The Palomino islands in Callao
The Palomino Islands are one of the best tourist attractions in Lima and Callao. It is only 14 kilometers from the port through a trip on a boat. The best way to go is through a tour that includes all the necessary implements. Once on the island, you will be able to appreciate hundreds of sea lions and seabirds that find the necessary space for their reproduction there. It is a different experience in the trip through Lima.
All about the Palomino islands
The Palomino islands
The Palomino islands are one of the best tourist attractions in Callao as it offers a short trip by sea full of beautiful landscapes and the characteristic fauna of the place.
These islands are home to different species of seabirds that choose this desolate place to nest. However, the great attraction is the more than eight thousand sea lions that find the ideal habitat for reproduction there.
During the journey by sea, other islands can be seen such as: San Lorenzo Island, El Frontón Island as well as the Cavinzas Islands, famous for hosting the striking Humboldt penguin.
The islands are a protected area by the Peruvian State. Perhaps his most famous activity is diving into the waters with the sea lions. For a safer visit it is recommended to choose a tour operator for this adventure.
The Palomino Islands are located 18 kilometers from the port of Callao (district of La Punta).
How to get?
The starting point is Square Grau, where you can get there by public transport or taxi from the Center of Lima (approximately 1 hour trip).
At the Square Grau dock there are boats that offer tours to the Palomino Islands. The trip in this boat is 1 hour and 30 minutes. The return trip follows the same route as the outbound trip.
The boat trip
The trip by boat (or yacht) offers the immense seascape gradually moving away from the port of Callao.
During the 18 kilometers that the journey lasts, a series of islands and islets can be appreciated, of which the following stand out: Camotal (also called the Peruvian Atlantis), San Lorenzo Island (which functioned as a military fort), the island of El Fronton (which served as a prison) and the Cabinzas Islands (where you can see the beautiful Humboldt penguins).
The boat trip can cause dizziness to visitors not used to the zigzag of the sea. It is recommended not to travel after having breakfast or lunch. This can cause vomiting and headaches.
Once in the Palomino islands, it is possible to appreciate the great attraction of the place: the hundreds of sea lions. In total there are more than eight thousand, who usually fish in the mornings and use the afternoons to sleep.
Sea lions like the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean. There is an area of the island known as ‘El cementerio’ because there the old or wounded wolves are going to be allowed to die. The buzzards, scavengers that feed in this place, fly high up.
At the end of the visit, those who so wish will be able to swim with the sea lions. For this adventure it is necessary to know how to swim and have a special suit to better withstand the cold waters of Callao. The tours include everything you need to do it safely. The time in the water is approximately 20 minutes.
The birds of the Palomino islands
The Palomino Islands are home to different species of birds attracted by fish and the little presence of man. The gulls, guanays, tendrils, pelicans, the elegant tern as well as the Peruvian boobies stand out.
At the end of the 19th century, the proliferation of guano produced by the birds of the islands originated an economic boom called ‘The guano era’. This product was used as fertilizer in agriculture until the fall in prices and the mismanagement of the Peruvian State caused the decline of the business.
Of all the birds of the Palomino Islands, the one that stands out the most is the Humboldt penguin. This flightless bird inhabits the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean of Peru and Chile (the Humboldt current). There are an estimated 400 Humboldt penguins on these islands.
In addition to the Palomino islands, during the trip you can see the following Callao islands:
Camotal Island – Small islet that served as sweetpotato cultivation land (hence its name). It is said that more than ten thousand people worked there until an earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, in October 1746, the islet sank. Approximately eight hundred people died from this tragedy. Today it can only be seen in summer (low tide season). It is only 10 minutes from the port of Callao. It is also called ‘Peruvian Atlantis’.
San Lorenzo Island – This island, the largest on the Peruvian coast, covers an area of 1,648 hectares. Since pre-Inca times it was used as a cemetery. The island was used throughout the history of Peru. There the pirates and corsairs who sought to assault Lima made their center of operations. Also the Spanish who attacked the famous fortress of Real Felipe. In 1835 it was explored by Charles Darwin. In 1906 it was excavated by the archaeologist Max Uhle. It currently serves as a base for the Peruvian Navy.
Frontón Island – This small island is famous for hosting the prison of the same name, where the most dangerous criminals in the country were imprisoned. In 1986 there was a riot organized by prisoners of the Shining Path movement. The balance was the death of 118 inmates, many unofficially, which until today is the subject of investigation. Currently the island is abandoned.
Cavinza Island – This small group of islands and islets covers an area of 7.58 hectares. The important wildlife that lives there have made it a site protected by the Peruvian State. Bird species such as the guanay, the Peruvian booby, the pelican, the tendril, the red-legged cormorant, the gallinazo and, above all, the Humboldt penguin stand out. As well as the Palomino Islands on its shores, boats with tourists arrive to enjoy their amazing marine animal life.
How to go with tour? How much?
The tour is the best option to visit the Palomino Islands. The cost for adults is 120 Peruvian soles (about 40 dollars approximately). The cost for children is 90 Peruvian soles (about 30 dollars approximately). Tours include boats, professional guide, life-saving equipment and equipment for swimming with wolves. You can get the tour in the Square Miguel Grau (Callao).
If you only want to take the boat ride through the islands (without swimming with the sea lions) the costs are 70 Peruvian soles for adults and 40 Peruvian soles for children. The boats can be obtained in the same port. Prices are referential and may vary.
Swimming with sea lions in the Palomino Islands is one of the most incredible adventures in Lima and Callao. For greater safety, it is not recommended to touch the animals but rather that they approach in a friendly manner. The water depth in this area of the sea is 20 meters on average.
A short distance from Square Miguel Grau del Callao is another of the best tourist attractions in the place. It is the historic fortress of Real Felipe, a bastion built during the viceroyalty of Peru .
The Palomino Islands receive about 20 thousand tourists every year.