Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, pounding waves and billowing spray sculpt the shores of the Falkland Islands with an artistic flourish. The Falklands archipelago is teeming with wonders of nature and wildlife; an unpolluted environment with fantastically clear blue skies, seamless horizons, vast open spaces and stunning white sand beaches.
The Falklands environment is very much a natural paradise with tiny settlements nestling in many miles of open spaces, subdued but spectacular hues, fascinating rivers of rock, seas of brilliant aqua greens and silvery blues. Wildlife is free to roam; many species have chosen the Islands as their home. Discover the special feeling when a penguin comes close, stops, takes a good look and then continues on its way; watch nature in the raw as a whale takes a penguin as prey; marvel at the delicate beauty of endemic flowers.
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The Falklands archipelago consists of two main islands, East and West Falkland with smaller islands scattered around the shores, creating a traveller’s paradise. Each destination has something special and unique to offer, from the smallest settlement on a remote island to Stanley, the southern-most capital in the World, characterised by colourful buildings and features of its British heritage, red telephone boxes, post boxes and public houses.
People make places; everywhere a warm welcome awaits. Falkland Islanders enrich any visit with genuine warmth making visitors feel like old friends. Discover the traditional hospitality of the “Camp” – all areas outside Stanley – and the friendliness evident in the small capital where everyone seems to know everyone else.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
The Falkland Islands are a homogeneous society, with the majority of inhabitants descended from Scottish and Welsh immigrants who settled the territory in 1833. The 2006 census listed some Falklands residents as descendants of French, Gibraltarians and Scandinavians, but that a one-third of residents were born on the archipelago, with foreign-born residents assimilated into local culture. The population (2,932 inhabitants in 2012) now primarily consists of native-born Falkland Islanders, the majority of British descent. Immigration from the United Kingdom, the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, and Chile has reversed a population decline. The predominant (and official) language is English. Under the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983, Falkland Islanders are British citizens.
Falklands culture is “based on the British culture brought with the settlers from the British Isles”, although it has been influenced by the cultures of Hispanic South America. Some terms and place names used by the islands’ former Gaucho inhabitants are still applied in local speech. According to naturalist Will Wagstaff, “the Falkland Islands are a very social place, and stopping for a chat is a way of life”.
The islands have two weekly newspapers: Teaberry Express and The Penguin News, and television and radio broadcasts generally feature programming from the United Kingdom. Wagstaff describes local cuisine as “very British in character with much use made of the homegrown vegetables, local lamb, mutton, beef, and fish”. Common between meals are “home made cakes and biscuits with tea or coffee”. Social activities are, according to Wagstaff, “typical of that of a small British town with a variety of clubs and organisations covering many aspects of community life”.
The Falkland Islands truly are the ultimate birding experience with large, easily accessible colonies of some of the world’s rarest and most enchanting birds. Best known for penguins, visitors always enjoy the antics of these birds both at sea and on shore. Majestic king, feisty rockhopper, inquisitive gentoo and shy Magellanic penguins are easy to find with the more elusive macaroni penguin blending into rockhopper colonies in just a few locations. Over 70% of the world’s Black-browed albatross breed around the islands. Add to these a large number of other interesting birds including the inquisitive striated cara-cara, the endemic Cobb’s wren and Falklands Flightless steamer duck – there are plenty of species for the amateur birder and the enthusiast.
Fourteen species of marine mammals have been recorded in Falkland waters. A trip out of Stanley to Berkeley Sound affords the opportunity to try to spot some of these at sea with spectacular blows often exhibited by various species of baleen whale. Peale’s and Commerson’s dolphins regularly accompany boats and trips can be arranged to include the viewing of penguin colonies and sooty shearwaters on the ocean surface as dusk falls. Whale watching or general boat trips can be booked with Stanley agencies; some are also available at other tourist locations.
Wildlife experiences are guaranteed and with only a few visitors in many locations, the up-close-and-personal experience is second to none. Up-to-date sightings of wildlife can usually be obtained from accommodation providers.
However, virtually the entire land area of the islands is used as pasture for sheep. Introduced species include reindeer, hares, rabbits, Patagonian foxes, brown rats and cats. The detrimental impact several of these species have caused to native flora and fauna has led authorities to attempt to contain, remove or exterminate invasive species such as foxes, rabbits and rats. Endemic land animals have been the most affected by introduced species. The extent of human impact on the Falklands is unclear, since there is little long-term data on habitat change.
The climate of the Falkland Islands is cool and temperate, regulated by the large oceans which surround it. The Falkland Islands are located over 480 kilometres (298 mi) from South America, to the north of the Antarctic convergence, where cooler waters from the south mix with warmer waters from the north.
Winds mostly come from the west, creating a difference between the relative levels of precipitation between the eastern islands and the western islands. The total annual rainfall is only about 573.6 mm (23 in). Although snow falls, it does not settle due to the strength of the winds.
The temperature of the islands fluctuates within a narrow band, not reaching higher than 24 °C (75 °F) or lower than −5 °C (23 °F). There are long hours of daylight in the summer, although the actual number of hours of sunlight is limited by cloud cover.