The World of Colourful Lakes

March 27, 2017

I love nature and all the breathtaking things that come along with it, which are full of life. The sun and the moon, the hills and the valleys, the fields and the meadows, the rocks and the sinkholes, the oceans and the seas, the streams and the waterfalls, the ice and the snow, the mist and the dew drops - the list can go on.Mother Nature is stunning and spectacular in so many ways that makes this Earth a lot lovelier to live in. Of all the 'cool' places on earth, lakes and other water bodies are one of the most fascinating that add to the charm of this already enchanting Planet.There are numerous lakes spread across the world that feature a variety of colours far from the usual colour of water. From salt lakes in Africa to volcano pools in Indonesia, these stunning bodies of water feature every colour of the rainbow and its variations. It is a world of colourful lakes out there where the Continent of Australia has had its due share.

My love for the lakes began in first standard when a student of Shri Saraswathi Vidya Mandir (SSVM), Jayanagar, Bengaluru. As a six year old, I followed a religious procession from the school to Lal Bagh Lake where Lord Ganesha was immersed as part of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. From then on, during our visits to Lal Bagh during weekends, which was a couple of km from our abode in Wilson Garden, my siblingsand I never missed to pay a visit to this lake, spending a lot of time there in the evenings - feeding the ducks, gazing at the dancing monkeys and watching the beauty of the sun set that reflected on its waters. Gradually, apart from this lake, we as a family often visited the Ulsoor Lake for boating and other recreation, thanks to dad's governmental perks. During Middle School, we, a group of friends used to have our lunch almost everyday on the banks of the Sampangi Lake within the premises of Kanteerava Stadium that was right opposite our school on Grant Road, now known as Vittal Mallya Road.

When we think of a lake, we are reminded of the aqua colour of the waters like a Sea or an Ocean. These two lakes, a few minutes from our current dwelling which we often visit - The Banjo Paterson Lake Park in the suburb of Lynbrook and Lysterfield Lake Park in the suburb of Lysterfield, we have watched the colour of the water turn from the natural aqua to light brown to deep brown and back to aqua at different times of the year. During the so called 'brown water' phenomenon, the Parks Authority bars the public from venturing into the water for any recreational activities due to health concerns.

A lone swan swam in the waters of the Banjo Paterson Lake in Lynbrook that had turned brownish at the end of January

The water of the Lysterfield Lakein Lysterfield at end January was aqua in colour, the gradual muddy colour change would occur during the course of the year

During summer - that is from the months of December to February in this part of the world, another of the saltlake on Melbourne precincts comes alive. The water of the Westgate Lake Park turns purplish on extremely hot days, the heat triggering an algae reaction.

The Salt Lake in Westgate Park in downtown Melbourne turns purplish during summer on extremely hot days

During our recent road trip covering the length and breadth of the two Australian States - South Australia and Victoria, we had planned to pay a visit to five colourful lakes. However, we missed out on the Purple Lake in Purple Downs due to shortage of time as it lies far from downtown Adelaide, approx. 550 km northwards. On our return drive, we had to give a miss to the White Lake in Douglas, Victoria as family consensus favoured the hills on another side. Nevertheless, we covered the Blue, the Green and the Pink Lakes, the visit to these water-bodies being an extra-ordinary experience in itself.

During our visit to the Blue Lake, we observed the water very calm, still reflecting everything around, like a sheet of glass

Nestled on a gorgeous volcanic landscape, in one of the most modest and unassumingly beautiful places hidden along the glowing coastline of South Australia, the Blue Lake inhabits on one of the extinct volcanic craters of Mount Gambier. The lake in the Limestone Coast region of South Australia is one of four crater lakes on Mount Gambier maar. Of the four lakes, only two remain, the other being Valley Lake (Green Lake). The remaining two-Leg of Mutton Lake and Browns Lake, have dried up over the past 30 to 40 years as the water table has dropped.

During December to March, the lake turns into a vibrant cobalt blue colour, returning to a colder steel grey colour from April to November. The exact cause of this phenomenon is still a matter of conjecture, but it is generally considered likely that it revolves around the warming of the surface layers of the lake during the summer months to around 20 °C (68 °F), causing calcium carbonate to precipitate out of solution and enabling micro-crystallites of calcium carbonate to form. This results in scatter of the blue wavelengths of sunlight. During winter, the lake becomes well mixed and recent research indicates that during this phase, the colour cycle of the lake is somewhat murkier due to the redistribution of tannins and calcium carbonate particles throughout the lake. The movement of planktonic life-forms within the lake during the seasons and during the day may additionally play a part in the colour change. Another theory is: It is generally thought that the blue colour is due to the limestone within which the lake is set.

The blue colour is not isolated to Mount Gambier's Blue Lake, as there are several similar lakes around the world like the Blue Lake at Montezuma in Oregon, USA, which is also in a volcanic crater.

Whether the reasons for the 'vivid cobalt blue colour' of the Blue Lake are weather related, to do with limestone or algae: 'the mystery remains deep within the waters of the lake itself'

The Blue Lake is Mount Gambier's main water source and hence there is no permission for swimming in the lake. A mixture of storm water and underground water flows into the Blue Lake to replace the water pumped from it. However, over the last few years, the water level of the lake has gone down by at least 2 metres.

