As we were swiftly skimming across the murky Yasuni River, I could not help but think to myself how lucky we are. Going to Ecuador and being fully emerged into the most biodiverse location in the world is an opportunity that most people do not get to experience. Here I find myself surrounded by the beauty of refreshingly new adventure and I am ready to fully engulf into it.
The farther our fearless leader, Fernando, guides us into the depths of the Yasuni River, the more alive it becomes. Consequently, we, the group of 12 students and two teachers, also emerge into an awakened state.
As my eyes scan forward, down the long narrow river, I see a flock of yellow and red toucans graciously descend from a tree to inches above the water. The leader of the flock flew so close to the river’s surface that its colorful coat reflected off the water creating a perfect replication. The stillness of the water combined with the proximity of the toucan appeared as two separate creatures. It was incredible. With a blink of an eye, the intrepid frontrunner and the rest of the flock disappeared back into the dense green jungle. And in a similar manner, we too disappeared deeper into the Amazon, down the Yasuni River.
Another 10 minutes of silence on the boat. The Amazon was vibrating with movement. You couldn’t see it, but you felt it. You felt it in every inch of your body. I constantly turned my head on a swivel. Look left, observe, look right, observe and then repeat. I know there are thousands of animals living in this remote utopia, but do they know that I am here?
The anticipation was hitting me full on, I could hardly keep still. However, silence was key. Fernando told our translator several times that if we wanted the full Amazonian experience we must be mute. Zero sound of any kind. Our boat driver then kills the engine. We drifted gently down the path ahead.
Out of nowhere, a splash in the distance about 40 yards to our left! Fernando points to the area. We all focus our attention towards the only ripple in the calm river. I don’t know what to expect. Could it be an anaconda? Or was is just a fish that jumped? The moment stretches on. I start to lose hope in what seemed to almost be a defining moment of the trip.
However, the Amazon did not give up on us.
Seconds later, a pink fin revealed itself and then vanished. A pink dolphin! I tracked the dolphin’s path and saw it three more times. The more precisely my eyes followed it, the better of an examination I was able to get of the unique animal. The third and last time it presented itself to us, the dolphin perched its nose out of the water, exposing the upper half of its body. To my astonishment, it was more white than pink. I was later told that the paleness of this pink dolphin was caused by a reaction from the extreme nutrients in the river. Strangest of all was its long pointy mouth that stretched at least eight inches from its face.
Examining the rare dolphin at this close range made it difficult to classify it as a dolphin. It was something completely of its own. It was majestic. This experience proved to me the Amazon’s unpredictability.
You never know what you are going to get.
Petey Dyer is a marketing major. He studied sustainability in Ecuador over the summer on a faculty-led program.