Monday, 30 May 2016

The Amazon's Legendary Pink Dolphins


The Amazon's pink river dolphins are a creature of legend, and I set up a trip to swim with them...


Our first stop on my Amazon River tour at Manaus, detailed in my previous post, was amazing. Our second was mind blowing. 

Our fast wee boat whizzed us to another location on the opposite side of the river to a floating pontoon in a sheltered bay. As we pulled up alongside it, we saw little to suggest anything spectacular. Two men sat on plastic chairs on the platform watching TV, moving towards our boat to help our group disembark. Once aboard the pontoon, they swiftly belted us all up with life vests and instructed us to jump in the water.

First point of note: the water was bloody warm. It was my first time actually getting in the Rio Negro and I was shocked at just how warm it was. Like bathwater but dark-red tea coloured. One of the men from the pontoon jumped in alongside us carrying a bucket of fish. He pulled one to the waters surface and splashed it around. Not two seconds later, a long, pink beak appeared. Meanwhile, several in our group let out a scream as velvet-skinned creatures brushed past them under the water. They were pink dolphins and they didn't give the tiniest err, *insert dolphin sound* about our presence. They wanted fed.

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You'd think these pink dolphins - which are more pale-skinned than pure pink - were the palest creatures in the river, but they met their match with my Scottish family. The Brazilian guide commented how our skin was shining fluorescent as it reflected in the sun. We were like beacons of light, in stark contrast to the dark red waters of the Rio Negro. 

 Although totally wild, these animals are used to the guides who hand feed them in water, in a place where tourists can get up close and personal with these amazing animals. They swim beneath your feet as they take turns to jump up and grab fish from the hand of the guide, who knows most of the animals individually. They jump clear out of the water at the guide, who proceeded to wrestle and hug them, making sure they stayed out the water for the longest possible time. It was a 30 minute show and was absolutely sensational.

These pink dolphins - known as 'botos' in Brazil - are animals of great legend among Amazon river residents. There are many superstitions surrounding them, perhaps the most famous of which is that they turn into handsome young men at night, seducing young females from river villages to impregnate them. Either way, everyone in our group was moved by this amazing trip.

Another thing you should know: they are classed as endangered. I feel privileged to have been so close to them, but perhaps they wont be around forever. The WWF has a good page explaining about their endangered status. Perhaps if we can all pull together, some of the Amazon;s amazing animal species will still be around for future generations.

The final experience of our boat tour was seeing the Meeting of the Waters. It is a great sight to see where the mighty Amazon River officially begins. I found the change of temperatures between the waters (Rio Negro is very warm, Rio Solimões much cooler) both shocking and fascinating.

Along with that, we also took a short walk through a nature reserve and ate lunch on a floating restaurant. I should mention, the food in the region is quite unique. If you like fish, this place is heaven. I literally tried a different type of fish every day, each prepared in their own special way. The local fruits and vegetables – too exotic and numerous to list – are also incredible, while you must also try the many, many ways they prepare tapioca. All of this is detailed in my YouTube vlog. Make sure you check it out and aso my photos from the trip on Instagram.

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