The last place we were able to visit, prior to the coronavirus shutdown, was the Falkland Islands. While some visitors are interested in touring the battle sites of the tragic 1982 war with Argentina, the dynamic duo opted for wildlife encounters.
The Falkland Islands, a small archipelago in the South Atlantic, is home to 3,468 people, most of whom know each other and whose families have been there since the islands were settled by Scottish and Welsh immigrants in 1764. But the islands are also home to about 500,000 sheep and nearly as many penguins, albatross and geese, most of whom presumably also know each other. Sheep, of course, aren’t all that exotic and, as Jay can attest from his teenage years as an amateur sheep-raiser, not all that interesting. So, our two wildlife wanderers opted for the much more attractive black-browed albatross and Magellanic, rockhopper and king penguins.
On our first day, we beached our Zodiac raft on New Island and waded ashore. New Island, 8 miles long and 820 yards wide, is run by a conservation trust and its only human inhabitants are those who conduct research at a field center and a couple of folks who operate a tiny handcraft gift shop by the shore. The highlight of New Island is the rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatross who make their home along the very windy edge of the island.
Our visit came toward the end of summer and the albatross chicks were shedding their fluff and getting ready to try out their wings. Most of them were still sitting on their nests and waiting for their parents to come back with some food. New Island is very windy and sometimes chicks get blown off their nests. The amazing thing with these birds is that if a chick can’t get back up on its nest, the returning parent will not recognize the chick and it will starve. Even with the chick crying out and sitting right next to the nest, if it’s not actually on the nest, the parent will completely ignore the chick. And, no help from the parent getting the chick back on. Talk about tough love.
Our second day on the Falklands took us to Volunteer Point to check out the King and Magellanic penguins. The 2-1/2 hour ride (each way) in a LandRover with our trusty local driver, Sue, was a trip in itself. Much of the Falklands is roadless and it was a thrilling, if somewhat slow, drive across peat fields, bogs and grassland. Seeing the penguins, though, was definitely worth the trip.