Tailing the unique Irrawaddy dolphins

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The Irrawaddy dolphin is a not quite a River dolphin as its normal habitat lies near the coast and delta areas, it is found in river such as the Ganges, the Mekong and the Ayeyarwady River Irrawaddy River from where it gets its name. The Irrawaddy Dolphin has a lifespan of about 30 years and can reach about 130kg in weight and about 2.5m in length. It has a rounded head and a flat nose and is classified as a critically endangered species with only about 65 left in total. There are a few clusters of dolphins around the Laos / Cambodian border on the Lower Mekong, which can be seen by taking a kayaking tour. The dolphins don’t seem to mind the kayak’s and swim about normally. There are only 12 dolphins left in this area and a few more further down stream in Kratie - Cambodia. It is possible to spot a few dolphins whilst on the trip as they reside just below the waterfalls on the Cambodian side of the river. The best time to see them is in the morning or afternoon due to the heat and they seem to surface more in cooler temperatures. It's indeed very hard to spot them in the rainy season when the water isn't clear and the Mekong is 14km wide. The dolphins dive for a couple minutes and only come to the surface for a couple of seconds to breath. Always a surprise where they popup. We're lucky to have met this highly endangered species during our boat kayak trip and I was lucky to captured them through the wetlands of Si Pan Don in Laos, around the Mekong Fault Line. A fixed percentage of the paddle tour is dedicated to the Laos dolphin conservation fund. There are only 64 or 65 irrawaddy dolphins left in the Mekong river in Southeast Asia. With a more rounded head and a shorter fin, these dolphins are unique and live in only a small, 190 km- stretch of the river that flows through Laos and Cambodia. Evidence shows that their immune systems are being broken down by pollution into the river and the source is yet to be identfied. The Mekong river flows from mountains of Tibet to China, Thailand, Laos en Cambodia to the sea in Vietnam at a length of almost 4900 km. Members of numerous NGOs are investigating and they believe that several countries may be involved. Our journey through Laos will end with amazing fresh water dolphins and raging waterfall jumps in kayaks overlooking the border with Cambodia.

Photo of the endangered species: the Irrawaddy Dolphin in Southern Laos - Northern Cambodia. We enjoy a day kayaking tour through the wetlands of Si Pan Don in Laos, around the Mekong Fault Line. It is possible to spot a few dolphins and we were lucky. The dolphins don’t seem to mind the kayak’s and swim about normally. There are about only 12 dolphins left in this area and a few more further down stream in Kratie - Cambodia. Three Irrawaddy dolphins just popup the breath, on the right side mother and her little baby as a group of Great White Egrets just flew above them. Such lovely wildlife spotting! The best time to see them is in the morning or afternoon due to the heat and they seem to surface more in cooler temperatures. It exciting to see these unique dolphins so close. Laos wildlife at it best.

