The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) are in the South Atlantic ocean, approximately 300 miles east off the Argentine coast (a one and a half hour flight from Punta Arenas in Chile). The islands are a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, independent except for defence and foreign affairs (which remain the responsibility of the British Government). The people are mainly of British descent and traditionally live in small sheep farming communities.
The rich waters surrounding the Falkland Islands attract spectacular birds and wildlife, particularly penguins. King, Gentoo, Magellanic and Rockhopper penguins all breed on the islands (and you may also see Macaroni penguins). Sharing the white sandy beaches with the penguins are elephant seals and sea lions. There are also 200 species of birds, ranging from the tiny tussac bird to the black-browed albatross. There are also many striated caracaras (Johnny rooks), which are very rare elsewhere. Porpoises and dolphins are often seen in the bays, as are whales. Diddle-dee berries are endemic: these tiny, red, bittersweet berries grow on the Diddle-dee shrub which bears fruit in the autumn, and are often used to make jam.
Fishing in the Falklands is very rewarding. The native mullet can grow to over 20lb; brown trout were introduced to Falkland rivers in the 1940's and quickly established themselves - catches of over 10lbs are common - especially for sea trout. There is a resident zebra (or Falkland) trout which is protected. The trout season runs from 1 September to 30 April, and most areas operate a catch-and-release policy.
LAN fly to Mount Pleasant from Santiago via Punta Arenas once a week, on Saturdays only. The MoD also operates twice weekly flights from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
Getting around the islands by air is with FIGAS' (Falkland Islands Government Air Service) 10-seater aircraft. On most islands there is only one place to stay, usually with limited rooms.
Here are some of our Falkland Islands highlights
It's not just penguins you'll find in the Falklands, Sea Lion Island is home to colonies of elephant seals and sea lions. If your timing is right you may even spot pods of killer whales (orcas) circling the island looking for pups.
Each of the islands has its own draw cards, from Saunders Island, the site of the first British settlement, to tiny Bleaker island, just 12 miles long. Hop between the islands on the small local planes - wonderful views and unique landing strips!
The impressive Volunteer Point on East Falkland is the largest most accessible king penguin colony. Thousands of adult penguins and several hundred chicks jostle for space amidst the few visitors who make the trip here.
The trip to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica was exceptional, truly the holiday of a lifetime, and confirmed, for us at least, that going by small ship was exactly the right way to see these places. Although we were unlucky with the weather at times we were incredibly lucky when we needed to be and managed to land at two of the hardest places on the trip – Elephant Island (where Shackleton left his men while he sailed off to South Georgia to get help) and Baily Head (on the outside of Deception Island, where we saw 200,000 pairs of chinstrap penguins in a hidden arena). Thanks for making it all work so smoothly - we still need to sort through the 3,000'ish photos of penguins and other assorted animals and 13 hours of video that needs to be culled to half an hour! - NM