About 3:30 hours south of Lima, the Ballestas Islands are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Peru for lovers of marine wildlife, birds, and beautiful rock formation sceneries.

These small islands, also called the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” because of how cheap it is to visit them and their wildlife experience, are an important sanctuary for marine fauna like the guanay guano bird, the blue-footed booby, and the tendril. Other species include zarcillos, Humboldt Penguins, fur seals, and sea lions, amongst other mammals – all coexisting in their natural habitat.

Another interesting sight on the Ballestas Islands tour is the mysterious Paracas Candelabra, carved hundreds of years ago in the desert sandy hills facing the sea.

Here is a photo essay of my experience on the Ballestas Islands boat tour:

Fishing boats on Paracas
These islands are accessible from the small town of Paracas (near Pisco) by tour boat, which typically lasts 2 hours.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
What is impressive is not just the wide range of animals you can see, but the awe-inspiring quantity of birds: some islands have colonies of up to 600,000 birds flying in an and out at any time.
El Candelabro, Paracas
On your way to Ballestas Islands you will notice El Candelabro, a large-scale Geoglyph that may have served as a beacon to mariners. The mystery as to the origins of this particular Geoglyph is ongoing with much speculation.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
Everywhere you look you will see hundreds of birds flying or resting at the rock formations.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
There is no lack of beautiful and bizarre rock formations. These natural rock arches, tunnels and caves were formed naturally in the course of millions of years by the eroding effects of the sea.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
Penguins waiting for the next wave to get into the cold water. They are so cute!
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
Flocks of birds flying in and out of the islands to find food. Thousands of birds… as far as the eye can see.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
More birds! For many years, the Ballestas Islands were a major moneymaking enterprise for the Peruvian people. All the guano produced and accumulated in the island was collected and sold. Guano is one of the most potent and popular forms of fertilizer in the world.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
The millions of marine birds on the islands produce a fair amount of guano every year – reaching the hundreds of tons. But this practice is considered environmentally unhealthy to the island’s fauna and flora.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
The sea lions generate a unique audio spectacle with their wolf-pack cries that echoes around the Ballestas and creates an effect of a 360 degree surrounding choir.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
Due to environmental laws, it is not permitted to actually step onto the islands, but the boat tours does get very close to the rock formations and animals.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
A typical sight around the island. Seals and Sea lions basking in the sunlight and hunting for fish.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
Up close with the seals!
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
More interesting rock formations.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
Different marine animals coexisting in the same environment.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
A seal swimming… looking for food.
Ballestas Islands, Paracas
More Birds!  And lots of guano!

The cost of the tour is around 45 soles ($15 dollars) and starts at 7:30 am. If you want to include transportation from Huacachina, it will cost around 60 soles ($20 dollars), and departs at 6:30 am. The Paracas dock charges a tax of 1 sol per person.

Adventure Awaits


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  1. I love nature pictures! Another reason why I love to read your blog is that I always discover new place to see through your post. Ballestas Islands looks like a wonderful place to see the marine wildlife and birds.

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! Those little islands are really wonderful, and seeing and hearing all those marine animals coexisting is really incredible. This is a great place to go when visiting Peru.

  2. Wonderful photos! I’ve been to the Galapagos and can see how the comparison can be made. Very cool that the sea lions make a” 360 degree choir sound”, sounds amazing. I can’t believe the price either – fantastic!

  3. wow, that sounds like a bargain! love all the pics and the comments too. so i guess they have stopped the commercial gathering of guano? or is there a black market for bird poo?

    1. It is a huge bargain for what you get! They still collect the guano but only once a year and not in the massive quantities as they used to do it before. The guano seems to play an important part in the islands’ ecosystem, so now they just collect the excesses. I’m not sure if there’s a black market for it, but wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Oha, magnificent place and so are the pictures. Love the geoglyph. Very funny to talk about the ‘poor man’s Galapagos’. tweeted that one.

  5. Isla Ballestas was at the top of our list of things to see in Peru. We made a special trip there and enjoyed it very much. The Candleabra is pretty cool too. The only thing I wish they would do is make the boats more environmentally friendly. They spewed gas and oil and it must be terrible for the sea lions to have to breathe that all day. Hopefully it is better now.

    1. I agree with you! I also questioned myself how are they approaching their environmental impact since I noticed that their boats aren’t environmentally friendly. Those gases will definitely have a long term effect in the island’s fauna. Maybe it has gotten better throughout the years, but I consider they are still far from having no impact in the environment.

    1. YES!!!! There are penguins!!! I was so surprised to see penguins in the wild at these latitudes. This is a nice day trip, you will love it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. hi,

    That was so unbelievable…. Very eye catching the animal creatures that you’ve captured.
    The flying birds, and the sea lion…..

    1. Hey Conspiracy Girl (cool name btw), thanks for stopping by! Ballestas Islands are incredible! Watching all those marine animals interact and getting so close to them is such a great experience.

  7. Wow, that’s a great deal (and great pictures)! I’d love to visit – is it a long boat ride out? Would love to see the adorable little penguins up close ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. It definitely is a great deal! The boat ride is about 30-45 minutes each way plus about an hour around the island looking at the animal and rock formations. I agree, those penguins are so cute! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Never heard of these islands before, but you put it into perspective with “the poor man’s Galapagos”! I love the picture of the geoglyph. Great photo essay!

    1. Thanks Christina! I’ve never been to Galapagos, but people seem to compare it that way. I’m still impressed with that geoglyph. And to think it is only made of sand!

  9. Request permission to use image of gauno Ballestas Islands Sanctuary. I am writing a book to be self published on digestive disorders and would appreciate permission to use a photo from your blog. If agreeable, please let me know how you would like the attribution to read.

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    Joseph Weiss
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