As a wildlife photographer, I try, as much as I can to travel off the beaten path to capture the beauty of “untouched” nature and wildlife in its natural, unobstructed habitat. There are still a few places around the world where you can hire a private guide for relatively inexpensive fees, explore areas only known to them, contribute to their communities and learn so much about their culture.
The Paracas Peninsula
The Paracas Peninsula is a desert peninsula within the boundaries of the Paracas National Reservation, a marine reserve which extends south along the coast. The only marine reserve in Peru, it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The peninsula is located within the Paracas District of the Pisco Province in the Ica Region, on the south coast of Peru. This unusual peninsula may be best known for the Paracas Candelabra, a prehistoric geoglyph nearly 600 feet (183 m) tall on the north face of the peninsula ridge. Pottery nearby was dated to 200 BCE, placing it within the Paracas culture. Its origins and purpose have inspired many theories but remains one of the big mysteries surrounding one of the driest deserts in the world.
Established in 1975, it is the oldest marine reserve in Peru, and it incorporates a variety of marine habitats and tropical desert. In addition to the biological areas, the reserve protects prehistoric sites of the Paracas culture and other ancient civilizations. Near the museum is the Paracas Necropolis (100 BCE – CE 300), comprising the burial sites known as the Cabezas Largas and Cerro Colorado, where Julio C. Tello found many fine grave goods buried with mummified remains of the Paracas elite.
I was lucky to be traveling through this surreal landscape on a bright sunny day and snapped photos of sea lions, many vulchers, other bird species and even some photos of the Humboldt Penguin. You won’t be able to find this type of penguin anywhere north of this point. As with other protected areas around the world, it is impossible to set foot on these islands, so my best and only bet was to use a telephoto lens with image stabilization. All these photos were taken from a moving motor boat.
Pacaya Samiria National Park
Comprising a large part of the provinces of Loreto, Requena, Ucayali, and Alto Amazonas, Pacaya Samiria has an area of 2’080.000 hectares, making it the largest in Peru and in South America. It is also known as the most extensive area of protected floodable forest (várzea) in the Amazon Rainforest. It is bordered by two large rivers: the Marañon in the north and the Ucayali, which coincidentally are the 2 major arteries of the mighty Amazon river.
Biodiversity: 527 bird species, 102 mammal species (among them the pink dolphin), 69 species of reptiles, 58 species of amphibians, 269 fish species, and 1024 species of wild and cultivated plants. The reserve is a refuge for different endangered species like the charapa turtle (Podocnemis expansa), the spider monkey (Ateles sp.), the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the red macaw (Ara macao), cedar trees (Cederla odorata), and others. Furthermore, there are diverse protection and natural resource management projects like the one aimed at repopulating the taricaya and the charapa river with turtles in the artificial beaches of the reserve. It is truly amazing to watch the final stage of the process, the freeing of the newborns into the rivers, gorges, and lakes of the reserve. The level of involvement of the local population is remarkable.