Ecotourism has certainly seen a surge in popularity over the last few years, and one touring area that has been largely overlooked until recently is the Falkland Islands. The islands are largely inaccessible to land travelers, but are a perfect option for those traveling by ship, and offer the chance for travelers to see some of the world’s most endangered species in an up-close and personal way.
The Falklands archipelago, comprised of more than 700 islands, provides the opportunity for cruise lines like Oceania Cruises, Gap Adventures, and Hurtigruten to show passengers rarities such as penguins, the extraordinary black-browed albatross and elephant seals.
And the islands’ popularity are on the rise: the Falkland Islands Tourist Board reports that “in 2010, cruise arrivals increased by nearly 14 percent with the vast majority – 39 percent – coming from the United States followed by passengers from the UK, Brazil, Canada and Germany”.
The Falkland Islands Tourist Board also provides this information on some of the unique tours and tourism opportunities offered to cruise passengers:
While many people are familiar with the Falkland Islands conflict that took place in 1982 between Britain and Argentina, this four-hour tour is designed to highlight the memorials and monuments that are still visible. This includes evidence that still remains on the ground, such as man-made bunkers and fox holes, discarded clothing, used munitions and even an occasional cooking stove. There is also a tour led by a veteran of the conflict that includes stops at positions used by Argentine forces as well as the location honoring lost British soldiers.
Falklands Nature Trek
Geared to the serious nature enthusiast, this three hour tour entails 3.5 miles of brisk walking over uneven terrain and is recommended for those participants who can undertake a more physically challenging excursion. The reward for such efforts is an exclusive opportunity to view Falkland Islands wildlife and flora, including Rock Cormorants and Magellanic Penguins, and various endemic ferns, shrubs and grasses, Diddle-dee, and Pale Maidens (the national flower).
Bluff Cove Lagoon Tour
Winner of the ÔÇÿInnovative Shorex Award of the Year’ at the 2009 Seatrade Insider Cruise Awards and nominee for the title “World’s Best Beach for Wildlife Lovers” by the Sunday Times Travel Magazine (UK), Bluff Cove Lagoon Tour offers an off-road driving adventure of fantastic natural sights and insight into the Falkland’s way of life with live music, visit to a local sheep farm, and wool spinning demonstrations. In addition, a new Museum and gift shop are open to provide fascinating insight into Falklands heritage and local shipwrecks as well as an up-close and personal view into the life of 1,000 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins and a growing colony of King penguins and their chicks.
Stanley History Walk
This two and a half-hour guided walk through Stanley is an ideal opportunity to understand the pioneering history of the tiny capital of the Falkland Islands and its British roots. The walk includes stops at the old town boundary where visitors take a step back in time to understand the origins of the town’s architecture as well as the destruction caused to it. Other sites include Cartmell Cottage, one of the earliest residential buildings in Stanley, the historic Upland Goose Hotel, the mast of the HMS Great Britain, Whale Bone Arch and Christ Church Cathedral. The tour ends at Jubilee Villas built in honor of Queen Victoria’s Golden jubilee in 1887.
North Pond Penguin Tour
For those passengers wanting to experience the wildlife and natural beauty of the Falklands, the North Pond Penguin Tour provides an up-close experience with penguins, birdlife and flora. The tour is mainly off-road, taking guests to picturesque locations where adventure seekers will have the opportunity to view Gentoo and Magellanic penguins as well other rare breeds including Dolphin and Kelp Gulls, other Flightless Steamer ducks, Upland geese, two-banded Plovers, Kelp geese, Grebes, Teal ducks, Oystercatchers and many more species which are indigenous to the area. With pure white sand and crystal blue waters, this tour also provides a great backdrop for photography.
The best time to visit the Islands and experience the history, culture and wildlife is October to April, when passengers can expect moderate temperates (averaging 60 degrees) and extended sunshine hours.