Salty behaviour we approve of…

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

And if you’re curious about where you can get some of that sweet salt lake selfie action yourself, we can help with that too.

Where are these salt lakes?

Most of the images you’re seeing are from what has come to be known as ‘Long Salt Lake’. It’s located in the Al Wathba region of Abu Dhabi, south of the city.  There’s a little off-roading involved so travelling in an SUV with four-wheel drive is highly recommended.

If you know your way to the Fossil Dunes, it’s best to head in that direction. When you pass the dunes, you’ll need to follow the pylons across the sand track. The closest E road is the E65 but the easiest access comes from a turn off of the E30 close to the stunning Al Wathba Wildlife Reserve (currently closed to protect nesting sites). You can find the exact location on Google Maps.

What are these salt lakes?

Well there’s still a bit of a mystery regarding exactly how the gloriously bizarre salt mushrooms were formed in what is most certainly a human-engineered channel.

There are actually two ‘lakes’, one either side of the access road. These beautiful emerald rivers are hemmed with snow-white salt crust on the banks, giving the whole place big Nordic Fjord vibes.

Pipes feed water into each of the channels which run a reasonable distance into the desert. The high salt content of the ground underfoot is no surprise, the region is scattered with salt flats or ‘sabkha’, which themselves are the geographical product of a hot climate and coastal location.


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The conundrum comes from these huge dense salt pad stepping stone features, found some way down the main channel. It generally takes a significant period of time for these sorts of structures to form naturally, through erosion and depositing of minerals. Far longer, in fact, than is likely to have been possible in a ‘man made’ lake.

Illuminati confirmed. We joke of course. The most likely explanation is that the water in the channel is simply cutting away at pre-existing features beneath the top sand.

A humble request, if you are planning to visit please do your bit in preserving the integrity and natural beauty of this site. Don’t dump litter, do not break off chunks of salt for souvenirs, and refrain from any influencer activity that could damage the salt structures under foot.

Old Fossils


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If you’ve stuck with us and managed to stay awake through all the science, thank you. Consider this the bonus round.

A short distance away from Al Wathba salt lakes are Abu Dhabi’s truly otherworldly Fossil Dunes. These gnarled nature-forged dune ruins also require an SUV to access, but there is a campsite nearby if you want to take your time gawping in awe. Although, and we cannot stress this enough, you must not touch them. The site is at genuine risk of irreparable damage from irresponsible visitors.

Images: Instagram / @a.c.h.r.i.s.t.y / @perspectivesofjames /