Off To See Penguins, Sea Lions and Seals
Deep in the South Atlantic there is an archipelago known as the Falkland Islands. Generally, these are isolated, windswept islands where raising sheep and cattle are the main businesses. Covering about 4,700 square miles, the Falklands has a population of a little over 3,000 pe
The tourist business here is thriving and the main attraction is tours to the isolated coasts to see penguins, seals and sea lions. Stanley, the capital is located on the far eastern tip of East Falkland. It is nestled behind a double natural harbor where most cruise ships anchor, and is the starting point for most excursions.
The day we spent in the Falklands, we booked a tour in advance with a local company (Falklands Style Off-road Tours), and went out to Dolphin Cove, about eighty miles from Stanley. The trip was in a 4X4, mostly over dirt roads after leaving Stanley. We traveled almost two hours past ranches and peat bogs and ended with a few miles of open country to the coast. Dolphin Cove is on a private ranch and we were introduced to the woman who manages the property. Just to offer some insight into the people who live here, when asked how often she gets into Stanley, she said about four or five times a year.
Driving in wheel tracks over open country towards the sea, we started spotting rookeries of mostly Gentoo penguins. Our guide (Wayne McCormick) said that they walk inland, sometimes as far as a mile, to dig their nests. One group of three was in our track and, in trying to run away, they kept right in front of us running at full speed for some distance. (You had to have been there – funny.)
Our first official stop was at a bluff overlooking a rocky beach and a harem of seals had been giving birth that day. The harem was overseen by a good sized bull and the dark newborn pups were scattered across the rocks with the new moms watching over them. There were also large numbers of buzzards hanging around attracted by the byproducts of the births.
Shortly after that, we made a couple of stops near large gentoo rookeries. These birds have no real fear of man and you can actually walk right up to them. The largest group we found seemed to have adopted a King Penguin who stood almost a foot taller than the Gentoos. The Kings look very much like the famous Emperor but they are not as large. We also stopped and watched some Magellanic Penguins come ashore at a rocky area. A Falkland penguin population guide can be found HERE.
We returned to Stanley with a couple of hours to spare before our ship sailed. While it was a long day, it was well worth the effort. We have actually taken tours to see penguins in other parts of the world, but none of them came close to our day in the Falklands.