I went on the Islas Ballestas tour from Paracas, Peru. This is one of the so-called Poor Man’s Galapagos tours that depart from Northwest South America.
Islas Ballestas Tour Price
The tour price was 35 soles, which was the standard price around town. I only checked a few places for the price and they were all the same. Unusual for me, I didn’t try to bargain the price down. There is an additional 3 soles port fee and 10 soles park fee that you pay at the port. If you decide to go to the reserve later on, make sure to get the 15 soles park fee which includes Islas Ballestas and the reserve. You’ll save 5 soles.
The tours start at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
The Islas Ballestas tour first consisted of a 15-minute boat ride to see the Paracas Candelabra. It looks like a three-branched candlestick and holder, hence the name. It also looks like a cactus. This geoglyph is estimated to be drawn Before Christ; in other words, it’s a really old drawing.
After we saw the Paracas Candelabra, it took another 15 minutes to reach Islas Ballestas. We spent about 90 minutes touring the rock islands, as opposed to 120 minutes that was quoted to me. It wasn’t a big deal for me since I spent three months on The Galapagos. But I can imagine it being an issue for other passengers.
The centre of attraction was the sea lions. Most of them were just sleeping on the rocks or were staring at us to make sure we weren’t too close. From the boat, we were able to get within 2 metres of the sea lions for some close-up photos.
The rock islands were cooler than expected because of their caves and small channels. Make sure to have a wide-angle lens to photograph them. Even a camera phone would suffice.
The bird colonies were humongous. I could have sworn one of the rock islands had over a million birds. The birds species consisted of cormorants, seagulls, penguins (we didn’t see many), and Peruvian Boobies (with grey feet). Surprisingly, our boat didn’t get any bird feces dropped on. Other boats did. So bring some head gear.
The Islas Ballestas tour was worth the price and more. But to answer the question, Islas Ballestas is a Poor Man’s Galapagos. The islands aren’t even 1 one-thousandth of the magic of The Galapagos.