From Magellanic penguins to military history! The Argentines call it Islas Malvinas. To the British, this south Atlantic archipelago is known as the Falkland Islands. While it’s the southern-most point of South America, the Falklands are a bastion of British culture and traditions. Located about 400 km northeast of Tierra del Fuego, the Falklands are known for their wildlife (penguins and bird species are plentiful) as well as their dramatic history. Sovereignty disputes between the United Kingdom and Argentina led to the 1982 Falklands War. The Falklands, consisting of East and West Falkland which are separated by Falkland Sound, are a popular stop for travelers on their way to Antarctica.
Size4,699 square miles (12,170 square km)
Highest ElevationMount Usborne, 2,313 ft (705 meters)
TerrainRocky, mountainous, undulating plains, some bogs
Top Things to See
Bird species of the Falkland Islands
For bucket-listers keen on maximizing their penguin time, the Falklands should top the list. The largest population of Gentoo penguins in the world (more than 121,000 pairs) is found here. This penguin species are recognized by their bright orange beaks and white bonnet-like stripes that stretch from eye to eye. Magellanic penguins, which have a broad crescent of white feathers extending from just above each eye to the chin, are able to migrate between the nutrient-rich Patagonia Shelf and their breeding grounds across Chile, the Falklands, and Brazil. The Rockhopper are tiny, quirky looking penguins with a spiky yellow crest of feathers and beady red eyes. The King penguin, at 39 inches (99 cm) high, are the largest penguins in the Falklands. And Macaroni penguins are identifiable by their orange head feathers.
Historic Dockyard Museum
Port Stanley is the perfect stopover for anyone keen to learn more about the maritime history of the Falklands. The Historic Dockyard Museum chronicles the Falklands’ maritime history, island life from the time of the first settlers, and the dramatic events that unfolded during six-week Falklands War of 1982 when Great Britain and Argentina fought for control over the Falkland Islands, and its territorial dependency, the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Exhibits include models, artefacts and relics from ships stranded in the Islands, as well as records of unforgettable seafaring tales.
Points of Interest
Carcass Island, which lies northwest of the Falkland Islands, has a varied terrain of rocky ridges, white sand beaches, steep cliffs, hidden coves, open plains and plentiful swaths of tussock grass (over 30 species at last count) which provide excellent habitation for birds. In fact, some of the Falkland Islands’ most elusive winged species, such as the endemic Cobb's Wren and the Magellanic Snipe, are found on Carcass Island, which was named after a ship that visited the region in the 18th-century. Other birder species include Gentoo and Magellanic penguins (which tend to rest on the beaches), the oft-sighted Falklands Flightless Steamer Ducks (which are easily spotted as they bath in the waves) and bright red long-tailed meadowlarks (which spend their time feeding in the grass).
West Point Island, in the north-west corner of the Falkland Islands, has some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the Falklands. At least one of its west-facing cliffs reaches 380 metres high (1,250 feet). The island is small in size (5.67 square miles/1,469 hectares) and in terms of human population (estimates range from 2 to 4 people). Birders have long valued the island as a special place to observe the black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguin. Other sought-after bird species include Falkland Steamer Ducks, ruddy-headed geese, southern rockhopper penguins, Magellanic penguins, striated caracaras and Cobb's wrens. Commerson's dolphins frequent the surrounding waters.
Bleaker Island is anything but bleak. In fact, it was originally known as Breaker Island because of the huge waves that came crashing onto its shores. The long sandy beach known as Sandy Bay is home to diverse birdlife. Gentoo penguins congregate on the north end of the bay, and the island is also popular among bird enthusiasts who come to visit the huge imperial cormorant colony.
Special Insights from Our Guests
Almost everything about the trip was spectacular. The ship itself was spacious. The itinerary of Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica and all their parts were so interesting. We were full of anticipation when nearly landing on the South Orkney Islands. Crews who helped us get in and out of the zodiacs and those who assisted with wet landings were incredible, knew how to offer help safely, were supportive and enthusiastic; bravo to all of them! It was a marvelous, fulfilling cruise, and the wildlife we were able to experience up close and among us was a dream fulfilled, with the excellent educational lectures timed with information to round out our rich adventures. I send the crew mental thanks again and again!