After a short breakfast, we pack our bags and are driven to the docks at Paracas for our departure to Islas Ballestas, the best known activity on the Peruvian coast. Our little van takes us on the 5 minute ride to the tourists lined up in long formations, ready to attack the 8am boats.
There are a bunch of extra small fees to pay, but it’s not a complicated process.
South of Paracas is a national reserve, the only one on Peru’s pacific coast, that protects hundreds of species of birds, and provides great views of the Pacific. We will miss the reserve because of time. It gets low reviews probably because the Islas Ballestas next-door are comparatively amazing.
Thanks to the Humboldt Current, a deep and food-filled waterway that sweeps northward along the Peruvian coast, the Ballestas Islands host an incredibly dense number of animals in a small area, including sea lions (called sea-wolves in spanish), Peruvian Boobies, Inca Terns, cormorants, pelicans, Turkey vultures, and if you are lucky, Humboldt Penguins in their most northern habitat.
In addition to the ever-present briny smell of the sea, the islands smell like bird shit; Ripe, pungent bird shit, which we are fortunately just far enough from that it wasn’t a gaggingly overpowering fume.
In fact, for a period in the 1800’s guano was one the major exports of Peru before artificial fertilizers were invented. In fact the word Guano originates from the Inca/Quechua language ‘wanu.’
Of course the good news about animal stink, is it means there are animals nearby. And holy cow are there animals. The sound is cacophonous, mostly birds, but also the barking of sea lions. God it’s loud.
Lions and Penguins and Birds – Oh my
The boat moves up closely and I expect the hundreds of birds to scatter because we are so close to the edge – maybe 20 feet from them. But they seem fearless. Maybe they recognize their overwhelming numerical superiority. They could sink one of these boats if they were organized enough.
And then we turn the corner and get our first glimpse of wild penguins. What a sight! One does not expect to see wild penguins without going somewhere pretty cold. They waddle around and little baby penguin fuzz-balls sit waiting to be fed. We see many on this trip, at least three dozen. I feared they would be a rare spotting.
The sea lions, in big packs, are just adorable. There are also lots of babies and big ones. They sun themselves, and flop effortlessly in the water. At one spot, we saw hundreds playing on a beach in the surf. We couldn’t get that close, but it was really cool.
We turn around for one final look at the islands after the 60 minutes tour, and depart for Paracas. It seemed longer than an hour, maybe because my senses worked overtime. I was so engaged with the wild animals. This was an amazing sea-fari.
Check out the pictures below, there are many great ones that I can’t include with the text.
Onward to the amazon.
The drive is simple for the first few hours but we hit snarling Lima traffic, which may be related to the holiday weekend coming up (Easter.) But it leads to an anxious hour in the car, at one point completly stopped for 20 mins, before we hit the city center and the airport outsikrts. It didn’t help that I had thought the plane left earlier than it, in fact, did. doh.
The room has three beds, so Emma and Lily sleep head to tow for the second night in a row. It’s damp but the have a weak air conditioning unit that we switch on. We take our last hot showers for a while.
Tomorrow we will be in our final destination, the Amazon!