Swimming with the Sea Lions off the coast of Lima

If you're planning a trip to Peru, you've no doubt heard about the Ballestas Islands already. And yet, the Palomino Islands, located just six nautical miles off the coast of Lima are frequently overlooked, because the Ballestas boast higher numbers of the same wildlife. However, if you're looking to commune with nature in a more adventurous way, the Palomino Islands might actually be the best choice for you because you can actually enter the water and swim with the sea lions.

You can reach the Port of Callao by taxi from downtown Lima or Miraflores in about 45 minutes. It will cost about 50 Peruvian soles, but is the only transportation that you should really consider, as unfortunately parts of the Callao district suffer delinquency and thus are not recommendable for tourists.

Boat tours leave the Port of Callao daily, in the morning at 10:30am and again in the early afternoon. If your schedule is not that flexible, consider reserving ahead of time to ensure that there's room on the boat for the departure you need.

It takes about 90 minutes to reach the island. Most guides offer seasickness medication while beginning the trip, as the waters near the island tend to get a little choppy. You'll also receive a full wetsuit, although you should consider bringing your own mask and snorkel because this isn't included. English-speaking guides are the norm.

About an hour into the boat trip, you'll pass El Frontón, a penal island where an infamous uprising took place in 1986. You'll know when you are approaching Palomino Island because of the loud barking of the sea lions, whose colony numbers around eight thousand. They cover almost all of the available space on the rocky island. After passing the island a few times, you'll be offered the opportunity to enter the cold waters and swim with the sea lions, which tend to be naturally curious and boisterous (especially compared to the shy Humboldt penguins.

Despite the cold temperatures, swimming with sea lions circling you or diving beneath you is a truly magical experience! Young sea lions especially will often come close to inspect you and perhaps brush against you, although you are not allowed to touch them back as they are a protected colony and authorities prefer that tourists be unobtrusive. For this reason, you must also limit your volume levels. As a final prohibition, you cannot go onto the island itself, as the oldest and largest sea lions can be territorial.

You generally get about twenty minutes to enjoy the sea lions before returning to the boat. On the return trip, the boat circles around San Lorenzo Island, where you can observe the Humboldt Penguin colonies from further away.

There's also a luxury tour that includes a box lunch, mask and snorkel, as much swimming time as you desire, and nicer transportation, but at US$150 it costs three times the basic price and you must have at least four people in your group. The same operator also offers a one-tank scuba dive for experienced divers.

Inca World Team
Publication date: 10 Feb 2015
Sources: <a href=" https://plus.google.com/u/0/107060027985626386869/about?tab=XX?rel=author">Carla Colon</a>

You may also be interested in this news