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THE COLOUR OF SALT

Namibia's Kaleidoscope Coastline

 

When the billowing plumes of Atlantic mist part to reveal the enchanting Dorob coastline, expanses of vividly coloured water sprinkled with thousands of lesser and greater flamingo appear in a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of colour. Flying this section of coastline is in short, an aerial photographer’s and nature lover’s paradise and will take your breath away.

To the north of the Dorob coastline, brine pans line the shores in a display of colour, shape and texture that leaves one's heart racing with the ethereal beauty of it all. Further south a patchwork series of lime and raspberry saline lakes, edges encrusted with crystals, sparkle against a treeless landscape until they reach the shores of the Walvis Bay Lagoon.

The cold Benguela current and its nutrient rich waters, the commercial saline lakes and the Walvis Bay lagoon collectively made the area famous for the incredible profusion of bird life it attracts each year. In this saline ecosystem vast quantities of phytoplankton are produced which support other marine organisms such as algae and brine shrimp, food for many hundreds of thousands of resident and migratory birds including flamingo, pelican, cormorants, terns, avocets and a profusion of shore birds.

So how is it that these saline lakes display such gaudy colours? From lime green, clear turquoise to bright red these variations are caused by fluctuating concentrations of salinity and minerality and the various organisms that flourish in each. Cyanobacteria creates the blue-green tones and an algae called Dunaliella salina creates the rich pinks and reds. Brine shrimp rich in beta carotene are responsible for the rosy pink colour of the flocks of flamingos that forage this watery wonderland.