City: Lima (Callao) // Category: Tours // Reading time: 6 min
Peru is known for Machu Picchu and Lima is known for its incredible density of extraordinary restaurants, but most people don’t know that you can swim with sea lions in Lima. In fact, this close encounter with wildlife in the Pacific Ocean is something you would expect for the Galapagos islands, but certainly not for Lima. However, it’s a great alternative to the usual day trips from Lima and it can definitely be considered one of the top things to do in Lima. If you don’t believe me, just read on…
Where to swim with sea lions in Lima?
We met up at the Club Universitario de Regatas in Callao, a major harbor for container ships, around 40 minutes from Miraflores at 11:00 am. The best way to get to the starting point of the tour is by ordering an Uber for around S/ 20-25 ($6-8). Once you arrive in front of the rowing statue, you will meet our coordinator Miguel who will register you for the tour.
What weather to expect for the tour?
Considering the weather, you can expect clear skies during Lima’s summer, which starts in January and ends in April/May. From June through September, Peru’s capital transforms to “Lima la Gris” (The grey Lima) as many days are very foggy. The chances to have fog between October and December are still quite high, but the temperatures are better and it’s also more likely to see the sun shining. I personally did the tour in each season (you can do the tour all year round) and I loved it every single time (honestly!), as the experience is just incredible. However, in the summer months I liked it most as jumping in the cold sea was a great refreshing moment.
Start of the tour: Island discovery in Lima
As everybody showed up on time, we entered the harbor and a small skiff took us to the yacht. We were in a small group of 8, but during high season in summer (January to April) it can get up to four times as crowded. There was also a family with kids (I didn’t ask for their age but they probably around 8 years old) and they didn’t go on the tour in order to swim with sea lions but merely to see them. This is an option for everyone that doesn’t want to enter the cold water or that doesn’t know how to swim. However, the boat is comfortable and has two large seating areas, one in the back and one in front. It is also equipped with 2 toilets and changing rooms. Before the engine was turned on, the guide offered each of us a pill against seasickness and everybody took it (I’d also advise you to take it as the sea can get quite rough). As the engine was turned on, we started leaving the port of Callao heading towards a large island that I could see straight in front of us.
On the way, our guide involved us in a short history lesson and also showed us all the animals that you can see in this area. Approaching the first and the largest island around, San Lorenzo, the guide explained that there is a beach called the “Playa Presidencial” (the presidential beach). He told us that the Peruvian president and other high-ranked military officers can use it, but it’s not accessible to the public. The next island, El Fronton, used to be home to a prison where a terrible riot occured between the inmates and the guards in 1986. It was so bad that the military had to be called to intervene. Passing the island, we saw some remainings of the former prison and the mystique atmosphere was quite a fit for the islands nickname, “Island of Hell”. One last hint for this island: watch out for the sleeping man!
Discovering the Palomino islands and swimming with sea lions
Having passed through the canal between the two islands, we continued our way to the Palomino islands, which some people even call an “alternative to Galapagos” as you can also swim with sea lions and it’s way easier to get here. As we started to come closer, we heard the funny noises of the sea lions getting louder and louder and we saw how these funny creatures stuck out their head to spot us and went back to diving again. First we saw around 10 of them around us, then probably 50-100 and once we got closer to the island we stopped counting as it was hundreds of them. No one on the boat has seen so many wild sea lions in their lives before, and everyone was super excited to go swimming with them.
As the Pacific Ocean is quite cold, you will be given a wetsuit and also a life vest before jumping in the water. We put on the necessary equipment and then we were ready to go! 3..2..1..JUMP! Oh boy, that water was cold! Our guide said: “Just don’t think about how cold it is and you will forget about it.” In this moment it seemed funny to all of us but later we realised that he was right. As we started to float in the chilly ocean, more and more curious and playful sea lions came closer to check us out. At this point, we completely forgot about the water temperature. Swimming with sea lions really is a unique experience, as these animals swim right next to you, dive under you and jump around in front of your (and actually they jump around everywhere, one of them even jumped over my legs).
But wait. Isn’t it dangerous to swim with sea lions? No, it isn’t. At least not if you don’t force touching them as this might irritate them and scare them off. Just relax and float around in the water peacefully and you will be amused by them, trust me. Sea lions don’t consider us humans a potential source of danger, at least not in the open water where we were. If you hop on their island and try to invade their territory, things might look a little different. However, as this is not the plan, and I really wouldn’t advise doing that either, there is nothing you need to be afraid of. Also, there aren’t any recordings of sharks swimming around in this region so it will be just you and your new friends you made in the water. Just leave your doubts on the boat, jump in the water and have a great time swimming with sea lions in Lima.
After around 30 minutes of swimming with sea lions, we got on board again and got changed. One tip: watch your step when entering the boat, as the lower part might be a little slippery. While getting changed, the staff prepared some typical snacks (bretzel, chifle, canchita, Inca corn) and something to drink for us (tea, water, Coca Cola, Inka Cola etc.). Everyone agreed that this experience was one of the top things to do in Lima. As there was still some time until we reached the harbor we had a lot of great conversations.
If you're curious to see what the tour is like, check out the video below.
Some recommendations for swimming with sea lions in Lima:
Now that you know what it’s like to swim with sea lions in Lima, I’d like to share some recommendations with you:
- Put your swimsuits on before the tour already so you don’t have to change on board
- Bring a towel, a windbreaker and dry clothes you can put on afterwards
- Put on sunscreen (even if Lima’s sky is grey!) and bring sunglasses and a hat
- Don’t forget your goggles and your gopro if you want to see and film the sea lions underwater
- If you want to, get some nausea medication before (such as Dramamine, a motion sickness medicine for prevention and treatment of nausea)
- And last but not least, have a light breakfast before the tour!
Is swimming with sea lions worth it while I’m in Lima?
Absolutely! And I’m not saying this because I want you to buy this tour, but because it really is a great way to spend your time in Lima apart from doing the “typical” visits of the centre, Barranco etc. In fact, as swimming with sea lions is only a half day tour, you still have enough time to make plans for the evening and the night, such as going out to eat in delicious Peruvian restaurant. No idea where to go? Check out our recommendations for restaurants in Lima (restaurant Lima blog post link! I hope you will enjoy this tour and if you have any other questions just let us know in the comments below.