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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The boat goes around various islands to see the wildlife and the spectacular formations of the islands.
The sea lions and seals were amazing. So many of them lazing around which gave great opportunities for photos.
And then there are more birds and of course the penguins that are so cute.
While the trip is only about 2 yours long, there are a few things I recommend that you take with you:
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).
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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