Falkland Islands

Stanley and around

The capital, Stanley, on East Falkland, is the major population centre. Its residents live mostly in houses painted white, many of which have brightly-coloured corrugated iron roofs. Surrounded by rolling moorland, Stanley fronts the enclosed Harbour. The outer harbour of Port William is larger but less protected.

The
Museum
,www.falklands-museum.com, merits a visit. The manager is Mrs Leona Roberts. The ticket includes a visit to Cartmell Cottage, one of the original pioneer houses on Pioneer Row, whose interior reflects life in the late 19th century and the 1940s. From the Museum, you can walk the length of the harbour front, from the wreck of the
Jhelum
(built in 1839 for the East India Company, now beginning to collapse) in the west, to the iron-built
Lady Elizabeth
at the far eastern end of the harbour (228 ft, with three masts still standing). A Maritime History Trail along the front has interpretive panels; a book describing the Stanley wrecks is sold at the museum. On the way you will pass Government House, the Anglican Cathedral (most southerly in the world, built in 1892) with a whalebone arch outside, several monuments commemorating the naval battle of 1914, the Royal Marines and the 1982 liberation. Among the latter are the Memorial Wood, off Ross Rd East, where every tree is named for a British and Falkland casuality. Where Ross Road East turns inland, you can carry on east along the coastal path, past the FIPASS floating harbour and around the head of the bay to
Lady Elizabeth
. At low tide you can walk out to her. Follow the bay round and eventually you will come to
Gypsy Cove
, 4 miles, 2 hours walk each way from centre (10 minutes by car). It features a colony of magellanic penguins, black-crowned night herons and other shorebirds. Occasionally visitors can also spot orca, elephant seals, variable hawks and sea lions. Observe minefield fences which prevent close inspection of the penguins (Yorke Bay, where the Argentine forces landed in 1982, is off limits).

The public library, in the Community School, has a good selection of books on travel and flora/fauna. During the December holidays, the sports meeting at the race course attracts visitors from all over the Islands. The equally popular West and East Falkland sports, at the end of the shearing season in February/March rotate among the settlements.

Outside Stanley

Cape Pembroke
lighthouse sits on the end of Cape Pembroke Peninsula and is open to the general public. The Cape itself offers great day walking, with plenty of wildlife watching: dolphins, whales and numerous bird species. There is also an impressive memorial to the crew of the
Atlantic Conveyor
, a supply ship sunk by Argentine forces during the 1982 Conflict.

Sparrow Cove
,
Kidney Cove
, and adjacent areas, only a short distance from Stanley by boat, are good areas to see four species of penguin and other wildlife. Tours are the only way to get there.

East Falkland

On
Long Island
, 20 miles from Stanley, is a 22,000-acre sheep farm belonging to a 6th generation Falkland Island family, whose traditional way of life, with a dairy and using sheep dogs and island-bred horses to gather sheep, is popular with cruise passengers and day trippers. There are excellent hikes along the beach and shore of Berkeley Sound, with rockhopper, gentoo and magellanic penguins.

Volunteer Point
, on the peninsula north of Berkeley Sound, is a wildlife sanctuary. It contains the only substantial nesting colony of king penguins outside of South Georgia (the most accessible site in the world). Gentoo and magellanic penguins, geese and other birds can be photographed easily, but keep a respectful distance. Sea lions and dolphins may be seen from the beautiful beach. It is on a private farm approximately 2½ hours drive from Stanley: 1 hour to Johnson's Harbour on a good road (37 miles), then 1½ hours over the camp (12 miles, no permanent track). Visits are arranged with local guides who know the route and understand local conditions.

Bertha's Beach, a 10-minute drive from Mount Pleasant Military Complex, is popular for its beautiful white sand beach with abundant bird life. Dolphins often come close to shore as they hunt in the shallows. To get through the locked gate to the beach, ask for the key from the farm manager at Fitzroy.

Beyond Mount Pleasant, the road divides, one branch turning north to San Carlos , the other going to
Darwin
(1½-2 hours from Stanley), a little community with the wreck of the
Vicar of Bray
(last survivor of the California Gold Rush fleet). Another old iron ship, the
Garland
, can de seen up the bay. Just before Darwin is the Argentine cemetery for those killed in the 1982 conflict, and just beyond, the larger settlement of
Goose Green
. From Goose Green a road runs to the ferry dock for West Falkland at New Haven (35 minutes). Apart from an out-of- bounds gentoo colony, there is nothing at the ramp.
North Arm
is one of four settlements in the flat expanses of Lafonia, a three-hour drive from Stanley. Bull Point is the most southerly point of East Falkland; its wildlife includes 32 species of birds. Also near North Arm are Tweeds Valley, 53 species of flora and fauna, and Fanny Cove, with some great rock formations. These locations can only be reached off-road so a tour guide is necessary.

The road to
San Carlos
is hilly, with lovely views of higher mountains inland and the bays and inlets of Falkland Sound to the west. San Carlos (2 hours from Stanley) is a picturesque waterside settlement and an excellent base for explorating upper East Falkland. Here is the English cemetery from the 1982 conflict and a museum covering the conflict and the local way of life. Nearby is the ruin of the Ajax Bay Refrigeration plant, used as the British forces base in 1982. The new road network makes it possible to head north to Port San Carlos, Elephant Beach Farm and Cape Dolphin. At
Elephant Beach Farm
, a 1½-hour drive from Stanley, gentoo penguins and many other bird species, sea lions, Commerson's and Peale's dolphins can be seen. The private property offers fishing for Falkland mullet in the tidal lagoon, and fossicking among the whale skeletons on the coast.
Cape Dolphin
, at the northernmost tip of East Falkland, includes three species of penguin, storm petrels, sea lions, the occasional whale and large numbers of ducks and birds on Swan Pond. Allow a full day to make the most of the cape; camping is also possible by prior arrangement. You can return to Stanley on the North Camp road via Teal Inlet and Estancia.

