Ballestas Islas, Coast Of Paracas

When you’re on your way Ballestas Islas off the coast of Paracas, otherwise known as The Poor Man’s Galapagos, make sure you either get a seat with a friend or get the ocean-side seat on your speedboat. The amount of animals you’re about to experience is not something you’re going to want to be leaning over someone else to get a good picture of.

I loved my tour of the Ballestas Islas, though it was relatively short. There wasn’t much room to complain since it only costed 15 USD. Most people were completely fine with sitting in a speed boat with a few dozen strangers marveling at penguins, seals, and pelicans.

Early that morning the group that traveled from Lima with me all met on the main road running through the small fishing village. We all were dazed from waking up so early and slowly meandered down to the dock to buy our tickets and hop onto a boat. My friend and I got a seat together and strapped in for the ride.

Our guide explained the safety precautions, what we’re likely to see, and some of the features that we would see before we reached the island. After that, we shot off across the ocean.

Our first sight that we saw was the Paracas Candelabra, a prehistoric geoglyph. It’s a giant candle stick dug two feet into the soil on a hill. It’s over 500 feet long and can be seen up to 12 miles away at sea.

There are many different theories of who this geoglyph was carved by but nobody really knows for sure who it actually was. I won’t speculate too much but my guide thinks it was the Spaniards marking a point of reference for when they’re out to sea.

When we reached the Ballestas Islas, I noticed how small they were from a relatively short distance. If I was driving the boat, I likely wouldn’t have noticed the islands. Though they’re pretty distinctive once you reach them, the amount of surface area isn’t massive.

Even though the islands are smaller, the amount of animals vying for the prime real estate was astounding. There were hundreds of penguins covering various sections, several different species of birds, seals, and strangely, one single human.

The different types of birds I recognized were the Peruvian Booby, Pelicans that would dive in and out of the water, Black Cormorats, what I thought was an Incan Tern, and Humboldt Penguins. There were several other sea birds I didn’t know the name of.

The reason the human was stationed there in a small hut is because the Ballestas Islands is profitable to the Peruvian government for only one thing. Guano, aka bird crap.

The fertilizer business is hugely profitable to the government in Peru, going so far as to say that they had an economic boom in the mid-1800’s completely based around guano. Bird crap enabled the Peruvian government to settle almost all of their external debts, making them a highly prestigious country on the world stage.

The market for guano from Peru is still extremely high, with a large majority being shipped to the US every year. This lonely guy’s job on the Ballestas Islas was to literally scoop up crap all over the island for profit. I applaud you mysterious Peruvian.

We circled the islands, drove through caves, and got exceedingly close to the outcropping rocks that seals sunbathe on. Our tour guide gave us a lot of useful information on the animals in the area, intermittently translating into Spanish and English. This type of tour seemed like a staple in South America, as a majority of citizens there don’t speak any English at all.

The animals covering these islands are enough reason to make the slightly inconvenient trip to Paracas. If you enjoy history and culture, this is a steal. For 15 USD, you get an extraordinary bang-for-your-buck deal and for that price, I got to mark off another penguin species in the world. That in itself made the boat ride worth it to me.