Can You Swim In the Amazon River?
I love swimming. My father is always telling me stories from when I was just 1 year old and we went to the beach and he needed to hold me because every time he let loose and crawled to the water. It’s an old passion for me. Even so, there is one place in Brazil where I would never swim, don’t matter what.
As a general rule, anyone can swim on the Amazon River but never go alone. Use the advice of residents and avoid isolated and dangerous areas (unless you want to die). Finally, it’s also possible to pay for safe and amazing experiences, such as swimming with Botos, the Amazon River Dolphin.
The Amazon River is gigantic with a fauna and flora that is one of the richest on the planet. The region is breathtaking and probably one of the most preserved native regions on earth. But there are dangers as well and you need to be aware of them before traveling and maybe swimming over there.
The Amazon River
The Amazon River is the largest in the world in terms of extension and volume of water. With 6992 kilometers, it runs through the north of South America, the Amazon forest, and flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It has more than a thousand tributaries, such as the Madeira, the Negro, and the Japurá, among the 10 largest rivers on the planet.
The Nile River is generally regarded as the longest river in the world, with a length of about 6852 km, and the Amazon is the second with 6400 km. But Brazilian and Peruvian studies carried out in 2007 and 2008, discovered and added to the source of the Amazon the tidal channels of the southern Amazon basin and the Pará do Tocantins estuary, thus concluding that the Amazon has a length of 6 992 km is, therefore, longer than the Nile.
The Dangers Of Swimming In The Amazon River
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most important, gigantic, and diverse ecosystems on earth, providing the perfect habitat for amazing yet dangerous creatures such as the Jaguar and the Poison Dart Frog for example. But in the depths of the Amazon River, the largest river in the world, unbelievable creatures so so terrifying that they make Sharks look like a good and relaxing swim in the sea (and by the way, there are sharks in the Amazon River).
Black Caiman (Jacaré-Açu)
This crocodilian is the largest of South America and along with the American alligator one of the biggest on earth. A relentless carnivorous reptile that lives in lakes, slow rivers, and flooded savannas in different freshwater habitats of South America.
The Black Caiman is gigantic, growing at least to 5m (16 ft) and possibly up to 6m (20ft). Although, some people from the riverside population in the Amazon report that already saw Black Caimans (known as Jacaré-Açu) more than 9 meters long.
It’s just reporting, but they should not be completely ignored since the native population is who has the most direct contact with these animals, in the depths of the Amazon forest. A Black Caiman is an animal that can absolutely kill you in Brazil, but the odds of being attacked by one of these crocodiles are very low.
A Destructive Attack (Which Rarely Leaves Any Survivors)
When such an animal bites someone, the victim hardly survives. On New Year’s Eve 2010, in Mamirauá, São Paulo biologist Deise Nishimura had an unwanted surprise. While she was cleaning fish on the edge of the houseboat where she lived, she was dragged into the water by an alligator more than 5 meters long. Despite the slim chance of survival, she decided to fight for her life.
“At that time, I thought I had already died, that was it. But then I thought: what is the most sensitive part of an alligator? I put my hand on his head and I found two holes, I don’t know if it was his nose or his eye, and I stuck my fingers in like that, really hard, and squeezed really hard. That’s when he let go of me, and then I realized that I was already without my leg”, recalls the biologist.
Deise swam to the edge of the house but couldn’t climb it. She had to climb a log to get out of the water. Exhausted, she screamed for help. But there was no one around. So she crawled into the radio room and called for help. “Fifteen minutes later, the reserve staff arrived. They made tourniquets on her legs and took the biologist to Tefé. In the hospital, an hour later, the doctor was amazed.”
She is a very rare case of surviving the attack of a black caiman. Deise told her survival story in this TEDx Talk. It’s in Portuguese but there are subtitles. It’s an incredible story that definitely worth the time to watch.
If you ever watched the movie Anaconda in the ’90s then you know what I’m talking about. Although the movie exaggerates the behavior of the snake, there are gigantic snakes that can kill and eat humans here in Brazil. It’s very rare, but it happens. Know in Brazil as “Sucuri”, the Anacondas are the biggest species of snakes that can be found in the Americas, reaching up to 10 meters in length.
A Hell of A Bite (And Hug)
Anacondas are not poisonous, but the powerful bite stuns the prey, which is quickly enveloped by the snake’s strong and robust body. These huge snakes live close to rivers and lakes and have a semi-aquatic habit and. Although slow on land, they are very agile in the water: Eunectes, the name of their genus, means “good swimmer”. Usually, they wrap themselves around the prey that is taken to the water, where it drowns.
The strong “hug” of anacondas can also kill their victims by asphyxiation – each time the prey expires, the snake tightens until it stops breathing completely. Anacondas are all over the country, usually in flooded areas. Unfortunately, by fear and greed (their skins value a lot of money), a lot of people still kill this beautiful animal even knowing that the chances of killing a human are very low.
This gigantic and dangerous animal lives in the mysterious waters of the Amazon River, making victims in the animal world as well as humans. Arapaima, better known as “Pirarucu” or even “Paiche”, is a gigantic carnivorous fish that lives in the Amazon in nearby flooded regions. Encased by scales that look like real armor, the Pirarucus seem to make light of the fact that they live in piranha-infested waters. Furthermore, they are very effective predators, feeding on fish and one ocisionally even on birds.
Pirarucus tend to stay close to the surface, as they need to breathe surface air through their gills, and make a characteristic coughing sound when they emerge to breathe. The animals are really gigantic, reaching 2.7 meters in length and weighing more than 100 kg. These fish are so cruel that even their tongue has teeth. Believe me: Pirarucu’s tongue bones are so hard and rough that it is used in the Amazon as a cooking tool, to grate grains, including guarana.