During our visit there, I observed the water very calm, still reflecting everything around like a sheet of glass. On the tour that takes us very near to the surface of the lake, I must say the word 'stunning' would bean underestimated adjective, to describe it!With the Blue Lake as our guide, following its circumference, the relaxing walk on its 3.7 km track was another pleasant experience.

Half a dozen blue lakes can be found throughout Australia. We had seen a couple of them on our visit to the State of Tasmania in January 2014, though I must admit, the water was not this amazing turquoise blue. Nearby New Zealand and other areas of the world have these blue splendoursas well, in exquisite settings.

Our drive to the Green Lake amidst greenery abounds, between the hills and the valleys wereakin to being in Paradise!

Green is my most-liked colour and amongst all its shades,Algae green/Olive greenare my super-favourites. Apart from my best-loved colour, it is also the colour of life.

The Green Lake as I would like to call it or the Valley Lake as it is officially called is adjacent to the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier in the State of South Australia. Since the city's most popular recreational lake is a volcanic crater, there are beautiful hills surrounding the lake and from the vantage points of these hills, the lake looks dazzling!

There are no tickets and no opening night, the only performer being a wide expanse of water set deep in the seat of an approx. 5000-year-old volcano. It is a hidden gem amongst the crater lakes in Mount Gambier. Our drive from the town centre to this lake was extraordinary travelling on twists and turns amidst avid greenery between the hills and the valleys, with the exception of the sky above. We felt as if we were in paradise.

The vivid green tinge of the Green Lake that was formed by a volcanic crater, is due to the blue-green algae

The colour of the lake is due to blue-green algae. The blue-green algae,although of non-toxic varieties, due to the levels recorded in the lakestill have the potential to cause skin irritations in sensitive individuals apart from breathlessness. The lake is also suffering from contamination with high levels of bacteria Enterococci that poses many health risks as well. The presence of bacteria is an indicator of pollution of the water. People however have ignored these warnings and have continued using the lake for recreational purposes.

You would be stunned to discover the images of the varieties of Green Lakes in the world just by surfing the Internet. The different shades of green are full of awe and wonder! The green shadesgoing hand in hand with the flora and faunawith picture perfect landscapes that surround these lakes - simply they look out of the world!

The Pink Lake that looks like a large pool of light raspberry juicewith its solemn pink colour is salty and mesmerizing

This rosy Pink Lake that we had the privilege to visit in a place called Dimboola in the State of Victoria is a picture of surreal and lays 350 km north-west of capital Melbourne. From the different viewpoints on the rest-top, the lake looks astounding like a pool of strawberry milkshake.

We took the built-in path down to the lake, to have a look at it close-up. Walking along the route, we noticed yellow gums, buloke trees and paperbarks, giving way to the smaller and very distinctive salt tolerant plants that grow in this unique environment. From the shore, the lake water looks more transparent but still very, very pink.

The pink colour of the water comes from a pigment secreted by microscopic algae. They tend to have a striking colour due to the presence of the algae that produces carotenoids, such as 'dunaliella salina', a type of halophile green micro-algae especially found in sea salt fields. Once the lake water reaches a salinity level greater than that of sea water, the temperature is high enough and adequate light conditions are provided, the alga begins to accumulate the red pigment 'beta carotene', helping it to absorb sunlight. While 'dunaliella salina' algae are normally green, it relies on beta-carotene for photosynthesis, which can turn the algae red and make the water appear pink. 'Dunaliella salina' alone isn't the sole contributor to this unique pigmentation as there are other red-coloured microbes, including a few species of archaea, along with a type of bacteria called 'salinibacter ruber'.

The colour of the Pink Lake is due to the presence of red algae, that along with the solid salt bed of the lake, create this unusual hue

The intensity of the pink varies with the amount of water in the lake. The pink is at its most intense after rain, due to fresh nutrients being washed into the lakes, which in turn trigger the growth of algae. When the lake is drier, more light is reflected from the white crystallized salt reducing the impact of the pink. Hence, at these times, the pink fades into a paler colour that is almost white.

The salt was commercially harvested from the lake for many years from 1916 to 1979 and some of the relics from that time can still be seen near the edge of the lake. While going around the lake and experiencing its elegance, I did take a chance to taste its waters that was terribly salty, dissimilar to many sharp tasting refined salts. The pink water isn't toxic and hence it's safe. Another individual was busy filling a plastic water bottle with the lake water and I noticed that the pink hue in the bottle remained.This lake proves how something considered not so pleasant – algae – can make it look so beautiful.

There are more than a dozen Pink Lakes in Australia alone and we came across a couple more on our journey by chance other than the rosy Pink Lake in Dimboola. Amongst all the Pink Lakes here, I believe Lake Hillier in the State of Western Australia is more striking due toits 'solid bubble gum pink' colour surrounded by lush vegetation.Many countries in the world have Pink Lakesincluding Senegal, Canada, Spain and Azerbaijan. I am however not sure whether the same algae gives thecolour to these pink lakes as well.

