The pink lake in Senegal

The pink lake in Senegal is a true jewel of nature. An incredible wonder that it is hard to believe natural, and yet it is. A totally pink lake, called Lake Retba and a small strangeness of nature so spectacular. Discovery of this pink lake that will make your trip to Senegal magical.

Known as Lake Retba, the color of its waters is due to the high presence of a microalgae that proliferates in highly saline environments.

An atypical landscape surrounded by tropical vegetation facing the Atlantic coast and just a few kilometers from the city of Dakar conquers the hearts of all who visit it. This is Lake Rosa, locally known as  Lake Retba, located north of the Senegalese peninsula of Cape Verde, northeast of the African country.

This curious, bright pink lake owes its color to an algae called  Dunaliella salina , a type of halophilic microalgae that produces carotenoids , a natural organic pigment that ends up being responsible for the reddish appearance of the salt flats. This pigment, the carotenoids, is also responsible for making carrots orange, for example, or bell peppers red.

However, Pink Lake not only has this appearance due to the presence of this unicellular microalgae that proliferates in highly saline environments, it also owes its great appeal to the high level of salinity , even higher than that of the Dead Sea, and to the light conditions. that occur between October and June, which also coincides with its driest season.

Barely 3 square kilometers in size and very shallow, this tourist attraction 35 kilometers from Dakar also involves a natural mining operation with which a large part of the area’s population survives.

Since the 70s of the last century there have been small farms that extract salt from the lake. Senegalese workers enter the Pink Lake with canoes and break the salt formations with sticks, pick it up with shovels and transport it with the same boat to the shore. There they unload it and make piles with it to dry it and bleach it in the sun.

To combat the corrosive salinity of the salt, the workers of these farms rub themselves with shea butter, a leafy tree that grows in the tree savannahs of West Africa with a very high protective action for the skin and hair.

Likewise, the locals not only make use of the salt that flows from Lake Rosa, they also collect the halophilic microalgae, known for its antioxidant power, and transform it into cosmetics and nutritional supplements.

The pink lake in Senegal: Paris-Dakar celebrity

This lake in the village of Niaga, in the municipality of Sangalkam, is a natural curiosity made famous by the traditional arrivals of the Paris-Dakar, which have brought to light this magical jewel of nature. About 30 km northwest of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, there is a lake formed like the basin of the Atlantic Ocean, bordered by sand dunes, palm trees and baobabs. And expect to see shades as stunning as they are varied, changing from pink to mauve depending on the light and the time of day, which the winds will intensify.

Lake Retba is not however a simple postcard that is good to be observed, but a real place of life and above all an important salt exploitation. Considered the largest salt resource in the country, this jewel of nature of almost 3 km² in area supports more than 2000 inhabitants of Senegal.
Day and night there is intense activity. Nearly a hundred people engage in salt mining. Submerged in the lake up to their waists, the men tear off the crusts of salt deposited on the bottom and give them to the women, who are in charge of unloading the salt in huge buckets placed on their heads, then piling it up to dry it and bleach it in the sun for 4 days. As you walk along the shores of the lake, you will have the opportunity to buy freshly extracted fleur de sel, cooking salt or coarse salt.

Despite this exploitation, there are no major cities along the shores. The landscape is still untouched by any urbanization. The picture of contrasts is striking: The white mountains of salt in the distance, the pink color of the lake and the golden sand dunes form a magical painting, like a superb postcard that one would like to immortalize.

Why is this pink lake in Senegal pink?

A 3 km² lagoon with pink water. How can this be possible? In fact, everything is due to the high concentration of salt in the water. There are nearly 80 grams to 300 grams of salt per liter of water, while the normal concentration is 32 grams of salt per liter, on average. This high concentration of salt colors the lake pink thanks also to an extreme cyanobacterium which produces a red pigment in order to absorb sunlight. This is why its unique color is particularly visible during the dry season, during the months of November to May.

How to get to the pink lake in Senegal?

For the curious and travelers fond of discovering the wonders of nature, the pink lake in Senegal will leave you speechless. It is one of the most visited lakes in Africa, if not the world. To be able to admire and get close to Lake Retba, nothing could be simpler, follow our instructions:

There are two ways to get to the pink lake from Dakar, for a journey of about an hour:

Route number one: Departing from Dakar, walk along Diamalaye, the splendid straight beach without bays, or take the national road n°1.
Route number two: If you go through Rufisque and then Sangalkam, your journey will be longer than if you went through Keur Massar, but it will allow you to avoid the many traffic jams, which are quite frequent in Senegal.

Public transport from Dakar does not directly serve Lake Retba, if you do not want to worry too much, opt for a taxi, which will find its way.

In the vicinity of the lake, many camps and hotels are there to accommodate you in Senegal.

Small flat all the same: Recently, the pink lake in Senegal is threatened by climate change, but also by the overexploitation of sea salt. If in the 15th century, the surface of the lake was 15 km2, it rose to 4 km2 in 1976 and has been decreasing ever since.

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