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The Poor Man’s Galapagos: Ballestas Islands

The Poor Man’s Galapagos isn’t so poor after all

Always wanting to go to the Galapagos but too expensive? Put Ballestas Islands as your alternative.

A group of 12 islands off of the coast of Paracas, the Ballestas Islands is one of the highlights of the Pisco region due to its easy accessibility and cheap tour price. Composed of rock formations, these islands are an important sanctuary for marine life. It’s a home to blue-footed booby, Humboldt penguins, sea lions, Inca terns, and more. The $17 tour lasts about two hours. Wildlife encounter is guaranteed.

Count how many pelicans you see here.... go!

Count how many pelicans you see here…. go!

Colorful island on the way to Ballestas Islands

Colorful island on the way to Ballestas Islands

We set off to Ballestas Islands with warm greetings by thousands of pelicans. I’ve never seen this many pelicans at one place. Several boats were already full, showing how popular this tour is. Just a short ride away, we were able to see thousands of gray dots on the hillside of an island, with the strong stench of guano.

The Guano Business

One more interesting things about Ballestas Islands is that collecting guano is a very important business for Peruvians. As one of the best fertilizer, guano makes a lucrative business. The government collects the guano every 5-8 years. I could only imagine how much it would be, considering how many birds live here. Wow. Certainly, there are lots of ways to make money.

Device to collect guano

Device to collect guano

Birds and their guano

Birds and their guano

As promised, there were penguins! Sometimes it’s hard to believe that penguins live somewhere other than ice. Humboldt penguins nest on islands and rocky coasts, burrowing holes in guano. Sea lions were sleeping, playing, or feeding on the rocks. We got really close, so we could almost hear they talk. Boobies! Boobie’s blue foot wasn’t so obvious from the angle we were at, but I was happy to see them for the first time. It was such a rich experience to see the marine species in their natural settings.

Humboldt Penguins

Humboldt Penguins

The Paracas Candelabra

The tour of Ballestas Islands is not just seeing the rich marine life, but also the only way to see the mysterious feature. Well known as the Paracas Candelabra, or Candelabra of the Andes is a prehistoric geoglyph. The design is cut two feet into the soil, is 595 feet tall. No one knows the origin of this marker, but archaeologists found pottery around the site dating back to 200 BC. How can this simple geoglyph last for over 2,000 years, we haven’t figured out yet?

The Paracas Candelabra

The Paracas Candelabra

The Poor Men’s Galapagos is probably one of your best shots to see penguins in wild. Who can say no to penguins?

Ballestas Islands

Ballestas Islands

Inca Tern

Inca Tern

Sea lions on Ballestas Islands

Sea lions on Ballestas Islands

Penguins, pelicans, and...

Penguins, pelicans, and…

sea lions

sea lions

sea lions

sea lions

Boobies!

Boobies!

playful sea lions

playful sea lions

Ballestas islands

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

6 Comments

  1. I can see why it would be called the poor man’s galapagos, but I’d take it any day too! Anywhere with wildlife 🙂

  2. Andrew says:

    how brilliant! On the list now! You’ve captured it all so well!

  3. Thanks Juno, looks amazing, I want to visit! I just added that to my list, for when I go back to Peru.

    Did you take a drive from Lima to get there?

  4. Cest La Vibe says:

    I always heard about a few other alternatives to the Galapagos Islands but nowhere else had penguins! Ballestas Islands wins.

  5. […] is surprisingly diverse. From coastal town to desert to the highlands in the Andes, there’s no shortage of scenery […]

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