When visiting Lima, Peru, you may be surprised to discover that you can swim amongst hundreds of sea lions in the Pacific Ocean. I’m from the USA, where such an activity would only be allowed in the confines of a controlled environment, such as an aquarium. In Peru, however, you can dive right into the sea lions’ natural habitat and play. Swimming with sea lions in Peru is possible through several guided tours, all of which claim that the activity is safe for everyone involved, including the tourists and the sea lions.
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How to Swim with Sea Lions in Peru
The Palomino Islands (or Islas Palomino as they’re called in Peru) are home to a high concentration of sea lions. These islands are situated approximately 90 minutes away from Lima, Peru by boat. Apart from sea lions, the Palomino Islands are also inhabited by penguins and several other species of marine birds.
Several tour groups offer the opportunity to swim with sea lions in Peru. Each tour group will provide the following
Round-trip transportation is provided from your accommodation to the port in Callao and back.
A round-trip boat ride is included to and from the Palomino Islands, where you can swim with the sea lions.
A tour guide will accompany you, explaining the history of the Palomino Islands, providing information about the sea lions, and guiding you throughout the day.
Light snacks, typically consisting of water and chips, are provided for you to enjoy during the journey to the islands.
A wetsuit and life vest are provided for you to use when you jump into the water with the sea lions.
Seasickness pills are provided as the boat ride can be choppy, and it’s recommended to take one before setting sail to avoid feeling nauseous during the journey.
How to Get from Lima to Palomino Islands
The best way to reach the Palomino Islands from Lima is through the port located in Callao, Lima, Peru.
Callao is about a 30-minute car ride from Miraflores, the district where most tourists stay when visiting Lima.
For reference, the map on the right shows the distance to and from each district.
How Much Does it Cost to Swim with Sea Lions in Peru?
The cost of the excursion may vary depending on the season you choose to go. Below is a breakdown of the average costs. I suggest calling the company that you decide to tour with to get a formal quote before deciding which group to go with, as costs may change.
Here is the average cost of a Swimming with Sea Lions excursion ticket. Note that, this cost should include: the boat ride to and from the Palomino Islands from Callao, a life vest, a tour guide, light snacks, and seasickness pills.
- Adults: $50 USD
- Children: $40 USD
Transportation to and from the boat port in Callao:
If you’re staying in Miraflores, the most popular spot for tourists to stay in Lima, Peru, you’ll need to factor in the cost of transportation to and from the port in Callao where the boat leaves from. Below is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for transportation:
- Organized by tour group: $5-10 USD per person
- Taking a public taxi independently (without tour group’s help): $5-10 USD for the entire taxi (taxis in Peru can hold up to 4-5 people).
Groups That Can Facilitate a Sea Lion Excursion in Peru
Here’s a breakdown of the top two companies that offer sea lion swimming excursions in Peru. These companies are either ones that I have personally used or ones that were recommended to me by friends who have vacationed in Peru.
- Company #1: Ecocruceros
Website: Click here to book an excursion with Ecocruceros
- Company #2: Mar Adentro Excursiones
Website: Click here to visit the Mar Adentro Excursiones website
What to Expect on the Swimming with the Sea Lions Excursion
Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect during your swimming with sea
lions excursion in Peru, based on my own experience with Ecocruceros; the company that I used to personally swim with the sea lions.
The Journey to the Islands:
A boat will pick you up from a port in Callao in the morning, and you should expect to have other participants on the boat with you. Our tour group had around 20 people. Upon boarding the boat, your tour guide will give you an overview of what to expect and encourage everyone to take complimentary seasickness pills, which I highly recommend. The ride out to the Palomino Islands is extremely choppy, and taking a pill can help avoid feeling nauseous. The tour guide will also pass out some snacks for everyone to enjoy during the boat ride.
The journey to the Palomino Islands is about 90 minutes long, and the scenery along the way is breathtaking. It’s amazing to travel a short distance away from Lima, a bustling metropolis, and find yourself in the midst of a tranquil ocean surrounded by stunning rock formations.
As you approach the Palomino Islands, you’ll pass through a series of islands that are teeming with wildlife. One of the islands is home to penguins, and our boat stopped in front of it so we could take pictures and admire them.
The final island will be the one that houses the sea lions. As you get closer to the island, you’ll hear the sea lions roaring. The roaring will get louder and louder as you approach them.
Preparing to Swim with the Sea Lions:
The boat will anchor in front of an island that is home to approximately 500 sea lions. The entire island is covered in sea lions, making for an overwhelming sight. Once anchored, the tour guide will go over a few ground rules:
- Do not touch the sea lions, as they may interpret it as aggression and attack in response.
- If the sea lions touch you, remain calm and do not touch them back.
