Lake Hillier is a naturally occurring pink lake located on Middle Island, the largest of the 105 islands and islets making up the Recherche Archipelago in Western Australia. The Archipelago makes up a nature reserve and is fast gaining recognition as one of Australia’s most important wilderness areas. Part of the allure of Lake Hillier, attracting visitors far and wide, is in the mystery itself; as this natural phenomenon has no current proven scientific explanation to why its water is pink.
The lake itself is quite small in size measuring 150,000 m2. From up above, the only way to view Lake Hillier, the lake looks like a solid bubble-gum pink. The view is absolutely stunning as it creates a striking contrast between the pink hue of the water, dark green vegetation surrounding and the deep blue water of the Southern Ocean. It is located in pristine wilderness and is encompassed by a rim of dunes and dense woodland consisting of paperbark and eucalyptus trees.
Lake Hillier maintains its pink colour year-round making it different from other pink lakes around the world that regularly change colour due to things like temperature fluctuations. The closer you get to the lake the more translucent the water is, although it is still very distinctively pink. The water remains pink even when it has been removed from the lake and bottled.
The lake is also quite shallow in nature and its shoreline is covered in salt crust deposits creating an environment that is about ten times saltier than the nearby ocean. Although the lake is not open to public swimming due to the inaccessibility of the area, it is believed that although uncomfortable due to high salt levels, that this lake would be perfectly safe to swim in.
The first evidence of the discovery of Lake Hillier dates back to journals written by Matthew Flinders in 1802, a British navigator and hydrographer. Hydrographers are people who provide scientific description and analysis of the physical conditions, boundaries and related characteristics of the earth’s surface waters. Flinders came to navigate the island and climbed the highest peak of Middle Island (Flinders Peak) to survey the waters of the area. He was surprised to discover spectacular Hillier Lake from the viewpoint of the peak.
There is no proven scientific explanation to why Lake Hillier consists of its pink waters, or why it is able to sustain this pigmentation continually. Other pink lakes around the world have been explained by the combination of high salinity and a presence of salt-loving algae species known as Dunaliella salina and a pink bacteria known as halobacteria. Pink Hillier still remains a mystery to science. However, the most likely explanation is contributed to low nutrient concentrations and a sea salt and sodium bicarbonate deposit reaction although it still could be due to various bacteria or algae. One of the problems lies in the fact that this pink lake is the least studied due to its isolated location. It was once used to mine salt in the early 20th century, but the project was abandoned 6 years later.
Currently the only way to view this extraordinary sight is by helicopter. Esperance, only a day’s drive or two-hour plane ride away from Perth, is home to Esperance Heli tours; which offers a helicopter tour of Lake Hillier and the amazing Recherche Archipelago. The tour is rumoured to cost somewhere around $2000. Bob Kent, an Esperance resident, was so impressed by a helicopter tour he experienced of Western Australia, that he was inspired to buy his own helicopter in 2003 and start Esperance Heli tours, business took off immediately.
The Recherche Archipelago spans over 270 km (168 miles) of coastline, and only one of the islands grants permission to land. Bob Kent, flies over the beautiful Archipelago including stunning Lake Hillier, up to 100 km (62 miles) offshore. Bob and his wife Julie nowadays use their brand-new Robinson 44 Clipper II helicopter to guide eager visitors on a truly unique breathtaking over-water aerial adventure with Western Australian resident knowledge. Flights operate daily between October to April on the Esperance foreshore (The Esplanade), and the remainder of the year they operate from Bob’s own property by appointment only. The magic and mystery of Lake Hillier is definitely a vision worth seeing; and what better way than by means of a guided luxury helicopter experience of wonderful Western Australia.