Driving north-west through nearly five hours from Mount Gambier which is on the south-eastern tip of South Australia to capital Adelaide, we discovered lakes that were jet black in colour. Whether they were really black, or they were reflecting black during summer, or the waters turn that way due to some reaction, or there was something wrong with our eye balls that we could see them as black, I have absolutely no idea. We found heaps of them and that was interesting in itself.

Driving from Mount Gambier to the city of Adelaide covering approx 450 km, we came across a lot of so called 'black lakes' like the one pictured in Coonawarra

In my introduction, I mentioned that 'these stunning bodies of water feature every colour of the rainbow' where red is a dominant first colourin a rainbow. But, I wouldn't like to visit a red coloured lake, which may be dubbed as a 'blood lake' even if I had a chance. Just like we wish a student to do well in his/her exams to 'come out in flying colours, except red' the colour apart from being the 'blood colour' appears to be a colour of 'danger' as well. It's no offence to readers whose favourite colour is red (as I like it too) but I am exclusively focussing here on the 'red coloured lake' which would appear as a 'large pool of blood.' For what I would think of, visiting a Blood Lake would not be a great experience after all,feeling repulsed by the 'absence of the attraction factor' because of sheer red. Blood Lakes are found in France in Europe, Iraq in the Middle-East, Tanzania in Africa, Bolivia in South America and a few other countries.

If we thought that these 'water bodies' only feature different individual colours of the rainbow and its variations, we are grossly mistaken. For, there are lakes that contain all seven colours of the rainbow. Yes! You got it - 'Seven in One' as well. One of the Rainbow Coloured Lake lies amidst the colourful geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, known as the Grand Prismatic Spring located in the state of Wyoming, United States. You need to perhaps pay a visit to see it for yourself for 'its beauty to describe,might be beyond words.'

I will not do justice to this piece of writing if I do not mention Canada, which is home to62% of roughly 1.42 million lakes around the world. Wow! That means, they have more lakes than the rest of the world combined, most of them being freshwater lakes that cover approx. one tenth of the vast country, but nevertheless is also home to many colourful lakes. In the number of lakes, Finland rankssecond; though a few experts differ saying it deserves the top spot, taking a different yardstick to measure.

The lakes have become a part and parcel of our lives, in this part of the world.We are often there for barbeque with our families and friends spending some quality time on its banks, feeding the birds, swimming, canoeing, paddle-boating, cycling on the lakeside, brisk walking on its walking tracks, playing ball or simply relaxing and observing its glistening waters.From the lakeside, we have enjoyed watching people sailing and surf skiing. It is our intention to discovermore and more lakes in our lifespan and going visiting - the little nature photographer and the little poet in me comes alive.

In addition to all this - my exclusive belief is that these lakes appear to have some sort of soothing properties. I had experienced this with the Seas and the Oceans, the roar of the waves had a calming effect on my mind and body and I realisedthis is true with the tranquil waters of the lakes as well. “Visit a lake; spend sometime on its shores,gluedtoits still waters - your problems would have momentarily disappeared at least; Once back, you tend to be relaxed and rejuvenated, looking ahead with vigour.”Well! That has been my experience, so to say. You can try it to see whether it holds good for you too....


Pilikula Lake in Mangaluru would perhaps fall into a 'different category' if the waters were coloured, but it's beautiful the way it is!

The stunning images of serene, picturesque lakes…
Dotting the world with all colours of the rainbow,
The already picture perfect landscape that makes…
And the sunlight that completes the water bodies to glow!

Take me to a lake - to have leisurely lunch, anytime…
Take me to a lake - on its banks, to spend quality time.




Stephen P D'Souza Archives:


By Stephen P D’Souza, Melbourne
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Comment on this article

  • Stephen P. D'Souza, Kadri/Melbourne

    Thu, Mar 30 2017

    Hi Simon – Thanks for your comments. I have taken a positive view of the lakes in my Article. Of course, as you said, wind mixed with water could be catastrophic. This week, Cyclone Debbie has left a trail of destruction on the coast of an Australian State, Queensland. Quite interesting to note the other events you have mentioned with ‘water bodies’ in your part of the world. Many thanks for your appreciation with regards to my other pieces of writing as well. Cheers – Stephen.

  • Simon Lobo, USA

    Mon, Mar 27 2017

    Dear Stephen P D’Souza,

    Well narrated and enjoyed reading the article. Felt like being there and walked the journey to understand many lakes that you have described. It was interesting and understandable to read about the cause of various colors in the lakes that you have described.

    Most people like water sports and visit lake areas for relaxation. Water combined with wind can end up with serious issues. After personally watching passing thru of some of the deadly hurricanes, a person understand wind combined with water can cause destruction along with major damages to nature.

    It was interesting to see the compliance with the law in Florida where every builder or developer of a new community has to provide large ponds. At times, some of these ponds end up with alligators which prevents people doing fishing in such large ponds.

    It is interesting to see every year, the river is dyed green by the Chicago plumbers’ union for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

    You have narrated some of the well written articles and always enjoy reading them. Looking forward to read many more articles in the future.

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