Paracas National Park and Wildlife Reserve
Paracas is Quechan for sand and sun, and Paracas tours have become increasingly popular in recent years, primarily because of the Paracas National Park and Wildlife Reserve.
Created in 1975, The Paracas Reserve is an area of 830 acres and was created to protect one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. It also serves to preserve the cultural and historical heritage of the Paracas and other cultures. Inside the Paracas reserve’s boundaries are more than 100 identified archeological sites, remnants of civilizations that once thrived by means of fishing and shellfish gathering.
The unique geography of the Paracas bay and peninsula protect the marine plankton and over 250 species of algae from the cold Humboldt Current. It creates a unique ecosystem abundant with species of fish, birds and other wildlife. Additionally, there is a habitat of scarlet and white flamingos. Legend says that the flamingos were the inspiration for Liberator San Martin’s design of the red and white flag of Peru.
The Paracas Reserve is home to the Julio C. Tello Museum. Tello is considered to be the father of Peruvian archeology and was responsible for the most significant archeological discoveries in the region during the years 1920-33. The museum houses many vital artifacts from the Paracas culture as well as other significant ancient cultures.
Within the cliffs, that border the reserve’s shoreline lives millions of birds that inhabit the reserve year round. During the migratory season, thousands more join them from the north and the south. The coastline of the reserve once included a unique natural rock formation, the Cathedral, which was, unfortunately, destroyed in the 2007 earthquake and currently exists only in photographs.
The Ballestas Islands are a group of small islands located off the coast of the Paracas and are a natural paradise for scenery, birds and marine wildlife. The islands contain a variety of beautiful and fascinating rock formations, tunnels, arches and caves all carved and created by millions of years of sea erosion.
These rocky structures provide habitat to hundreds-of-thousands of birds, fish and marine mammals including sea lions, fur seals, and the endangered Humboldt penguins. Occasionally a lucky visitor might even spot a dolphin or a whale.
Before the advent of chemical fertilizers, the Ballestas Islands were an important source of guano, (bird fertilizer), generated from the millions of marine birds that live on the islands. Several buildings and other structures still remain on the island as remnants of this period.
Because of the sensitivity of the island ecosystems, visitors are not allowed to step foot on the Ballestas Islands. However, the boat tours allow visitors to get very close to the wildlife. The animals are very accustomed and accommodating to the regular flow of tourists thereby making the tourist experience quite authentic and natural.
Because of the recent popularity of the Paracas Reserve and the Ballestas Islands, the Paracas hotel business is booming as it strives to keep up with the inflow of tourists looking for luxury and tourist class accommodations.