With the Rio Olympics just behind us, we’re taking a look at some of the most spectacular underwater wildlife of the Brazilian Amazon.

The Brazilian Amazon is one Earth’s most spectacular destinations. The area offers breathtaking rainforest scenery and ample wildlife-spotting opportunities, both above and below water. Many visitors travel to the Amazon to see terrestrial or avian species, including jewel-colored macaws, jaguars, giant otters and capybara. However, the jungle’s swamps and waterways are also teeming with life. Adventurous swimmers and snorkelers have several opportunities to check out the underwater wildlife of the Brazilian Amazon.

Amazon River Dolphin

Amazon River Dolphin

Also known as the Boto or pink river dolphin, this alien-looking animal is the largest of all river-dolphin species. Scientists know very little about the elusive pink dolphin, and thusly the IUCN Red List currently classifies them as Data Deficient. Botos are famous for their pink skin, and they are high on most visitors’ bucket list. Some tour companies let you meet them up close.

Amazing Tours, based in Manaus, is one of the area’s best rated operators. The dolphin tour takes guests 112 miles (180 km) up the Rio Negro to the riverside town of Novo Airão. There, local fishermen feed fish scraps to the dolphins. Consequently, they become acclimatized enough to allow people to swim with them. You can combine this tour with a visit to an indigenous village and the meeting point of the Negro and Solimões Rivers.

Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus)

Anaconda

Scientists group different species of snake under the generic name “anaconda.” All of them live in South American jungles. Of these, the green anaconda is the heaviest snake in the world, as well as one of the longest. Anacondas are not venomous; rather, they constrict their prey. Anaconda are excellent swimmers. They have nasal openings on the top of their head, which allow them to remain almost completely submerged for hours at a time.

You can find several species of anaconda, including the green and yellow anaconda, in the Brazilian Amazon, where they inhabit swamps, marshes and slow-moving streams. Despite their fearsome reputation, several underwater photographers and explorers have made successful attempts to swim with anaconda.

piranha

Piranha

Although scientists are unsure how many different piranha species live in the Brazilian Amazon, all are defined by their carnivorous diet, sharp, serrated teeth, and exceptionally strong bite force. The black piranha in particular has one of the most powerful bites of all vertebrates in relation to its body mass. Piranhas typically school together, although experts now think that this is a defense tactic rather than a hunting mechanism.

Popular culture vilifies piranhas to almost the same extent as sharks. But, like sharks, much of the hype concerning their vicious nature is misinformed. While no tour companies specifically offering piranha-swimming in Brazil, there are many places where it is possible to both swim safely with and fish for piranha. Anecdotal evidence shows that while there have been incidents, piranhas are characteristically wary of humans.

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