Brit tourist feared death after dolphin almost bit off her foot during wild swim

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A British holidaymaker has revealed how she thought she might die after a dolphin almost bit her foot off during a wild swim.

Claire Bye was left traumatised after the animal attacked her on a trip of a lifetime in Bolivia.

Claire, 28, was swimming in a river in Santa Rosa de Yacuma when a pink river dolphin bit her right foot.

She desperately tried to break free as onlookers frantically attempted to pull her out of the water.

The mammal eventually released its grip about 20 seconds later and swam away.

But she was ‘horrified’ to see her foot was ‘pouring with blood’ after it was partially severed.  

‘I’ve never known pain like it,’ Claire said.

‘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 and 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 only 20 seconds before it let go and swam away.’

Claire was rushed to a local hospital – which she described as more like a ‘farmyard’ with an ants’ nest in the bathroom.

‘The people there were very kind and did the best they could to sew up my foot, but they didn’t have any drugs,’ she said.

But her condition deteriorated four days later when she was struck by a potentially life-threatening infection.

It was only after frantic calls to the British embassy that she was transferred to a hospital in Bolivian capital La Paz for urgent treatment.

‘I honestly thought I’d lose my foot, or potentially my life,’ she said.

It was another fortnight before she could return home to Bristol, where she underwent surgery to transfer tissue from her groin to her foot.

She then spent a further two weeks in recovery.

Claire left Britain in October 2022 intending to spend seven months travelling around Central and South America.

But her trip was cut short just three months in after the incident happened during a jungle trek to explore the Amazon Basin – a part of South America drained by the Amazon river.

She and a friend joined a tour group including families, led by an experienced guide.

They spent time swimming and playing with the pink river dolphins.

But Claire became uneasy when a child tried to pick one up.

‘That’s when the dolphins became aggressive, and a few people got out of the water with scrapes on their legs where they’d been bitten,’ she recalled.

She decided not to return to the water but instead played with the dolphins with a water bottle, as demonstrated by the tour guide.

But a dolphin attacked her after she accidentally dropped the bottle in shallow water and jumped in to retrieve it.

Claire is now unable to work after the ‘traumatic’ ordeal and has seen a psychologist to help process the incident, which has left her feeling ‘lost’.

‘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,’ she said.

‘I wish I’d never gone back into the water, it’s hard to think about how life would be if it (hadn’t) happened.

‘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.’

An investigation has been launched into the incident – with warning signs now placed around the river to alert tourists.

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