in the pink

pink dolphin photo from the padi websiteOnce upon a time, an oh so very young Jack would spend hours creating imaginary animals. A dark blue creature with the head of a lion, wings of an eagle, feet of an elephant. You get the picture. When we heard that fabled pink dolphins swim the Amazon it seemed so Jack. We had to see for ourselves. I tried to manage his expectations… there is a reason things are referred to a mythical. We hopped on a little boat and headed to Peru.

jack and me in the boat to peruOur guide told us there are two kinds of dolphins in the Amazon, smaller grey ones and larger pink ones. We spotted the grey ones almost immediately. Lots and lots of them. But nothing pink. Our guide suggested a bit of bird watching before trying again.

Pink Dolphins are rumored to change into handsome men at night and lure chaste young women into naughty behavior. And thus unfortunately timed pregnancies are explained in this part of the world. At this point I assumed they were also used to lure naive tourists into paying for boat rides!

The sun was going down, we didn’t have a lot of time left. Suddenly a shockingly pink, quite large dolphin surfaced right in front of our bow. It had to be a trick. It was so pink, like strawberry ice cream. But then we saw another one. And another, and another. And still more over the next two days.

bird watchingThey are amazing and an enigma. It is surprising how little is known about these strange creatures. Scientists aren’t even sure why they are pink. Perhaps it is due to their diet. Perhaps it is blushing when they get excited. Perhaps it is scaring from fights.

They do know these Boto are a different family from ocean dolphins. They have adapted over time to their unique river environment. Their long snouts and 180 degree turning heads are adaptations that make hunting crabs and turtles on the bottom of the river easier. They are super smart with 40% more brain capacity than humans. And they are endangered. Mercury from gold mines, increased boat traffic and hunting by humans have all taken their toll.

beautiful amazon flowersThey are friendly and sociable around humans. This, coupled with a certain anatomical similarity to a specific male body part (use your imagination!), is what has made them the mythical procreator. Until I see for myself I shall remain skeptical. As for Jack, he may have met his match. Seems Mother Nature is pretty good at producing crazy creative creatures.

Amazon dolphins are notoriously challenging to photograph. The really good photo is not mine. I took it from the Padi dive blog: www2.padi.com