Falkland Islands by pjallittle
Falkland Islands Travel Guide: 240 reviews and 527 photos
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This seemingly bleak Island has been the subject of past controversy between the British, the Argentinians and the Falklanders themselves. As a possession of Britain, the population is nearly all British, there are very few Argentinians here, actually, there are more penguins than people.
If one had more time to spend on the Island it could prove to be interesting. Just a few days before our arrival, another ship that we had cruised the Aegean Sea and Meditteranean had been pinned to the docks by a fierce windstorm. It was calm but dreary when we arrived.
Most of the ship's passengers walked around the very little town, there was no planned tour, returned to the ship before lunch and never came back to shore. The more adventurous went out for a long drive to the area where there are fair sized penguin colonies.
from: <CENTER><B><U>LONELY PLANET</U></B></CENTER>
In an age of global access, it's nice to know there are still a few travel destinations where you can go your whole visit without bumping into a tourist. At the southernmost reaches of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Falkland Islands are just that kind of place. Though their nearest neighbors are Argentina and Antarctica, the Falklands are British through and through, with peat fires burning in every hearth and teatimes to set your clock by. Still, with only about 4000 inhabitants at any given time (half of whom are British military personnel), most visitors don't come for the company.
Full country name: Colony of the Falkland Islands
Area: 12,170 sq km (4700 sq mi)
Population: 2805 permanent residents, plus 2000 British military personnel
Capital city: Stanley (pop 1750)
Religion: Predominantly Anglican
Government: Colony of the UK
Governor: Donald Lamont
GDP per head: £18,100
Major industries: Fishing, wool processing, offshore oil exploration
Major trading partners: UK, the Netherlands, Japan, Netherlands Antilles
<b>Facts for the Traveler</b>
Visas: Requirements are usually the same as those for entering the UK. Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are generally allowed to stay six months without a visa.
Health risks: Sunburn, windburn, unexploded land mines
Time: GMT/UTC minus 4 hours
Electricity: 220/240V, 50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric, but imperial is common
Telephone: Country code 500
<b>When to Go</b>
Migratory birds and mammals return to the Falklands' beaches and headlands between October and March. December and January are the best months for wildlife watching, as the extended daylight hours provide ample viewing time as well as opportunity for other outdoor activities. However, December and January are also the wettest months, though rain falls throughout the year. October through April is the peak tourist season, but that's not saying much.
Annual sports meetings are the islands' other 'wildlife' attraction, with events including horse racing, bull riding and sheepdog trials. Stanley's sports meetings take place December 26th-27th, while camp sports are usually held in late February. Sea trout season runs from September through April, with the best fishing starting in late February.
The Falklands celebrate a fair number of holidays, but the wildest event you're likely to encounter - aside from a parade of nude sheep just after shearing season - is the annual sports meetings held every summer on both of the main islands. The festivities take place in Stanley on 26 and 27 December and on West Falkland in late February or early March. Other than that, look for events on and around the Queen's Birthday (21 April), Liberation Day (14 June), Falklands Day (14 August), the Battle of the Falklands remembrance day (8 December) and for major western holidays like Christmas, New Year's and Easter.
<center><B><U>STAMPS OF FALKLAND ISLANDS</U></b></center>
<b>Money & Costs</b>
Currency: Falkland Islands pound (F£)
Top-end: US$20 and upwards
Top-end: US$80 and upwards
The Falklands are not a cheap place to visit, which not surprisingly has more to do with the dearth of visitors than any glut. Flights to the islands are expensive, and there's little in the way of tourist infrastructure once you're there. Most facilities, however, are excellent, and guests pay accordingly. B&Bs and self-catering cabins are the cheapest accommodation options aside from camping. For such lodging and a three-meal day, expect to pay at least US$50. A moderate hike in standards can easily double that figure. For upscale accommodation (or the Falklands version thereof) and an allowance for inter-island travel, double your budget again.
The Falkland Islands pound is on par with the UK pound sterling, which circulates alongside the local currency. Credit cards are becoming more widely used, but travelers' checks are readily accepted. Brits with guarantee cards can cash personal checks up to £50 at the Standard Chartered Bank in Stanley.
In reality, the Falkland Islands' capital is little more than a village that, by historical accident, acquired a political status totally out of proportion to its size. As many of its homes and businesses were pieced together from locally quarried stone and timber salvaged from shipwrecks, Stanley has a certain ramshackle charm, accentuated by its brightly painted houses, sprawling kitchen gardens and the smell of peat fires drifting on the breeze.
Probably the town's most photographed landmark, Government House has been the home of the islands' London-appointed governors since the mid-19th century. Just outside the building, there's a register of visitors that tradition insists you sign. Nearby, Christ Church Cathedral is a massive brick-and-stone construction with a colorfully painted metal roof and impressive stained-glass windows. It was completed in 1892 and now houses several plaques honoring the Falklands' war dead. On the small square next to the cathedral, look for the recently restored Whalebone Arch, commemorating the 1933 centenary of British rule in the Falklands. At the far western end of town, the Falkland Islands Museum is the local candle-burner for the islands' history.
