Al Wathba Salt Lake in Abu Dhabi

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If, like us, your Instagram feed has recently been disrupted by dreamy images of narrow pastel green lakes filled with crystalline lily pad features, and you're wondering what wild alchemy is at work here, we've got you covered.

And if you're wondering where you can get some of that sweet salt lake selfie action for yourself, we can also help.


Where exactly are these salt lakes?

The majority of the images you're seeing are from the area known as 'Long Salt Lake.' It's in Abu Dhabi's Al Wathba district, south of the city. There is some off-roading involved, so an SUV with four-wheel drive is highly recommended.

It's best to go in the direction of the Fossil Dunes if you know how to get there. When you get past the dunes, follow the pylons across the sand track. The E65 is the nearest E road, but the easiest access is via a spur off the E30 near the stunning AlWathba Wildlife Reserve (currently closed to protect nesting sites). The precise location can be found on Google Maps.

alwathba salt lake

What exactly  are these salt lakes?

The formation of the gloriously bizarre salt mushrooms in what is almost certainly a human-engineered channel remains a bit of a mystery.

There are two 'lakes,' one on each side of the access road. The banks of these beautiful emerald rivers are hemmed with snow-white salt crust, giving the entire area a Nordic Fjord vibe.

Water is fed into each of the channels that run a reasonable distance into the desert by pipes. The high salt content of the ground beneath your feet comes as no surprise; the region is dotted with salt flats or'sabkha,' which are the geographical result of a hot climate and coastal location.

alwathba salt lake

The conundrum stems from these massive dense salt pad stepping stone features discovered some distance down the main channel. It usually takes a long time for these types of structures to form naturally, due to erosion and mineral depositing. Far longer, in fact, than would be expected in a'man-made' lake.

Illuminati has been confirmed. Of course, we make jokes. The most likely explanation is that the channel's water is simply eroding pre-existing features beneath the top sand.

A humble request: if you plan to visit, please help preserve the integrity and natural beauty of this site. Don't litter, don't break off chunks of salt for souvenirs, and avoid any influencer activity that could harm the salt structures beneath your feet.

alwathba salt lake

Abu Dhabi's truly otherworldly Fossil Dunes are only a short distance away from the Al Wathba salt lakes. These gnarled nature-forged dune ruins, too, necessitate an SUV, but there is a campsite nearby if you want to take your time gawking in awe. However, and we cannot emphasize this enough, you must not touch them. The site is in real danger of being irreparably damaged by irresponsible visitors.

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