Outer islands

Bleaker Island
, hardly bleak, has a wonderful coastline with white sandy beaches and sheltered
coves. Bird species include rockhoppers, magellanic and gentoo penguins, waterfowl, ruddy-headed geese, Falkland skuas and an impressive Imperial Shag colony. The area north of the settlement was declared a National Nature Reserve in 1999. One of the key features of the island is Big Pond, where you can spot Chiloe wigeon, silvery and white-tufted grebes, speckled and silver teal and occasionally the rare flying steamer duck.

Sea Lion Island
in the southeast, 35 minutes' flight from Stanley, is a wildlife sanctuary, a delightful place to explore and relax. The lodge , open in the austral summer, is within easy reach of the wildlife. Many Southern Sea Lions breed on the beaches; Southern Elephant Seals also breed here. Up to three pods of orca whales are resident around the island and can be seen cruising the shore in search of elephant seal and sea lion pups risking their first swim (summer months). The island also has magnificent bird life: gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper penguins, giant petrels (known locally as stinkers), imperial shag, flightless steamer and other ducks, black- crowned night herons, tussacbird, oystercatcher (magellanic and blackish) and striated caracara. Also on the island is the HMS
Sheffield
memorial.

West Falkland

On West Falkland, there live fewer than 100 adults.
Port Howard
is one of the principle settlements, a neat, picturesque place, and the largest privately owned farm in the Islands with approximately 42,000 sheep and 1,000 cattle running across 200,000 acres. The original settlement is 3½ km south and Bold Cove is the site of the first British landing by Captain John Strong in 1690. It's an excellent base to explore West Falkland . Activities include trout fishing; 4WD tours to wildlife and flora, 1982 war relics, fossil beds; golf at Clippy Hill (overgrown in 2009); hiking to Mount Maria.

About an hour west of Port Howard a road branches northwest to
Hill Cove
settlement, another 30 minutes drive. You can visit the only forest in the Falklands (an experiment in shelter planting), or make an appointment to see the boutique skin tannery run by Henry Boughton. Further west is
Crooked Inlet
farm at Roy Cove. Joy and Danny Donnelly run the sheep farm and still use horses for sheep work . The settlement is very photogenic, particularly in late spring when the yellow gorse blooms; commanding views over King George Bay to Rabbit, Hammock and Middle Islands.

In the centre of West Falkland is
Little Chartres Farm
, which is an ideal base for trips to all points and for trout fishing. West is a beautiful road to Dunnose Head and Shallow Harbour, passing the Narrows and Town Point nature reserves. To the south is Fox Bay, the largest settlement; half is government-owned, half, Fox Bay West, is private. The road passes Hawksnest Ponds, where swans may be seen, in a region of 2,000 lakes and ponds.
Port Stephens
is a spectacular piece of country at the southwestern tip of West Falkland. Accessible by road and air, the area has rugged headlands, home to rockhopper and gentoo penguins, as well as many unusual geological formations at Indian Village and breathtaking coastal scenery.

Outer islands

Pebble Island
is the third largest offshore island and is thought to be named after the unusual pebbles found on its beaches. Pebble is
home to more than 40 species including gentoo, rockhopper, macaroni and magellanic penguins,
imperial shag, waterfowl, and black-
necked swans. Sea lions can also be found on the coast. The eastern half of Pebble Island contains large ponds and wetlands with many waterfowl and wading birds.

Saunders Island
, besides a representative sample of wildlife, contains the ruins of the 18th century British outpost at Port Egmont. There is a small group of king penguins at the Neck, a three-hour walk, 45 minutes by Land Rover from the settlement. Gentoo, magellanic, rockhoppers, imperial shag and black-browed albatross can also be seen here, as well as dolphins wave surfing and whales spouting. A further 1½-2 hours' walk goes to the point where elephant seals can be seen. At the Rookery, on the north coast, you can see rockhoppers, imperial shag and black-browed albatross. Another good place is the bay just north of the Settlement with many gentoo and magellanic penguins. There are many other wildlife sites on this large island.

Carcass Island
, taking it's name from HMS Carcass which visited in the late 18th century, is west of Saunders. One of the most spectacular and attractive islands for wildlife and scenery, species include striated caracara, gentoo and magellanic penguins, gulls, geese and elephant seals. The island also has great examples of tussac grass. The island is cat, rat and mice free, allowing small bird species such as Cobb's wren to flourish. A recommended trip from Carcass is on Michael Clark's boat,
Concord
, to West Point Island, to see a large colony of black-browed albatross and rockhoppers. Dolphins may be seen on the way.

Weddell Island
, in the southwest, named after explorer James Weddell, is the third largest island of the archipelago, a little bigger than Malta but with only two residents (and then only October to March). It has self-catering accommodation, an interesting history and, despite what some books suggest, plenty of wildlife. This includes magellanic and gentoo rookeries, sea lions in the tussac grass, imperial shags, shore birds, geese and introduced species such as Patagonian grey fox and nine reindeer. In the surrounding waters are albatross, Peale's and Commerson's dolphins. Good hikes straight out of the settlement.

New Island
South
, at the extreme west edge of the archipelago, is a nature reserve owned by the
New Island Conservation Trust
,www.newislandtrust.com. The aim of the project, begun in 1973 by Ian Strange, is to ensure that the island operates as a reserve in perpetuity. There is a fully equipped field station in the settlement for scientific studies. The recently refurbished Captain Charles Barnard Memorial Museum and Visitor Centre is visited by passengers on cruise vessels. Contact can be made through the Trust's website. New Island North owned by Tony Chater, has a small sheep farm.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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