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Swimming with pink dolphins in the Amazon of Brasil

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pink river dolphin Brasil

Pink dolphins in the Amazon of Brasil

Rare, curious and seldom seen, Maria recalls swimming in Brasil’s Amazon river with ‘botos’ – pink dolphins.

 

Trip to Amazonas-Manaus

Some friends and I were sailing in a wooden boat near Manaus, Brazil, when our guide excited began to shout ‘Botos! Botos!” We didn’t know what he meant, not even when he called them pink river dolphins.

I didn’t know about the existence of pink freshwater dolphins. I was amazed when I saw one of its pink fins. Later, a head bobbed up, with a pink, flat nose. I couldn’t believe it.

Our guide told us that they were difficult to spot, and that in the Brazilian Amazon region these ‘botos’ have a magical aura.

There are three known species and they inhabit the Amazon and other large rivers in the forests of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.

They swim in dark waters with almost zero visibility, but the boto’s cervical vertebrae aren’t fused, allowing them to move their head up to 180 degrees – a great help for hunting in shallow waters and floodplains.

 

Mysterious creatures

Amazonian people used to believe that in a full moon night, botos turned into an irresistibly beautiful woman or man. They would then approach villages and take a young unwary lover and sink them to the depths of the river, forever.

To kill or disturb a boto would bring you bad luck – for life.

Modern fishermen do not heed this tale and are killing the dolphins, because they destroy fishing nets.  It means botos are now on the endangered animals list.

 

Bath with botos!

Although they say they are usually shy and solitary, we had seven botos playing close to our panga. Our guide said we were very lucky that he had never seen them so close and friendly. He encouraged us to jump into the water and swim with them.

When I’m travelling I lose all my fear, I had no doubts about taking the plunge, but I didn’t wanted to be the only one afloat in Amazon waters full of wild animals.

I started to persuade my other two friends, and finally we all jumped into the water. We were super excited as our guide shouted: “look here, there, behind you, beside you!”

We couldn’t see them much better than from the panga.  But we all felt the thrill of swimming with one of the rarest animals in the world.

After a few minutes, I started to get nervous. We were bathing in the middle of the Amazon and surely we were not only bathing with pink dolphins.

With a knot in my stomach, I raced with my friends to not be the last one getting back into the panga.

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