Destination: Falkland Islands
Date: February 2016
Activity: Penguin Watching
Arriving in Port Stanley of the Falkland Islands we had to take a tender to get off of the ship. Luckily the water was calm, though they expected choppy waters. Upon arriving at Port there is a great sign that reads Welcome to the Falkland Islands so keep your camera ready, but you have to be quick because the only shot of this sign is from the end of the pier! With so many people rushing to get off of the tender you are herded quickly, like cattle, up to the land.
The area of Port Stanley doesn’t offer a lot to the seasoned cruiser, though there are a few things to do and to see. The first thing our group did was go into the Falkland Island Visitor Center and buy a $20 ticket to ride the shuttle over to Gypsy Cove to see the penguins. There are two companies that run this shuttle and buying tickets from either doesn’t really seem to matter. If you ask me, they are probably owned by the same people because once you get on your companies shuttle to Gypsy Cove you can ride either shuttle back.
Be aware that riding the shuttle is a lot like packing into a cattle truck. There is not room for the catrophodbia so if you have any issues with that you should wait until the initial lines die down and wait to go to Gypsy Cove. When we took our shuttle it was completely packed with 24 passengers with the aisle seats being pulled down so if you were in the back three rows you were completely stuck in your seat until the van unloaded.
Gypsy Cove is easy to see and makes a great adventure to see the penguins and the flora of the island. When you get to the cove you can expect a rock path that takes you through the cliff side of the beach to look down at the penguins. I watched some try and pull wheelchairs through the rocky path. It did look strenous but not impossible. Another thing I should mention is that it is very very cold at the cove. We were there in February (their summer) and the wind was blowing and our noses were frozen. Then again I am a Texan and may be a little more susceptible to cold weather. I will admit the British and Scots from the boat looked just find in their wind breakers and caps.
Gypsy Cove was a great attraction and made for some fun photo ops. The penguins weren’t great performers and none were wearing bow ties like I would have liked! However, some did come close enough to get some good photos. At the Cove the penguins are protected and you are not allowed to approach them as you will see with the roped barriers, however they can approach you and some even did. One even made his nest close to the ropes so we could bend down and see into his little enclave.
The Cove also has lots of information placards about the area and a few left over gun barrels from the war of 1982. You can also get a great shot of your cruise ship off in the distance of the bay. Looking at photos one might think going down and sunbathing or swimming in the clear crisp waters of the area looks nice, but I can guarantee swimsuits are not a needed item for this part of the world.
While in town we visited many of the gift shops that will sell you many expensive tourist items. They basically all sell the same items and everyone sells it at the same pricing. The next best thing to do while in port is to visit the Historic Dockyard Museum. For 5 lbs each, (almost $8) you can visit a two story exhibit that gives the basic history of the islands. Since my knowledge of the islands was basically nothing before we arrive, I found the museum to be quite profitable for my learning. There is a great exhibit upstairs on the natural history of islands and the many shipwrecks in the area. Since Darwin, and Shackleton both spent time here it was great to read about their very different adventures in the area. Downstairs features the English history of the islands and the war of 1982 in which Argentina tried to claim the islands from England and started a battle that lasted 74 days. There’s a great movie about the conflict from the local children’s perspective in the area at the time.
On the property there is also a smith shop to brows, a printing press, and a coffee shop. Across the street is a hotel that claims a high rating on Trip Advisor but since there is no cell service to be had on the islands I could not account for its rating. However, if you go into a restaurant you can usually buy an hours worth of poor internet service for around 5 lbs.
I suggest also walking along the sea wall on the north east side of town towards the Jhelum Shipwreck. It is the oldest shipwreck in the area that is still visible and since it is close to the Liberation Monument (1982 memorial), Margret Thatchers Memorial Bust, and the Solar System Walk it is well worth the exercise. The wind is a little brisk, and the town does smell a little like burning trash, you will get to see a lot of wildlife along the shoreline.
I know there were other excursions that many of the ship passengers took the day we were in Port Stanley to other sides of the island to see a higher population of penguins but we were unable to book a private excursion. The ship books every tour guide in the area for their excursions so planning your own is nearly impossible. Even with our high American Express status our concierge there could not find a tour guide willing to break away from the employment of the cruise ship that day. So if you want to venture on to the other sides of the islands then you will need to book with the cruise ship. Otherwise what I described in this blog post can all be done on your own and makes for a full day on this cold, windy, but quite interesting little set of islands.