Top 5 Colourful Waterways
You’d be forgiven for thinking this expanse of red water was a mirage if you were travelling in any sort of altered state through Bolivia’s southwest altiplano. You’re not seeing things though. This shallow salt lake, covering 6000 hectares, rests at about 4250 metres above sea level and is a neighbour to the famous Salar de Uyuni. The unusual colour of the water comes from a surfeit of red algae and other microorganisms. White patches are also not a visual illusion – just massive borax deposits on the lake’s surface. The other attractions at Laguna Colorada are the flamingos that can be seen wading in the shallows. One of the three species is the rare James’s flamingo – also known as the puna flamingo – which is native to the region but was thought extinct until a small population was discovered in 1956. While they’re still considered endangered, the abundant plankton in the water keeps them coming back in hefty numbers for food. They’re naturally white, by the way; it’s the algae that stains them this glorious shade of pink
Located near the border of Myanmar, Erawan National Park plays host to a range of natural attractions. There’s a handful of caves, including Ta Duang Cave, which features examples of ancient rock art, and wildlife including elephants and deer. But most people who visit this part of western Thailand come for Erawan Waterfall, with its seven tiers and incredible emerald-hued pools. (Erawan, if you were wondering, is the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology the falls are said to resemble.) Set deep in the forest, the seven different levels are accessed by an ever-steeper path. The rewards are excellent though, with several of the pools home to schools of fish. The best time to visit is early in the morning – it’s a popular spot for tour groups and the pools become more muddy than miraculous when lots of people get in to swim – and during or just after rainy season (May to October).
Lakes of bubble-gum pink seem to be something of an Australian phenomenon.
Apart from the Insta-famous pond in Melbourne’s Westgate Park that turns pink when salt levels peak, the rest can be found in Western Australia. Lake Hillier is one of the most famous, and the only one that remains pink all year long. The colour is caused by a microalgae called Dunaliella salina, which is found in water that’s highly saline. It’s located on Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago, near Esperance, and is best enjoyed on a scenic flight with Goldfields Air Services. That way you can truly appreciate the juxtaposition of the lake, which is the same shade as Pepto-Bismol, and the deep blue of the ocean, separated only by a thin stretch of scrub and white sand.
Slightly north of the town of Dahab, you’ll come across this popular dive site in the Red Sea. Even if there wasn’t a cluster of buildings on the stretch of beach that meets the desert announcing you’d arrived, you’d still notice it on approach. Just metres off the shore and surrounded by a shallow reef, this is one patch of seriously royal blue. The reason for the eye-catching change of colour is an underwater sinkhole more than a hundred metres deep. There’s an abundance of coral and marine life on the walls of the hole, making it a very inviting spot for divers and snorkellers. But don’t be fooled by the calm conditions if you’ve strapped a tank to your back. Plenty of divers have come unstuck here, trying to go far deeper than they should to find the underwater arch that leads to the open ocean.
So impressive is the nature reserve and national park of Jiuzhaigou, located in the Sichuan province in China’s southwest, it’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reserve. Covering more than 72,000 hectares it’s renowned for its incredible beauty – tiered waterfalls, snow-topped mountains, colourful autumn leaves – and has seen a steady increase in visitors since it opened to the public in 1982. Rather than boasting just one vibrant colour, Five Flower Lake changes depending on the weather and surroundings. Sometimes it’s turquoise, other times jade, deep blue and even amber. Most of the time it’s vivid aqua, but the best time to visit is when the leaves of the surrounding forest are starting to change and the mirrored surface takes on the varied shades of the foliage.