pink river dolphin

Among the different wonders that you will find within Peru, is the abundant wildlife in its jungle. And if you plan to visit the Peruvian Amazon during your vacation in Peru, then you have to know everything it has to offer. In the Amazon Rainforest, you can find creatures that seem to belong to magical legends and myths. And among the most fantastic specimens to appreciate and observe is the largest freshwater cetacean on Earth. Of course, we are referring to the Pink River Dolphin. And together with the Machu Travel Peru team, we have prepared an article where we tell you all about these nice pink animals. Learn all about these fascinating animals that you can meet during your next adventure.

Scientific nameInia geoffrensis
Common nameAmazon river dolphins
SubspeciesOrinoco river dolphins, Bolivian river dolphins, and Amazon river dolphins
DietMore than 40 species of fish, shrimp, turtles, and crabs
SizeThey can grow up to 2.7 meters long (9 feet)
WeightThey weigh up to 400 pounds (181 kilograms)
Lifespan12 – 18 years
PredatorsCaimans, large snakes, and Jaguar. But, once they reach adolescence, their predators decrease to only the human factor

Everything you need to know about the Pink River Dolphin

Why are these dolphins pink?

pink dolphin skin

Pink dolphins are also known as “botos”. These look very different from gray marine dolphins. First, just as the name says, they are pink, and their color could be due to the natural inclination of these to fight and get hurt. As his wounds heal, they become covered with pink scar tissue, which replaces his gray skin. They also feature low ridge-shaped dorsal fins, and long, slender snouts. Not to mention, they have plump bodies, wide cheeks, and pronounced round foreheads. These cute animals have developed a unique look that they are easy to tell apart. These are special features that have given them a unique look that is easy to tell apart.

Also, they can be characterized by having small eyes. This may lead you to think that river dolphins have a hard time seeing, but in fact, their eyesight is very good. Moreover,  they can turn their heads in all directions, giving them the option of observing from all angles. For all these reasons, they are one of the most fantastic Peruvian Animals to meet on your next vacation.

Not all of them are pink

beautiful pink river dolphin

Despite being named the pink dolphins, not all of them are pink. These dolphins are originally born with a grayish color. And as they age, many of them turn pink (due to their scar tissue produced by wounds after fights and aggressive games during childhood and youth) While others remain gray. Also, for those who are pink, their hue can vary from pale pink to a kind of flamingo pink. Even when these dolphins are happy, or get excited, they can turn a much brighter pink.

Pink color as a weapon of seduction

pink river dolphin face

Not surprisingly, being one of the most intelligent animals, it has curious methods of courting its counterparts. These unique dolphins have two very charming ways of attracting mates. First, the more pink the dolphin is, the better for the female. Remember that their coloration is due to scar tissue from fighting. So the pinker, the more aggressive, the more aggressive the better for protecting the hatchlings. Second, the males usually pick up an object in their mouth. This can be anything from a reed or a branch to a living turtle. The male then waves this object in the air to attract curious females.

This is usually quite a sight to watch, not to mention that most of the time it works, attracting happy mates. Even, before mating, the couple has erotic games, like small bites by the males on the fins of the females. However, cases have been reported in which the female is not attracted and the male becomes violent, forcing her to mate.

The largest species of dolphins

huge pink river dolphin

These pink cetaceans are quite large animals. These specimens can grow up to eight feet long and can weigh an average of 450 pounds or 204 kilograms. For this reason, these are the biggest dolphin species on earth. And Even the males are much larger and pinker than the females. It is also known that they can live from 10 up to 30 years in captivity. However, under natural conditions, their life expectancy is still unknown.

The smartest dolphins

smart pink river dolphin

Among the five species of freshwater dolphins, this river dolphin on the Amazon in Peru is at the top of the smartest list. In addition to their large size and weight, they have unusually large brains. And when we say big, we mean really big. Since they have 40 percent more brain capacity used than ordinary humans. And despite being shy creatures, it is quite common to see them attracted to people and interacting with them As we mentioned earlier, they get close to canoes and even local kids, jumping and showing off, and snatching the oars from careless rafters men. All without showing aggressive behavior. They are naturally curious and communicate using high-frequency sonar clicks. With this, they can build a three-dimensional echogram of their surroundings. Which explains how they can navigate in their murky Amazon River world.

Excellent swimmers

pink river dolphin happy

When it comes to our cute friends, these are incredibly agile. Much of their agility is because while swimming they can turn their necks with great precision. After all, the vertebrae in their necks are not fused. Therefore, they can turn their head at a 90-degree angle. Which allows them to maneuver over a wide variety of obstacles. They also can be seen swimming upside down, to help them see the bottom of the river better and make their way through trees and bushes that are submerged. All to get their food. Their small eyes have excellent underwater eyesight and can catch prey with echolocation.

