Falkland Islands – Part I

Faraway in the South Atlantic in the midst of the ‘Furious Fifties’ lie the Falkland Islands, a region whose only association in the minds of many people is the 1982 Falklands War. With reputation as a stronghold of South Atlantic wildlife, land based tourism has really taken off in the last years. With many large breeding colonies for the Black-Browed Albatross as well as being the only place outside the Antarctic to see King Penguins breeding we came down to have a look around.

We enjoyed a wonderful wildlife filled three weeks as we travelled between East Falkland, Saunders, Carcass, West Point and Sea Lion Islands (the latter made more famous after recently featuring in the flagship BBC Wildlife documentary ‘Life’). With a very relaxed and rather ‘Country England’ feel to them (tea and cakes everyday at 4pm) as well as reliable and high quality light aircraft transport between the islands they are quite accessible for independent travellers, although you would need to plan ahead at least a year as many islands only have one or two families on them and thus there may be only two or three rooms available on the whole island.

We didn’t expect so much wildlife and scenery to be so accessible within a 3 week stint, so we ended up with about 5,000 pictures as well as HD video, about 100GB to back up – Doh! With this volume we of course haven’t had time to pick through each and every picture but hope you’ll enjoy the following photo stories nonetheless!!

There is sometimes a lot of mist close to the sea surface in the Falklands so that islands appear to rise from the mist.

Some of the islands are quite mountainuous, like Steeple Jason, the world´s largest Black Browed albatross breeding colony.

While they may look small on the map, don´t be fooled - the islands are much bigger than you think! The air is so clear here you can see mountains 50 miles away as if they were only an hour or two of walking away.

The stereotype of dull islands with bad weather is not entirely true either.. some places could take a palm tree or two without looking too out of place!

While some beaches look almost tropical the full force of the Southern Ocean breaks on others.

It´s easy to spend a long time just sitting along the coastline watching the amazing vertical walls of clear blue-green water crash onto the rocks.

The waves are not devoid of life, Rockhopper penguins come riding through this surf leaping acrobatically onto the cliffs.

In more sheltered bays there is other wildlife to watch, such as these Commerson´s dolphins.

The enormous wide beaches are often only frequented by penguins and the occasional goose...

Magellanic penguins especially have a real herd mentality, if one heads for the water, suddenly they all follow with a wild dash into the surf...usually to come out again one minute later!

The frequent strong winds sculpt the sands into extraordinary textures and shapes.

With the strong wind comes strong swell, and over long periods some sections of cliff get sculpted into honeycombs.

Many seabirds roost on the slopes above the cliffs..

On the flat terraces at the cliff tops of Sea Lion Island huge colonies of King Cormorants collect.

Walking along the windswept beaches and coastal plains penguin colonies are visible.

Falklands vegetation - a varied patchwork, but not a tree to be found.

On close inspection, the vegetation is a lot more than just greens. These bright ´diddle-dee´ berries make their way into Falklands cooking in various guises and vast streches of them cover the moorland areas.

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