- Do not lie on your back with your toes up, as the sea lions may mistake them for fish and bite or nibble at them. (Someone in our group didn’t listen and had their toes nibbled on by a sea lion.)
- Stay within the designated area set by the tour group and do not swim beyond the limits, as the current near the island is strong.
- Do not feed the sea lions.
- Do not approach the island too closely, as the sea lions may perceive it as an attack on their home. Stay in the ocean surrounding the island.
- Do not scream or make loud noises.
These rules help ensure a safe environment for the tour group and ensure that the experience remains non-invasive for the sea lions.
The Experience of Swimming with the Sea Lions:
After the rules were read, those who planned to swim put on wet suits and life jackets before jumping into the ocean one by one. Some people chose to stay on the boat deck to observe the experience, which can also be a lovely and unique experience. Regardless of whether you decide to swim with the sea lions, the sight alone is very cool.
As I entered the water, I immediately felt the strong current pulling me under. It was challenging to swim and I felt like I was barely making progress, even though I was paddling hard. The sensation of being pulled so strongly by the current was scary, but I persisted because I knew I was about to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As I approached the sea lions, they appeared larger than life. I was amazed to be in such close proximity to them in their natural habitat. As soon as our group of about 20 people entered the water, approximately 100 sea lions surrounded us. The sea lions roared, sometimes only an inch from our faces, and swam around us in circles both above and below the water. They were playful and seemed delighted to have us there with them.
After about 20 minutes in the water, I decided to return to the boat. The combination of the strong current and the roaring sea lions had become a bit overwhelming, so I paddled my way back to the 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 a guided tour is a safe activity for both tourists and sea lions. The sea lions have grown accustomed to human presence in their habitat. As long as you follow the rules given by the tour guide before entering the waters, you and the sea lions will be safe. However, please note that the ocean current next to the island is very strong, so only strong swimmers should participate in this activity. Additionally, the tour guide informed us that no predators, such as sharks, come near the islands.
What to Bring on Your Swimming with the Sea Lions Excursion
Here’s a list of things that I recommend bringing on your sea lion swimming excursion to ensure a great experience:
- Waterproof Bag: It’s always a good idea to have one to hold your belongings, especially when water and electronics are involved.
- Bathing Suit: The tour company provides a wet-suit, but you’ll want to wear a bathing suit underneath it.
- Change of Clothes: Even with 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 shining down, so sunscreen is a must!
- Hat & Sunglasses: Protect yourself from the sun with a hat and sunglasses.
- Goggles & Snorkels: These are a fun addition and will allow you to see the sea lions zooming past your feet underwater.
- Waterproof and/or Underwater camera: I highly recommend bringing a waterproof camera to capture the sea lions up-close.
What is the Best Time of Year to Swim with the Sea Lions in Peru?
December to February is considered the best time to visit the Palomino Islands in Peru and swim with the sea lions. During this time, sea lion pups are born and are the most curious and friendly among the group, making them more likely to approach visitors who decide to take a dip in their waters.
Moreover, December to February is summer in Peru, which means the weather is perfect for a long boat ride and a swim in the ocean. Lima’s summer temperatures typically range from 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although it is recommended to visit during this time, it’s still possible to have a great time outside of this period. Lima’s temperature is mild throughout the year, and the sea lions are always present and eager to interact with visitors. I visited in May, and it was still an amazing experience.
Cool Things to Do After Your Sea Lion Excursion in Callao, Peru
When your excursion comes to an end, a boat will take you back to the port in Callao, Peru. Callao is a charming city that is definitely worth exploring. If you decide to spend some time in Callao after your excursion, you will need to organize your own transportation back home, as the tour company will not handle 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.
One area of Callao that I highly recommend visiting is La Punta. La Punta features a beautiful beach, and there are also several lovely restaurants in the area where you can grab a bite to eat. My favorite restaurant in Callao is El Mirador, which serves delicious Peruvian cuisine in a serene setting with breathtaking views of both the city and the ocean.
Lastly, you can find quite a few Picarones vendors in the area. I highly recommend getting some Picarones after your meal—they’re a fantastic dessert and a delicious Peruvian street food classic.
Read More Inspiration for a Trip to Peru
Disclosure: Please note that some of the above are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend companies that I’ve personally used and like, and the income supports this site.
2 thoughts on “Swimming with Sea Lions in Peru: A Complete Guide”
Sounds like a really unique experience. I always thought of sea lions are more aggressive and wouldn’t be a great idea to get into the water with them but I guess if you follow the rules and these particular ones are more used to people, then it makes sense. Still, I don’t know how long I would last in the water and would be more than happy to spend more time on the boat just watching them
I’ve been to Lima, but had no idea you could swim with sea lions there! What a cool experience!