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Islas Ballestas - National Park Paracas - Peru

Just 18 kilometers (11 mi) north of the Paracas Peninsula are Islas Ballestas, the famous wildlife refuge. These wind- and wave-sculpted islands are part of the Reserva Nacional Sistema de Islas, Islotes y Puntas Guaneras, a national park created in 2009 to protect 22 guano-rich islands extending from Paita in Peru’s extreme north to the Chilean border.

Some call the Islas Ballestas the “Peruvian Galápagos,” though in reality this is probably a bit of a misnomer. About 150 species of migratory and resident sea birds have been documented on the islands, and the area is a rest stop along the Alaska-Patagonia migration route. The high level of bird traffic on the islands is what prompted locals to give the islands another nickname: las islas guaneras. The hundreds of thousands of birds that come to roost on the islands leave behind their own unique mark: massive amounts of guano. Containing 20 times more nitrogen than cow manure, these bird droppings make excellent fertilizer. The biggest producer of this resource is the guanay cormorant. Other endangered avifauna is the Humboldt penguin, Peruvian boobie, Peruvian pelican, red-legged cormorant, Inca tern and flamingos.

Islas Ballestas are also home to sea otters, marine turtles and large colonies of sea lions. In the summer months (January-March), baby sea lions are born. Lucky travelers may catch a glimpse of dolphins, humpbacked whales, or even more rarely, Andean condors. Wildlife populations face a number of challenges on the islands and the peninsula, and some have been moving further south. The 2007 earthquake up-lifted the ocean floor, thus the tide is washing in deeper and the feeding grounds are not the same. Additionally, food supplies shift because of the El Niño / La Niña climatic cycles. Other threats are human competition and human sporting activities, such as wind surfing, which disrupt breeding and fishing grounds.

As visitors are not allowed on the islands, the focus of any trip to this area is a two-hour boat tour which supplies visitors with ample views of resident wildlife. The route passes the famous Candelabro geoglyph carved into a cliff jutting out of the bay. Boats are not allowed to enter the caves.

Tours of the islands from Paracas cost between $13-17, plus the national park fee and $0.25 dock charge, departing from the municipal pier and the yacht club. They are more than twice as expensive from Pisco. Most trips to Ballestas leave at 8 a.m., returning in time to hook up with tours to Reserva Nacional de Paracas. There are one or two extra tours during the high season depending on demand. Tours include transportation and Spanish-English speaking guide.

Location:
Paracas, Peru

National Park

Getting There

From Paracas tours cost $13-17, plus the national park fee and $0.25 dock charge, departing from the municipal pier and the yacht club. They are more than twice as expensive from Pisco. Most trips to Ballestas leave at 8 a.m., returning in time to hook up with tours to Reserva Nacional de Paracas. There are one or two extra tours during the high season depending on demand. Tours include transportation and Spanish-English speaking guide.

Travel Tips:

Do not throw trash into the water. Do not whistle, applaud, scream at or get near the wildlife. Boat trips only leave in the morning (8-11 a.m.) when the sea is calmer.

Price Description:

Park entry fee: adults $2, children $1, under 5 years old free

Relative price: Mid-Range

Travel Skills: None

You Need to Bring:

Bring along sun protection (sun screen, hat), water, camera (and extra memory / film and batteries).

Currencies accepted
Peruvian nuevo sol



Here are other activities in and around Paracas that may be of interest: Reserva Nacional de Paracas,








15 Jun 2012


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