Bacteria

Senegal Is Home to The Bubblegum Pink Lake Retba

There's something unique about Senegal's Lake Retba. Take a quick glance and you'll know what we mean: The lake is naturally a milky, opaque, bubblegum pink color. But how did this happen? And, more importantly, is it safe to dive in and swim?

So Salty

Lake Retba looks like a stop on the Candyland board, but it's a real natural body of water that sits less than an hour away from Dakar, the capital of Senegal in West Africa. It stretches three square kilometers and is nestled between pearly white sand dunes and the Atlantic Ocean. The dreamlike pinkness of Lac Rose (as it's known by the locals) comes from the Dunaliella salina bacteria. The bacteria gather here because they're attracted to the lake's high salt content—its salinity compares to that of the Dead Sea, and during the dry season it exceeds it. The bacteria produce a red pigment to absorb sunlight, and voila, that's how you get a pink lemonade lake.

According to its website, Lake Retba is most vividly pink during the dry season (November through June), and less during the rainy season (July through October). But if you want to see a giant, naturally pink bathtub, you could visit Australia too. The continent's Lake Hillier is also a brilliant pink for the same reasons as Senegal's.

Cannonball!

Before you plan your African vacation to this scenic spot, you're probably wondering the obvious: Can you swim there? Pack your suit, because swimming is completely safe in Lake Retba, and it's even encouraged. In fact, most species can't survive the high salt levels in the lake, so it's really only used as a tourist swimming hole and a site for salt harvesting. Pro tip from the harvesters: Cover any open wounds you may have with shea butter before jumping in the lake unless you want a surprise sting of salt.

A Firsthand Look at Lake Retba, Senegal

In this video, you can see just how miners harvest lake from this lake.

Written by Curiosity Staff March 13, 2017

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.