Bristol, United Kingdom
August 31, 2005
Of course they are. The solution is to visit the "Poor Man’s Galapagos," otherwise known as the Ballestas Islands, just off the coast from Paracas.
In one 20hour tour, we saw seals, sea lions, penguins, and innumerable birds, including the Peruvian cormorant and the red-footed booby. We even met a school of dolphins on the return journey.
The huge fish factories on the 20-minute bus ride from Pisco hint at the reason for this diversity. Warm and cold sea currents clash at this point, generating perfect conditions for fish to thrive. And where the fish thrive, what feeds on them will flourish.
The connection with the Galapagos is no fluke. Many species use the Ballestas Islands as a staging point on their way to/from the Galapagos Islands. The only thing that won’t be extinct is your wallet.
Now, I’m no naturalist. I confess that before this trip, I had never heard of the Peruvian cormorant or the red-footed booby. And I’m convinced you don’t need a degree in zoology to appreciate this wonder. I know nothing, but I was blown away by the wildlife.
My trip cost me 28 soles from Zarcillo Tours on Pisco’s Plaza de Armas. There are people around who will offer you the same tour for much, much more. I was offered it for $30, over three times more! Don’t line their pockets.
The Ballestas are usually the first half of a day trip that continues to the Paracas National Park for more wildlife fun, but I was on a time limit, and being back in Pisco by 11am allowed me to go sandboarding the same day.
I would sincerely love to visit the Galapagos Islands. If this is the poor version, the real thing must be truly wonderful. But, until then, I’m thrilled with these magical islands.
From journal Arequipa Dreams