Making my way south on the Peruvian tourist circuit, I grabbed a bus from Lima to Pisco to check out Las Islas Ballestas (the Ballestas Islands) and the Paracas Reserve aka “The Poor Man’s Galapagos”.
I have to say, the bus ride from Lima to Pisco was the most beautiful part of this trip. I left Lima right before sunset and our bus route took us down along the Pacific coast for the majority of the trip. Massive rolling sand dunes sprinkled with tiny tin, brick and mud houses lined the highway as the sun painted the water an amazing shade of red and purple.
I spent the night in Pisco, a small, modest Peruvian town with a classic central plaza and underdeveloped roads and buildings, before shipping out on the tour the next morning.
I struggled getting up the next morning for the Islas Ballestas tour because I felt like I was just going through the motions to say I did it. Truth is I was and I didn’t like the feeling.
The harbor where the tour boats docked was humble and not overbearingly touristy. Tour operators filed in among fishing boats as a sea of blonde hair and blue-eyes over populated the darker background.
Our boat set off across the water until we came to the Islas Ballestas and joined a dozen or so other boats circling the islands.
The islands have over 200 species of marine life and birds, including Humboldt penguins, sea lions and Peruvian boobies (the birds, not the fun kind). Also, I swore I saw a giant dorsal fin of a shark, whale or dolphin on the way back but I didn’t say anything. The tour guide said there weren’t any sharks but I didn’t believe her… that’s what they said in Cape Cod.
We made our way around the islands (never leaving the boat) admiring the massive amounts of birds and seals, while trying to avoid getting shit on by the heavy traffic above.
The only thing I didn’t like was that by the end of our tour more and more boats were arriving and you could see all the fuel they were extracting into the water. I asked our tour guide if these boats were good for the environment she told me that the Islas Ballestas had only been deemed a national reserve this past year so regulations still weren’t in place like they are in the real Galapagos. I hope they get that figured out.
Overall, for the money (less than $20) and time (about 2 hours) it was worth it. I haven’t been to the Galapagos yet but I hope it’s a lot more exciting than this. Based on the hype and price tag, I imagine it will be.
I decided to skip the second part of the tour through the Paracas Reserve and catch a bus straight to Ica for some Huacachina sandboarding.
Here’s a few more shots from the Ballestas Islands…