You know how people will sometimes say, “go to your happy place”? Well, I’ve found mine… the Falkland Islands. The Falklands is a British colony about 300 miles off the coast of Argentina. Despite it’s 700+ islands comprising ~4700 square miles, there are only about 3000 inhabitants. This allows for a huge wildlife reservoir with very few people to share!
We arrived to the Falklands via Chile – after the 1982 “conflict”, you can’t mention the Falklands within Argentina, let alone take a flight from there. The flight arrived to the Mount Pleasant military base. After making our way through customs and immigration, we loaded a small island hopper and quickly arrived at our first destination – Sea Lion Island!
Sea Lion Island
We spent two nights at the Sea Lion Lodge, the only accommodation on this rather flat island (described by locals as “flat as a pancake”). We were delighted to discover that there was a rather large colony of Gentoo penguins right in our backyard! The colony is rather small during the day, with only the Gentoo chicks and one parent present. The other parent goes out fishing to return in the evening. Dinner quickly follows with the parent regurgitating into the chick’s mouth!
The best thing about the Gentoo penguins is their personality. These penguins constantly chase each other, running around full of energy. The chicks are so curious they will walk right up to you if you crouch near the colony. Needless to say, it took me about 3 hours to get through the colony the first time! The excitement only picked up when we made it to the sea, where we could stand watching the penguins surf through the waves. They certainly are cute, but not always graceful!
The wildlife on Sea Lion Island is unreal. In addition to the Gentoos, there are rockhopper penguins, magellanic penguins, king cormorants, elephant seals, and sea lions. We even saw an orca from the shoreline!
Magellanic penguins are known as the “jackass” in the Falklands because of their braying call. These penguins live in underground burrows and come down to the beach to fish. On the beach they are extremely skiddish; however at their burrows they are much more comfortable, turning their heads in every which way to check you out!
Rockhopper penguins live on rocky cliffs, often in a mixed community with other birds (we saw them with king cormorants and albatrosses). They hop down the rocks and plunge into the ocean to fish each day. The most entertaining feature of these penguins is their exit from the sea – riding huge waves, crashing into cliffs, and flinging themselves onto the rocks. It’s hard to imagine this is just a daily occurrence for these daredevils, but it seems to be fun!
We will post the remaining trip report for Carcass Island and Volunteer Point on a separate post – there are too many photos to post here!
LAN Chile (Punta Arenas to Mount Pleasant)
Sea Lion Lodge http://www.sealionisland.com/the-lodge/the-lodge.php