Pink Lake of Dakar – Senegal
One of the places that I wanted to surely visit when I got the opportunity to visit Senegal was Lake Retba or Lac Rose which literary means “Pink Lake”. I really could not imagine that a lake would be pink and checked on Google search that indeed it was pink. I had a real tight schedule and the only time I got to go around the city was during the lunch breaks. I usually had a real heavy breakfast and skipped the lunch in order to utilize the time for some local sightseeing. Wolof and French are the two languages which are used in Senegal and unfortunately I could not speak any of them. Wolof is the local West African language which was impossible for me to figure out so the next best option was French. Well speaking of French I knew only two words Bon Voyage and Bon Appétit. Luckily I managed to get a cab driver who could understand few words of English and negotiate using the calculator in the mobile phone. He agreed for a round trip for 20,000 CFA which roughly translates to 2000 Indian Rupees. This was a good deal considering that I would travelling exclusively and he would be my unofficial guide.
Reaching Lac rose – Lake Retba
Though he would speak French as a guide but I would imagine and assume what he would say. I had informed Pape (the cab driver) to pick me up from the hotel at around 12.30 PM and strictly professional he was waiting outside. I usually seat in front next to the driver as that would give me the best view of the surroundings and also would let me break into some conversation with Pape about Senegal. Do not under estimate the roads and infrastructure of Africa, we were travelling 100 + KMPH on four lane high ways with the most dynamic view of the city. It took a little more than one hour to reach Pink Lake and from a distance it really did not look that pink. As we were driving next to the lake shore sometimes the lake really looked pink. I got down and looked at the lake waters carefully and found that the lake water looks pink if you look at it from a particular angle. It is also dependent on the position of the sun and the wind factor.
The Reason For the Red Color
The colour pink is caused by Dunaliella Salina Algae which prefers salt water. This lake known for its high salt content, up to 40% in some areas. You can see men with boats going around the lake collecting salt and taking to the shore to dry. The salt content is considered higher than Dead Sea thus logically you won’t drown. I avoided the swimming part since I was travelling all alone and wanted to avoid leaving by backup unattended.
All around the lake there were huge salt mounds and men could be seen shovelling the wet salt to dry them under the sun. I tried tasting the water and it was extremely salty, so much so that my hand had become sticky with the salt. You can go for a boat ride on the lake if you please, also there were the provision for driving a 4X4 dune motorbike over the sand dunes. Pink Lake is separated from the Atlantic by a narrow strip of sandy desert so you can also feel the experience of mini desert.
Colour of the lake depends on the seasons, it is more prominent during November to June and is less visible during the rainy season July to October.
There are many hotels and restaurant around the lake, if you wish to you can spend a night or two enjoying its beauty for a longer time. This will also allow you to go for a quick swim in the lake as most of the hotels have showers installed outside to clean up the salt.