Full of Pisco and sand, we headed out at dawn the next morning to Paracas, home to one of the best marine reserves in South America. Piling into our speedboat at 7am, the tour guide narrated a short history of the area in both Spanish and English as we pulled out to sea. Our first stop was the Candelabra, an etching in the earth not unlike the Nasca lines. I’ll hold to my original statement about the Nasca lines, the size would have been much more impressive from the ground. The Candelabra, though not nearly as large as most of the Nasca figures, has an equally mysterious history. According to our guide, the lines could be a part of the Paracas culture, which was hundreds of years before the Nascas, or part of a modern monument to San Martin, the liberator of Peru. Who knows.
The islands themselves are covered in every kind of sea bird imaginable. From guano birds (seriously, thats what they’re called- you can imagine why) to huge pelicans and peruvian boobies. Huge flocks of birds flew between and around the islands and for a moment I felt like I was in an Alfred Hichcock film.
Heading closer to the islands right away we spotted penguins! If you´ve been following along with us you know how excited I was to see the monkeys in Costa Rica, lets just say the feeling was similar.
Watching the penguins on the nearest cliff was like being at the zoo, except 100000 times better. Unlike the monkeys,the penguins were totally not interested in us and paid us no attention at all. I realize we are probably going to see penguins in southern Chile and Argentina, but I had no idea the penguins were in Peru so the surprise of seeing them totally made my day!
Besides the penguins, which were really the animals that interested us the most, the islands are home to a huge colony of sea lions. After swimming with them in Mexico it was um… relaxing…just to see them lay on the rocks from the boat instead of watching them zip through the water inches away!
The islands were gorgeous and truly teaming with life, but our guide kept reminding us that these were the Galapagos of Peru. I sure hope not because the islands were covered in bird poop. It was an assault on the sense when the wind blew from the islands instead of the sea. ewwww……. Fortunately every 7 years the locals come to clean the islands, using the bird poop as fertilizer. According to our guide it takes 100 people 7-8 months to clean the islands. Can you imagine doing that? Really puts into perspective a 9-5 job.