The Falkland Islands

This is it…THE port I was waiting for.  I put a lot of time and preparation leading up to our private excursion and I was so excited.  This was a place that was off the beaten path, a location that none of my friends had been to.  All of this would be new to me.

Deciding what to do was easy for me – I wanted to, make that needed to see the penguins.  Sure, I’ve seen them in aquarium shows and at the zoo but seeing them in their natural habitat is something else.

I spent a lot of time researching which company to go with.  I read countless reviews and settled upon Patrick Watts.  I began writing to him about 14 months prior to our cruise.  I wanted in with his group.  As I mentioned before, I took a group of friends with me so automatically he would have sixteen reservations.  I wrote to him about concerns with one in my group who had mobility issues?  How bumpy would the ride be when we are off roading?  He was patient and told me that yes, it would be bumpy but not awful as his drivers take time and do not race across the roadless land.  He would work with the person with mobility issues – just keep him apprised of her needs.

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On the hill in the entrance are names of British ships sent to protect the Falklands. They are written in white stones.

I posted about this excursion on my Cruise Critic Roll Call and said I had seats open. People started signing up and then I would send the names to Patrick.  We each had a list of who was coming through the Roll Call.  About seven months before our excursion Patrick notified me that the landowner was cutting down on the number of visitors to her property where the penguins lived.  That meant that the daily limit was plummeting from about 120 to 60 with his group, and his group was the largest .  I was already at 48 and he had 12 that wrote to him outside of the Roll Call so that was it.  We couldn’t take anymore.  I’m telling you this because if you plan on doing it with Patrick, you cannot wait to book your trip with him.  Princess offers one tour with a maximum of four people at a cost of around $375.00. Patrick’s fee for my group, which received a discount was $170 but for most other groups it was around $200 – quite a savings.

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Meeting on the dock in front of the Visitor Center

It was important to Patrick that my group all try to be on the first tender so we have more time.  I called everyone while on the boat and told them to be in line for the tender tickets about 30-45 minutes prior to them opening up the tender lines.  Everyone did as asked and we were congratulated by Patrick.  He said my group was the only one ever when we all got off the same tender.  Due to my organization with Patrick, keeping him updated on cancellations/talking with him for additions he gave us the lowest rate of any group and discounted my ticket and my husband’s.

By the way, Patrick has some fame in the Falklands as he was the radio station manager when the islands were invaded by Argentina and began the Falkland Island Wars. He had learned about the impeding invasion the day before it occurred and  stayed on the station giving information to the islanders without frightening them too much.  The next morning the Argentinian soldiers arrived and forced him with a gun to his back to go on the radio and deliver the Argentinian propaganda, tapes and music that they wanted him to play.

We met Patrick on the dock when we got off the tender and he took roll call.  He began by assigning passengers in groups of 4 to a driver in a 4 x 4 and off they went.  It took us about an hour on road to reach the spot when the landowners property began and we were off the road.  There were bathrooms for our use at the mid way spot.  After that, although we were only going about 7 miles it took an hour.   There literally was no road.  We’d go up hills, down hills, over ruts in the property.  At one point the driver got out of the car and put two pieces of wood across the gully and we drove across it.  Sometimes we couldn’t believe what we were driving on as well as how long it took – be prepared.

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This is the halfway spot where we could stretch our legs and use the restrooms
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photo courtesy of Stan Ellison

As we drove along our driver told us that most of the settlement on the East Island, where we were, was along the coast.  Many sheep farmers would wait for the boats to come and pick up the sheep fur (shearing?) and sell it for them.  Once the war came, they realized that they had very few roads, particularly inland.  After the war, they set about building roads, although there are still few roads.  We learned about their health care, their education and so much more about life as an islander.

We pulled up to the spot and couldn’t believe all the penguins.  They have three types of penguins here at Volunteer Point; the stately King penguin, the gentoo penguin and the Magellanic penguin.  There were about 1,000 penguins here and when we got out of the vehicle we could hear them and smell them.  Yes, there was an odor and although it was always there it didn’t bother most of us as much as when we first got there.  We got used to it.

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There is a large white rock circle where many of the King penguins seems to stay in.  The Magellanic penguins had the burrows in the sand by the beach since they are burrowing penguins.  The gentoos were off to the side of the Kings and it seemed like the groups of penguins did not intermingle.  We were not allowed to enter the white rock circle – off limits to humans- nor were we encouraged to reach out to the penguins.  We could sit and wait for them to approach us which they would do sometimes since they were curious.P1060190IMG_3864P1030214

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Egg on the penguins feet keeping it warm
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Can you see the bump at the bottom? That’s the egg being carried on the penguins feet.

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Looking at the Kings we could see many chicks being fed by their parents as well as eggs on the feet of their waiting to crack open.  Many of the gentoo penguins were molting and you could see fluffy down all around.

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Gentoos molting – feathers everywhere
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A young chick being fed by his parent.

After we spent several hours marveling at all these penguins, it was time to get back into our 4 x 4, eat our sack lunch that we were given by our driver and head back over the bumpy land, go to the halfway station, get on the paved road and go to town.  Our driver began telling us about his personal life, took us by his home.  He drove us by the school where his children attend school and his wife works.  Great Britain is very supportive of these families that live in the Falkland.  If they need more medical care than what they can get on the islands, they are flown for free to Great Britain and are given lodging while they seek treatment.  The Islanders that I spoke with are very resentful of Argentina and they were very frightened when they were invaded, particularly those in Port Stanley, the largest city.  They have erected a sculpture of Margaret Thatcher for sending the British navy to the Falklands to protect it and keep it under British rule.P1030229P1030239P1030237

Hope you enjoyed my visit to the Falklands – a very unique and friendly place to visit.  If you want to book with Patrick here is his email:  pwatts@horizon.co.fk

I received no compensation for mentioning the tour or Patrick’s name.  I just had such a great time that I wanted to share it.  This is true of my entire blog – I have not received one penny from writing about my experiences – they truly are my opinions and my opinions only.

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5 thoughts on “The Falkland Islands

  1. I am very glad that I found your Blog. We are on the Coral Princess from SCL in January 2020 and really looking forward to these locations. We have 3 days along the Antarctic Peninsula and am wondering what that is going to be like. Do you have any information on this?

  2. A very different account from when we were there in 2016. We did a battlefields tour instead with one of the locals and his general demeanour and that he recounted of the other islanders was that during the war the Argentinian soldiers were well-behaved, treating the people with respect (after all, they thought they were rescuing the people from the country that had abandoned them), and that since then there are regular meet-ups on the island between British and Argentine troops from the conflict who had mutual respect for one another. He said the only people who seemed to have major problems these days were those too young to have fought but who were using the old conflict to channel their general anger and the politicians who look for every distraction they can. The bar we visited in Stanley was run by Argentinians despite flying Union Jacks everywhere and half the visitors there were from Argentina. That level of resentfulness just wasn’t present at all for us. Anyway, cool that you got to see penguins feeding and carrying eggs. We’d seen Magellanic penguins in Puerto Madryn but we visited in March and it was the tail-end of the breeding season by then.

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