Retba is a pink lake that feeds and destroys the local population
Retba is a pink lake that feeds and destroys the local population

Lake Retba, or as it is often called - simply Pink Lake - is located in Senegal, just 20 km from the Cape Verde Peninsula. This is the only lake of its kind in all of Africa - you cannot see real rose water anywhere else on the continent. It is both a heavenly resort and a hellish place for daily work.

Pink lake in Senegal Locals walk along the lake in wooden canoes

The lake is less than an hour's drive from Dakar, and used to even be the final destination of the Paris-Dakar race. Now it serves as a tourist attraction, as well as an excellent source of salt - the salt content in the water reaches 40%. At the same time, there is no industry near the lake that could be blamed for changing the color of the water.

The pink waters of Retba lake

In fact, everything is much simpler. Due to the high salt content in the water, the bacteria Dunaliella Salina are ideal for living here. The bacterium produces a red pigment that helps it absorb sunlight. That is why the color of the water changes - during dry seasons (from January to March) the pink color of the lake becomes more intense. Although sometimes the lake drastically changes color even within one day: from pale pink to rich, from light rusty to almost chocolate brown.

Salt mining is the main source of income for local residents

To make sure that tourists linger by the lake, resorts have been equipped next to it, which look like real paradises. And this despite the fact that it is impossible to stay in the lake itself for more than 10 minutes - this is fraught with severe burns on the skin. And at the same time, you can see that such restrictions do not bother the local population at all, who spend hours in the water mining salt.

The pink color is due to the presence of a special bacteria in the water

It is believed that about a thousand people work in the lake every day. They collect about 24,000 tons of salt annually, most of which is exported to other West African countries, especially the Ivory Coast. It is this craft, along with tourism, which is a source of income for the local population.

Salt mining in Senegal Salt from Retba Lake

So how is it possible that locals can be in very salty water and not get burned? The whole secret lies in the fact that they generously apply shea butter to the skin - it is it that protects against the harmful effects of rose water. The same oil, of course, is also offered to tourists - they can also try to swim and swim in the salt lake and take a couple of dozen great photos. But local workers can not go anywhere without this oil - apart from the fact that it saves them from salt burns, it also protects them from sunburns. In Senegal, the heat is often higher than + 36C, and it is not pleasant to work in such conditions.

Keita, one of the salt miners at Retba Lake

On average, one worker in the lake collects about a ton of salt per week. The local population does not work for a company, but on their own, leaving for Dakar to sell their production. There they sell this salt for $ 35 per ton. “It's very beautiful and peaceful here,” says Keita, one such worker. "But the work is very hard." It is almost impossible to get any job here without education and qualifications. Therefore, he continues to spend time day in and day out at work in the salt lake. “If I had the opportunity, I would leave. I'm on the brink of survival here."

Tourist paradise on the banks of the Retba Pink lake in Senegal Lake Retba

In our article "Terrible pages of history" we talked about another attraction of Senegal - the island of Horus, which at one time was the center of the slave trade.

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