Swimming with Sea Lions in Peru & How You Can Do It To!

What an adventure! I’ll admit, I was on the fence about the idea of swimming with sea lions off Palomino Island in Peru. We first learned about the unique excursion on TripAdvisor. Something about jumping into the open ocean surrounded by predator meat screams “great white shark attack.” So, of course, I said yes.

Tour Summary

The tour starts with a mid-morning pickup that takes you to Callao Harbor.  From there you transfer onto a yacht that takes you past a few islands to Palamino Island. The boat has a bathroom and provides light snacks.

Once you arrive at Palomino Island, you’re given a wetsuit and life jacket for the encounter.  After a short swim, you’re greeted by dozens of curious Sea Lions.  I think you’re in the water for around 15-25minutes.  On the way back, the boat takes a slightly different path.  One that brings you closer to the other islands so the guides can point out additional wildlife like penguins and pelicans.

Back on land, the van takes you back to your original pickup location.

Tour Info

  • Swim with Sea Lions off Palomino Island
  • Duration: Half Day (4 hours)
  • Price: Approx $125
  • Pickup: Your Hotel

Links and additional info below.

Our Experience Swimming With Sea Lions in Peru

The day started early. We cabbed it into the city to our pick up spot, and we’re taken north to Callao Harbor. Once we parked, our guide said one of the funniest things, “It’s a little dangerous around here so don’t wander off.” Immediately followed by, “Well, we got about 20 minutes until we board the boat so go explore!” Confused, we decided to stay within shouting distance of her.

A Bumpy Ride To Palomino Island

The water was a little choppy as we got underway. So the crew offered everyone motion sickness pills. Some passengers refused to take them; I don’t know if it was from stranger danger or not, but I decided this was a sign of things to come. Figuring it was going to be a very bumpy ride I took the pills.

The ride out to Palomino Island takes 45 minutes to an hour, mostly to get around San Lorenzo Island. Once we passed the island, the ocean got somewhat rough. Bad enough that people on the boat began to throw up. All I could think was, “Why do we put ourselves in these sketchy situations on boats!” It didn’t compare to our boat ride from hell, but it was still a little nerve-racking. While I was holding on all I could think about was the damn Gillian’s Island theme song from the 60’s. Never the less, the captain and crew didn’t seem fazed, so I’m relatively sure everything was normal. Thankfully no one from our group got seasick.

With the island finally within sight, the sea swells began to smooth a little, and we could see thousands of sea lions. At almost the same time we were hit with the overpowering smell of salty ocean toilet. The discovery channel doesn’t prepare you for the smell of thousands of sea lions crapping all over a tiny island. It made the already sick people even more nauseous.

Disregarding the smell, I pulled out the camera and attempted to get footage of the island.

Swimming With Sea Lions

As the boat stopped 40ish yards for the island, we stared at the brown foam covering large portions of the surface the boat captain yelled out, “Who wants to jump in?” As I stared at the foam, I raised my hand thinking, “forget the Sharks I’m gonna die of infection!” After a few minutes getting into my wetsuit, I was ready to go. Looking out, I could already see people in water mingled in with all the seals. So I jumped in and made my way over.

It was a blast. Most of the sea lions coming up to us were curious young ones. They splashed around finding interest in the GoPro I had attached to an “extender.” (It’s not a selfie stick if it’s not on your phone!)

Their curiosity brought them close enough to touch the camera with their nose on many occasions. A few times an adult sea lion would come up out of nowhere in the middle of our group and bark like it was trying to surprise us. It was a surprise to see how playful they were towards us. I remember looking around to see if the guides were using food to bring them closer to us, but their hands were empty. The sea lions were just as interested in us as we were with them.

Beware Of The Poop Foam

Everything was perfect until I saw an incoming clump of poop foam coming my way, so I quickly turned away.  Right into a wave that washed over my head making my shallow A LOT of poop water. My body wasn’t happy, and I began to dry heaving. It may have been a mental reaction, but if you had smelled what I knew we were swimming in, you would have done the same. Thankfully once the initial shock of drinking ocean poop water wore off, I was back to having the time of my life.

I had that moment of clarity when I realized this is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. We were out in the water for what seemed like 20 or so minutes.

Heading back

Once it was over, we all got out of our wetsuits and headed back to the mainland. We snacked and napped our way back to shore. On the trip back the guide pointed out penguins and a lot of the other wildlife in the area.

Back on shore, there was a small hiccup with our van missing, but we eventually got picked up and dropped off at your AirB&B since it was on the way. We thanked the guide and ran inside to the nearest shower.

How You Can Swim With Sea Lions!

Swimming with Sea Lions at Palomino Island is incredibly easy to do.  We booked our excursion through TripAdvisor, but similar deals can be found elsewhere (I listed a few options below).  Once you’ve purchased the tickets and received your confirmation email, you’re good to go.

When the day comes, all you need to worry about is being at the designated spot for pickup. The guided half-day excursion is very efficient, and they’ll have you back in time to enjoy the rest of your day in Lima.

Things to Bring

  • Sun Screen
  • Binoculars
  • Extra clothes
  • Towel
  • Goggles
  • chewing gum

More From Us

We loved Peru. From Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo, we enjoyed it all.  Okay, maybe not the first day when our flight was canceled, and we had to spend the night in the airport, but the rest was outstanding!  

That being said, If you’re interested in more ways our travels have gone downhill check out our posts about running into Pickpockets in Madrid, or Our boat ride from hell in Thailand!

Swimming with Sea Lions was a real stand out moment from our week in Peru, and we recommend it to anyone that’s feeling a little adventurous.

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About Author

Kristoffer

Traveling, Capturing moments and Editing them down into tiny digestible videos. That's what I love to do with my downtime.


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15 Comments

  • Alyssa

    This looks so flippin fun!! Haha the part about poop foam was too funny but aweful! X-D

    • Kristoffer

      It was freaking fun. I’m finishing up on a video for this post right now that does a better job explaining how cool the excursion was.

    • Kristoffer

      Yeah, it was a fun adventure. Thanks for checking out the post.

  • Beth Davidson

    This is so awesome, other than the poop foam. My husband and I went to Peru for our honeymoon, but we never even considered anything like this. We’ll have to add it to our return trip bucket list.

    • Kristoffer

      Yeah if you ever make it back to Peru you’ve got to check it out. I would say this experience is bucket list-able 🙂

  • Tabbie

    This looks amazing! I’m going to have to add this to my bucket list!

  • Kristi Ann

    This would be so amazing! We have swam with dolphins and LOVED that!! This would be just as awesome I am sure!

    • Kristoffer

      Amazing for sure 🙂 I’m looking forward to the day I can swim with Dolphins. Trang’s done it before and she loved it as well.

  • Ophelia T

    This is so cool. I would love to swim with sea lions. Thanks for sharing.

  • Maya

    This looks like so much fun! Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity! I have to admit the poop water would freak me out though!

    • Kristoffer

      Not gonna lie, the poop water was rough. I almost decided to stay on the boat because of it, but I’m happy I jumped in. Swimming with these Sea Lions turned out to be one of my favorite travel experiences.

      Also, gum helped a lot. It masked a lot of the awful… until it got into my mouth, nothing helped that! haha

  • Tara Fuller

    the poop water made me laugh – that sounds unpleasant but I’m glad you were unfazed. I don’t do well with motion sickness otherwise I’d be all over this. sounds like it was a lot of fun!

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