Most of us are familiar with the fun and playful blue bottlenose dolphin named Flipper, made famous by Hollywood productions, but less people know about Flipper’s rosy-colored cousin, the pink river dolphin. This rare species is found in the freshwater rivers of the Amazon near Iquitos, Peru. Upholding the reputation of its salt water dwelling kin, the Amazon river dolphin is social, friendly and extremely intelligent, making it one of the highlights of a visit to the Amazon Basin. They also love the company of humans. When you visit the Amazon, don’t be afraid to go for a swim with these remarkable creatures.
Did you say a pink dolphin?
Yes, Amazon river dolphins are pink. Scientists are not entirely sure why, but a common theory suggests that their rosy pigment comes from their blood vessels visible through a thin layer of skin. In fact, Amazon river dolphins become more pink in color when excited, much like humans when we blush.
These dolphins are an endemic species to the Amazon Rainforest, meaning that they are not found in any other part of the world. While there are other freshwater dolphins in places like China and parts of Southeast Asia, there are only 2 documented species living in the Amazon Basin of South America. Of those 2 species, the pink river dolphin is the most charismatic.
In all honesty, the pink river dolphin is not the cutest water-dwelling animal of the Amazon. These dolphins are larger than a person, about 8 feet long, with a bulge on the head and a long, thin snout that is curved upwards, as if it is permanently smiling. They have large flippers and a short crest where the dorsal fin should be. They are not particularly fast swimmers, but their unique bone structure allows them to maneuver with agility through trees and brush when the river floods during the high water season.
Swimming with pink river dolphins
Because pink river dolphins are so friendly, swimming with them is possible on a guided boat excursion. They often swim right to the boat in order to get a closer look at their visitors. With the supervision of an experienced naturalist, don’t be afraid to grab a floatation device and jump in the water to get up close and personal with these gentle mammals.
If you are worried about potentially dangerous creatures lurking beneath the surface, there is really nothing to fear. Pink river dolphins have sophisticated sonar which allows them to send out electromagnetic pulses that bounce off of solid objects under water. If there are pink river dolphins around, then it is safe to say that there are not other predators posing immediate threat.
So make sure you bring your bathing suit and a waterproof camera. A snapshot of the pink river dolphin will definitely be one for the Amazon adventure scrapbook.
Kathleen McAfee is wanderlust addict with a thirst for adventure. She is currently based in Lima, Peru, and a member of the marketing team at Peru for Less where you can also book a Delfin I cruise or Delfin II cruise!