I rarely can pass up an opportunity to see any sort of wildlife in their natural habitat, and when I heard about Mar Adentro Excursiones and the opportunity to swim with wild sea lions off the coast of Lima, it was no exception.
Mar Adentro Excursiones offers a comfortable, guided trip out to Islas Palomino (with an English speaking guide) on a nice speedboat. The trip costs $50USD you can book online and lasts about 2.5 hours start to finish. The tour begins at 10:30am, but they ask you get there for 10am to get a briefing and a trip overview. At this point they will explain what kind of wildlife you will expect to see, as well as sea conditions and any other safety information.
The tour takes off from the port of Callao and passes through a channel between Isla San Lorenzo and Isla Fronton in order to get to Islas Palomino. The sea is a little rough between San Lorenzo & Isla Fronton, so if you’re prone to seasickness, I’d recommend preparing with some dramamine. We had a few people get sick on our boat, and I’m sure the very pungent smell of guano certainly didn’t help.
Our guide informed us that guano is the accumulated excrement of seabirds, seals and sea lions and is a highly effective fertilizer due to its exceptionally high content of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium (all of which are essential for plant growth). It is said that when first discovered, these islands were covered in guano nearly 200 feet deep! They’ve been collecting guano since the 19th century, and the collection of guano still goes on today!
On our way to Islas Palominos, we saw thousands of birds covering the islands, adorable penguins, as well as sea lions both playing out in the water near our boat and lazing out in the sun. Our boat got very close to the islands as to give the passengers a chance to see the wildlife up close and personal and snap some pretty sweet photos.
Okay, now for the fun part: swimming with the sea lions!! As we approached Islas Palomino the roars and barks of the sea lions got increasingly louder, but that just meant we were closer to getting to play with these funny creatures! The motor slowed and our guide offered wetsuits to anyone who’d like one in preparation for our swim. Knowing that I get cold very easily, I opted for a wetsuit, though many people turned them down. I don’t think many people took into consideration the fact that we were 2,000 km south of the equator – the water is very cold! Take the darn wetsuit.
Our guide jumped in first and encouraged anyone who would like to come experience an up close visit with the sea lions to jump in too. He didn’t have to ask me twice… As we approached the Island, the curious sea lions started to come towards us, barking and roaring. Some people were scared, but they have no desire to hurt you, they’re just curious and want to see what’s going on! 50 feet out from the Island our guide asked us to not get any further as to respect their territory. He then dared us to sit in the water with our toes pointing out towards the sea lions and they came right up to sniff our toes – it was very cute. They are so playful and fun and I was really sad when our 15 minutes were up with these little guys (well, actually some are enormous). The only thing I’d change about this tour is more time in the water to spend with the sea lions, but I’m pretty sure it’s a safety measure as not to disturb them for too long.
We said goodbye to our new friends and jumped back on the boat to head back towards Callao. On the way back our boat stopped a few more times to show us a bigger sea lion colony and some other bird sightings.
Overall the tour was absolutely excellent and I’d consider it a must do while in Lima. It was a very unique experience to get so close to wildlife (without disturbing them of course) and I would do it 100 times over. Our guide was informative and funny and made the experience that much better. The speedboat was of really nice quality and they even passed out snacks and water on the way back to port. It was really easy to book the tour online, and since it only goes until 1pm, you have the rest of the day to explore all that Lima has to offer.
Some Helpful Info:
Where are they located?
Marina Club del Callao, Av, Jorge Chaves 120 Chucuito Callao (close to the Abtao submarine museum)
How do I get there?
I suggest getting an Uber from your hotel, as our trip cost less than 30 soles from Miraflores, and since you won’t have wifi on the way back, try to negotiate a similar price for your return trip with one of the many taxis whizzing by the port.
What time does it start?
The tour takes off at 10:30, but you need to arrive at the port at 10 to check in and get a briefing. The tour gets back at 1pm sharp.
What should I bring?
Definitely wear a bathing suit and fast drying clothes as you’ll be wet when you come out of the water. Bring a towel, hat, sunscreen (there’s no cover over the boat), and extra water.
Any other suggestions?
I’d bring nausea medication just incase and maybe stick to a light breakfast if you’re prone to sea-sickness!
For more information on swimming with sea lions with Mar Adentro Excursiones, please visit their website.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary tour in exchange for my opinions, but all opinions are my own. I consider this to be one of the best wildlife experiences I’ve ever had, and would recommend them highly!
Would you get in the water and swim with wild sea lions? Tell me in the comments below!