Islas Ballestas at Paracas Nature Reserve – Paracas, Peru

Peru - Damany5a 084The town of Paracas (located in the Ica area, in the Province of Pisco – 260 km south of Lima) is really not all that big…nor does it have much going on, especially at night…really visiting the nature reserve is probably one of the few things you’ll want to do there.  I mean, it’s cool and all, but you don’t necessarily need to stay in Paracas to enjoy the reserve – the town is central to Ica and Lima and the Ballestas tour is about a two hour long boat ride around the few rocky islands that house the animals.

Islas Ballestas are accessible from the docks in the town of Paracas.  If you are lucky your boat won’t have issues which cause you to return to the dock to switch to a new boat, as ours did, though if that does happen, it really isn’t such a dramatic setback to your day.

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The nature reserve claims the title of “The Poor Man’s Galapagos”…though I’m not sure I would really call it that.  The Galapagos islands are the impressive string of islands on which Darwin studied his theory of evolution – where many forms of life gather and thrive.  In Paracas, the Ballestas Islands are small rocky formations that are home to penguins, various sea birds, seals and sea lions mainly – though sometimes dolphins can be seen swimming around the islands as well.

On the way to the islands, tourists will see El Candelabro on the Paracas Peninsula.  This is a large-scale geoglyph similar in construction to the Nazca Lines.  The origins of this particular symbol are unknown, and the mystery continues to be speculated upon.

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Once past the Paracas Peninsula, you will begin to notice the birds flying everywhere…they are hunting fish from the water alongside the boat, flying above your heads going from rock to rock.  You see the extremity of their population once you realize the black patches on the rocks are actually hoards of birds – and the white, piles of their poop (which you also hope is not going to end up on your head with the birds flying above).

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The seals and sea lions tend to sunbathe lazily on the rocks all day – uninterested in the tourist boats passing by – I imagine they are bored with the daily spectators.

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The solid layers of poop which collect on Ballestas are harvested as manure and sent to (mostly) the USA and Canada.  The value of the manure from Paracas is actually qutie high, and has come to be known as Peruvian white gold.

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And yes, it totally smells like poop near the islands.  And it’s cold – and wet – so bring a jacket.

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Paracas Nature Reserve

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