Where Is Lake Retba?

Lake Retba in Senegal.

Also known as Lac Rose, Lake Retba is a salty lake situated to the north of Senegal’s Cap Vert peninsula, roughly 18 miles to the northeastern of the capital city of Senegal, Dakar. The name of the lake translates to “the pink lake.” A narrow strip of dunes separates the lake from the Atlantic Ocean. The lake itself extends for approximately 1.2 square miles. The salinity of the water in the lake rivals that of the Dead Sea during the wet season. In the dry season, Lake Retba’s salinity exceeds that of the Dead Sea. Interestingly, there is a similar lake in Australia that is as pink and as saline as Lake Retba. The lake in Australia is called Lake Hillier.

Lake Retba has pink waters hence the name “Lac Rose.” The pink waters are as a result of certain algae that live in the salty water known as Dunaliella salina. The algae are pink because of the reddish pigment that is responsible for absorption of light which acts as an energy source. During the dry season (November through June), the color is more pronounced because of the less water available to dilute the color during the wet season (July through October). The banks are made up of white sand (which is mostly salt) with some sand dunes nearby. Magenta bushes grow on the nearby sandy banks.

Salinity Of Lake Retba

The lake is famed for its high amounts of salt in the water. In fact, in some areas, the salt makes up 40% of the total composition with water mainly forming the rest. The high levels of salinity can be attributed to the salt water from the ocean that makes its way to the lake. When the seawater reaches the lake, water evaporates leaving the salt behind. For this reason, the levels of salinity are even higher than those of the dead seas during the dry season.

The high levels of salinity in the water also make the lake perfect for the collection of salt for consumption and export. Within the region, there are at least 3,000 people who put in between six and seven hours in a day towards the collection of salt. The high levels of salt make it extremely easy to float and swim because of the higher density. However, the collectors protect their skin by applying shea butter to prevent their tissue from getting damaged. Local fishermen also use the abundant source of salt for the preservation of their fish.

With the high salt levels, it is surprising that fish live in the lake. The fish have specifically adapted to the water by developing mechanisms that keep their internal salt levels in check. Despite all their adaptations, the salt water has evolved the fish by making them four times smaller than those that habit normal ecosystems.

Touring Lake Retba

The lake is open to tourists throughout the year. Visitors are also welcome to swim although they are encouraged to use shea butter in order to protect themselves. Lake Retba was even made more popular by the Dakar Rally. The rally often concluded at the lake before its migration to South America.


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