Falkland Islands

Penguins steal the show in the Falkland Islands

Excerpted from Avid Cruiser’s: Travel writers highlight their favorite South America Shore Excursions

On a two-week “Round Cape Horn” cruise, I, and a group of travel writers, visited eight ports, including the port of departure, Buenos Aires, and the disembarkation port, Valparaiso.

I asked the travel editors and writers for comments about their shore excursions along the way. With few exceptions, all shore excursions on our cruise got two thumbs up. “It was hard to choose a favorite,” says Michelle Dill, an editor at Alaska Airlines Magazine, “because I went on three shore excursions that were among the best I’ve ever done in nearly 15 cruises.”

  • Michelle’s favoriteA Day at the Beach with Royalty (duration 7 hours, cost $268 per person), Port Stanley, Falkland Islands.
    “What an adventure to do a 4×4 ride through the peat bogs, get stuck in a big mud puddle, have to get pulled out and end up on this velvety sand beach where we were walking among King penguins, Gentoo penguins and Magellanic penguins. There were no fences or ropes separating us from the penguins and very few people. You’re just among the penguins, communing with them.”
  • Ralph Grizzle, traveling with a buddy: Falkland Island Birding (duration 3.5 hours, cost $64 per person), Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. When someone mentioned Argentina to our tour guide Arthur, he replied, “Where’s that?” It was political joke, of course. Arthur was here in 1982 when Argentina and Britain clashed over who had the right to possess and administer this small group of islands 300 miles from South America’s coast. Nearly a quarter of a century later, Falklanders almost never mention Argentina.British to the core, Port Stanley is a remarkably bite-sized chunk of England — with fish and chips, red phone booths and convivial pubs. Cars drive on the opposite side of the road, and we had to take care more than once when stepping off the curb as vehicles nearly clipped our shoulders because we had been watching for them in the wrong direction.On the morning we arrived, nearly 2,000 cruise passengers invaded this town of fewer than 3,000 residents. People were walking toe to heel along the sidewalks and poking their heads into the few shops.

    Last year, when a fierce wind kicked up and made tender back to their ship too much of a danger, passengers were forced to take accommodations with local residents until the ship could return the next morning. On the cruise the week before ours, winds made it too risky for tender service, so the captain made the decision to skip the port. Consider yourself lucky to make landfall in the Falklands.

    We arrived safely for a birding excursion. Against a headwind and in light rain, we saw quite a few birds, as well as reminders that many mines were still in the area where we were walking (not to worry, the areas where mines are suspected are fenced off).