Tourists flock to Peru to swim with sea lions
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.
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.