Falkland Islands – Where Nature Thrives

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Dec.16, 2017

There is a pristine, tranquil archipelago of beauty in the far south of the Atlantic ocean, it’s a place where nature thrives in abundance and variety. A small part of Britain that is known as the Falkland Islands.

The scenery of these islands is often reminiscent of the Scottish islands and there are many unique aspects to life in the Falklands. The islands are essentially British in character but a flavour of the South Atlantic exerts its own influence onto the islands.

I’ve just returned from two amazing weeks on my Falkland Island photo tour I organise and run there. The wildlife there is just beyond beautiful, so trusting and close by. The following blog post is written like a diary showing you some of the incredible encounters with the islands wildlife we had and where we visited during our time there.

Thursday 30 November & Friday 01 December 

Once we had landed the drive from Mount Pleasant Airport to Darwin gave us our first introduction to the rolling landscape. Once settled in at Darwin House, the comfortable lodge overlooking the end of Choisel Sound we relaxed after a long flight and enjoyed the hospitality which included a nice cup of tea and some home made cakes and biscuits. Darwin is a beautiful settlement, surrounded in history from the early settlers to the more recent conflict in 1982, with stunning views of the mountains.

Friday 01 December

The following day we spent at Bertha’s Beach, a beautiful location with a stunning long white sandy beach. We had an amazing time with a colony of Gentoo penguins that had young and some were sitting on eggs.  We saw Turkey Vultures and Crested Caccaras also which were just stunning.

The photo below was taken by a client on the trip and shows me laying on the beach as the Gentoo penguins were around me and coming shore.I was just watching these beautiful penguins go about their lives around me, a priceless moment captured.

The following photo was taken of the same client photographing the Gentoo penguins at the same place.

Saturday 02 – Monday 04 December

Today we left Darwin on our first Islander flight to Carcass Island for three night’s.  These tiny planes transport you around this amazing place and often it can be a quite bumpy ride as we hop between small islands.  You get a wonderful opportunity to see some of the stunning scenery of the Falklands from the air.

Our accommodation there was in the main house that looks out through the trees to the sea. We had plenty of time to explore this lovely island with its wonderful scenery and abundance of wildlife that live on the Falkland Islands. The Southern Giant Petrel, Black Oystercatcher, Kelp Geese, Speckled Teal and the beautiful Black-throated Finch just a few of my favorites.

We also traveled to the North of the island to visit a small pod of Elephant seals. Then we headed to Leopard beech on the other side of the island to spend some time with the Gentoos that were nesting there. Some were on eggs while others were feeding young and it was just amazing to be so close to these endearing penguins.

In addition to our stay there we took a wonderful boat trip the following day to West Point with its mixed Black-browed Albatross and Rockhopper Penguin colonies. It has a delightful “English Garden” feel to the place, with lots of the birds going through their breeding routines and some where already sitting on eggs and young.

Tuesday 05 – Wednesday 06 December

Our destination next was Saunders Island which is one of my favorite places. We spent 2 night’s self catering there at the remote cabin right in the heart of “The Neck”. The Neck cabin is an isolated cabin located on the cliff top with magnificent views of the islands along the north of West Falkland.

This 30,000 acre island is still an active sheep farm and is important historically for being the site of the first British settlement in 1765. Its home to the unique Sheathbill and Kelp Geese as seen in the two following images.

This island is unquestionably one of the Falklands best wildlife sites with King, Gentoo and Rockhopper Penguin colonies. We spent many hours with all of these penguins and the following images are some of my favorites.

One of the main attractions of this amazing island is undoubtedly the Black-browed albatross colony which stretches along the north coast to the Neck.

Thursday 07 – Saturday 09 December

After two amazing days and nights on Saunders we boarded our small plane once more and headed to Sea Lion Island for three nights. This island is the most southerly and one of the smallest in the Falklands archipelago.

It is a prime destination due to the sheer abundance of wildlife found in such a small area.  Some 47 different species of breeding birds make their home on Sea Lion Island, including several of my favorite birds; the Southern Giant Petrel, the rare Silvery Grebe who had one chick they were feeding. The Cobbs Wren that is only found on the Falkland islands and the stunning but shy Snipe.

