The boat looked small for the number of people they wanted to board, small and fast. After we had climbed down and taken our seats it didn’t seem so bad. Two seats to each side of a middle passage on a boat that held about 40 people all told. There was plenty of room for me to use my camera. We strapped on out life-vests and the captain pulled the vessel away from the dock. A slow, no wake zone took us out of the anchoring area and into the open ocean. The sun shined bold and hot in a cloudless blue shy. The Pacific was calm with small swells and a soft breeze. As the boat broke free, the Captain floored it and off we went, skipping across the small waves like a well-tossed stone on a small pond.
The Islas Ballestas, off the coast of Paracas Peru waited. A nature preserve with multiple species of birds, seals, and other sea life; it was the reason we had come. But first, we passed the huge trident symbol called “the Candelabra of the Andes.” Carved out of a tall sand dune and protected from the wind, Archaeologists have dated the symbol to around 200 bc. No one knows for certain who, when, or why it was created. The myths surrounding it go from the candelabra being the symbol for the lightning trident of the god Viracocha to a marker placed by pirates to show where a treasure is located. It’s beautiful, regardless of the reason. While the boat languished close to the shore and the guide explained the symbol, I along with the other occupants sapped multiple photos before we headed out to see the islands and the wildlife.
The bellows of the bull seals guarding their territory beset our ears and our nostrils were assailed by the fifty meters of bird excrement, guano that covered the islands. Arriving was a truly breathtaking experience, no pun intended. Two large islands and one smaller one made up the grouping. Large piers had been constructed on the two larger islands to allow ships to dock. The guano, an excellent fertilizer, is harvested on the islands every few years. Large caves and arches graced the edges of the islands, lending them an aura of mystery. Pillars of stone would jut out of the ocean, each a resting place for the large assortment of marine wildlife.
Captain Joe, which was his name (really), with seasoned expertise, maneuvered the craft almost within reaching distance of the rocky outcrops. At times, I feared the small boat would crash onto the large boulders, the swells growing larger the farther the sun dropped from the mid-day sky. Individual sea lions and Humboldt penguins languished on large boulders, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun. Inca terns and boobies squawked and screeched their displeasure at being disturbed while red-legged cormorants stood in stately pose for photographs. Captain Joe pointed to a couple of large jellyfish floating to the side of the boat. He inched the boat close to the small rocky beaches where crowds of sea lions contained cows guarded by mating bulls who watched our approach closely. While we watched, fights broke out as young male bulls tried to take territory and cows from older more formidable bulls.
Finally, the captain pulled away from the shore and drove us through one of the large arches before heading back out to the open sea and back to port. The waves had grown in size even more with the increase in the afternoon wind. The hull pounded into each wave sending jolts through the passenger’s bones. It made for an exciting ride back to Paracas and the beachfront where we enjoyed an excellent fresh seafood lunch before returning to Lima. Another of the many fabulous places to visit if you are coming to Peru.