Si Pan Don, ofwel vierduizend eilanden, is een verzameling bewoonde en onbewoonde eilandjes in de Mekong. De rivier is hier een maar liefst 14 km breed labyrint van zandplaten, eilanden, rotsen, stroomversnellingen en spectaculaire watervallen. De eilandjes liggen in het uiterste zuiden van Laos, tegen de grens met Cambodja en hebben een unieke flora en fauna. Ten zuiden van Si Pan Don maak je veel kans om de bedreigde zoetwaterdolfijn te zien. Het Wereldnatuurfonds maakt zich ernstig zorgen over het lot van de Irrawaddydolfijn in de Mekong-rivier in Zuidoost-Azië. Volgens onderzoekers leven er nog 64 tot 65 van deze dolfijnen in de zwaar vervuilde rivier. De zoetwaterdolfijn staat inmiddels op de lijst van dieren die met uitsterven worden bedreigd. In de afgelopen vijf jaar werden ongeveer vijftig dode dolfijnkalveren gevonden in Laos en Cambodja. Sectie op de dieren wees uit dat ze kampten met grote hoeveelheden pesticiden, kwik en andere giftige stoffen in hun lichamen. Het Wereldnatuurfonds onderzoekt waar de vervuiling van de rivier precies vandaan komt. Het kwik komt waarschijnlijk van mijnbouwactiviteiten langs de bijna 4900 kilometer lange rivier. De Mekong heeft haar bron op de Tibet-hoogvlakte en stroomt via de zuidelijke Chinese provincie Yunnan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos en Cambodja naar de monding in Vietnam. Het beste kan je de dolfijnen bekijken vanaf het water. We maken een tocht per kayak en peddelen eerst de sneltromende rivier af. Na een uur moeten we het water uit: we naderen de spectaculaire Li Phi waterval! Een stuk verder mogen we het water weer in. De rivier is hier duidelijk veel ruiger en met nog veel meer vaart varen we bijna Cambodja in. De dolfijnen zwemmen hier de grens over maar wij moeten stoppen op een klein strandje precies op de grens met Cambodja. Hier betalen we de grenspolitie één Dollar om toch even de grens te mogen overgaan. Normaal heb je visum nodig. De meeste kans om dolfijnen te zien maak je in de droge tijd. In de het regenseizoen is de rivier erg breed en is het water vrij troebelig. De dolfijnen duiken enkel minuten onderwater en komen maar enkele seconden naar boven om te ademen. Altijd een verassing waar ze naar boven komen. Het is echt fantastisch om deze bedreigde zoetwater dolfijnen zonder snuit te zien zwemmen, in de Mekong tussen Kratie en de grens met Laos. Wij hebben ze gelukkig kunnen zien van behoorlijk dichtbij en prachtige grote zilverreigers en hopen dat ons toeristengeld kan bijdragen tot het in stand houden van dit bijzonder soort dolfijnen.

Akbar Simonse, mikazu001 away, and 121 other people added this photo to their favorites.

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  1. I am marlon 43 months ago | reply

    Congratulations! your shot is hard to duplicate.
    You're invited to share your shot at

    Hard to Duplicate Group.

  2. T.Mackin 42 months ago | reply

    Beautiful country.

  3. Dragan* 42 months ago | reply


    Fine Gold Award

    Because you deserve it
    Seen in: Fine Gold Post 1 - Award 5
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  4. asdepix 42 months ago | reply


    Fine Gold Award

    Because you deserve it
    Seen in: Fine Gold Post 1 - Award 5
    6 Minus Awards Post Here
    6 Plus Awards Post Here

  5. Bellesí_██_ 41 months ago | reply

    Very good picture. It's beautiful.
    Good series
    BRAVO!

  6. Levafree 39 months ago | reply

    unbelievable!!!!

  7. Soudsaichay 39 months ago | reply

    Sabaidee Ben!
    Your photos of Laos are amazing! You even had the chance to mee the dolphins, lucky you! ;) Keep it comong and I hope you had a wonderful time in Laos :)

  8. Frizztext 38 months ago | reply

    hi Ben,
    dank u well for sending your unbelievable shot to my group BLOG IT!
    so I could feature your photo in my blog article
    flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/water-memories/
    WATER MEMORIES
    I hope that will support YOUR work too ...

  9. fewstingscorpio 38 months ago | reply

    Wonderful Photo !! You Really Made A Splash!!!! Please Let Other Splashers Enjoy Your Artistic SPLASH !!
    1best splash final_edited-3**Splash**

  10. shahmeerrafiqphotography [deleted] 25 months ago | reply

  11. chris.spins (OFF) 25 months ago | reply

    This fantastic action capture was seen at:
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  12. Philippe Hernot 25 months ago | reply

    This fantastic action capture was seen at:
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    post 1 award 3

  13. Frizztext 17 months ago | reply

    beste Ben,
    I've featured again your great WATER story:
    flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/story-challenge-l...
    groetjes van fritstekst / frizztext

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