The Falkland Islands have a raw, unspoilt quality that provides one of the most unusual and spectacular wildlife destinations in the world, lying some 450 kilometres from the coast of South America amid the rich fishing grounds of the South Atlantic. Everything about the Falklands is familiar and yet different, all at the same time. The islands are unspoilt and the people very welcoming, and the wildlife is incredibly unconcerned by the presence of man. I have just returned from an amazing two week photo tour to this incredible place.
For many the Falklands is little more than a place somewhere down south where Britain and Argentina fought a war. The truth is that beyond the well-known but tragic events of 1982 there lies a pristine and tranquil archipelago of incredible beauty. Where nature thrives in abundance and variety. There are still some 135 mined areas left in the Falkland Islands from this conflict. The evidence of which are very clear, with most being around the capital, Port Stanley. These mines are a tragic consequence of war, but ironically they now provide a unique haven for the wildlife.
My group assembled at RAF Brize Norton in the evening for the flight over the South Atlantic Ocean via Ascension Island. After an 8 hour flight to the Ascension Islands and then another 8 hours we arrived in the Falkland Islands. Once we had disembarked it was amazing to enjoy fresh, warm tropical air. We couldn’t wait to explore the wildlife-rich beaches during the coming days alongside a huge choice of other amazing and unique wildlife the Falklands has.
The scenery 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. The place is pure magic in terms of its wildlife. The drive from Mount Pleasant Airport to Darwin gave us our first introduction to the rolling landscape. Once settled in at 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.
The following day we left Darwin on our first Islander flight. These 8-seater planes are a real experience and a wonderful way to get an overview of the islands. Our destination was Saunders Island which boasts a wonderful colony of Black-browed Albatross. We spent hours just watching and photographing these magnificent birds and, as with all wildlife in the Falklands, it’s possible to approach really close without causing any disturbance. We spent one night in the settlement there and the other two nights at The Neck which, as well as being gloriously remote, is home to a many colonies of Penguins. The remoteness of this place was amazing and it was a firm favourite with the group.
As our time drew to an end we packed up ready for our onward journey and another amazing place Carcass Island which was our base for the next three nights. Our accommodation was in the main house room that looks out through the trees to the sea. We had plenty of time to explore this lovely island with its Gentoo Penguin colony, its wonderful scenery and abundance of the smaller birds of the Falkland Islands. In addition, we took a boat trip to West Point with its mixed Black-browed Albatross and Rockhopper Penguin colony and its delightful “English Garden” settlement where they serve superb teas.
During our time on the Falkland Islands we saw the beautiful Striated Caracaras, these birds are primarily a scavenger, feeding on carrion, offal and small invertebrates that it digs up with its claws. However it will also prey on weak or injured creatures, such as young seabirds. Although they are in the falcon family, caracaras often eat carrion like vultures do. But unlike vultures, caracaras also prey on live animals
Caracara, a large bird related to the falcon. Its name, Spanish for “carrion eater,” refers to its habit of eating decaying animal flesh. They are one of the world’s rarest birds and their numbers are around 2000 on the Falkland’s the only place in the world you can see these birds.
After three amazing days we then headed to Sea Lion Island, with its amazing array of spectacular wildlife, which is the most southerly of the Falkland Islands. As nature is so close at hand here we spent our time on foot exploring the pools and coasts of the island. The majority of all Falklands breeding birds can be found on this island, including three different species of penguin, and it is also home to one of the rarest birds of prey in the world, the Striated Caracara.
One of the great sights of this holiday for me was the Elephant Seals just hauled up on the sandy beach. Massive animals, nosy, aggressive and the noise at times was deafening. The lodge where we stayed had views right across the island to the sea.
Sadly it was time to move on and our final inter-island flight of our trip took us back to Stanley where we stayed in the Malvina House Hotel. On our last full day on the Falkland’s 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 three-hour Land Rover trip took us through typical Falkland landscape and we spent lots of time with the delightful King Penguins as well as other species. It was a long day, but a very special one indeed.
We had a relatively early start for our transfer from Stanley to Mount Pleasant Airport ready for our flight to the UK via Ascension Island the next day, and as ever it was with a heavy heart we were leaving such a magical place. The following day after a 16 hour flight and stopover we arrived back at Brize Norton. We all then said goodbye and I wished everyone well with their onward journeys.
We all had an amazing time in this special place and I would like to thank all my clients, two of which had travelled from Australia to be on my trip. Many thanks to all of you for your company, the laughs and special moments we shared with the wonderful wildlife this island has to offer.
I received the following feedback from Stuart and Gill Hill who attended this trip. Its always great when I can help and inspire people, have a read.
Craig Jones – Falkland Islands 2013 – A clients view
“An amazing photographic adventure in some truly remote areas only accessible by small aircraft and 4×4 vehicles. Stunning scenery matched by jaw dropping wildlife encounters every day. The weather amazed us all. Mostly very warm and dry with only an odd ‘wild day’, high factor sun screen was a necessity. I’ve had a one to one with Craig two years previous and it was this that made me confident to book the tour not only for myself, but my wife too.
I can see why Craig is ranked up with the top wildlife photographers in the UK. His images are amazing and it was great to learn the thought processes behind them. Exceptionally open and free with advice, both practical and conceptual. I believe everyone of the group, of which there were seven, grew as photographers and it shows in the images we brought back.
Craig was always there when advice was needed but he never felt intrusive and let us use the help given to expand our creativity alone. Thereby creating our own style and not just reproduce his. This would have been easy for Craig just to say, stand here, these are your settings, now shoot that. But thats not Craig’s style. He’d show us an image, say this is how I created it, this is what I saw and what I wanted the image to show. And then, if we wanted, we’d trundle off into the wilds with our created juices flowing and shoot our vision.
I believe where Craig differs from most are his background skills are directly transferable to his wildlife photography. His very strong ethics regarding the effect his photography has on the subjects. And his fieldcraft skills learnt from boyhood through to his army days to now. Finally, i find Craig, refreshingly honest and open for someone who earns a living from wildlife photography, there are no secrets. Both before, during and after the trip, Craig will always answer mails. Remembering the days he started out and finding a closed shop. With pro’s not bothering to answer mails. A sad but true reflection of life that Craig is not willing to repeat.
Well finally to me. My images from this trip are completely different to anything I have before. Craig has a saying, ‘there is always an image, you have to find it’. And so true. I have learnt so much, so quickly. Some things can’t be learnt from a book or a screen. You have to be there, feel the passion for the wildlife, the respect. Learn to think creatively. Standing with Craig, at dawn, on a deserted beach is my classroom. Thanks Craig.”
Stu and Gill Hill
Interest in my 2014 trip is already very good so if I have wetted your appetite and you would like to join me then please click on this following link. Once again thanks to everyone that joined me that was an amazing trip many thanks.