Peru: Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve

By Cubie - March 01, 2019

Paracas is a small port town about an hour north of Ica or Huacachina. It is a departure point to visit Paracas National Reserve and Ballestas Islands. 

I took the easier way of transport plus tour to both Paracas National Reserve and Ballestas Islands, i.e. booked a tour via the hostel. The van came to collect me from the hostel at about 6+ in the morning as we needed to travel for an hour to Paracas. I was in a van of about 15 Spanish speaking tourists, mostly Colombians. I was the only non Spanish speaker so the guide would come over to tell and explain to me in English, though explanation in English were usually much shorter than when he spoke in Spanish. Ha!

As I mentioned in the previous post, the tour plus transport cost S/60 (~USD 18 / ~AUD 26 / ~RM 74) but we need to pay for the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Park entrance fees separately, both added up to S/22 (~USD 7 / ~AUD 10 / ~RM 27). 

Ballestas Islands (Las Islas Ballestas) are a group of protected islands off Pacific coast of Peru and known as "The Poor Man's Galapagos" or "Mini Galapagos". These Islands are home to thousands of birds and mammals like penguins and sea lions. One cannot swim or walk on the islands, but accesible on a boat tour. Boat tours depart from Paracas twice a day, at 8:00 or 10:00 in the morning. Each tour takes about 2 hours. 

The guide arranged for me to be in a different boat, one with English speaking guide, himself. The rest of them departed in an earlier boat except me. 

On the way to the islands, the boat passed by a Nazca-like lines called Candelabra. This geoglyph is said to be similar to those at Nazca but shaped like a cactus. Umm.. a little consolation to me who didn't make it to view Nazca Lines. 

Paracas National Reserve (Reserva Nacional de Paracas) is also a natural protected area for marine ecosystem conservation. The reserve is on the peninsula and bay of Paracas. A combination tour of Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve would visit the islands first, followed by the reserve. 

This was our second stop, after Ballestas Islands boat tour. We were first brought to a lookout area after a bus ride through desert-like landscape. There were large birds (sorry, not sure type of species but could be vultures) soaring along the coastline. There were a few other tourist vans at the same stops. The tourist vans seem to be on the same schedule. 

We were then brought to see flamingos next. There is also a museum near there. The allocated time wasn't long and so I gave the museum a pass, as I was rather excited to have the change to see flamingos. I have full expectation that there would be a distance between human and flamingos but they were really far away. The walk to see flamingos (from welcome centre to where they cordoned off) probably took up to 15 minutes. I understand the need of the barrier but just thought one should know before making the walk. 

Other stops included Playa Roja (roja = red, playa = beach) and Lagunillas before stopping for lunch. Playa Roja is a red sand beach, following erosion of a type of clay that gives its red hue. 

Last stop of the day was lunch. We were brought to a stop with a few restaurants where we picked whichever one we want to go as lunch is not included in the tour package price. Set lunch menu going strong. 

Snack of corn chips or nibbles (cancha), entree of ceviche and main meal of fried fish and chips on rice. I know it's a bit strange to have fish and chips and a serve of rice but the fried fish was really good. Finished with pisco sour, S/25 (~USD 8 / ~AUD 11 / ~RM 31). You'll know when a place charges touristy price based on inflated charge on toilet, S/1.50 (~USD 0.50 / ~AUD 0.70 / ~RM 2). This toilet is the one near the restaurants and second highest after MP. 

After lunch, they dropped me at Paracas town to catch a bus. It is worth to note that the bus stop for Cruz del Sur (near a roundabout) is about 15 minutes walk away from the rest of the bus stops. Aside from Cruz del Sur's scheduled departure at 4:10pm, Peru Bus has a scheduled departure at 4:40pm. I went with Cruz del Sur because I wanted an earlier departure so I didn't reach Lima too late, it is about 4 hours bus ride. 

In my previous post, I wrote that I met a couple, Mr and Mrs U who insisted on returning me the entrance fee to the sand dunes. They are so gracious, they even offered me a lift to my hostel in Lima. I am forever grateful. 

Side note: Nose is so flat that my glasses keep on sliding down... pfft

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