In the middle of the Atacama Salt Flat, the Laguna Chaxa is one of the most visited sites near San Pedro. In the morning, numerous tourists gather to observe the many flamingos feeding in the laguna.
Sometimes, a negative aspect of a touristy site can also be a positive point. Indeed, the quantity of daily visitors ensures that the flamingos are no longer afraid of people. It is possible to observe them from just a few metres away, and they are completely indifferent to human proximity, or being the model of plenty of photographers.
Observing flamingos, we always have the impression that their beak is in the water looking for something. In fact, the flamingos spend a lot of hours feeding on brine shrimps (Artemia salina).
The brine shrimp measure less than 1 centimetre and can survive in an environment with a low concentration of oxygen and a high salinity (up to 25%). The brine shrimp provides the flamingos with plenty of beta carotene, a pigment that gives the bird its characteristic pink/orange colour.
The brine shrimp is an extremely well-adapted crustacean for surviving in salt flat. Even if a laguna completely dries up, the brine shrimp can survive in the form of an egg resistant to drought. The egg, called 'cyst,' can survive a few dozen years.