Africa”s Alien-Like Landscape…Danakil Depression, Ethiopia…

Sulphurous hot springs, salt-encrusted wastelands, temperatures that soar as high as 50C – Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression is home to a kaleidoscopic world unlike any other.

Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

Strangely beautiful, geographically fascinating

Sulphurous hot springs, salt-encrusted wastelands, temperatures that soar as high as 50C – it’s hard to imagine a harsher spot to call home than Africa’s Danakil Depression. Not only is it one of the planet’s hottest places, it’s also one of the lowest, driest and most tectonically active. But for the adventurous few who journey to Ethiopia’s remote northwestern corner, the rewards are two-fold: a glimpse of kaleidoscopic terrain unlike anywhere else and a peek into the self-reliant Afar people who continue to survive living there. (Tanveer Badal)

Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

A surreal swirl of sulphur, salts and minerals

Dallol, the Danakil’s lowest point at 116m below sea level, is known for its mix of sulphur, iron oxide and other mineral deposits, which form a shocking rainbow of hues. It’s a raw, shifting, bubbling terrain. This strange earth, alongside all the other otherworldly landscapes of the Danakil region, is the result of three deep rifts that geologists call the Afar Triple Junction. This warring trio, tearing the earth apart with incredible force, has birthed the Danakil’s volcanoes, hot springs, sinkholes and bizarre land formations. Scientists estimate that when the rifting is complete in about 10 million years, the Red Sea will completely engulf the Danakil and create a new ocean. (Tanveer Badal)

Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

A less-relaxing hot spring

Water is a scarce, precious commodity in the Danakil Depression, and unsurprisingly, steaming, sulphurous pools like this one aren’t potable. According to our Ethio Travel and Tours guide, Yonas Hailu, the Afar people distil a healing skin treatment out of the pool’s yellow, syrupy liquid – but he implicitly warned against just sticking in a finger. There are very few springs with fresh water in the area, and rain falls, well, almost never. (Tanveer Badal)

Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

The great salt flats

One of the Danakil’s most distinctive features is Lake Karum (also known as Lake Assale or Lake Asale), one of two crystalline salt lakes on the northern end of the Depression. As this low-lying area was once fully submerged in saline water, the lakes are a remnant of ancient times. Studies have estimated that the salt here is – incredibly – about 2km deep. (Tanveer Badal)

Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

Walking on (salt) water

Blindingly white, expansive Lake Karum is often covered with a shallow layer of briny water an inch or so deep; don’t expect a refreshing dip. But it is easy to stroll around this huge basin. Underfoot, flakes of salt snap with a satisfying crunch. (Tanveer Badal)

Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

The big business of ‘white gold’

Salt blocks, called amolé, were once used throughout Ethiopia as money. Cash has now replaced the salt as currency, but the ancient trade – mining blocks of “white gold” by hand – remains a core livelihood for the northern Afar people. (Tanveer Badal)

Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

All-important beasts of burden

Camels, the sole domesticated animal uniquely suited to survive in this harsh world, transport the bundled blocks of salt as they have for hundreds of years. A single camel can carry about 40 salt blocks per trip. At the time of reporting, each slab was selling for approximately $0.25, with the price increasing the farther the salt travelled. (Tanveer Badal)

Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

No luxury hotels

Most visitors to the Danakil sleep in handmade bed frames, tied together with cords, placed under the stars (with hopes for a breeze). The experience is about as far from a luxury vacation as it gets, but given the unforgettable world you’ll encounter – from florid terra firma, to oddball formations, luminous salt lakes and the proud, fiercely independent Afar – it’s an adventure well worth the hardships. (Tanveer Badal)

SOURCE:::::KellyPhillips Badal in