The pink river dolphins of the Amazon have long captured the hearts of explorers to the Peruvian Amazon, where they thrive in healthy numbers. In fact, when we first meet our guests on board the Aria Amazon, the pink dolphin is usually the first animal species they’d mention or ask us about!
In their excitement, some of out guests have already done their fair bit of research about the Amazon pink river dolphin before they come on board, which only makes their wish to see the dolphins stronger. For those of you unacquainted with the unique characteristics this freshwater dolphin species, we think you’ll be surprised:
Fact #1: The Amazon pink river dolphin can change its color!
Although Amazon pink river dolphins are famous for its pink hue, they weren’t born this way. The dolphins are actually born gray and slowly turn pink as they age. Their final color can be influenced by their behavior, capillary placement, diet, and exposure to sunlight. The dolphins can be anywhere from mostly gray with some pink spots, to almost flamingo pink. And when the dolphins get excited, they can flush a brighter pink, similar to humans!
Fact #2: The Amazon pink river dolphin has the largest bodies and brains of any freshwater dolphin
The Amazon pink river dolphin is the largest and smartest out of the five freshwater species. A full-grown dolphin can grow up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) long, weight up to 400 pounds (181 kilograms), and live to 30 years old. They also have unusually large brains, with 40% more brain capacity than humans!
Fact #3: The Amazon pink river dolphin can be a loner (among their own kind)
Although dolphins have a reputation for gathering in groups, the pink river dolphin is often seen alone or in small groups of 2-4 individuals. In some food-rich areas or at the mouths of the rivers, such as at the confluence of the Maranon and Ucayali river (the start of the great Amazon river) where the Aria Amazon sails, the dolphins can be found in larger groups though this is less common.
The good news: Despite living in small groups, Amazon pink river dolphins are incredibly curious and outgoing animals towards humans, and frequently interact with our guests!
Fact #4: The Amazon pink river dolphin are gymnasts of the water
Pink river dolphins are super agile, as the vertebrae in their necks are unfused unlike other dolphins. The ability to turn their head 180 degrees allows them to maneuver around tree trunks, rocks, and other obstacles. They can also swim forward with one flipper while paddling backwards with the other, letting them turn with more precision. Plus, we often see them swimming upside down, possibly to help them see the bottom of the river better.
Fact #5: The Amazon pink river dolphin is a mythical creature
The Amazon pink river dolphin is the subject of many South American legends. One story claims that during the night, the dolphins morph into handsome men to seduce womenfolk. Another claims that if you go swimming alone, the dolphins may whisk you away to a magical underwater city. It’s considered bad luck to harm the dolphins, and even worse luck to eat them.
In the Peruvian Amazon, the status of the pink river dolphin as a semi-magical being may have helped protect the species by encouraging local communities to treat them well and preserve their numbers.
Want to see Amazon pink river dolphins up close?
If you want to witness these friendly, yet elusive creatures up close in the Peruvian Amazon, knowledgeable guides are a must. We know this for a fact, and that’s why our naturalist guides are local born-and-bred, with tons of experience built up. We dare say some of the dolphins even recognise them!
Find out more about the Aria Amazon or our Amazon River Cruises in Peru.