This story appears in the July 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.
A few years ago Ricardo Braz was scrolling through Instagram when he spotted a picture of a tiny island made of salt in the Dead Sea. He added it to his bucket list. In December the 24-year-old freelance photographer traveled to Israel, borrowed a drone, and set off in search of the island.
T minus one day
Heading to the sea: Braz spent a week exploring the desert of Jordan, the ruins of Petra, and the Red Sea during a photography workshop. Then he and friends Vilma Öhrman and Guy Davies rented a car and headed to the border with Israel. The three waited hours for a military drill to finish before they could cross. From there, a shuttle dropped them in Jerusalem, and the next morning they headed off in another rental car for the Dead Sea and a small resort area called Ein Bokek.
T minus zero days
Essential packing list: The Dead Sea is nearly 10 times as salty as average ocean water. Swimming in the sea and exploring the other attractions around it require a unique set of supplies—including some that Braz wished he had thought to bring.
- Swimming goggles
- Extra wate
- A towel
- A drone or contact for drone rental
- Compact down jacket for cold desert nights
- A wide-angle lens
- Hiking boots
T minus zero hours
Ready for launch: “We tried to take pictures of the island from a distance, but it wasn’t even worth it,” says Braz. After a test flight with the drone, the group drew straws to decide who would stay to operate it (Davies) while the others swam to the island. During the 15-minute swim, salt water stung the eyes and dried the mouths of Braz and Öhrman. Neither had brought goggles or a bottle of water. On the island, they basked in the sun while the drone flew overhead, snapping photos.
By the numbers
hours from jerusalem, by car
feet below sea level