You’ve already heard of the natural paradise of the Galápagos Islands, renowned for its world-class wildlife viewing opportunities, but you may not have known that Peru has its very own “Galápagos,” known as the Ballestas Islands. You can easily visit the Ballestas Islands in a day during your Peru private tour. It is located half an hour away from Paracas by speedboat.
This group of rocky islands is a wildlife sanctuary teeming with myriad animal species, including mammals like sea lions and fur seals, and birds, such as pelicans, gulls, boobies and cormorants. But perhaps the greatest attraction during your Ballestas Islands tour, it’s the chance to view the endangered Humboldt Penguin.
When you imagine penguins, you probably think of them sliding down ice and living huddled together in the freezing cold Antarctic region. However, the Humboldt is a warm-weather penguin that thrives in temperatures up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit! There are approximately 4000 breeding pairs located in Peru. For birders, spotting these penguins in the wild will be among the highlights of their Peru private tour.
Other species you may get the chance to see at the Ballestas Islands:
South American Sea Lion, the noisy marine mammals, were venerated by the ancient Moche people as “sea spirits.” These playful creatures sometimes swim up to tour boats to greet the folks on board.
Humpback Whales – from August to October, it might be possible to spot these protected sea giants as they migrate north for mating season.
Marine Otter, the smallest saltwater marine mammal, is a rare species that can be spotted occasionally during your Ballestas Island tour.
A plethora of seabirds of many kinds covers the island and creates a raucous and deafening chorus for your listening “pleasure.” In fact, 160 avian species have been sighted at the Ballestas Islands! This is a great chance to cross some birds off your bucket list during your Peru private tour!
You’ll also notice that the islands are covered with bird dung. This guano is harvested and sold as a highly effective fertilizer for crops. Before synthetic fertilizers were invented, Peru was the largest exporter of guano in the world, as it was considered essential to the farming industry worldwide. Over 100,000 indentured Chinese immigrants were brought to Peru’s guano islands to harvest the guano in the late nineteenth century. In some places the guano deposits were over 50 meters deep! Wars were even fought over the control of these lucrative sites. These days, the mining of guano from the Ballestas Islands is strictly controlled as the industry has a negative impact on the species that abound. The entire Paracas Reserve, including the Ballestas Islands, is now a Marine Protected Area and the bird populations are shielded from human interference as much as possible.
As for getting there, a trip to the Ballestas Islands can be completed in one day. You’ll need to get an early start, as the boat to the islands departs around 8 am. A three-hour drive from Lima will bring you to Paracas, where you’ll meet the speedboat that will bring you to the islands. On the way, you’ll pass by an ancient manmade geo-glyph known as the Candelabro. Somewhat similar to the famous Nazca Lines in appearance, but archaeologists have not determined which culture created the design that was carved into a cliff-face around 2,000 years ago! The crew will navigate close to the islands, where you’ll be able to observe the local fauna up close. Your English-speaking guide will enhance your experience with his or her wealth of knowledge about the region.
For both bird and nature lovers, it’s an absolute must to take a boat trip to the rocky Ballestas Islands during your Peru private tour.