The two main draws for tourism in Paracas are the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve, and neither was a disappointment. The Ballestas Islands, dubbed the “poor man’s Galapagos,” are a group of rocky islands teeming with birds. Those with ornithophobia beware: the pelicans, terns, boobies, and cormorants are everywhere, swooping, gliding, diving, soaring, cawing, trilling, tweeting and pooping. Oh yes, pooping. We were forewarned to wear hats and while the trip ended with only a small splatter on Matt’s sleeve, others in our boat weren’t as lucky. Guano is a big cash crop for Peru and the islands have a guard to protect the poop.
In addition to the flying birds are Humboldt penguins and sea lions. As an added bonus, the boats pass the Paracas Candelabra, another gigantic sand figure, believed to date to around 200 BC.
The day after the Ballestras we toured the Paracas National Reserve. I really had no idea what the reserve was and assumed the tour was to see animals of some kind, but I was wrong (except for a few seabirds). Instead we saw amazing yellow and red sand beaches. Poor Paracas – when it was hit by the earthquake in 2007 its landmark, a rock formation called the Cathedral toppled into the ocean. The guide still points it out, but now it is just a couple of rocks jutting up from the ocean. In addition to guano, another Peruvian marine export is seaweed for cosmetics, and we saw men in wet suits exiting the ocean with bags of seaweed. We met Peter and Annie, a couple from London who now live in the Falklands, on the excursion and joined them for a few drinks at the upscale Doubletree after the tour. (Check out Peter’s blog at http://www.peterspenguinpost.blogspot.com.) All in all, a pleasant day!
Last stop on the Paracas Tour: Tambo Colorado