Tourists flock to Peru to swim with sea lions

Calgary Herald - - TRAVEL -

LIMA, PERU For­eign tourists are flock­ing to a group of rocky is­lands sev­eral kilo­me­tres off the coast of Peru’s cap­i­tal for a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence: a chance to swim with sea lions.

The 39 rocky is­lands near Lima are home to an un­told num­ber of sea lions who bathe grace­fully and feast on abun­dant fish that thrive in the cold-wa­ter Hum­boldt Cur­rent.

But ac­tivists warn that the largely un­reg­u­lated eco­tourism ac­tiv­ity could be po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous and dis­rup­tive to the wild an­i­mals and their habi­tat.

Last year, more than 20,000 tourists vis­ited the sea lion re­serve, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment, with most stop­ping at the Palomino Is­lands, about five kilo­me­tres off the coast.

Many tourists swim just me­tres away from the giant mam­mals and snap self­ies near the rocks. Small mo­tor boats shut­tle on­look­ers past the is­land through­out the day.

Lo­cal tour op­er­a­tors ap­pear grate­ful for the boost.

Peru has earned a grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion for world-class cui­sine, and the sea lions have be­come an­other of­fer­ing for trav­ellers seek­ing out bet­ter-known at­trac­tions like the In­can site of Machu Pic­chu.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Many tourists swim a short dis­tance away from the giant sea lions and take self­ies near the rocks on the Palomino Is­lands, off the coast of Lima, Peru.

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