Amazon River Mermaids

Amazon River, Brazil June 1976

The Amazing Happening

Pink DolphinMy first clue that something amazing was about to happen was the bizarre rapid fire sound of clicks and whistles. A pink dolphin breached out of the café au lait colored water slicing through the dense humidity the air. Another pink dolphin surfaced behind the first one then another and another.

My husband David, my daughter Dawn and I jumped from our hammocks and rushed to the side of the cargo boat. Had we really seen what we thought we’d just seen? No way!

We had never even heard of fresh water dolphins, much less pink ones.

Several primrose colored dolphins continued swimming beside us. After the excitement was over I scraped my jaw off the deck and began talking to the locals questions about this phenomenon. What we heard took the expression “tall tale” to a whole new level.

Pink dolphin breaching

A pink dolphin breaching. Photo Credit: Michael Carwardine

Pink Dolphin Legends

One woman said, “My mother warned me and I warn my daughters not to walk along the river near botos. They are shape shifters who change into humans and take young girls from the shore.” This reminded me of the myths about mermaids transforming themselves into humans.

A fisherman claimed, “Botos are dolphins by day but at night they turn into beautiful women and lure men into the river.”

The cook said matter of factly, “Sometimes men who live in villages near the river surround a boto in shallow water. They think “having their way with them” brings them good luck. Everyone seemed to have a story about pink dolphins and they all shared the belief that there was something mystical about them.

Cool Facts About Pink Dolphins

Pink dolphins are distantly related to their ocean going cousins. They can grow to be 6 to 8 feet long and are also considered the smartest of the five species of river dolphins. Their brain capacity is 40% larger than humans.

A pink dolphin’s skin becomes more translucent with age. Their blood vessels are very near the skin’s surface, which is what gives them their color. They come in several shades of pink ranging from dull grayish-pink to bright flamingo pink. They can also flush to a bright pink when excited. They can turn their heads 180º and can paddle forward with one flipper while paddling backward with the other. This unique ability helps them maneuver better when the river floods. They also have molar-like teeth allowing them to chew their prey.

Back at Home

When we got back home to Hermosa Beach, California 3 months later we were excited about telling our friends about pink dolphins on the Amazon. How disappointing – no one believed us! Instead, the common reaction to our mind–blowing encounter was, “What were you smoking?”

A pink dolphin can weigh over 200lbs

Pink dolphins can weigh over 200 pounds and blush bright pink when excited.
Photo credit: Unknown

Do you want to know more about Pink Dolphins?

Expeditions and Tours:

EarthWatch Amazon River Exploration – Help conserve wildlife within the Amazon Basin, while seeking pink river dolphins, primates, macaw, caiman, giant river otters, piranha, exotic fish and bats.

Viator Things to do in Peru – Swim with Pink Dolphins in the Peruvian Amazon.

How you can help:

Sailors for the – Plight of the Pink Dolphin


Pink Dolphins of the World – Symbols of Global Change by Dr. Michael Tobet. This book will introduce you to pink dolphins in their natural environment. Learn about their names, the different countries they live in and other interesting facts. Available in Kindle and paperback. 

Journey of the Pink Dolphins by Sy Montgomery. This book delves further into the legends surrounding pink dolphins

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