Tundra Travel

Destinations

Falkland IslandsTundra Travel

General information.

 

Although officially south-Atlantic, the Falkland Islands surely have a sub-Antarctic appeal. The archipelago is a treasure-chest for Antarctica-minded nature lovers and photographers. The islands are full of wildlife, with vast colonies of Black-browed Albatross, five species of penguins, Elephant Seals and much more. They are one of the last "off the beaten track" destinations. Unfortunately the Falkland Islands have an undeserved bad reputation, mainly because of the Falkland War in 1982 so that many people do not know that the islands have much more to offer then just minefields. The Falklands offer a broad variety of spectacular wildlife, rough scenery, fascinating geology, maritime history, good hiking and, of course, the warm hospitality of the people.

The Falkland Islands are located about 500 kilometres (300 miles) east of Argentina, at Latitude 52º South. They consist of about 800 islands. The two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, make up the majority of the area, being comparable in size with Jamaica or Northern Ireland. The landscape is generally hilly and reminds visitors of the lower Scottish Highlands . That might have been the reason that settlers from Scotland and Wales felt at home on these remote islands. Even the weather has a resemblance to that of northern Scotland.

The Falkland Islands might have been visited by natives from Tierra del Fuego, though this is not certain. One of the first sightings by a westerner was that of the famous British navigator and Arctic explorer John Davis in 1592. The first settlement on the islands was founded by the French navigator and explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville in 1764. De Bougainville landed with French settlers from the French town of St. Malo and founded the village of Port Saint Louis on Berkeley Sound in East Falkland. They named the islands "Îles Malouines", after the home town of many of the settlers, and this is why the Falklands are sometimes referred to as the "(Islas) Malvinas", as Spain later took over the French settlement and claimed the archipelago. Since 1833 the archipelago has been British, but sovereignty is still disputed by Argentina.

 

Stanley.


Stanley, also still known under its former name Port Stanley, is the administrative centre of the archipelago. About three-quarters of the total population of the islands, which is about 2500, lives in the town. Originally Stanley was a tiny, insignificant outpost, but then, in the 19th and early 20th century, it grew in importance as a repair port for sailing-ships rounding Cape Horn. The severe storms around Cape Horn often damaged ships which then used Port Stanley for repairs. Ships that were in a too bad state were often scuttled in the harbour; several old shipwrecks near Stanley being a reminder of those days. After the Panama Canal was built in 1914 the Cape Horn route became obsolete and Stanley returned to its former insignificant existence, living mainly from the export of wool. But since 1982 Stanley has boomed again. It started with the British military forces that were stationed near the town, but later the Falkland Islands made money by selling fishing licenses to foreign fishing vessels that want to fish in the island waters. The Falkland islanders are nowadays fairly prosperous.

 


Climate.

 

The Falkland Islands experience a cool Oceanic Climate.  It is often windy because the islands are situated in the stormy latitudes of the southern westerly winds or "Roaring Forties". Temperatures usually range between 5º and 10ºC (40º and 50ºF). There is little rainfall but rain and sleet can occur any time of the year.

 

 

Flora & Fauna.

 

Because of the isolated location of the islands some unique flora and fauna species have developed. The dramatic cliff coasts, the white sandy beaches and the sheltered Tussock grass make excellent breeding grounds for numerous animal species. Around 60 bird species regularly breed on the islands and several endemic species can be found such as Cobb´s Wren and the Falkland Pipit. You may even encounter the rare and remarkable Striated Caracara, locally known as Johnny Rook. This inquisitive bird has a reputation for being the rogue of the bird world, hanging around bird colonies in search of eggs, chicks and even adult birds. A visit to a Black-browed Albatross colony is also an unforgettable experience. Five penguin species are also represented on the islands, three of which you will not find in Antarctica - Rockhopper, Magellanic and King Penguins. The list of marine mammal species is extensive. Southern Elephant Seal, South American Fur Seal, Southern Sea Lion, Killer Whale, Commerson´s Dolphin and Peale´s Dolphin are seen frequently. Offshore baleen whales are seen in increasing numbers.

 

 

Frequently visited places:

 

New Island (south), in the far west of the archipelago, offers some great wildlife opportunities. The island is a wildlife reserve. It hosts a unique colony of Black-browed Albatrosses, Rockhopper Penguins and Blue-eyed Cormorants all nesting together.

 

Carcass Island, in the north-west of the archipelago, is owned by Rob and Lorraine McGill. The traditional island high-tea with home-baced cakes and cookies should not be missed. A hike along the shore will give good views of Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins.

 

Saunders Island. A dramatically set island located in the north of the archipelago. The island has a large variety of wildlife. Four species of penguins can be found here as well as a colony of 11,000 breeding pairs of Black-browed Albatrosses.

 

Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, still has the atmosphere of a Scottish coastal village. Shipwrecks, Landrovers, small houses with coloured roofs and traditional British pubs enhance the village setting. The town has several shops, a bank, hotels as well as the pubs. Special Island stamps are for sale and there is an excellent museum on the history of the islands. In the vicinity there are nice walking areas with a colony of Magellanic Penguins and other interesting bird species.

 

Corporate image:Xavier Marlí

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