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How I nearly drowned in the Dead Sea!

OK, so “nearly drowned” may be an overly dramatic thing to say, and a lot of people might be thinking, “You can’t drown in the Dead Sea… surely you’d just float, right?”

First some facts about the Dead Sea before I explain…

Al-Bahr al-Mayyit – the Dead Sea (or Salt Sea) is a salt lake bordering Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, and is located in Jordan’s Rift Valley. It is one of the lowest points on Earth at about 1,400 feet below sea level, and it is also pretty deep at about 1200 feet.

The salinity of the water makes it near impossible for anything to live in it, so that is how it came to be known as the “Dead Sea”.

The high salinity (about eight and half times saltier than the ocean) means that swimming is difficult, but the resulting bouyancy provides a relaxing floating experience… well for most people.

The unique properties of the Dead Sea have spawned a number of health resorts, dating as far back as King Herod, so they say…

Now I’ve shared a little information about the lake, let’s get back to my story…

It was a beautiful November day in Jordan and I was with a group of travellers heading to Mount Nebo. You can’t go to Jordan without at least seeing the Dead Sea though, so our route to Mount Nebo was not a direct one allowing us to drive along part of the Dead Sea Highway and also spend a night camped on the shore.

Along the way we stopped to take some photographs and to take a dip in the salty waters.

Now I can’t really swim – I can swim a little in a shallow pool, I just never really got the hang of it. I’ll happily go in the sea up to my waste no problems (as long as I can feel the bottom).

Just before we walked down to the shore line we were warned not to swallow the water or get it in our eyes… remember it is eight and half times saltier than the ocean and I’m sure most people will know what sea water in the eyes feels like.

Once you get close to the waters edge you can see the shore line and the bottom are all white and made entirely of crystalised salt. It is actually pretty rough to the touch and very hard, all jagged edges, and quite sharp to walk on in bare feet.

The feeling of bouyancy as you walk into the water is one of the weirdest feelings that I’ve experienced. The hard, crusty bottom is difficult to walk on…so watch out – I cut my feet a little.

Photograph by fellow floater R. Joe
Photograph by fellow floater R. Joe

Up until this point I was fine and everyone else was already in and floating around in various positions. Some were just floating on their backs, some on their fronts, others in a kind of sitting position with knees up at their chins and hands clasped around their feet – try doing that in normal water!

I was in up to my knees and seeing the fun thought that I’d go for it and take the plunge – though I didn’t think that would be literally at the time. I gingerly walked further out which was actually a little painful because of the jagged crystalised salt on the bottom… then suddenly I slipped on a smooth area which suddenly dropped away to nothing under foot!

I couldn’t feel the bottom… I panicked, and as I turned to try and lunge for the shore my head went under – gulp!

Seconds seemed like minutes (in my head anyway) as I tried to regain my footing and composure. Thankfully I managed to stand up.

People say that when you drown your life flashes before you… well, there wasn’t time for that – all that was in my mind was “get out quick”!

As I have said, we were warned not to get the water in our eyes or mouth as it is very acidic – I had of course done just that… the acidic water doesn’t taste that nice and it felt like it was ripping my throat out as some of it inevitable got swallowed, and my eyes were stinging too!

I rushed back to the truck and washed myself down with bottles of fresh water refilled from the water tank on the truck to get the corrosive salt off as quickly as possible. I washed my eyes out several times too – it didn’t do my contact lenses much good. I also drank loads of water and gargled lots too… for the rest of the day I had a sore throat, but I was otherwise OK… phew!

Despite my plunge into the salty waters I enjoyed the Dead Sea and it is well worth visiting Jordan to see it. The feeling of bouyancy is pretty amazing… just be careful!

Here are some more photographs of the Al-Bahr al-Mayyit – the Dead Sea, Jordan:

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Hi Etsuko, thanks for your comments, the water does sting!!

I see you did the Great Salt Lake Open Water Marathon Swim – well done 😉

Etsuko Abe

Hi, I was looking for people’s stories about the Dead Sea and came across your blog. I am sorry that you tripped in that water, I know it is not a pleasant experience to swallow water when it is exceptionally salty! I am a swimmer and I swim in the Great Salt Lake, America’s Dead Sea. The salinity level of the Great Salt Lake varies within the lake and I am swimming in the part that is less salty but still the water burns my throat when I do swallow.


Hi Kelly. Hope it goes better for you too 😉

Kelly ~HipTraveler

Wow, really funny story, although (no doubt) you weren’t laughing at the time. swimming in the Dead Sea is on my list of things to try one day. hopefully the experience goes a little better than yours ; ) thanks for sharing!

Safe Travels.



crazy sexy fun traveler

Poor you! And with the contact lenses, ouch! Anyway, I cannot imagine not to swim in a lake/sea so it would be a weird feeling for me 😀

Sarah Wu

I’m glad you’re okay. That sounds like a scary experience, but glad you were able to stand back and get out. I’m not a swimmer either. I always drown too when I went to Disney water park. hahah the slide I was in pluge into a pool that I didn’t know it was about 4-5 feet deep. I never swim in my life so I went down and then my bf got me out and I was choking so bad. So I know what you mean when you say all you can think of was how to get out there.


Hi Nadia. We stopped at the roadside and walked down to the shore and the crystalised salt was pretty rough in places and also sharp. We might have picked a bad spot, and I’m sure it is different at the spas.

I probably wouldn’t have drowned as you say, but not being a strong swimmer I panicked!

Interesting about the pulmonary disorder… I just read what you said on Dead Sea Isreal website. For about a year now I’ve had a cough and doctors thought it was asthma… now they say some chronic alergic thing (can’t remember the name)… interesting!


I’ve read a lot of blogs on people’s experience of the Dead Sea, but I don’t remember any of them describing the jagged edges of crystallized salt. Local doctors say that it is impossible to sink in the Dead Sea and drown in the ordinary way, most people don’t drown in it; they trip, fall and swallow the water. The water’s high sodium concentration disrupts the body’s sodium balance. At the same time, it causes a pulmonary disorder, reminiscent of pneumonia.

You are lucky to have regained your composure on time and not swallow more that what you already had.

I’m not a good swimmer myself, so will try to remember to stay close to the shore.


I couldn’t blame you if you sort of panicked then. If ever i get the chance to visit the Dead Sea, most probably i will just deep my feet for the experience. I wouldn’t risk trying any position since i am not really good in balancing 😛

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