Islas Ballestas: National Marine Reserve

Short cut: Scroll down for Slide Show!

Yesterday, while still at our desert oasis of Paracas, some of us went to the Ballestas Islands to visit the Peruvian National Marine Preserve.None of us were really sure what to expect.  I think we thought we would see a few birds and perhaps a sea lion or two.

Imagine our delight when we approached the guano covered islands by motor boat and saw thousands and thousands of Peruvian boobies with their white heads and torsos and black beaks and wings, Guanay black cormorants, pelicans, Incan terns with bright red beaks and red feet, and the most delightful Humboldt Penguins! This was my first time to see penguins up close in the wild and I was thrilled.

The rocks and beaches were covered with thousands of slumbering sea lions and their babies.  Some were swimming.  The baby sea lions cried like human babies and the mothers replied, sounding like irritated bulls or bellowing cows.  The rocks were also covered with guano (a.k.a. bird poo) which is collected and sold to Europe.  Guano makes the best fertilizer!  The guano brings in a lot of money, so guards are hired to keep an eye on the white slimy mess (which dries in the hot sun and resembles white chalk)  to make sure that no one steals it.  While we were oohing and awing over the birds and sea lions, Colleen and Doug got splattered with a dropping of guano!  Ick!  They were told it was good luck and I hope that hearing this piece of information (true or not) sort of made the guano dropping incident more tolerable!

It was surreal being out there in the searing hot weather, enveloped by the cacophony of birds and sea lions!  It was so incredible to be at this marine preserve!  To add to the thrill of it all, we saw dolphins jumping in and out of the crystal clear waters.  I hope the slide show can convey the excitement of what we saw!  Turn up your speakers and watch on full screen.

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