Pure Amazon Magic: Swimming With The Little Pink Boto

Swimming with the Boto
The legend tells us of a handsome young man, dressed smartly all in white.

During the period of the Festas Juninas (Saints days in the month of June that in Brazil are celebrated with dancing, traditional foods and lots of fireworks), the man seduces unescorted young women, convincing them to swim in the river with him.

The next day, this mysterious man transforms back into his real shape, a pink dolphin, and is gone.

The story was even made into a film in the 1980s.

The Dolphin
Now, the cynics might very well say that this is a sorry excuse of a story – along the lines of “The dog ate my homework” – invented by a young lady who found herself having to justify a pregnancy following a night of partying and maybe a bit too much Quentão (traditional concoction of these June festivities made of warmed-up cachaça and spices; remember that in Brazil June is a winter month).

Perhaps, but I think it is a charming one, and the creature of this legend, the Pink Dolphin, or Boto cor-de-rosa, actually does exist.

A rare fresh water mammal that lives only in the Amazon River basin, is pale pink in colour and very friendly to humans (although we really doubt they are friendly in the way the legend suggests…)

Some indigenous tribes collaborated with the Botos, who helped them by driving fish towards their nets near the riverbed, but these days some Amazonian communities actually hunt and kill these wonderful creatures to use their various parts as aphrodisiacs, medicines, and even as catfish bait.

Photo by Lalo de Almeida for the NYT

These communities are very poor and depend on fishing for their livelihood.

They fear the dolphins not only because of the folkloric legends and superstition surrounding it (it is common in the region to call a child “son/daughter of a Boto” when you don’t know who their father is), but because they see them as competition, since the Botos also eat their prized fish.

It is illegal to hunt, harm or kill these creatures, but in a region roughly the size of India, it is worse than impossible to enforce such laws.

The hope lies in initiatives that offer people the opportunity to make a living from protecting these animals.

One great example of this eco-tourism; the dolphins are so friendly that it is possible to go swimming with them.

The luxury hotel Ariau Towers – which is built entirely at treetop-level in the Amazon forest near the city of Manaus – offers excursions where you can get very up-close-and-personal with the biggest and pinkest creatures you’ll ever meet (no undue pregnancies reported yet either).

By employing locals to run the hotel and excursions, this kind of business can protect the forest and magical creatures like the Boto for everyone to enjoy.

For anybody who wants a holiday that combines adventure, luxury, the satisfaction of making the world a better place, and the colour pink, I can’t think of a better trip than making your way down to Ariau Towers.

Needless to say, we at the Little Pink Blog are very keen to go on a jungle adventure and meet those Little Pink Botos, so any potential sponsors please get in touch!


Alice Bonasio is a Brazilian/American/Italian writer specializing in Digital Cultures, fashion, and all things Brazilian. She has been published in Gamestm, Edge, The Escapist and 360. She is currently finishing an MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick. She lives in England and is a PR Executive for one of the UK’s hottest tech start-ups, The Filter. Visit her website, contact her on LinkedIN and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Such legends told stories of each region. Their favorite thing is to be the legendary hero-worship or a love story. This story is also beautiful.