Ballestas Islands, Peru

The islands have been called the “poor man’s Galapagos”.  The Galapagos islands are on my bucket list and have been from when I first started my bucket list.  I love photographing wildlife so when I found out about the Ballestas Islands, it was a definite on our list for our trip to Peru.

Getting There

The Ballestas Islands are a small group of islands (some are rocky outcrops) located off the coast of Peru.  The islands are accessed from Paracas, a small resort town near Pisco.  Paracas is just over 290 km south of Lima, the capital of Peru.  This is about a 4 hour drive.  We stayed the night in Pisco and travelled to Paracas. You can also stay in Paracas for the night or stay in Lima and arrange for a tour or transfer to Paracas.

You can get a day tour to the Ballestas Islands from Lima. Some of these tours include the Oasis in Huacachina and / or Paracas Reserve in Ica. Check prices and tours available if heading there for the day from Lima.

Once at Paracas, you head to the harbour and catch a boat from one of the tour companies operating the trip to the islands.  The cost of the trip will depend on if you are heading to Paracas yourself of going on a tour from Lima.  If you are in Paracas, budget on around US$25 to US$30 for the trip.

The round trip takes about 2 hours.  While waiting for our boat we were able to spend some time on the beach along with the local pelicans.

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Ballestas Islands, Peru
Ballestas Islands, Peru

Once on board our boat, we headed out for our trip.  While slowly motoring out of the harbour, you get a great view of the old fishing boats.

Ballestas Islands

The Boat Trip

You stay on the boat for the entire trip as the islands are protected and tourists are not permitted on them.

The first stop on our journey is the Paracas Candelabra.

Ballestas Islands

It is estimated that the Paracas Candelabra dates back to 200BC, although it is possible that it is older.  There has been a huge amount of speculation as to why this massive 181 meter or 595 feet glyph was constructed.  The glyph is cut out of the hill and is 2 feet deep.

Some believe the glyph represents a lightning rod of the god Viracocha while others believe it is a representation of an hallucinogenic plant call Jimson weed.  Or was it aliens?  Whatever the reason it was created, it is an amazing sight.

Then we head to the rocky outcrops that are the Ballestas Islands and the amazing wildlife that calls these islands home.

Ballestas Islands

There are thousands of birds on the islands which results in lots and lots of guano or bird droppings.  The guano is harvested and sold for fertiliser.

Ballestas Islands

The boat goes around various islands to see the wildlife and the spectacular formations of the islands.

Ballestas Islands

The sea lions and seals were amazing.  So many of them lazing around which gave great opportunities for photos.

Ballestas islands
Ballestas Islands

And then there are more birds and of course the penguins that are so cute.

Ballestas Islands
Ballestas Islands

What You Need to Take With You

While the trip is only about 2 yours long, there are a few things I recommend that you take with you:

  • A hat.  With all the birds around you never know if you will become the victim of bird droppings or not.  On a sunny day you will need it for shade as the boats are open.  Also it can get quit windy and if you are like me with long hair a hat helps keep it under control.
  • Sunscreen.  The day we went out was overcast but you are in the open so sunscreen is important to not get sun burnt.
  • A waterproof jacket.  Firstly, it can get windy and cold so a jacket is important to keep warm.  Secondly, as the boat is open, if it rains you will get wet.  We didn’t get a lot of spray from the water.
  • A telephoto lens for your camera.  To give you an idea, my photos were taken with a zoom lens at 300mm and the photos were then cropped.  If you have a DSLR a telephoto lens is a must.
  • Binoculars.  If you have a set of binoculars bring them with you for a better view.
  • Waterproof bag.  When on a boat it’s always good to have a bag that is water resistant or water proof.  If you are taking a bag that isn’t at least water resistant, take a plastic bag to cover it (just make sure the plastic bag returns with you and doesn’t end up in the ocean).

It doesn’t matter which side of the boat you sit on either.  The driver does a good job making sure he turns the boat to give everyone a good view.  You are also given life jackets (obviously).

Ballestas Islands

Recommendation

It is well worth the time to see the Ballestas Islands, especially if you are like me and love seeing wildlife in their natural habitat.  Highly recommended.

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