Paracas and the Isla Balletas

It was pretty difficult to find out much information about places to stay on the coast on the way up to Lima but we had heard that the Isla Balletas were the poor man’s Galapagos so we thought we would give it a go.
The access to the islands was from a place called Paracas so we decided to stay there. The trip there was either going to involve two taxis and a bus but we did a deal with a taxi driver to take us straight there. It was only 60kms but looking at the taxi it was going to be touch and go as to whether we made it!!
We only had to stop once to check the water in the engine and for ice creams but otherwise it was a great journey.  
Paracas itself lies on the ocean where the desert meets the water and is exceptionally dry, only averaging 5mm of rainfall a year! It is mainly an access point to the Isla Balletas and the nearby national park but along with the tourism there were plenty of fishing boats. This meant cerviche and it wasn’t long after we arrived that we were sat outside a stall on the beach enjoying some absolutely delicious cerviche.  
I think there is always something really special about eating fish, not only when you can see the ocean but also when you can see the boats they were caught on too! Over the next few days we certainly ate our fill.
Paracas was just what we were looking for, a low key, relaxed place on the coast where the locals took their holidays. It was an eclectic mix of backpackers, low cost hotels and some of the smartest hotels we have seen in South America. The place itself was small with a short promenade on the beach and a couple of streets behind. All in all a fun place to enjoy for a couple of days.
We didn’t really know what to expect from our trip by boat out to Isla Balletas. After getting through all the usual mayhem at the beginning of most tours in South America we were eventually sat on a boat on the way to the islands.
The number of birds there was just incredible. We saw huge numbers of Pelicans, Peruvian Boobies, cormorants and a few penguins too. The other main attraction were the sea lions who use the area for their breeding and birthing and we were able to see a few young!! They really were huge and we could have sat there all day watching them but unfortunately we had to go back.
With the huge number of birds comes a huge amount of guano and it was actually the export of this guano that was Peru’s main export in the early 1900s. Unfortunately they were/are the number 1 supplier of anchovies and their over fishing of the anchovies, which is also the birds’ food of choice has meant a radical drop in bird numbers. Luckily times have changed and the area has been declared a national park and from what we saw there was plenty of wildlife.
I think this brief glimpse at the “poor man’s Galapagos” has just wetted our appetites for the real thing. T

   
The promenade at Paracas, a mixture of restaurants and stalls.

    
What our diet consisted of for the few days at Paracas

 
I just love seeing all the old boats in the harbour, I reckon it definitely makes the fish taste better

  

   
An abundance of sea lions and a few babies too!

 
There was no real explanation as to why this symbol was made in the side of this mountain, but for me the really incredible thing was that it remains undamaged.  This apparently is due to the low (almost zero) annual rainfall and a prevailing wind that never hits the symbol.

   
As the photo shows, the number of birds is just incredible.  It was great to see all the wildlife and would have been fantastic to have stayed there all day.

    
    
    
 

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