What to see in Sénegal
The eye-popping pink waters of Lake Retba are a must-see highlight of any tour of Senegal. Bubblegum pink Lake Retba, separated from the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean by a narrow stretch of sand dunes, seems like something from a fantasy. In fact, the magical colour of Lake Retba is the result of Dunaliella Salina bacteria which lives in the water and produces red pigments in order to absorb sunlight. Situated around an hours drive from the capital of Dakar, Lake Retba covers 3 square kilometres and has a high enough salt content to rival the Dead Sea in Jordan!
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the lake is a vital source of salt, collected by an estimated 3,000 salt miners who head out onto the waters of Lake Retba to harvest the salt from the bottom of the lake, piling their modest fishing boats high with valuable salty crystals before returning to the shore. Along the shoreline, enormous mounds of salt are cleaned and processed and commonly used to preserve fish, a staple of traditional Senegalese cuisine.
Few creatures can survive in the potent waters of pink Lake Retba except for very small fish, who have adapted to the super-salty environment. Because there are no fish to catch, Lake Retba is used solely for the purposes of harvesting salt and as a popular tourist attraction. If you are wondering whether you can swim in Lake Retba, you’ll be pleased to hear that the answer is yes! To the delight of travellers who visit Lake Retba, its milky waters are safe for swimming, but be prepared for a bouncy ride as the hypersalinity of the lake water makes it exceptionally buoyant. For the most spectacular hues of pink, visit Lake Retba in the dry season between November and June.