Paracas is a small town on the southern coast of Peru. This town is the hub for those that want to visit Paracas National Reserve and Islas Bellestas. This town was beautiful as it is where the desert meets the ocean. The landscape was unlike anything I have ever seen before and made for a nice stop before we headed to the capital of Peru, Lima.
The Islands of Bellestas do not permit tourists to visit the actual physical islands, however they do allow for boat tours around the islands. Courtney and I climbed onto a speed boat (with two 200 kmp engines) with 28 other people. This tour was two hours long and allowed us to see an abundance of wildlife. After 15 minutes on the boat we saw the Candelabra. This is a gigantic figure of a fork that has been calved into the mountain. Historians are still unsure as to why this was carved in the mountain but it is estimated to have been created in 200 BC. This carving is 180 m long and can be seen from a distance of 12 km. After this, we continued our boat ride. We were able to see many different birds, such as the Humboldt Penguin, Peruvian Pelican, Guanay, Peruvian Booby, Chuitas and Inca Terns. We were also able to see a dozen sea lions. These sea lions looked very similar to the seals I see back in the Western Cape (South Africa), but it was still fun to see a new animal. We also saw red plankton. This was an incredible site, there were so many in the water it almost looked like a red blanket. This was a fun outing that taught us about the nature and history of Paracas.
Paracas National Reserve
We did a three hour tour of the Paracas National Reserve. This reserve aims to conserve 335,000 hectares of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This national reserve is home to hundreds of species (including 200 different types of algae). On this tour we visited three destinations: La Catedral, a viewpoint of the red beach, and a viewpoint of the Chilean flamingos. La Catedral was beautiful. This natural rock formation was severely damaged during the 2007 earthquake, however we could still see the main arch. This section of the tour really reminded me of the Great Ocean Road in Australia as the rock type and formations were similar. The viewpoint of the red beach was spectacular. The cliffs from the sand just dropped to the water which made this slightly scary to walk on, but the view of the beach was beautiful. This landscape was unfamiliar and something Courtney and I could really appreciate. After this viewpoint we went to a spot for lunch where we enjoyed a beer while looking at the ocean. After this we went to our final stop, the viewpoint of the flamingos. We were able to walk 400 m down towards the water, where we could watch the Chilean flamingos as well as some other bird species. The landscapes we saw on this tour were outstanding and the tour allowed us to see the highlights of the national reserve with ease.
We did both these tours on the same day. There was plenty of time not to feel rushed and to enjoy the surroundings. A definite must do if you are in the area.