Swimming with Sea Lions in Peru: A Complete Guide
When you visit Lima, Peru, you might be surprised to find out that you can swim amidst hundreds of sea lions in the Pacific ocean. I’m from the USA, where such an activity would only be allowed if experienced in the confines of a controlled place; such as an aquarium. Not in Peru—there, you can jump right into the sea lions’ natural habitat and play. Swimming with Sea Lions in Peru is possible via several guided tours, all of which claim that the activity is safe for all involved—the tourists and the sea lions.
How to Swim with Sea Lions in Peru
There is a high concentration of sea lions that live in the Palomino Islands (or, Islas Palomino as it’s referred to in Peru). The islands are located about 90 minutes by boat from Lima, Peru. Not only do sea-lions live in the Palomino Islands, but you’ll also see penguins and various other species of marine-birds.
There are several tour groups that will facilitate your experience of swimming with sea lions in Peru. Each tour group will do the following:
Round trip transportation to/from the port in Callao to/from your accommodation
Round trip boat ride to/from Palomino Islands, where you can swim with the sea lions
A tour guide who will explain the history of the Palomino Islands, teach you about the sea lions, and generally guide you through the day
Light snacks (usually water & chips) to eat while journeying to the islands
A wetsuit & life vest (to use when you jump into the water with the sea lions)
Seasickness pills (the boat ride is choppy and it’s strongly suggested to take one before setting sail to avoid feeling woozy during your journey).
How to Get from Lima to Palomino Islands
The best way to get to the Palomino Islands from Lima is via a port that’s located in Callao, Lima, Peru.
Callao is approx. 30-minutes by car from Miraflores, Lima—a district that most tourists stay in when visiting Lima.
The map to the right show’s the distance to/from each district for reference.
How Much Does it Cost to Swim with Sea Lions in Peru?
In my opinion, the cost of Swimming with Sea Lions in Peru is reasonable. There are several different companies in Lima, Peru that can help facilitate the experience for you.
Here’s a breakdown of the top two companies that offer Swimming with the Sea Lion excursions and their approximate cost.
Company #1: Ecocruceros
Website: Click here to visit Ecocruceros website
Notes: This is the tour group that I went with and I highly recommend them.
Company #2: Mar Adentro Excursiones
Website: Click here to view the Mar Adentro Excursiones Website
Costs of the excursion may vary depending on the season that you decide to go. Below, is a breakdown of what you should expect to pay on average. I suggest calling each company listed above to bid them out and see which works best for you.
Average Swimming with the Sea Lions Excursion Ticket Cost:
Your ticket will include the boat ride to/from Palomino Islands from Callao, a life vest, tour guide, light snacks & seasickness pills:
- Adults: $50/USD average
- Children: $40USD average
Transportation to/from boat port in Callao:
- Organized by Tour Group: $5-10 USD/person
- If taking a public cab independently (without tour groups help): $5-10 USD for an entire taxi (taxis in Peru will hold up to 4-5 people).
What to Expect on the Swimming with the Sea Lions Excursion
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect on your swimming with the sea lions excursion in Peru. This is based on what my own experience was like with Ecocruceros.
The Journey to the Islands:
A boat will pick you up from a port in Callao in the morning. You should expect that others will be on the boat with you; our tour group had about 20-random participants.
Once you board the boat, your tour guide will give an overview of what you should expect. They’ll encourage everyone to take complimentary sea-sickness pills. I recommend taking a pill—the ride out to the Palomino Islands is extremely choppy. The tour guide will also pass some snacks out around the boat.
The boat ride to the Palomino Islands is about 90-minutes long. The journey to the islands is worth the price of the excursion in and of itself. It feels really cool to travel a short distance away from Lima, Peru—which is a booming metropolitan, and find yourself in the midst of a tranquil ocean and surrounded by jaw-dropping rock formations.
Once you reach the Palomino Islands, you’ll pass through a series of islands that are filled with wild-life. One of the islands is full of penguins—our boat stopped in front of it to let us take pictures and take it in.
The final island will be the one that houses the sea-lions. As you approach the island, you’ll hear the sea lions roaring. The roaring gets louder and louder as you approach them.
Preparing to Swim with the Sea Lions:
The boat will park in front of an Island that approximately 500 sea lions call home. The entire island is covered in sea lions—it’s an overwhelming sight to see. Once parked in front of the Island, the tour guide will read a few ground rules to everyone, which are:
- Don’t touch the sea lions, as they’ll see this as a sign of aggression and will possibly attack you in response
- If the sea lions touch you, stay calm, and do not touch them back
- Don’t lay on your back with your toes up; the sea lions will think that your toes are fish
and may bite/nibble at them (someone in our group didn’t listen & stuck their toes up…a sea lion did, in fact, nibble at their toes)
- Stay in the area laid out by the tour group and don’t swim beyond the limits (this is very important, as the current near the island is very strong)
- Don’t feed the sea lions
- Don’t go too close to their Island as they may perceive you to be a predator that is attacking their home (stay in the ocean surrounding the island)
- Don’t scream or make loud noises
The above rules help foster a secure environment for the tour group. The rules also help ensure that the experience remains non-invasive for the sea-lions.
