The Amazon Pink River Dolphin: We Saw Them On The Tour!

Pink dolphins in Ecuador

A fascinating and enigmatic species thrives in the heart of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador – the Pink Dolphin. These majestic aquatic mammals are also known as the Amazon River Dolphins or Boto.

Pink dolphins are striking and mysterious creatures. Their presence in Amazon has made them a symbol and an integral part of the region’s ecological identity.

In this post, we will briefly share our experience finding these unique species during our trip to Yasuni National Park and some facts and tales about pink dolphins.

What are Pink Dolphins?

The pink dolphin, or the Amazon River dolphin, is a toothed whale species native to and found exclusively in South America.

According to the theory, when the Andes mountain range formed around ten to six million years ago, some ocean dolphins became trapped on the east side of the mountains. Over time, these dolphins adapted to their new environment in the Amazon Rainforest.

Among river dolphins, the Amazon River dolphin is the most widespread species. It can be found in six South American countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

The Amazon River dolphin is known to inhabit various regional aquatic habitats, including river basins, major river courses, canals, river tributaries, lakes, and areas near rapids and waterfalls.

Throughout the year, there are cyclical changes in water levels in the rivers. Pink dolphins are commonly found in the main river channels during the dry season. However, they tend to move to smaller tributaries, forests, and floodplains when the rainy season arrives.

Finding Pink Dolphins

captured pink dolphhin while touring on Amazon river in Ecuador

Photo Allen Sheffield // Wikimedia

We were looking forward to seeing pink dolphins during our trip in Ecuador. However, little did we know that finding these creatures in the Amazon is a rare occurrence. Pink dolphins are facing vulnerability in certain regions due to water pollution and dam construction. In fact, these magnificent dolphins are classified as an endangered species.

Reportedly, the Pañacocha Lagoon is the only location where pink dolphins can be consistently spotted near the Yasuni National Park. 

Located between Yasuni National Park and Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, the Pañacocha Lagoon consists of a network of blackwater lagoons and rivers. These serene backwaters serve as a beloved sanctuary for the endangered pink dolphins. Moreover, it appears to be an excellent place for observing these captivating creatures.

Our guide told us that there was a very slim chance of spotting a dolphin, but when we went through anyway. Even though the boat trip to Pañacocha Lagoon took quite some time from our lodge, we did not want to miss the opportunity of seeing these creatures in action, even with a little chance.

During our tour, the guide told us interesting things about pink dolphins. They mostly swim in muddy water, and their greyish-pink color helps them blend in. They are not very social, so you usually find them alone or with their baby.

Pink dolphins do not leap out of the water like their ocean-dwelling cousins and do not follow boats closely. Even when they come up to the surface, only a tiny part of their blowhole and head becomes visible. They come up for air about every 30 seconds, and they don’t swim very fast, so it’s not easy to see them in the fast-moving Amazon River.

While we were not lucky to have a glimpse of pink dolphins, we still enjoyed our tour as we saw different bird species and other wildlife. Our guide told us that out of ten tours, he was only able to spot pink dolphins in this area twice.

Tales of Pink Dolphins

While we didn’t get to see them, we heard a lot of stories about pink dolphins in the Amazon. 

The Amazon river dolphin has sparked the creation of numerous myths and legends within the local communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon. According to one legend, the pink dolphin was once a young indigenous warrior. However, due to the jealousy of an ancient God, he was transformed into a dolphin and sentenced to reside in the rivers and lakes of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Additionally, residents of indigenous communities believe that during full moon nights, the pink dolphins in the rainforest transform into handsome men. They emerge from the water and begin flirting with women in the communities. Folklore and stories like these add to the aura of mystery surrounding them.

Ecotourism and Conservation

Ecotourism has become a way to make people aware of these amazing creatures and help protect them. Responsible and well-managed tourism can provide economic incentives for local communities to protect their environment and its wildlife. Additionally, it educates visitors about the fragile balance of the ecosystem and the need for its preservation.

Many organizations and projects are focused on conserving Pink Dolphins in the Amazon. They work to reduce threats and find sustainable solutions. We can help protect these creatures and their homes by supporting these efforts and choosing responsible tourism.


The Pink Dolphins of the Amazon in Ecuador remain an enchanting and enigmatic species that symbolizes the region’s ecological identity. Although spotting these magnificent creatures can be a rare occurrence, their presence in the Pañacocha Lagoon near Yasuni National Park offers a glimmer of hope for curious travelers.

While we may not have been fortunate enough to witness these graceful creatures during our tour, the experience gave us a deeper appreciation for the delicate ecosystem and the need to protect it.

Supporting organizations dedicated to pink dolphin conservation and making responsible choices as tourists are some contributions we can make to help preserve pink dolphins and their habitat.

About the author

Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities (Quito, Cuenca, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Otavalo, Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island, San Cristobal Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador. I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

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