eyes or mouth. I set my towel down on one of the many chairs and headed to the water. I walked slowly backward in to the water as advised. 

Sure enough, as soon as I was waist deep in the water, I felt my feet slide forward and out from under me. For one panicked second, I thought I was going to plunge backward in to the water and sink below the surface, but it never happened. My head stayed above, and I was basically in the same position one would be in when sitting in a lounge chair. My feet floated above the surface, but 75% of my body remained below the surface. 
The water had an oily feel to it, and was warmer than any natural body of water I had ever swam in. I floated for a while, enjoying some cooling from the blazing hot day. I had a small cut on my leg from where I had bumped a stone wall in Jaffa a few days earlier, and that burned as I had been told it would, although it never became so painful that I had to leave the water. I lounged in the water for about 20 minutes, never quite getting comfortable with the position and the feeling that i was going to sink if I untensed my stomach muscles.

I didn’t stay at the beach at all after getting out of the water. I wanted to shower and get all of that salt off my skin. Showering thoroughly with lots of soap was another piece of advice I had read many times. I also wanted to get back on the road. I had intended to hike in Ein Gedi National park, a short drive down the road, and my lodging that evening was at a camel farm even further south. 

I would definitely recommend the experience of floating in the Dead Sea to any visitor to Israel or Jordan, as it is a singular experience. Even if you don’t have your own transportation as I did, there are many tours to the region from Amman and Jerusalem. 

Leave a Reply