The animal’s tail attack is also fierce, being responsible for the death of at least one fisherman. The fisherman was hit in the abdomen region and, according to information that reached the Secretariat of Rural Production of Amazonas, one of the ribs would have broken and hit a vital organ, causing him to die.
Giant Otter (Ariranha)
The giant otters are giant otters and another great reason to never swim in the murky waters of the Amazon River. They are the largest specimens of the weasel family, with adult males reaching up to two meters in length from head to tail. They are carnivorous animals and their diet consists mainly of fish and crabs. Otters generally hunt in family groups of 3 to 8 members, and can eat up to 5kg of food per day.
Although they look nice and “cute”, don’t be fooled. They are fierce hunters and have been seen destroying and eating anacondas. Recently, a family of giant otters was seen devouring a 6-foot-long alligator! Unfortunately, their numbers have been decreasing in recent years, mainly due to human intervention. They are among the most capable predators in the Amazon rainforest, hence their local name “river wolves.”
Toothpick Fish (Candiru)
The Amazon River does not just produce giant animals. There it is also possible to find small creatures as terrifying as an Anaconda. A clear example of this is Candiru, a small parasite that is the animal I am particularly afraid of among everyone on the list.
Candiru is a small, freshwater parasitic fish, with stories that are simply terrifying to any man. It turns out that the little fish is famous for getting into the urethra of anyone foolish enough to urinate in the river (the urine attracts them), and they get lodged in the urinary tract because of the spines that run along the back. Basically, the fish is famous for entering the human penis (or anus), eating it from inside, and laying eggs in the human bladder.
These terribly painful stories are told (and feared) by residents and also confirmed by hospital reports, of men needing surgery to remove a Candiru from his urethra, who had also tried to dig through his testicles! However, it’s worth noting that the Candiru has a preference for attacking other fish, attaching itself to the gills of larger fish with its spines and feeding on its host’s blood.
Bull Shark (Tubarão Touro ou Cabeça Chata)
These large stout sharks are found in both salt and fresh water. Here in Brazil, it’s common to find Bull sharks in the amazon river (as if they needed more wild animals over there lol). The Bull shark has been recorded in rivers hundreds of miles from the sea, as in the case of the Amazon River in Iquitos, Peru, almost 4,000 kilometers from the sea.
These sharks have special kidneys that can sense the change in water salinity and adapt accordingly. And you don’t want to swim in a river with such an animal: it’s very common for bull sharks reaching over 3.5 meters in length and weighing almost half a ton.
Like many sharks, they have multiple rows of sharp teeth and immensely powerful triangular jaws, with a bite force of 589 kg, making them one of the shark species that most attack humans (along with the tiger and white sharks). Combined with their relentless aggressiveness with their habit of living close to densely populated areas, this has led many experts to identify them as the most dangerous sharks in the world.
Swimming With Dolphins In The Amazon River
The Pink Dolphin or Amazon River Dolphin is a beautiful and docile mammal and easy to live with humans. Swimming with the dolphins is a common practice among the residents of the Amazon and, in principle, does not pose risks. Also, it’s an activity that tourists are welcome to do. There are several options of tours with authorized local guides to see, swim and feed the dolphins.
It all depends on the tourist’s courage, but in general, it can be said that it is safe as long as the safety instructions are respected. It’s a really cool tour to do, especially with children. The boto has a very flexible head and body. Unlike its relative from the sea, it doesn’t usually do big acrobatics, at most small jumps. It lives between 30 and 40 years old and reproduces starting from 8 years old.
In the Amazon, there is a legend associated with botos, which serves to justify pregnancy outside of marriage. Legend has it that during June festivals, the pink dolphin leaves the rivers and appears transformed into an elegant and seductive young man, dressed in white and always wearing a hat to hide his big nose, which does not disappear from his head. , even with the transformation.
The boto seduces the girls and takes them to the bottom of the rivers. In some cases, young women appear pregnant a few months later. When a young stranger shows up at a party in the Amazon, it is customary to ask him to take off his hat so that he can be sure it is not the boto. When a woman in the Amazon has a child of an unknown father, it is customary to say that he is the son of a boto. Crazy yet funny.
Has Anyone Swam The Amazon River?
Swimming in the Amazon River is quite common for residents of the region, but have you ever imagined swimming the full length of the Amazon River? This is the story of Martin Strel, who swam the Amazon River.
In 2007 the Slovenian Martin Strel completed the crossing of the Amazon River after 66 days of swimming. Strel swam over 5,000 kilometers of river, from Peru to Belém. In addition to him, many residents of the region bathe in the river daily, as they know well the dangerous places to avoid.
The Slovenian Martin Strel is known as a fish-man and given the giant physical effort that lasted 66 days, the athlete received medical care in the morning after finishing the journey. According to the expedition’s press office, the Slovene did not feel his legs when he arrived at the port of the capital of Pará.
The doctors who attended the swimmer informed that he had delusions and would have to rest the rest of the day to recover from the exaggerated effort. Eleven kilos thinner and with a sunburned face, he fulfilled the great challenge.
The riverside population in the Amazon region is closely linked to the river, which brings food, water, and entertainment. In addition to being the main transport route in the region. Residents know very well what dangers and areas to avoid to swim safely.
How Long Did It Take To Swim The Amazon?
66 days was the number of days it took Slovenian Martin Strel to swim the entire length of the Amazon River. Known as the fish-man, in 2007 the Slovenian swam more than 5,000 kilometers, from Peru to Belém do Pará, in Brazil. He was the first athlete to undertake such a challenge.