At dawn, as we are leaving the Ariau lodge situated at 60 km from Manaus, the mist is rising over the coffee-colored waters of the Rio Negro. We navigate into the bay by canoe to watch the sunrise. It’s not clear yet, the haze suggests cloudy skies. Suddenly, we hear shrilling sounds nearby that are intensifying and will not cease. The botos are there, passing by us. It’s the first time we encounter them. They are in the middle of hunting. We see them sticking out their thin snout and large head above the water before diving again. They have a fascinating speed. The sun is rising gently in the horizon and the pink dolphins are coming and going as if to taunt us. The image of these creatures merging with the view of the rising sun in the background is unforgettable.
At daybreak, we leave the bay. We navigate for over an hour in the narrow tributaries of the Black River when we finally arrive in the middle of the jungle. Here, Romero, our half Indian and half European local guide, tell us to get out of the canoe so that we’ll experience trekking and survival skills. We walk for hours at the center of the forest in a heat with over 70% moisture. It feels a bit like in a Hammam (wet sauna) but less comfortable and without towels to wipe the sweat off our foreheads.
Romero always tries motivating us with short encouraging phrases. He tells us that it’s absolutely necessary to keep the pace because if we get lost, it will be difficult for us to return safely. He also give us recommendations in case any of us get lost. As he climbs a tree, he tells us not to eat that particular fruit or we will get dizzy within 30 minutes and after an hour, lose consciousness. Then he climbs another tree. He brings nuts back and peels them. He eats the worms coming out of the nuts and explains: “If you eat six of those worms, you are fed for the day”.
Back in the canoe, after an exhausting but rewarding experience, we hit the road to get back to our lodge. On our way, we pass by a fishing boat. Pink dolphins are circling around the nets and attend the banquet. A great number of fish jump off to try to escape the nets.
Pink dolphins meeting point
As we continue on our road and ten minutes before arriving at the lodge, we pass by a small house built along the streams where again, we could see botos. Exhausted, the group is eager to get home. As soon we arrive at the lodge, I insist that Romero takes me right away to see the dolphins.
I’m back to the place where the botos were cruising around to snorkel.
These beautiful creatures with their well-known grin, come out of nowhere, circling around me with their unique speed and flexibility. The 1 meter (3 feet) visibility is not enough to have a clear underwater view. This ballet last for over an hour and when the botos swim away, a few fish thrown into the water make them quickly come back. I leave happy.
Later on, I’m told that some hours after I left the place, a group went to see the dolphins at the same place and did not to see any. The group members were disappointed. I personally would not have left the Amazon without having had the pleasure of this face-to-face encounter.