Falkland Islands – Carcass Island and Volunteer Point

For Part I of our Falklands journey on Sea Lion Island- click here

Carcass Island

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Carcass Island Sunset

We stayed in the Carcass Island House, where landowners Rob and Lorraine McGill greeted us with open arms. Carcass is a beautiful island, with numerous slopes, cliffs and large stretches of dunelands (“it’s a cracker of a place” as the Falklanders would say). And don’t worry about the name; this island was named after the ship “HMS Carcass” and not for animal remains!

Caracara
Caracara on Grand Jason, Falkland Islands

We spent the first evening walking through the dunes to Leopard Beach. We accidentally walked through the nesting grounds of striated caracaras, and were swooped by these falcon-like birds for about ¼ mile. It seemed to be worse that it probably was, but for a while I thought I wouldn’t make it. But the drive to find penguins carried me through and we eventually escaped! At Leopard Beach we found Magellanics and Gentoos and watched their antics from the beach for a few hours before returning to the house.

The following day we joined along with a group of British naturalists for a 3-hour boat ride to Grand Jason Island. Along the way we spotted Orcas, fur seals, as well as countless birds that seemed to excite everyone but us!   The journey was quite rough, and Chris found himself seasick over the side of the boat for most of the trip. Landside, he felt much better, so we took off to explore with the group. The first destination was an expansive albatross colony. We found ourselves tramping through large stretches of Tussac grass to arrive at the colony; however upon arrival it was definitely worth it! These enormous birds live with the rockhopper penguins, and it was so amazing to see chicks of both species side by side. Best of all, however, was when Chris got pooped on while photographing the birds in flight! We then walked on to see colonies of Gentoo penguins and Giant Petrols, before returning to the boat. Thankfully our return journey was calm, and with the help of Dramamine Chris was much happier. It was a rough day for him all around.

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Albatross in flight over Grand Jason, Falkland Islands

We had planned to leave after two nights, however due to a dense fog layer prohibitive to flying. The day was mostly spent lounging and waiting for the final decision on flights, a rather uneventful day overall. When the flights were finally cancelled, the homeowners bought everyone a drink and we settled in for another night. Disheartenedly, we woke up the next day to a similar fog layer and assumed to be staying another night. Thankfully, the “ace pilot” was working that day, and managed to appear through the fog to pick us up. And onto Volunteer Point we went!

Volunteer Point

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Mother’s Touch

The journey to Volunteer Point included a flight into Stanley (the main town in the Falklands) and a 3-hour drive over dirt roads, beaches and, well, no roads at all. We stayed two nights with the warden (wildlife ranger) and his wife in a small house close to the beach. Volunteer Point is famous for it’s huge King Penguin colony (1500 breeding pairs), and we wasted no time going down to see them for ourselves.

King Penguins were the largest and most elegant of penguins we saw. They are extremely orderly, all facing the same direction in the colony and with none of the shenanigans of the other breeds. The life cycle of a king penguin is much longer, and it takes a full year to raise a chick to adulthood. One parent stays with the egg or chick at the colony, while the other leaves for several days at a time to fish. When they return, the penguin has to cross through the colony, getting pecked at by others, in search of his/her family. It is quite a sight to see!

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Panoramic view of the King Penguin colony on Volunteer Point.
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King Penguins in near perfect formation
Close, but not close enough
Close, but not close enough

We spent most of our time at Volunteer Point observing and photographing the kings, aside from an afternoon lounging on the beach amongst the Gentoos.

We had lots of fun when we set up Chris’ camera on tripod nearby, trying to capture the familiar “penguin taking a photo of other penguins” shot. We came close a few times, but they never seemed to fully comply!

It was a marvelous week in the Falkland Islands, and we obviously were privy to amazing wildlife. I wish all of our vacations could include penguin watching!

Now that we’ve spent 3 weeks traveling through “civilization”, it’s time for our backcountry mountain experience! Next destination: Isla Navarino for the Dientes backpacking circuit.

 

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King Penguins at Sunrise on Volunteer Beach, Falkland Islands

 Useful Information

We planned our trip without use of a travel agent. It’s easy to do using the Falklands Tourist Board website, and this way you can avoid a 20% agency charge. There is NO ATM on the islands and places don’t take credit cards. Be sure to bring all the money you need! Otherwise, you’ll end up like us – borrowing money from friendly Falklanders and wiring money later (Thanks Derek!)

Flights:

LAN Chile (Punta Arenas to Mount Pleasant)

FIGAS  (email operations@figas.gov.fk)

 Accommodations:

Carcass Island House http://www.falklandislands.com/section.php/12/1/places_to_stay/?mid=112

Volunteer Point House (drp@horizon.co.fkl)

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