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Published: March 1st 2018
Boatman on Lake Retba
Lake Retba has a feature which makes it different from just about every other lake in the world: The colour of the lake's water is pink
A pink lake, which is not very pink, a colonial city, which lacks colonial buildings, and an old town, which is not so old
Here comes the second blog entry from our Christmas/New Year vacation in the Gambia and Senegal. Since we spent much more time in Senegal than in the Gambia we also have more to write about from there. We will divide the Senegal part of the trip into four separate blog entries. This one will focus on three places: Lake Retba, Dakar and Saint-Louis. Lake Retba Lake Retba
is a lake just north of Dakar which is a popular place to visit for people who travel in Senegal. There is a beach near the hotels/resorts and there are several activities you can do but the main attraction is the lake itself. Lake Retba has two features which makes it different from just about every other lake in the world:
1: The colour of the lake's water is pink
2: Lake Retba might be the saltiest lake in the world
The lake's odd colour has given it the nickname “Lac Rose” which translates as “Pink Lake”. But
Lake Retba is just north of Dakar and is a popular place to visit for people who travel in Senegal. There is a beach near the hotels/resorts and there are several activities you can do but the main attraction is the lake itself.
to be honest it only looks slightly pink and it only does so in the right season in the right light. When the light isn’t right the colour becomes more maroon. The pink colour originates from an algae called an algae which thrives in salty water, and Lake Retba's water is very salty.
Lake Retba’s water has extremely high salinity. A chemist would probably say that the solution is saturated, which means that there is so much salt in the lake that the water has reached its limit on how much it can dissolve. Actually the bottom of the lake is not mud or sand, like in other lakes, it is pure salt. Harvesting salt from the lake is a big local business and the method of extraction is very simple: they stand in the lake and scoop up the salt.
Ake had a swim in the water and he found it to be hilarious. The salty water has much higher density than fresh water and the higher density leads to higher buoyancy and that makes you float better. Or in laymen terms: If you lie in the water you bob like a cork.
"Pink Lake" sounds better than "Maroon Lake"
The lake's odd colour has given it the nickname “Lac Rose” which translates as “Pink Lake”. But to be honest it only looks slightly pink and it only does so in the right season in the right light. When the light isn’t right the colour becomes more maroon.
Is Lake Retba the lake in the world with the highest salinity
? Wikipedia says there are two other bodies of water, one in Ethiopia and one in Antarctica, with higher salinity. However, it may be argued that they are too small to be called "lakes". One has the maximum depth of less than half a meter and the other has a maximum length of only 60 meters. If we define them to be "ponds" rather than "lakes" then Lake Retba would be the lake in the world with the highest salinity. Dakar Dakar
is the capital and largest city of Senegal. Before we went there we hoped that there would be a well preserved colonial city centre, lush green parks dotted around the city and interesting modern architecture in the suburbs. It turned out to be very little of that. Only a handful of buildings from the 19th century still stand and the only one we really wanted to see, the central station, was being restored and therefore looked more like a construction site than anything else. Also there were fewer parks than we hoped and the ones we saw were far from being "lush and green" and modern architecture
Harvesting salt, scooping it up from the bottom
Lake Retba’s water has such high salinity that the solution is saturated. Actually the bottom of the lake is not mud or sand, it is pure salt. Harvesting salt from the lake is a big business and the method of extraction is very simple: they stand in the lake and scoop up the salt.
was also scarce. Sorry to say it but Dakar was less interesting than we hoped it would be.
Having said that we can go on to write about what there is to see, because a few sites worth mentioning do exist.
: An island, just outside Dakar, which was important in the slave trade. There are plenty of buildings left on the island from the days when European countries still thought it was OK to kidnap African men and women and ship them across the Atlantic Sea under horrific conditions. There is at least one museum on Gorée with some exhibitions on the island's dark history and there are two fortresses and several other buildings of great historical value. We can add that the island is a world heritage site.
• African Renaissance Monument
: A large statue, supposedly the tallest statue in Africa, depicting a man, a woman and a child. One interesting fact about the statue is that a North Korean company helped building it.
• Pointe des Almadies
- the westernmost point on the African continent: Strangely enough they haven't made this into a tourist attraction. Other extreme points on various continents, such as Cape
Bobbing like a cork
Ake had a swim in the water and he found it to be hilarious. The salty water has much higher density than fresh water and the higher density leads to higher buoyancy and that makes you float better. Or in laymen terms: If you lie in the water you bob like a cork
of Good Hope, Nordkapp and Cape Horn, are well known and popular places to visit. To us it would make perfect sense if they had turned the Pointe des Almadies into a compulsory place to visit if you are in Senegal, but they haven't. There was preciously little written about it in the guidebooks we had. When we came there, although there were several restaurants and cafés lining the shore there was not a single sign mentioning the geographical significance of the place. We wanted to take a photo of the sandspit which was furthest out in the ocean, something we find to be a perfectly normal thing to do at a place like that, and the locals who were hanging there were even reluctant to let us do that. Saint-Louis
it is the old town which is the main attraction. Even though it is known as an "old town" it doesn't feel very old. It is a pretty place though and it is nice to walk around there. We wanted to catch what makes Saint-Louis old town special, the quintessence of Saint-Louis old town. It took us some time to figure it out
Abandoned wheel loader
The wreck of a wheel loader covered with ivy. Nothing special about this other than we think the photo looks good
but to us it was the many balconies. Almost every house in the Old Town has at least one balcony. We took photos of many of them and we have decided to publish them in a separate a separate blog entry.
One of the first things we saw when we came to Saint-Louis was a big poster advertising a free concert with the Senegalese singer songwriter Youssou Ndour
. He is if not the only at least one of very few musicians from Senegal famous outside Africa. What a fabulous experience it would have been to see Youssou Ndour live in Senegal. Unfortunately the timing was completely off. The concert was several days after we visited Saint-Louis and no matter how we tried to rearrange our plans we just couldn't stay and see the concert without wasting several days on nothing.
The fishing industry is big in Senegal and that is hardly surprising since they have a long coast. In towns and cities along the Atlantic Ocean this is testified by the presence of fishing vessels of various sizes. In Saint-Louis there were hundreds of fishing boats in the harbour and thousands of people make their
Pointe des Almadies
Pointe des Almadies - the westernmost point on the African continent. It might be argued that the correct spot is outside this picture. It wasn't billed as an attraction and people there didn't even seem to understand the geographical significance of the place
living off the ocean.
From Saint-Louis we also made a daytrip to Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary. That daytrip and more we will tell you of in later blog entries from Senegal.
Before we quit for now we would like to write a little about religion and holidays in Senegal. The dominating religion is Islam but there are also some communities where most people are Christians. They are very tolerant towards and respect each other. So much that both the Islamic and the Christian holidays are national holidays. To us it sounds like a good idea. Anything that gives us more holidays is a good idea.
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