By Sarah Newton-John • 28 February 2023 • 11:00
Pink dolphin/Shutterstock Images
The dolphin’s bite exposed tendons and bones and Claire said: “I just kept thinking I was going to lose my foot. My skin was flapping around and I could see my bone.”
Once at the local hospital—which she said was “more like a farmyard than an actual hospital”—she was given 32 stitches. She was taken to the Bolivian capital, La Paz for urgent treatment after she developed a serious infection.
Claire flew home to the UK two weeks later, and surgeons in Bristol operated on her foot before another fortnight of recovery.
Claire said: “I’ve never felt pain like it.
“I remember seeing the dolphin out of the corner of my eye, and then it suddenly lunged at me.
”It wasn’t the cute-looking dolphins we’re used to seeing, it had a huge beak with a mouthful of spiky teeth.
“I screamed and screamed, but it just wouldn’t let go of me.
“It felt like it had me for 15 minutes, but apparently it was about 20 seconds before it let go and swam away.”
Claire was wary of the pink river dolphins that day as she saw they “started to turn aggressive” after a child tried to pick up one of the creatures, and she was only hopping into the water to retrieve a water bottle when she was bitten.
“I’ve seen a psychologist to help deal with the trauma – I used to have daily flashbacks of the attack.
“I used to really love wild swimming and I hope to be able to do it in the future, but I’ll never swim with dolphins again.”
Claire and her friend Louis were in Bolivia on a South and Central American seven-month-long trip starting last October when they went on a jungle trek early in January.
“What should have been a beautiful experience changed my life forever, it’s incredibly rare for dolphins to attack humans and I never thought it would happen to me.”
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