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Sunsets and Amazon River pink dolphins in Colombia

Instead of Amazon River pink dolphins, the title of this post should be looking for gray dolphins along the Yavari River in Peru and Brazil since we only saw a few pink ones. We were about 30 miles up the Yavari River, an Amazon River tributary, which is the border between Brazil and Peru. We arrived from Leticia, Colombia, so there is some truth in the title, but Amazon River pink dolphins sounds more interesting.

Amazon River pink dolphins

Here is our set up to search for Amazon River pink dolphins

Visiting the Amazon River is a notch off on the bucket list

I have always wanted to visit the Amazon River since I was a child watching nature programs on Channel 11 in the Chicago area. One item that escaped my attention when watching these programs was there were freshwater dolphins that lived in the Amazon River system. I thought they only lived in the oceans. I guess I was concentrating too much on the 20 foot anaconda or the sloths, anteaters, and monkeys.

Amazon River Leticia

When I saw the Amazon River from our descending plane into Leticia, it was a tick off my bucket list

I came to Amazonas region of Colombia in search of the latter animals. When I found out there were Amazon River pink dolphins to see, that was just a bonus. The search for dolphins turned out to be my favorite part of the three day two night trek.

Zacumba Rainforest Lodge hammocks

Enjoying a little hammock time before searching for Amazon River pink dolphins

We arrived at the Zacumba Rainforest Lodge around 2 p.m. after a two hour boat ride up the Amazon and then the Yavari Rivers. We relaxed in the hammocks for a bit before going on a couple hour hike in the jungle. We then relaxed again in the hammocks until sunset. Antonio, the owner of Amazon Jungle Trips based of Leticia, Colombia informed us we would watch the sunset and search for pink dolphins.

Searching for Amazon River pink dolphins and gray ones too

We got in the boat and headed out into the main channel of the Yavari.  The lodge is located on either a backwater channel or another smaller tributary. The channel spills out into the main section of the Yavari just a couple of hundred feet upstream. This is a great place to spot the dolphins because many fish hang out at this intersection to feed, so the dolphins show up then to eat the fish.

Amazon River dolphins

A shot of a dolphin fin on the Yavari River when we were returning from a hike

The gray and pink dolphins are actually the same species. They are part of the species known as the Amazon River dolphin. Generally, the gray dolphins are young or immature dolphins, and the pink ones are the adults.

Almost immediately a gray dolphin breached not too far ahead. We slowly headed up that direction in the boat and then cut the motor and drifted to where the dolphin last was seen. Meantime, in the west a beautiful sunset was taking place. I did not know where to place my eyes. Fortunately, we were looking west, but one eye wanted to scan the water for dolphins and the other wanted to see the sunset making me a little cross-eyed.

Amazon River sunset

Enjoying an Amazon River sunset with our Amazon River pink dolphins search

This turned out to be the routine. A dolphin would breach, then we would scoot closer and cut the engine. Our guide would then paddle closer while whistling to the dolphin. We were lucky to have a dolphin whisperer with us. We would always cut the engine in advance of where the dolphin breached, so we could get as close as possible while doing our best not to harass them. They did not seem to mind our presence. When a dolphin breached near us it was exhilarating and everyone in the boat let out a gasp at the same time. This happened the first time we saw the dolphins and the 15th time we saw them. It did not get old.

Amazon River dolphin

Amazon River gray dolphin seen on the way to a jungle hike

We did this same activity both nights that I stayed at the lodge. One morning we also awoke for a sunrise viewing. While on the boat, I was taking a picture of the sunrise, and our guide pointed to a pink dolphin. It was our first of the trip. In fact, I luckily got a picture of the pink dolphin as he emerged from the water at the same time I clicked the sunrise. I was photo bombed by an Amazonian pink dolphin.

Amazon River pink dolphin

A pink dolphin to the left photo bombs my sunrise picture on the Yavari River

Taking pictures and video of the dolphins was a tough business. In the video above, I was actually able to get shots of three dolphins breaking the water on my GoPro camera. They would break the water and you could only hope to point the camera at the water to where you thought they might come out and click and hope for the best. You can see them in the video at the 55 second mark, 1:34 mark, and approximately the 1:54 mark.

