The Ballestas Islands, a group of small rocky rocky off the coast of the seaside town of Paracas in the Ica Region, are an important wildlife reserve sheltering an astounding quantity of marine life: permanent colonies of endangered Humboldt Penguins dive into the waves and barking fur seals and sea lions laze upon the rocks and generally come close to the boats to investigate and play. Occasionally dolphins will enter the waters or even whales. Thousands of marine birds fly between the islands and nest upon the rocks, including guanays, Peruvian blue-footed boobies, cormorants, flamingos and tendrils.
We'll board the motorboat in the port of Chaco. As the motorboat speeds through the waters of the Pacific Ocean on the way to the Islands, which is about a 30 minute trip passing the fishermen taking up the day's catch and El Candalabro, a large mysterious geoglyph etched onto the Paracas Peninsula whose origin and purpose has yet to be determined; it was perhaps a sign pointing to the Nazca lines, a religious marking, or a beacon to mariners.
When the rock formations collectively known as the Ballestas Islands (Archer's Bow) come into view, you'll be able to see by the twisting arches, caves, and tunnels carved by slow erosion through the gray and red rock how the islands got their name. In order to protect the penguin, seabird, and seal colonies which call the islands home, landing is prohibited. Regardless, the boat will near the formations sufficiently to appreciate up close the spectacular wildlife. Playful sea lions frequently approach the boats, filling the air with a chorus of barking. Hundreds upon hundreds of friendly sea lions, clumsy Peruvian boobies, dignified cormorants expertly diving Humboldt penguins and more jostle for space on the rocky outcrops. Although it might seem odd that large penguin colonies exist off the desert coastal region of Peru, their residence there is possible thanks to the cold Humboldt which flows from Antarctica to the warm and shallow waters of the Peruvian coast, enriching phytoplankton and thereby stimulating an ecological food-chain supporting the largest concentration of birds on earth.
After about an hour enjoying the sights and sounds of the Ballesta's Islands copious residents, we'll head back to shore, arriving 30 minutes later to the Port of Chaco.
You'll want to bring a sweater and windbreaker, hat for sun and birds and sunscreen.