Swimming in the Sand
How can this deep blue water exist in a vast sea of sand dunes? You would be forgiven for thinking that something this perfect must be man-made; perhaps a film set for an epic Saharan adventure.
This is better than the oases of your wildest dreams; a long lake fringed by date palms and flawlessly sculpted sand dunes all around it. The colour contrast of the blue water and yellow sand is sublime. My first sight of Libya’s Ubari Lakes will never be forgotten.
The journey to get there was equally memorable. Our little convoy of Toyota Land Cruisers, affectionately called Japanese camels by our drivers, crawled up and sped down impossibly tall dunes. One particular monster hill became an impromptu circus show with each vehicle going down one at a time to the applause of the rest of the group.
I got carried away with the majesty of it all and found myself in a state of euphoria, dancing along to the Libyan pop music blasting from the radio. The great explorer, Sir Richard Burton echoed my feelings: “...your fancy and imagination are powerfully aroused, and the wilderness and sublimity of the scenes around you stir up all the energies of your soul...the glorious desert. Where do you hear of a traveller being disappointed by it?”
Swimming in the lakes is a delight. The water is full of salt so you float on the surface, but you will find yourself forcing your body to submerge because the surface of the water is actually quite chilly. The deeper down you get, the warmer the water is, so you have this lovely sensation of the top half of your body being cool but the lower half feeling like you are in a warm bath.
Gebraoun Lake has an abandoned village. I poked around the shells of buildings where people once thrived on the only creature that lives in these lakes - a tiny red shrimp. They would grind them into a paste to make cakes or trade them for goods from passing caravans.
I walked along the ridge of sand on one side of the lake. There were no other footprints apart from mine because we had this place all to ourselves - the beauty of travelling in a country that receives few tourists. It was a steep drop to the shore of the lake, but there was never any risk of tumbling because of the grip that the sand affords. From this perspective I could see just how remote and unlikely this location was for a body of water; dunes rippling off towards the horizon and nothing else. The glorious desert indeed.
Colin travelled on Libyan Desert Explorer (AYL) and is one of four runners up in our travel writing competition.