Tag Archives: Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands – Day 12 – Stanley

Our expedition ended this morning with the Vavilov docked in Stanley – the capital of the Falkland Islands.   We had about an hour to wander around the town, which was more than enough time given it is pretty small and nothing opened until 10am (we were there at 8:30am).    Very British though, including red telephone boxes and post boxes, and it’s a definite stronghold for Land Rover – didn’t see any other type of car!

Stanley - Falkland Islands

Stanley – more British than Britain

Then it was an hour-long bus trip to the airport.  We had a guide on the bus who told us lots of bits and pieces about the Falklands to keep us entertained, and with a quintessentially British sense of humour.

The airport is actually inside of a military base and it took us over an hour to get through all the different security there.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen such strict security in all my travels!  The number of times things got scanned, things got written down and I had to sign things was truly incredible!

And so, the Antarctic adventure ends…

 

Summary of trip

So, you may be wondering what my overall thoughts are on the trip. Words really can’t do it justice, it was incredible!  I’m sure this was aided enormously by the fact that:

  • We had only ½ the usual number of people on the ship and it was a young crowd (the crew said that they’d never had a crowd this young before) so it was a lot of fun
  • The One Ocean crew were great and really interacted with the guests a lot
  • We had incredible weather that allowed us to do all the planned excursions plus some bonus extras, including the excursion around the southern side of Cape Lookout, and Point Wild on Elephant Island
  • We got to see 7 of the 8 species of penguins (apparently, this is very rare) plus some other truly incredible wildlife experiences, such as the whale bonanza on Day 6

Being on a ship for 11 days was, in itself, an experience – and one that was very easy to get used to.   That being said, I’m glad I don’t get seasick – a lot of people had a very hard time on the days we spent crossing the Drake Passage!  You certainly don’t go hungry on this expedition!  

Antarctica itself was absolutely beautiful.  To be able to visit such a pristine environment where the animals are totally not fussed about you is incredible.  The only other place I’ve been like this is the Galapagos

To be able to experience the harsh environment (but with the comfort of polar clothing and with the assurance of a hot shower, tea and coffee afterwards) makes you really question the sanity of the early Antarctic explorers: Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott, Mawson etc.   Even more so since we had great weather, and it wasn’t as cold as it could have been, given there was nary a blizzard in sight.

And although tourism in the Antarctic continues to grow (40,000 visitors in 2015-2016 season), we only saw 1 other ship with passengers, 2 yachts and 1 “mystery” ship in all of our time there.   We were the only group at each of our landings so essentially had the place to ourselves.    Very special.   Very glad I went with the spur-of-the-moment decision to go!

 

Recommendation:

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a One Ocean trip to Antarctica.  The Vavilov is very comfortable (there is also a sister ship the Ioffe), the crew are incredible and it is an amazing experience.    I booked through Freestyle Adventure Travel in Ushuaia who are also really awesome – very, very responsive and incredibly friendly bunch.

Note that regulations limit the number of people who can land at a site in Antarctica to 100 at a time.  So keep that in mind when you are choosing your ship.   You can see a lot more if you choose a ship with <100 people on board!

 

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Falkland Islands – Day 11 – Saunders Island

In the afternoon, the winds miraculously died down again just enough for us to be able to do our last excursion to Saunders Island – still part of West Falkland.  It was the wettest of all our zodiac rides but even then, not too bad.  Apparently, that kind of wetness is fairly standard on an Antarctic expedition so we have been very lucky indeed.

Gentoos on beach at Saunders Island - Falkland Islands

Greeted by more Gentoo Penguins on the beach at Saunders Island. The Vavilov waits patiently offshore. Actually several of the Russian crew joined us on this excursion

Landed on a beach with tons more Gentoo Penguins (they really are everywhere) and then headed up over the spit of land to see the very small King Penguin colony – our 6th species of penguin for the trip.   They were cloistered in with the Gentoos, but behave very, very differently. 

They are very upright and regal birds and walk like slightly distracted old men – as opposed to the frantic waddling of the other penguins.    They are really very beautiful and we were all so excited to see them.

King Penguins - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands

King Penguins are so regal

Oh – and although it wasn’t clear whether they had eggs or newborn chicks, there was this guy – a 1-year-old chick – who should be just about to lose his brown plumage and head off to the ocean.  

King Penguin 1-year-old - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands

A 1-year-old King Penguin chick. He should be just about ready to molt and leave the colony

Walking further over the spit we arrived at a long beach with tons of penguins on it.   Including our 7th species for the trip – the Magellanic Penguin.   I’d seen these guys in Chile before, and they seemed to be much more timid than the other penguins we’d encountered.

Also, unlike other penguins, they build their nests in burrows, so we had to be very careful where we walked to ensure we didn’t put a foot through one of them.

Magellanic Penguins - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands

Magellanic Penguins use burrows for their nests

We visited a large Rockhopper Penguin colony as well

Rockhopper Penguins - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands

And then headed up the hill to watch the Black-browed Albatrosses in another colony.

This colony also had loads of Rockhoppers co-exsting, as well as a slightly different type of Blue-eyed Cormorant than what we saw on Day 8.  

Blue-eyed Cormorant - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands

It was just beautiful sitting there watching the Albatrosses soaring so close – we stayed for probably an hour just enjoying that view alone.

Then, on the way back to the zodiacs, I came across this Brown Skua that had successfully managed to get to one of the Gentoo chicks.

Brown Skua - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands

Unlucky Gentoo chick – eaten by Brown Skua

Brilliant final excursion, even though I was coming down with the flu pretty badly.  Glad that has happened at the end of the trip!

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Falkland Islands – Day 11 – West Point Island

Just as we thought that our run of great weather had come to an end, the wind dropped and we were actually able to disembark for our first excursion of the day at West Point Island in the Falkland Islands.   

Falkland Islands Excursion Points

When we arrived at the entrance to this point during the night, the winds were waaaay too strong so we kept going, but soon after, the winds had dropped and we circled back for a second attempt.

And it was gorgeous!   Beautiful sunny day, actually very little wind, nice hike over the island in only our shirtsleeves – it felt like the middle of summer after over a week in Antarctica!    And so strange to smell and see grass again!

West Point Island - Falkland Islands

The main reason for visiting West Point Island was to see the Black-browed Albatross colony.  These birds are absolutely beautiful and serene, and most were sitting on eggs or chicks.

Black-browed Albatross - West Point Island - Falkland Islands

The colony also housed our 5th species of penguin for the trip – Rockhopper Penguins.   These penguins nest in Albatross colonies for the extra protection offered by the long necks of the Albatross, defending them from predators from the sky.

Albatross colony - West Point Island - Falkland Islands

Part of the Albatross colony with Rockhopper Penguins mixed in

The Rockhoppers are also affectionately known as “satan’s penguin” due to their fierce faces and red eyes, and are the noisiest of the penguins we’ve encountered so far.  They must really drive the Albatrosses crazy!

Rockhopper Penguins - West Point Island - Falkland Islands

I wonder why they are called “Satan’s penguin”?

They were also starting to sit on chicks – we really lucked out with seeing all these newborns during this trip!

Rockhopper Penguin - West Point Island - Falkland Islands

Rockhopper Penguin and its chick at West Point Island

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