Having evolved to a smaller size to help them thrive in the warmer, shallower waters, there are seven freshwater dolphin species living in the rivers of the world today. Mainly found in South America and Asia, these aquatic creatures are becoming more and more endangered as their habitats are lost and their numbers dwindle due to human interference. Whilst the striking pink river dolphin can be spotted on some of our Amazon River Cruises, a new itinerary from Pandaw can take you in search of the Irrawaddy dolphin.
The Irrawaddy Dolphin
Although named after the river which flows through Myanmar, there is a small population of Irrawaddy dolphins that live in the Mekong. Looking a bit like a beluga whale and closely related to the orca, these cetaceans have small noses and are blue-grey in colour. Whilst they often become entangled in fishing nets, the dolphins have been known to help the locals with their catch in places such as India and Myanmar. Following the calls of the fisherman, they drive fish towards the nets and certain villagers have even claimed ownership of specific dolphins for this purpose. It is estimated that there are around 120 living throughout Vietnam and Cambodia, many of which inhabit an area upstream, close to the town of Kratie.
The River Cruise
With a really shallow draft, the Mekong Pandaw was built perfectly for the Mekong River. It was already venturing further up the waterway than other vessels, but the operator has recently extended an itinerary so that the vessel offers the only opportunity to sail to Kratie. This is where the river dolphins are regularly seen and so spotting them is an exciting activity that can now be added to the cruise. Once you arrive in French-colonial Kratie, you will be transferred by coach to the grounds where the dolphins can be seen. They might be shy in approaching tourists but within this protected national park, they are slowly learning to trust the boats that come their way.
On a trip from Mỹ Tho to Siem Reap (or vice versa) with Pandaw, there are many other highlights besides the dolphins. River cruisers can travel in a traditional sampan in Sa Dec, see the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and meet villagers along the Tonle Sap River that are experts in making traditional handicrafts from silver. Plus, whether you choose to start or finish your river cruise in Siem Reap, you can discover the famous ancient temples of Angkor.
If you would like to travel further than any other river cruise line and see the Irrawaddy dolphin for yourself, we can help you plan this interesting and exciting Mekong River cruise.