A pink lake for most people is the stuff of fairytales and imaginary universes. For the people of Dakar, it is a very present reality.
Lake Retba, also known as Le lac rose – The Rose lake – is a breathtaking sight a few kilometres north of Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.
The lake is separated by a narrow stretch of golden sand dunes from the Atlantic Ocean and has an extremely high salt content of about 40% on average. The salinity content compares to that of the Dead Sea on a normal day and even exceeds it during the dry season.
The lake’s pink colour is as a result of the Dunaliella salina bacteria, which is attracted by the lake’s salt content. The bacteria produces a red pigment in order to absorb the sunlight, thus giving the lake its pink colour which is especially visible during the dry season, from November to June and less during the rainy season, July to October.
On a regular day at the lake, salt miners populate the shores. Mostly locals, they hand-mine salt at the bottom of the lake with baskets and canoes, piling it in dunes on the shores of the lake. When the salt is dry, it is then transported to Dakar for sale.
Lake Retba is however not the only pink lake in the world. It shares it’s wonder with lake Hillier in Australia. Lake Retba is also considered by some as the Dead Sea of Africa and covers some 3 square kilometers, about 1,1 square miles.