Swimming With Amazonian River Dolphins

Tuesday – November 25, 2008 –

This morning after our Brazilian continental breakfast, we had the morning free. Jeff and I decided to explore the several miles of boardwalks. One scientific platform high above us (many platforms above us) offered a great view above the canopy. Since we were not in the rainy season, we could see below where the Rio Negro actually came up to the entire resort in the summer. This time of year, the season docks were even dry. We walked past the helipads and saw that you could even rent bikes to drive around the boardwalks.

After lunch, we were in for a big treat. We traveled by boat to visit the Anavilhanas Archipelago, a chain of 400 small islands nearby in the Rio Negro. A number of native tribes live in houses in and around the islands. First, we went on a tour of a local village. The village elder showed us around the community. He showed us the rubber tree farm where they produced rubber that they sold. We also saw the school and the shops where they sold some of their crafts. Then we had some time to enjoy the light-colored sandy beaches. You would have thought we were on the ocean!

Then, we had a choice to either go visit a native tribe or go swim with the river dolphins (botos). There was an extra charge for swimming with the botos, which was about 120 Brazilian Reais – an incredible $50. You would pay three times that a theme park in Florida or Hawaii and these were wild river dolphins! You know which I had to choose. Jeff wanted to see the native tribe so split up on different boats.


Christophe, Marcella, Julia, Christophe’s mom and Dad, Elizabeth, Roger and I rode in a motorized boat to a wooden platform anchored near a few tiny islands. A dolphin handler was there waiting on us. He explained how we should hold the minnows above us. The dolphins were pink colored, a rare species and one of the few river dolphins in the world. One by one we had a chance to feed from a platform as they jumped in the air to be fed. Afterwards, we all entered the water with them and swam with them.

The dolphins were very social and would come up and bump into you and roll over. You could occasionally touch them, but these were wilder than the ones at Sea World. These dolphins wouldn’t quite allow you to pet them for long periods. I had one lift me in the air once. The guide used a whistle to call them up. Then the dolphins “spoke” to him using air from a spout in the top of their heads to make noise to communicate. The guide told us the legion of the dolphin was allegory in Amazonian mythology of suave playboy who would get young ladies knocked up! We had a painting of the dolphin Casanova on our door back at the Ariau Lodge.

After swimming with the dolphins, Jeff’s group met up with us and we traveled back to the lodge as the daily Amazonian thunderstorm began in the distance. It was just like clockwork every afternoon in the rainforest, and you could see it coming in the distance. The roar was tremendous and the lightning was dramatic!

When we arrived back at the lodge, it was about time for dinner. After changing into dry clothes, we enjoyed our last dinner in the Amazon. The local fish was fantastic, but there was plenty of beef, pasta, vegetables and local fruits.

in the evening after dinner, we all relaxed and enjoyed watching some Brazilians futbol matches from the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A on an outdoor big screen under a gazebo. I could understand some words because I speak Spanish well, but not Brazilian Portuguese is more difficult. It is one of the world’s most beautiful languages to hear spoken.

We went to bed for our last night in the Amazon and looked forward to what Tuesday would have in shore. But what could top swimming with wild river dolphins?

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