Birds are not the only wildlife there though, Southern sea lions and the Elephant seals bask on the white sandy beach at the appropriately named Elephant Corner. We spent some wonderful moments with them throughout our time on this amazing island.

We also found a place were Rockhopper Penguins were coming ashore onto the island. The power of the sea and the swell battering the birds against the rocks as they tried to come ashore.

On the very last morning at Sea Lion island we headed to the beach once more at dawn. We walked down to the east coast in readiness for the sunrise. Once there one of my clients shouted ” Killer Whales”. I looked up and sure enough they were there.

The island is well known for Killer Whales that hunt the baby seals around the coastline. The following images I hope show you what we saw just as the sun was rising. We didn’t see a kill, but they came extremely close to the shore. It was truly incredible to watch them for over ninety minutes hunting, something I’ve never seen before and won’t ever forget.

Sunday 10 & Monday 11 December

Sadly it was time to move on from our time on the amazing Sea Lion island and our final inter-island flight of our trip took us back to Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Island where we stayed in the Malvina House Hotel for two nights.

Once settled in we explored the capital and museum and relaxed for the rest of the day and enjoyed the comfort of this hotel in the capital.

Monday 11 December

On our last full day on the Falklands we took a Land Rover excursion to Volunteer Point, home to the islands principal King Penguin colony, this was one of the highlights of our trip.

The two-hour Land Rover trip took us through typical Falkland landscape and we spent lots of time with the delightful King Penguins. Some were incubating eggs, as older chicks with their brown downy coats from the previous year were still being fed by their parents. It was a very special day indeed.

Tuesday 12 December

Due to adverse weather conditions in the UK, heavy snow had affected many airports and our flight home was canceled today. It was rescheduled for Friday. So we had a relatively early start for our transfer from Stanley to Mount Pleasant Airport ready for our flight to the UK.

A big thank you to Margaret and Jenny who live and work on the Falklands for all their wonderful help before, during and throughout this period of waiting around.  I’d also like to thank all my clients for joining me and the great times and laughs we all shared together during the two weeks in this incredible place. A couple of testimonials about this trip can be read below and a link to their images from the trip.

“Gwyn and I went on a fantastic trip to the Falkland Islands with Craig Jones Wildlife Photography. We can highly recommend Craig’s service and expertise, the trip was well organised with a variety of photography opportunities, seeing wildlife in its natural environment. From the flights to the accommodation, everything was extremely well thought out and made the experience an unforgettable one. Craig was always there to help out with any photography problems, as you can see from my photos you really do get the opportunity to see some fantastic sights. If you want to do any wildlife trips or one to one photography workshops, then I can recommend Craig Jones, he is brilliant.” – Jacha Potgieter- North Wales.

A year ago, I had made the dream to discover the wildlife of the Falkland Islands. I thus started to look on the web to find an attractive proposal at an affordable price for such a trip and I came across Craig’s photo tour which was appealing both content wise and cost wise.
Well, I must say that neither my wife nor I regret our choice. That trip was simply beyond our expectations: the wildlife is simply stunning. We were told everywhere to leave a 6 m minimum distance from any wildlife. It seems that penguins and seals are not informed about that! They were often so close that it was not possible to focus with my 300 mm lens. However, for my wife using a small camera with a fixed 24-70 mm zoom this was a perfect situation and has largely contributed to her enjoying this photo trip. It is really not the photo gear that makes that trip enjoyable. The mix of places / islands we have visited during these two weeks was perfect with good accommodations and, another good surprise for our continental stomachs, the food was excellent. In that respect, the “macarons” on Carcass Island remain unforgettable.  Definitely, a photo trip that is worth the 500 km drive from Brussels to Brize Norton and the 18hrs flight from there to Mount Pleasant. Thanks Craig for the good organisation. We are ready for new adventures with you.”  – Philippe & Annik, Brussels.

If you’d like to join me on my Falkland Islands tour 2019 then please click here to see all the information, many thanks.

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