Swimming with Pink Dolphins in the Pampas

The Pampas area I visited consists mostly of wetlands with a main river and its tributaries winding through it. The vegetation varies from grasslands dotted with trees to dense stands of reeds to pockets of forested areas. The river courses are lined with trees, some of them standing well into the river. In some places, sheltered from the main current, the river surface is covered in an assortment of water plants. It's an incredibly beautiful area and it supports an abundance of animals.

There were 7 of us in my group plus our guide, and we spent 3 days in the Pampas. Even with the extreme heat and humidity, the dust, and the blasted mosquitoes, we had an incredible time. Our guide was great, our camp was in the trees right on the river, and we filled our days with activities like cruising up and down the river on our canoe, tromping through swampy reed beds, having sundowners at the nearby river-bar (standing on stilts in the river shallows), playing football on the mini-pampas soccer field (where I must've sweated out at least my own body weight), and going on night cruises under the stars. I could go on and on about the variety of wildlife we saw: mammals, reptiles, birds (hundreds of species of), amphibians, insects etc, etc. But there was one animal which I was able to interact with and this is something I will never forget.

The pink river dolphin is a strange animal. For starters, it's pink! It's dorsal and pectoral fins are tiny and its spine is particularly flexible. It has evolved this way for more manoeuvrability in amongst the aquatic vegetation and tree trunks standing in the river. As the water is very murky, it navigates solely by sonar.Its head curves down sharply to its snout which is long and thin - almost beak like. They are pretty big, maybe 2 to 2,5m long.

As we travelled down the river in our canoe, we could occasionally see their pink backs rising out of the water as they surfaced for air. Their blow holes opened and we could clearly hear the sharp exhale and intake of breath.

On one of the days we went to a wide part of the river where some areas were sheltered from the main current by stands of vegetation growing in the water - an area favoured by the dolphins.

Here we had an opportunity to swim with them. I was very keen on this idea and was in the water very soon after we stopped. I swam towards an area where I could see many of them rising. It was damn scary, considering I was sharing the water with caiman (alligator type reptiles), piranhas, and anacondas, whilst also having minor concerns about certain micro-organisms swimming up my urethra.

Also, the water was so full of silt, it was coffee colour. I couldn't see my hand 10cm under the water. In these circumstances try to imagine the shock and adrenaline surge running through my body when a dolphin came up and bit my foot!!!!!!!!! DAMN!!! I´ve never had such a fright before. It took all my will power not to frantically propeller my arms and speed-swim back to the boat and jump back on. But I gathered my balls and swam further out.

Another one took a playful nibble at my ankle. It was still nerve-wracking, because I never knew when to expect them and where they were coming from. I got used to it though and they started rising up next to me, sometimes brushing past me. I can't find the words to say how awestruck I was. They were playful and mischievous and would sometimes frighten the crap out of me with synchronised movements. At one point, 3 came past me at the same time, 2 past my head, splashing me in the face with their tail fins at the same time, while the other one swam under me, brushing my foot with its dorsal fin. One came by and gave me a soft slap in the ear with its tail fin. It was unbelievable!

I stayed and swam with them as long as I could. I went back to the camp very happy.
Swim Trunks


Log in

No account? Create an account