There are only two ways to get to the Falkland Islands by air: With a RAF flight from England or with LAN Chile from Punta Arenas, which is how we planned to get there. There’s only one flight a week and we had the really bad luck that the weather was so terrible on the day we were supposed to fly that the airport on the Falklands was closed (this happens once or twice a year). The flight was scheduled at noon. Around 2 p.m. we were told that the plane was not going to fly and that we had to collect our luggage. Two LAN employees (of which only one was actually working) tried to find hotels for the passengers which wasn’t all that easy. The employee did his best but most of the passengers didn’t speak any Spanish and the guy’s English wasn’t that good either so there was a lot of confusion. Finally, after having spent about 7 hours at the airport, a bus picked us up and drove us to our hotels.
Next day, second try. This time the weather was wonderful and after a very short flight we landed safely on the Falklands. Once there, our image of the islands was proven completely wrong: it was sunny and warm and absolutely beautiful.
The first night we spent in the small settlement of Darwin from where we walked to the southernmost suspension bridge in the world (yes, we’re still kind of at the end of the world); a fantastic walk: the landscape is beautiful and the colors amazing: brown-green ground, yellow bushes, navy blue sea, a wonderful blue sky and here and there white houses with red or green roofs. And it was so hot – a real summer day.
The next day we flew to the most southerly inhabited island, Sea Lion Island. Penguin colonies surround the lodge (we could even see and hear one from our room), sea elephants lie on the white sandy beaches, sea lions, rockhopper penguins and cormorants inhabit the rocks and cliffs on the southern side of the island and a lot of other birds live on the grassland and around the ponds.
Sounds like paradise for nature lovers? It is, believe me. The island is so small, you can easily walk around and see it all in a day and if you’re lucky and willing to get up really early in the morning (we weren’t) you may even see orcas. One more special thing we had that day: almost no wind. Definitely not like the Falklands but apparently anything’s possible here.
On Tuesday we flew to Pebble Island, a bigger island north of West Falkland. Pebble Island, we learned, has a reputation for being very windy. And it really is windy. And beautiful. There are white sandy beaches with turquoise waters, when it’s sunny you could easily come to think that you’re somewhere in the Caribbean. Except that here instead of people there are only penguins on the beach.
During the ‘82 war two planes crashed over Pebble Island and the remains are still scattered over a huge area. It’s interesting and at the same time very scary to see the pieces and the impact crater and to imagine the force of such an impact.
On the day of our flight to Stanley, the island’s capital city, we had near gale winds which, however, didn’t bother the pilot at all. And the flight was actually very pleasant, we didn’t feel the wind in the small 8-seater Islander plane. I’ve become a huge fan of those planes; they fly at a very low height so you have the most amazing sight from the air.
From the plane, Stanley, with its small and colorful houses, looks like a toy town. The majority of the islands’ population (about 3000 people) live here and everybody seems to know everybody. Even after spending just one week on the islands, we met people we knew at the supermarket, the museum, or the hotel.
From Stanley we went on a day tour to Volunteer Point where King Penguins live and breed. It was a very windy and cold day but the penguins, once again, were amazing and worth all the struggle with the wind. Many were still breeding, some chicks had already hatched, and some penguins, adults and one-year-olds (who look as if they’re wearing a coat), were molting and therefore had to stay on land because during their molt they’re not waterproof.
The Falkland Islands are wonderful. They may be barren and windswept but they’re full of life and history. It’s an expensive trip but it was absolutely worth it. We had a great time, took a lot of pictures, ate really good food, and met very nice and interesting people. There are few tourists, you can be all by yourself when walking around the islands and I think in only very few places you can get as close to wildlife as here.