Socials with humans, lonely among them

sociable pink river dolphin

Social and solitaries, at the same time? Yes, you didn’t read wrong, but quite the opposite. These amazing animals are still being researched by scholars from worldwide for this kind of behavior and, bit and bit, we are learning more about them. In this sense, we can define these two facts:

A. Social with humans

friendly pink river dolphin

Among all Amazon rainforest animals, the Pink cetaceans are very social with humans. They love to get close to boats in packs of up to 4 members (usually mothers and sons) to play in front of sight and patience of tourists, even some of these pink friends manage to snatch the oar from some distracted fisherman and run away with their loot.

Also, in the wild state, and when these are in the gestation period or lactating their young, these are often seen in groups of 20 members or more, moving slowly in search of their next meal or raising their newborns together. Apart from this, the rest of their time, they usually swim alone, or maximum in groups of 4 integrants.

B. Alone among them

lonely pink river dolphin

As we mentioned, our pink friends can usually be found alone, in pairs, or in small groups of up to 4 members. But very rarely in large groups (Unless when they are in the gestation, lactating period, or raising young dolphins for a very short time) Therefore, if you make tourism in Peru through a travel agency, it is possible to find these scarce groups from 20 to 40 members in their natural habitat, of course, guided with the expert view of your tour guide. But in general, these dolphin prefers to stand alone most of the time.

Pink river dolphin eat almost everything

pink river dolphin diet

These cetaceans are usually very active during the day and are not picky when it comes to choosing their food. Their diet is literally very varied and they do not suffer from the lack of a single type of food. Of course, thanks to the biodiversity in Peru, these animals are happy within the Amazon regions of the Andean country where they live, enjoying a varied diet of more than 40 species of fish, shrimp, turtles, and crabs. As you can see, their diet is quite diverse compared to other toothed whales. For this reason, they have developed molar tooth equivalents, just like humans, due to their varied diets. Precisely, these fascinating dolphins use these teeth to grind up food before swallowing.

Live in the Amazon and Orinoco river systems

pink river dolphin habitat

Numerous Peruvian tours offer the possibility of seeing and appreciating these enchanting animals. So if you are looking for one of the most interesting things to do in Peru, swimming with these pink friends should be your first option. Therefore, Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in Peru will be your place, there you will be able to find them and appreciate all their splendor.

Besides seeing them in this national reserve, you will see them in their natural habit, in huge rivers thousands of miles from the sea, in small tributaries, lakes, flooded forests, and submerged grasslands, among other places belonging to six countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. In addition, its largest resident populations exist in the Amazon and Orinoco river systems, as well as the Araguaia River in Brazil.

Pink dolphins in endangered

lone animals pink river dolphin

It is really difficult to know how many pink dolphins exist in the Amazon. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, considers that the data is deficient. And much of this is because dolphins are only seen in small groups of 2 to 4 individuals. In addition, many of the river waters are murky and muddy, making specimens difficult to detect. This may be because they are intelligent animals, besides having a shy and that is elusive demeanor and they do not care much to be seen for a long time.

However, in the last years, the IUCN, seeing some refuges and conservation sites located throughout the Amazon basin where some Amazon animals endangered lived, including the pink cetaceans, decided to include them in the category of Endangered (EN). This may be due to their most common jungle predators in adult life, the humans, and pollution.

Pink river dolphin surrounded by myths and legends

pink river dolphin legends

These dolphins are unique and are the subject of many South American legends. One of the many stories affirms that during the full moon night, the Pink River Dolphins transform into handsome men, walking over the river bank,  with hats that hide their nostrils and seducing the women of the town. Other legends claim that if you go swimming alone, dolphins can take you to a magical underwater city. Even many of the locals believe that it is bad luck to harm these dolphins, especially if you eat them. And this semi-magical condition can help these lovely animals to be protected and treated with respect these last few years. Among all the things to do in Iquitos, being able to swim with these dolphins is one of the best things to experience.


We hope we have helped you learn a little about these lovely animals. Today there are numerous routes and Peruvian Amazon tours where the possibility of swimming with these friendly dolphins is offered. Without a doubt, the Pink River Dolphin is one of the animals that you will not want to miss on your vacation. The Machu Travel Peru team hopes they have been helpful. If you want to know more about our different routes, you can consult with our team of advisers. They will be happy to help you swim with the curious dolphins!

The Andean country has such great biodiversity that a visitor never knows where to start. But, rest assured that Machu Travel Peru and its long trajectory in the tourism sector will be ready to assist you with any aspect of your Machu Picchu tour or Peru vacation. We assure you of unforgettable memories of your visit to Machu Picchu and Peru!