Lake Retba, Senegal

Lake Locations:

Senegal -

Also known as:  Lac Rose, Pink Lake

One of the world’s most spectacular lakes, Lake Retba-or Lac Rose as it is known in French-lies gleaming among the sand dunes of western Africa. Unusual as it is to find a natural lake here in the hot and dry desert, Lake Retba garners most of its international attention because it is pink! In fact, at certain times during the dry season, its unique color has been compared to a strawberry milkshake, pink lemonade and among the more pragmatic, Pepto Bismol. The color varies according to whether the water has been diluted by inflow during the rainy season and the resulting condition of the tiny Dunaliella salina algae in the water that create the red color. As the salt content in the lake reaches 40% in some areas, there are no fish in the lake. However, salt extraction is a major local industry. The unusual natural lake is under consideration to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lake Retba is increasingly found on the itinerary of Senegal tourist agencies. Although only about 20 miles northeast of the capital of Dakar, getting to Lake Retba takes about an hour. A small number of resort hotels are located near the shoreline and cater to tourists. Some of the resorts are very modern, offering wireless internet, children’s playgrounds, hot tubs, excellent food, individual cottages and tent lodgings. Many of these hotels offer a swimming pool; the saline content in Lake Retba is too strong to comfortably swim for long periods of time.

Locals harvest lake salt for sale and spend six or seven hours in the water. They protect their skin with shea butter to prevent damage from the salt. Most visitors go for a dip in the shallow lake just to experience the ability to defy gravity, easily floating due to the buoyancy factor of the salt water. The lake’s stunning pink color is a startling contrast to the surrounding desert and dunes that stretch to the Atlantic Ocean five miles to the west. The only greenery found near the lake are the small farm plots watered by hand from wells dug to reach fresh water. Some areas around the shore are salt-caked and show that Lake Retba was once larger than its current size. Scientific study reveals that the lake was once a cove of the Atlantic Ocean which was cut off from the ocean in the long-distant past.

The color of Lake Retba varies widely. Some visitors experience periods when there is just a pink tinge to the water, while others enjoy various shades of pink to a nearly dark red color. There is little precipitation in this desert area; evaporation is high due to unrelenting summer heat, and there are no year-round inflowing streams. So, the dry season has higher levels of salts in the water, and the tint-producing algae proliferate. Most tourists try to time their trip to the lake during the best viewing season. Lake Retba is a popular spot for picnics by locals. The wind blows almost continuously and is the reason for the odd-looking houses in the area that appear to have no roofs. Walls are built higher than the roof to protect them from being blown off.

Many foreign visitors headquarter their visit in Dakar on Cap-Vert, the most westerly point on the entire continent. These areas near the coast can experience very different climate, as cool breezes blow inland from the cooler Atlantic Ocean. A number of resort hotels cater to sea-lovers with beautiful beaches, swimming and water sports. Dakar has modern buildings and offers several museums. One of the museums is located on Goree Island, infamous for several centuries under various European rulers, as an African slave imprisonment and shipping center. Thoroughly modern in contrast to villages just outside of the city, Dakar is known for its shopping, local marketplaces, excellent restaurants, hotels and nightlife.

Senegal is one of the more underdeveloped countries in western Africa and is just coming into its own as a tourist destination. The former French colony became fully independent in 1960, but local strife and border disputes have prevented developing Senegal’s infrastructure. Around Lake Retba, visitors are more likely to see horse-drawn carts than motorized vehicles. Touring the countryside and desert by either horse or camel is thus quite attractive. At least one of the resort hotels can arrange for guests to rent quad-bikes or ATVs which are well-suited for exploring the sandy terrain. Several seacoast resort areas are known for excellent accommodations and entertainment, but areas out of the city such as Lake Retba are often best enjoyed with a knowledgeable guide. Most locals are friendly and try to sell their souvenirs such as wood carvings, handcrafted jewelry and artwork.

Senegal is beginning to develop wildlife and ecological reserves, already offering at least seven major nature preserves. Many visitors to the country try to visit the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, which supports an amazing variety of birds. Another favorite spot is the old French Colonial capital of Saint-Louis. The architecture of Saint-Louis is remarkably similar to New Orleans with wood balconies overlooking the narrow streets. For several years the famous Dakar Rally off-road race, begun in 1978, used to route from Paris to Dakar, ending very near Lake Retba. Because of dangerous travel conditions in the area, the race was moved to South America in 2009 and won’t return to the Dakar area until fighting on the African continent ends. The rally is very much missed in the region, because it brought in a number of tourists bringing welcome dollars for local business.

If you’ve never seen a pink lake, particularly a pink lake seen from the back of a camel, you must visit Lake Retba. All major tourism agencies doing business in Senegal can make sure you see the pink lake and the sites of historic Dakar. A week at one of the resorts along Lake Retba will rejuvenate your senses. The dry season starts in December, so start planning your trip to Lac Rose.

Things to do at Lake Retba

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Swimming Pool
  • Beach
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Lake Retba Photo Gallery

Lake Retba Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Saltwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 640 acres

Shoreline Length: 7 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 3 feet

Maximum Depth: 10 feet

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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