The Experience of Swimming with the Sea Lions:
Once the rules were read, everyone that planned on going into the water put a wet-suit and life-jacket on and then jumped into the ocean, one-by-one.
There were a handful of people that decided to stay on the boat and watch the experience from the boat deck, which can also provide a lovely and unique experience. The site alone is very cool, whether or not you decide to jump into the ocean with the sea lions.
When I jumped into the water, I immediately felt the very strong current pulling underneath me. It was difficult to swim and I felt like I was barely moving, even though I was paddling hard. The sensation of being pulled so strongly by the current was scary, but I powered through because I knew that I was about to have a once in a lifetime experience.
As I neared the sea lions, they seemed larger than life. I was amazed to be in such close proximity to them, in their own habitat. As soon as our group of 20 or so people entered the waters, approximately 100 sea lions surrounded us. The sea lions roared, sometimes one inch from our faces, and swam around us in circles both above and below the water. They were playful and seemed happy to have us there with them.
I stayed in the water for about 20 minutes before I decided that I wanted to go back to the boat. The combination of the strong current and the roaring sea lions became a bit too much for me, so I paddled my way back to our boat where I watched the rest of the group interact with the sea lions from above.
Is it Dangerous to Swim with the Sea Lions in Lima, Peru?
Swimming with the sea lions in Peru via guided tour is safe for both tourists and the sea lions. The sea lions have grown accustomed to having people enter their habitat. As long as you follow the rules that the tour guide gives prior to entering the waters, you will be ok (and the sea lions will be ok, too!). The ocean current next to the island was very strong, so I do recommend that only strong swimmers participate in the activity. We were also told that no predators (sharks, etc.) come near the islands.
What to Bring on Your Swimming with the Sea Lions Excursion
Here’s a list of things that I recommend you bring on your swimming with the Sea Lions excursion in order to make it a great experience:
- Waterproof Bag: to hold your belongings (no water actually enters the boat, but this is always a nice thing to have when water & electronics are involved).
- Bathing Suit: The tour company will provide a wet-suit, but you’ll want to wear a bathing suit underneath it.
- Change of Clothes: Even though you’ll use a wet-suit, your bathing suit will get wet, so bring a change of clothes.
- Sunscreen: You’ll be in the middle of the ocean with the sun beaming down on you, so sunscreen is a good idea!
- Hat & Sunglasses: Always a good idea to keep the sun away.
- Goggles & Snorkels: These are a fun addition and will help you check out the sea lions zooming past your feet underwater.
- Waterproof and/or Underwater camera: I wish I brought a waterproof camera with me. I missed some great opportunities to take pictures of the sea lions up-close.
What is the Best Time of Year to Swim with the Sea Lions in Peru?
December to February is said to be the best time to visit the Palomino Islands and swim with the sea lions in Peru. Sea lion pups are born during this time period, and are said to be the most curious and friendly of the bunch—which means that they’re the most likely to get close to any visitors that decide to take a plunge in their waters.
December to February is also summer in Peru, so the weather will be ideal for a long boat ride and a dip in the ocean. Summer in Lima is usually between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is possible to go on the excursion outside of the recommended time period and still have a great time, as the temperature in Lima is usually mild year-round and the sea lions are always there and willing to engage with the visitors. I visited in May and it was great.
Cool Things to Do After Your Sea Lion Excursion in Callao, Peru
When your excursion is over, a boat will take you back to the port in Callao, Peru. Callao is a really cute city and worthy of some time spent walking around. If you decide to explore Callao after your excursion, then you will be responsible for organizing your own transportation home (vs. the tour company handling it for you). You can easily hail a public taxi or use a ride-share app to book your own ground transportation once you’re finished exploring the town.
There’s a great area in Callao called La Punta. There’s a pretty beach located in La Punta, and there are also a few cute restaurants in the area that you can eat in. My favorite restaurant in Callao is El Mirador. El Mirador serves Peruvian cuisine and is set in a tranquil environment with sweeping views of both the surrounding city and ocean.
There are also quite a few Picarones vendors in the area. I recommend buying some Picarones after your meal—they’re a great dessert and a delicious Peruvian street food staple.
Have More Questions?
Swimming with the Sea Lions in Peru was hands-down one of my all-time favorite travel experiences. I’m so glad that I did it and I hope that this guide helps provide you with the details that you need to do so, yourself, if you’re ever in Lima, Peru. If you have any specific questions about the experience, feel free to shoot me a note via my contact form and I’d be happy to help further.