Seeing sea lions off the islands of Lima, Peru


We headed to Callao in the hopes of seeing thousands of sea lions, some penguins and different types of guano birds. We boarded a catamaran called Spondyllus at the Plaza Grau (with the Lobos del Callao tour from the Cochamama Tours Company.) We departed once we were located in our places, with our safety jackets on and ready for a dizziness-free ride.

Although the Palomino islands are our main destination, we see some other important places along the way. The first to appear is the San Lorenzo Island, the largest off our nation’s coast (17 square kilometers approximately). This island is currently used by the Navy and the president, whose beach house is located there.

El Frontón, formerly a notorious prison for suspected Shining Path terrorists in the 1980s. (Rodney Dodig photo)

Not far from there is El Frontón which is famous for having been the location of a maximum security prison. This island seems to bear the burden of its nickname – “The Dead Island” – because it has not only been used to house criminals, but also to prevent diseases from entering the country during the colonial era. “Back in those times, they called it Quarantine Island, and all the boats were obliged to stop there for 40 days before arriving to the mainland,” says Patricia Tenicela, our guide.

Later, a peculiar smell welcomes us to the Cabinza Island, the only one in this route that remains a guano island. In it, pelicans, Guanays, boobies and gulls live with the guard, a man who is in charge of making sure boats like ours do not disrupt the natural habitat of these birds.

Finally, after 8.5 kilometers, we saw an island covered with a shifting brown mass. As we approached it, we realized these were sea lions covering the entire surface of one of the Palomino Islands. Before our eyes, baby sea lions played near their mothers and males (large animals that can weigh up to 400 kilos) rested peacefully.

On another island, from a safe distance, we see a small group of Humboldt penguins. “In the Palomino Islands, we can see more penguins and sea lions that in the Ballestas Islands. We are putting a lot of effort into teaching visitors the importance of protecting this ecosystem. Therefore, our guides are marine biologists or fishing engineers,” said Renzo Rubino, CEO of Cochamama Tours.

This option is attractive to domestic and foreign tourists, because in the course of about three hours, they can enjoy a different type of history and wildlife of the Peruvian sea.

San Lorenzo Island has a quiet bay, perfect for dropping the anchor for a while if on a private boat (see related article). (Photo by Rodney Dodig)