20 Resounding Reasons to Travel to the Falkland Islands
You’ve visited the colossal penguin colonies of South Georgia, sailed among the plunging seals of the Antarctic Peninsula, watched whales in the Weddell Sea beside a backdrop of titanic tabular icebergs – but if you haven’t visited the Falkland Islands, you’re missing one of the chief wonders of the far southern hemisphere. In the event you’re still on the fence about this subantarctic archipelago, here are 20 resounding reasons to add a few of its 778 distinctive islands to your destination calendar.
1. Multiple Marine Mammals
One of the prime attractions that prompt people to sail the far southern seas is the marine life, and the Falklands have this in spades: Southern elephant seals, southern sea lions, South American fur seals, Peale’s dolphins, Commerson’s dolphins, killer whales, and offshore baleen whales are all possible encounters while sailing the Falkland Islands.
2. Plentiful Falklands Penguins
King, gentoo, rockhopper, Magellanic, and macaroni penguins all populate the Falkland Islands, representing five of the seventeen penguin species worldwide. Three of these penguins (rockhopper, king, and Magellanic) cannot be seen even in Antarctica.
3. Over 220 Types of Bird
Be sure to pack a quality pair of birding binoculars should you find yourself in the Falklands: More than 220 species can be seen on the islands, of which 60 regularly breed there. Also present are several endemic species, like the Cobb’s wren and Falkland pipit. You may even spot the rare and inquisitive striated caracara, known locally as “Johnny Rook,” which has earned a roguish reputation for its habit of hunting fellow bird colonies in search of eggs, chicks, even other adults.
4. Falkland Islands Flora
The unique animal life of the Falkland Islands is complimented by an equally unique plant life, which in turn is largely explained by the area’s considerable geographic isolation. The archipelago has a combination of white-sand beaches, precipitous cliff coasts, and sheltered tussock grass areas, along with over 250 species of flowering plant – more than enough to nurture anyone's inner botanist.
5. Walks, Hikes, Highs, Lows
Watching the wonders of the Falklands from the side of an ice-strengthened polar vessel is great, but you can only get the real feel of a landscape by trekking into it on your own two feet. The Falkland Islands are a common destination to enjoy shorter shoreline walks as well as more arduous hillside hikes. Antarctic cruises that visit these islands typically feature both options.
6. Saunders Island: The Big and Tall of the Falklands
One of the largest islands in the Falklands, Saunders spans 20-by-20 km (12.4-by-12.4 miles) and is located in the northwest of the archipelago. Its highest point is Mt. Richards, at 457 meters (1,499 feet). In a small settlement, appropriately named “The Settlement”, live the owners of the island: the Poole-Evans family, who make up the total Saunders Island population of seven.
7. Steeple Jason Island
This island is among the major draws of the Falklands and home to the world’s largest black-browed albatross colony, numbering roughly 113,000 members. Even so, Steeple Jason is a wild area buffeted by wind and waves, making landings highly dependent upon the weather.
8. Carcass Island: Bird Watching in the Falklands
Among the many cadaverously named locations of the Falkland Islands, this bird-friendly selection lies northwest of the archipelago and is owned by Rob and Lorraine McGill – whose high tea of home-baked cakes and cookies should under no conditions be missed. Carcass Island’s avian life includes breeding Magellanic and gentoo penguins, multiple waders and passerines, and endemic Cobb’s wrens and tussock birds.
9. Sparrow Cove / Kidney Cove: Falkland Island Vantage Point
The name is somewhat of an oxymoron, but Mt. Low (204 meters, 669 feet) affords you some of the best views of the cove and nearby Port Stanley – and with minimal required hiking.
10. Sea Lion Island
This island is home to the largest breeding colony of southern elephant seals in the archipelago, with up to 2,000 individuals on the northern beaches at certain times of the year. A moderate walk will even lead you to a South American sea lion haul-out.
Photo by Lee Abbamonte
11. Coffin’s Harbour: A Falkland Islands Favorite
This location provides views of nesting black-browed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins, and a more strenuous hike to Landsend Bluff may lead to South American fur seals. Coffin’s Harbour is the site of the only land-based whaling station on the Falkland Islands.
12. Sandy Bay
Nearby Big Pond offers excellent wildlife opportunities, featuring the dark-faced ground-tyrant and Magellanic snipe. There’s also an easy walk to see gentoo penguins, Magellanic penguins, rockhopper penguins, and king cormorants.
13. New Island North Nature Reserve
Landing here requires a special permit that, if received, affords a visit to black-browed albatrosses (among other bird species) and South American fur seals.
14. Volunteer Point: The Caribbean of the Falkland Islands
If any location in the Falklands can make you crave a piña colada and Cuban cigar, it’s this one. On Volunteer Point you’ll enjoy an expansive white-sand beach, somewhat exposed but with a sizable king penguin rookery and other plentiful birdlife.
15. West Point Island
This sheep-farm-meets-tourist-attraction can be found in the northwest of West Falkland. Thick with black-browed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins, it is also known for its dramatic coastal views.
16. Grave Cove: More Foot-Friendly Falkland Islands
Nesting gentoo penguins and excellent hiking opportunities abound here, making Grave Cove (despite possessing yet another grim name) a favorite among those who would rather step than sail.
17. Port Stanley and Its Shipwrecks
Port Stanley has some South American traits combined with a little Victorian charm: colorful houses, well-tended gardens, and English-style pubs. You can see several century-old clipper ships in the surrounding area, silent witnesses to the hardships of 19th century sailors. Approximately 2,100 people live in this Falkland Islands capital, and as a cruise passenger you are free to wander among them – though admission fees to local attractions are seldom included.
18. 1982 Liberation Memorial
This monolithic war memorial, located in Port Stanley, was built to honor the British soldiers and supporting military units that fought in the Falklands War of 1982. Falkland islanders raised the money for its construction themselves, unveiling the monument on 14 June, 1984, exactly two years after the end of Argentine occupation: their Liberation Day.
19. Falkland Islands Museum
This small but interesting museum is a worthwhile attraction for visiting history buffs, covering the early days of Falkland Islands settlements up to the war.
20. Whalebone Arch & the World’s Southernmost Anglican Cathedral
Erected in 1933 to commemorate the centenary of British rule in the Falkland Islands, the whalebone arch is a stone’s throw from another icon of the archipelago: the Christ Church Cathedral, consecrated in 1892. The arch was built from the jawbones of two blue whales and is commonly listed among the top tourist attractions of the Falklands, making it a fine conclusion to this list – and one more reason, among many others detailed here, for an Exclusive Falkland Islands cruise.