The ocean of life
The ocean’s surface sparkles under the orange sunset light. Suddenly, a dark cloud appears over the water, breaking the waves with a constant come and go of winged missiles. The cloud has a life of its own, and its look changes by the minute. As we come closer, an intense and deafening noise becomes louder and louder, making a sound similar to arrows whistling across the air. We are witnessing a pajarada, one of nature’s most fascinating shows.
This event, which usually happens several miles in the open sea and usually goes unnoticed, reflects the great magnitude of life in Paracas. It is located in one of the world’s driest places, in a land of impressive cliffs and blue waters; of tranquil beaches, desert islands and sand that is constantly traveling. The unusual diversity that coexists with the extreme dryness makes Paracas a fascinating and unique ecosystem, where nature has managed to squeeze even the last drop of life from a salty land in which the only thing that reminds us of the passing of time is the wind.
The feathered kingdom
If there’s something that instantly catches the eye when traveling across the coast of Paracas is the astounding abundance of seabirds that thrive on the great quantity of fish and other sea species that turn the freezing water of Paracas into a true feast. This abundance is caused by the water temperature and by the upwelling that allows for the growth and development of plankton, the first link in the ecosystem’s food change. The plankton is voraciously eaten by anchovy and other fish, which then become the food of the birds and mammals that coexists in Paracas.
More than two hundred bird different species - a number that’s about half the animal species registered in the whole of Canada - gather every year around the beaches and cliffs of Paracas, turning the skies of the deserted region into aerial highways, busy with huge flocks of shore birds, tiny migrants that arrive from far away distant places, such as the Artic Pole and Alaska. Others, much less adventurous, arrive from their nesting areas in Mexico, the Caribbean and the Galapagos Islands.
But distance is not the only impressive thing about the feathered inhabitants of Paracas. A mosaic of living curiosities gathers in these cold waters and participates in a natural show unprecedented in the American Pacific coast: the Humboldt penguin, a fast submarine hunter “flies” under the Peruvian ocean at incredible speed while chasing its preys; huge albatrosses, with a wingspan of 2 meters, patrol the water nonstop; tiny potoyuncos, noctural diving birds that live between their saltpeter nests and the furious waves.
This unusual Noah’s Ark is completed by graceful flamingos that arrive every winter from the nesting colonies in the great salt mines in the high Andes, over four kilometers above sea level, and by the majestic condors that, without flapping their wings even once, descend from the glaciers to the coast to feed; by fishing eagles that grab the fish with the sharp talons and by colorful oystercatchers that find and devour in seconds the clams that lay buried by the shore.