Pink lake, treehouses and African beats in Senegal

Fri Oct 2, 2015 1:18pm EDT
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By Makini Brice

LAC ROSE, Senegal (Reuters) - Approaching Senegal's sand dune-flanked Lac Rose, overcast skies hid the sun and, at first, obscured the vibrant pink hue that gives the expansive lake its name.

But standing on its shores, the waters showed their true, improbable colors -- magenta, nearly violet -- lapping against the bottoms of gently bobbing boats and rippling around my hands as I scooped up the salt that gives the lake its fame.

About an hour up the Atlantic coastline from the capital, Dakar, the lake is among the prime attractions in a country that, by virtue of its culture, political stability and good roads, has emerged as a tourist capital of West Africa.

Four hours further north lies Saint-Louis, an island town of age-worn buildings that was once France's colonial capital in Senegal and is today perhaps best known internationally for its jazz festival, held in May.

A half-km (quarter-mile)-long steel bridge built by Gustave Eiffel traverses the Senegal river, linking the UNESCO World Heritage site to the African mainland.

Shielding the island from the Atlantic is the Langue de Barbarie, a sandy finger of land named for the Berbers who once inhabited its small houses. It is now home to a traditional fishing village and, further down, a national park renowned for its bird life.

Hotel Siki (!hotel/c8wu) is cozy, and the labyrinthine Hotel de la Poste (here) offers horse-drawn tours of the city.

After a day wandering through Saint-Louis's narrow streets, stroll over to the Flamingo Restaurant for a tasty yassa, a classic sauce of caramelized onions served over fish. Finish off with iced chocolate cake with honey from Senegal's southern Casamance region.   Continued...

People are pictured on a beach next to fishing canoes in Dakar, Senegal, June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney