Return to the Falklands … mission albatross
My husband, David, and I have had many wonderful holidays organised by Cox & Kings throughout the years: we first visited the Falkland Islands in 2010. They had such distinct and diverse wildlife that we said we would have to revisit the island one day. However, long-haul flights were beginning to disagree with us and a return now seemed unlikely.
Coastline, Falkland Islands
Then, on a slightly chilly but sunny spring afternoon, a new edition of Compass arrived on our doorstep with an enticing article on the Falklands. Our problems of long-haul travel immediately went out the win-dow and another trip to Chile and the Falklands was in the making again.
Five days in Chile included three memorable days in Valparaiso with wonderful rides on funiculars and trolly buses, viewing memorable street art and enjoying delicious seafood and local wine. To our surprise all the multi-coloured street dogs wondering about were well fed and behaved. Following Valparaiso, we stayed at Matetic, an organic vineyard in the Casablanca valley, which prepared us perfectly for our flight to Mount Pleasant airport in the Falklands.
Vineyards, Casablanca Valley in Chile
The domestic flight to the Falkland Islands was fully booked so clearing immigration and customs seemed to take a while, but once we were met by our Falkland Islands holiday guide, everything fell smoothly into place. We found ourselves back in the wonderful Falkland’s bubble where no problem was unsolvable; even the wind was kind to us that first day.
After a good night’s sleep at the Malvina House hotel – in the heart of the Falkland Islands’ capital Stanley – we were ready to start our adventure. We were reunited with the Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS), which operates unscheduled passenger services throughout the islands, including to the Sea Lion Island where we were now heading. On our arrival, even the Gentoo penguins, stationed just 20 metres from the lodge, seemed to greet us as long-lost friends. During our stay we saw sea lions with their pups, orcas, Magellanic penguins and one solitary king penguin who was sitting, in moult, among hundreds of Magellanic penguins. At this time the Falklands wind regained its slightly more volatile and playful temper. One day it was so strong that it was virtually impossible to stand up.
After three memorable days on the Sea Lion Island, another FIGAS plane took us to Carcass Island. We were hoping to meet black-browed albatross, the bird we had missed on our last visit and the very purpose of our return. However, the journey involved crossing the sea to West Point. My husband is a poor sailor and so he prepared thoroughly with motion sickness medications and pressure point wrist bands.
The morning we were scheduled to sail out was foggy but the sea was absolutely calm. Mike and Jeanette Clarke, the owners of the boat Condor laughed at David’s preparations and assured him he was over-reacting. They were absolutely right. We had a splendid journey as the boat was followed by dolphins and penguins whilst various birds soared overhead, including an albatross. In next to no time we had arrived on West Point and were driving towards the birds’ nesting area. Nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to experience.
Firstly, we were greeted by numerous rockhopper penguins, and then suddenly a black-browed albatross was sitting on the side of our path. WOW! It was unperturbed by our presence, which could not be said for the striated caracaras, three of which followed us, presumably interested in the contents of our backpacks. Imagine my joy as an albatross landed about one foot way from me and remained there seemingly for hours.
In four and a half hours, we moved no more than 20 meters whilst observing and enjoying the experience of sitting with the albatrosses and their chicks. What a privilege it was to share a few hours with such large, elegant birds, and of course, with the incredibly entertaining rockhoppers. For us: mission accomplished!
Maureen and David Blackmore travelled on a tailor-made tour to the Falklands with Cox & Kings. If you would like to create your own adventure, our team of South America specialists would be happy to help.
For further travel itinerary inspiration see Cox & Kings’ Falkland Islands Encounters.