Lake Retba (Lac Rose) – The Pink Lake of Senegal
A fascinating corner of Senegal
Contrary to what one can imagine the tourism in Senegal has actually started many years ago. If I’m not mistaken already in the far 1980 resorts has been built along the costs of Saly but nowadays, for unknown reasons, the country seems struggling to attract tourists. I really can’t understand it!!! Probably it is not communicating enough on its assets to sell itself as a travel destination.
Lucky for me, since I have started to travel many many years ago, it has now become important discovering new horizons which take me really out of my comfort zone. I mean I want to see and know what is there other than my daily life; African countries can’t be missed then right? This is why when I came across Senegal, My Camera and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. There were plenty of things to do in Senegal, beside of its amazing history, there was also an interesting nature which step after step surprised me a lot. Quite apart from the fact that no one spoke English, Senegal was also a super safe country.
Our first stop in Senegal was Retba Lake of Senegal or Lac Rose as it is known by the locals (meaning Pink Lake). Lake Retba, nature’s stunning pink gift to Senegal, has been a tourist delight over the years. It lies just 30 km (18 miles) north-east from the capital Dakar. Self-drive from Dakar (not more than an hour) was probably possible but since we were going to be reached the country in the late evening we planned to move with a driver because part of the route was unpaved with no directions. The ride to our hotel took less an hour and it cost 20.000 CFA. First, they asked us 40.000 CFA, negotiating we got it for half. If you are smart enough you can negotiate the price up to 10.000 CFA, probably even less than that.
As I told you first, it was late evening and we couldn’t find a place to eat. The hotel (Le calao du lac rose) only had bottled water, so we had to settle for chocolate bars we brought from Italy. The hotel, owned by a French man, was only a few steps away from the pink lake. In fact, the day after we walked to the lake and when we arrived close by it, the men sitting here and there wanted to sell us paintings, status or any other handcrafted items. It was our first day in Senegal so we had no idea about how things worked: everywhere you go they want to sell you something. Among them, some offered trips on their wooden boats that we obviously wanted to do.
I have to say that it was really worth it, we paid 5.000 CFA for both of us and the trip was really interesting. It was heart touching to see how people work hard in such a bad condition to take back home just a few pennies.
Nature has a weird way of distributing some gifts unequally. Aside from countries like Canada, Australia, Spain and Azerbaijan, the only African country who beneficiaries of this unique nature’s gift is Senegal. (and of course the Alkaline soda water lake Natron in Tanzania)
The lake is separated from the Atlantic Ocean only by a narrow corridor of dunes and is named for its pink waters caused by Dunaliella salina algae. The algae produces a red pigment which is particularly visible during the dry season (from November to June) and is less visible during the rainy season. I was there in September and as you can see from my photo I was blessed to see it pink.
The lake is known for its high salt content and because of it, only a few organisms can survive here. Men and women work from six to seven hours a day, from dawn to dusk, to collect tonnes of salt with their wooden boats. It was painful to see how the hands and the feet of those people were corroded by the salt.
The lake is only three square kilometres big and there are no big towns developed along its shores.
Before leaving the Retba Lake in Niaga, we stopped by the lakeshore for lunch. I had rice with fried chicken and Alessandro had rice with fried fish. Further choices were not available by the way.
Sadly we stayed only a day in Lac Rose, we wished we could have stayed at least one more day because there were many other options to try: camel ride, quad rides, bathing in pink lake (where you just float even if you don’t swim for the high salt content) or simply exploring the area by walk would have been interesting. Next time maybe? Yes, I want to return.
Our taxi ride from Niaga (Pink Lake) to Lompoul, arranged by Le calao du lac rose Hotel cost 20.000 CFA.