Senegal`s Pink Lake does not always look like a strawberry colored Lake. It is still worth a visit!
Our first excursion out of Dakar went to the Pink Lake, also called Lake Retba, an hour’s drive northeast of the city. We rented a taxi for six hours and went out on tour. The Pink Lake might have been, or attempted to be made into a major tourist attraction. But for us the first impression was very disappointing. The many hotels and lodges around the Pink Lake were dilapidated and sad and the sea was not pink at all, just dull gray! The color is dependent on the weather; it has to be sunshine for the pink color to come forward. On our day of visit it was overcast and all colors got dull and grey. The Pink Lake is so salty that no life can survive. Because of that we did not even experience any bird life either. The only thing the Pink Lake could offer on this day was some souvenir sellers at the waterfront, and they were quite annoying.
After the initial disappointment, we decided to join a guided tour of the area and rented a jeep with a driver and got us a guide. It was a very interesting tour and we got to see many other exciting things. We highly recommend taking such a guided tour if you travel to the Pink Lake. Our guide, Ndongo Gueye, spoke excellent English and did a superb job. A guided tour by jeep cost 25,000 XOF for 2 people.
We did a one and a half hour drive where we were told about the extensive salt industry at the Pink Lake. Between 20- to 30 thousand tons of salt is manually taken up from the lake each year. Salinity in the lake is over 350 grams per liter of water. Which according to the guide is higher than in the Dead Sea. Salt is dogged up from the bottom of the sea and it is free for people to gather salt from the lake. About 6,000 people work here during one year. It takes approximately 4 hours to fill a boat and in total the boat can contain 1 ton of salt. It is harmful to stay too long in the salty water; therefore it is common to work only four hours in the water per week. But for these efforts you gain 100 Euro, so it is no wonder that many people dig for salt in the Pink Lake.
They extract three types of salt from the Pink Lake and they have different degrees of roughness. Once the salt is dug up, it is black, but then after being dried in the sun for 3 days the salt turns completely white.
Furthermore we saw how farmers grew vegetables in the shell sand. Tomatoes, parsley, cabbage and root vegetables were all flourishing along the lake. Very strange to see such green stuff growing in the white and dry shell sand.
We visited an over 300-year-old village lying between the dunes that separate the Pink Lake from the Atlantic Ocean. After the stop in the village, which was quite poor but beautiful, the driver decided to do a savage execution into the dunes. The journey ended on a wonderful sandy beach where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean really rolled towards the coast. This sandy beach stretches from Dakar and up to the city of St. Louis, 3 hours drive north.
Well back to the Pink Lake we could barely see a glimpse of pink. The pink color comes from algae, minerals and sunlight. Down to the sea you will find a restaurant at Hotel Palal. It is simple, but they serve delicious seafood.
The Pink Lake is now being evaluated for possible inclusion on UNESCO World Heritage List. Previously the lake area was the target for the Dakar Rally, which is now moved to South America.