Yavari River sunset

Sunset was even better the second night

There was only one time during our trip that a dolphin actually jumped completely out of the water. I thought that I captured it, but I just missed. All I got was a ring of water where he made his graceful re-entry into the river. I would give him a 10 on the dive.

Yavari River Amazon River dolphin

A perfect splash on the Yavari River

On the second night of sunsets and dolphin watching, we stopped at a beach to swim. I swam out far away from the shore and the boats and followed our guide who was doing the same. There were dolphins about 100 meters away breaking the surface. I could see them perfectly since I was at their level. I hoped they would come closer, but they kept their distance. I also wished I had my GoPro, but I had it set up doing a time lapse video of the sunset.

Yavari River Peru

Swimming in the Yavari River, but no dolphins around here

It was eventually time to head back to civilization where there are no jumping dolphins in rivers that have forever been on my bucket list. Our motor boat that took us back to Leticia soon arrived at the Yavari, Amazon confluence. We turned on to the Amazon and headed back to where we started. I kept seeing dolphins all the way up until we made it to Leticia as if they were escorting our boat to safety, saying goodbye, and wishing for me to come again.

Although I only have pictures of fins and splashes to remind me of my time searching for dolphins along the Amazon River Basin in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, I will never forget the experience. It was such an incredible experience being out on the water feeling the cool breeze after a hot humid day while the sun and clouds are creating a beautiful painting in the west, and freshwater dolphins are breaking the surface of a South American River.

Adventure on!

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14 Responses to Sunsets and Amazon River pink dolphins in Colombia

  1. Aaron December 8, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

    Beautiful water shots of the Amazon River. I didn’t think dolphins would exist/be in that kind of setting either. Cool beans, happy you got to have a bucket list experience!

    • Traveling Ted December 11, 2015 at 3:19 am #

      Thanks Aaron,

      It was an incredible experience.

  2. Erin Marie December 9, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    This is such a dream of mine! Love that you were able to tick it off your bucket list. I hope I can one day soon! 🙂
    Erin Marie recently posted..Visiting the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

    • Traveling Ted December 11, 2015 at 3:20 am #

      I hope you make it to Colombia soon. Now that you are a full timer, you definitely have the time.

  3. the lazy travelers December 11, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    had no idea that pink dolphins even existed! ALSO, supes brave to jump in that water. anacondas, ya know??
    the lazy travelers recently posted..autumn in iceland // part two

    • Traveling Ted January 22, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

      Did not see any anacondas although we did see a few caiman. Safety in numbers though as it was not just me swimming.

  4. Lance | Trips By Lance December 14, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

    I can now check off my list of knowing people who do cool things, although experiencing the Amazon is just the latest adventure you’ve had that I haven’t. You really go for unique outdoors experiences. This would’ve never been on my radar before. It’s not exactly swimming with dolphins, but I think your experience comes pretty close.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Celebrate Christmas in Louisville

    • Traveling Ted January 22, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

      Thanks Lance,

      Seeing the Amazon was a dream. I did not think I would be swimming and fishing in it, but it was cool.

  5. Lola December 15, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    Wow that second sunset!!! And PINK dolphins… I wanna see them!
    Lola recently posted..Fun Forecast: New Finds in 4 Great US Cities

    • Traveling Ted January 22, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

      It was a cool experience. Hope you make it to Colombia soon.

  6. craig zabransky December 17, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

    what do the florida keys and the amazon have in common… this. dolphins and sunsets. a little different of course… definitely need to make my way to this part of the world… the amazon. heck I order enough from the site this time of year.

    stay pink at sunset, craig
    craig zabransky recently posted..The Staying Adventurous 2015 Holiday Gift Episode

    • Traveling Ted January 22, 2016 at 6:40 pm #

      Florida Keys is definitely a great place to be. There definitely are some similarities with Florida and Colombia.

  7. Dr. Rajasinghe August 26, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    I have visited Santa Marta and Bogota.

    I have never considered the Amazonas before (I always though it was in Brazil) but next time I will keep it in mind.

    • Traveling Ted August 27, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

      Leticia, Colombia is right on the border of Colombia, Brazil, and Peru. We started our journey in Colombia, but then took a boat up the Javari River, which is the border between Peru and Colombia. We actually stayed on the Peruvian side. No need for Brazil or Peru passport clearance if you book a trip in Colombia.

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