Dating from the French foundation of the colony, Port Louis clocks in as the Falklands' oldest settlement and thus contains some of its oldest buildings. While the town's ivy-covered 19th-century farmhouse is still occupied by farmhands, the ruins of the French governor's house and Louis Vernet's settlement lie scattered nearby. Port Louis sits at the innermost point of Berkeley Sound, the easternmost inlet on East Falkland, about 35km (22mi) northwest of Stanley. It's best reached by car or a long day's walk.
East of Port Louis on Johnson's Harbour, Volunteer Beach provides a sheltered home for more than 150 breeding pairs of king penguins, the islands' largest colony. Several hours walk east of the beach, Volunteer Point hosts an offshore breeding colony of southern fur seals (bring binoculars); the return walk along Volunteer Lagoon provides glimpses of elephant seals. Excursions to the area can be arranged from Stanley, or you can contact the local landowner for permission to visit on your own.
<b>Sea Lion Island</b><center><img src=http://www.seabirds.org/falklands/menus/phot_e1.gif></center>
Off East Falkland's southern coast, tiny Sea Lion is less than a mile across, but it teems with wildlife. Among the common sightings are five species of penguin, enormous cormorant colonies, giant petrels and the foolishly tame Johnny Rook, or striated caracara. Hundreds of elephant seals crowd the sandy beaches, while sea lions pepper the narrow gravel beaches below the island's southern bluffs. Thanks to the progressive farming techniques of past owners, the flora and fauna of the island flourished right alongside the farm's sheep, and Sea Lion is now one of the only working Falkland farms with any substantial cover of native tussock grass. The island and its lodge are popular with visitors from Stanley and Mt Pleasant, so transportation is easy to arrange.
Nearly as large as East Falkland, West Falkland has only one proper road, but a series of rough dirt tracks makes getting around by 4WD a possibility. The island wasn't settled permanently until the late 1860s, and sparsely even then, but there are a number of small communities worth a visit and the individual farms are often welcoming to strangers. The real attractions of West Falkland, though, are wildlife watching and trekking through the interior. At the southwestern end of the island, Port Stephens' rugged headlands host thousands of rockhoppers and other seabirds, while Calm Head, a two-hour walk away, has excellent views of the jagged shoreline. An abandoned sealing station and huge colonies of gentoo penguins make the long cross-island trek to Albemarle worthwhile.
West Falkland is accessible from Stanley and Mt Pleasant via aircraft and private boat charters. Ask local farmers for permission to cross their properties.
<b>Off the Beaten Track</b>
Just north of mainland West Falkland, Saunders Island was the site of the first British garrison on the Falklands, built in 1765, and it was their ousting by the Spanish in 1767 that nearly caused a war between the two countries. After the British left voluntarily in 1774, the Spanish razed the settlement, and all that remains today are a few jetties, block-house foundations and the garden terraces of the British marines. Aside from the ruins, the island boasts large colonies of seabirds (including several types of penguin) and elephant seals.
Approximately 1280km (800mi) east-southeast of the Falklands, the ice-capped island of South Georgia pokes out of the Atlantic just enough to make the Falklands look positively cosmopolitan. More than half its sharp, glacier-strewn terrain lies under a year-round blanket of snow and ice, with only the coastal fringes sporting any vegetation - mainly patches of tussock grass, moss and lichen. The island's few hardy inhabitants consist of a small British military detachment at King Edward Point and a British Antarctic Survey research team stationed at the island's northwesternmost tip.
Captain James Cook made the first landing on South Georgia in January 1775. His descriptions of the island - and more specifically of its massive fur seal population - were published two years later, and the news set off a rush of blubber-bent sealers. By the 1830s, the fur seals had been all but exterminated and the hunters turned their attention to elephant seals, 'sea leopards' (probably Weddell seals) and later to the five species of whale that inhabit the local waters.
The first whaling station on South Georgia sprang up at Grytviken in 1904, employing up to 300 men during the industry's heyday. Over the years, some 175,000 whales were processed here, including a 33.5m (110ft) female blue whale, the largest animal ever recorded. Grytviken's operations continued until the early 1960s, when whaling finally proved unprofitable and the station was abandoned. Today, many of its buildings, including the whalers' church and the various rendering halls, are open to visitors. The South Georgia Whaling Museum, housed in the former manager's house, features exhibits detailing the social and working lives of the whalers and displays on the wildlife and history of the island. The station's cemetery is the final resting place of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.
Despite the slaughter of the past century, South Georgia's wildlife is once again varied and abundant. Fur seals are back in high numbers, and there are more than five million pairs of macaroni penguins and two huge king penguin colonies. Two thousand reindeer (introduced by the whaling companies) also roam the inland valleys.
<b>South Sandwich Islands</B>
The 11 islands of the South Sandwich group lie in a rough north-south arc about 1900km (1200mi) southeast of the Falkland Islands, 640km (400mi) beyond South Georgia. Though volcanic in origin (most are still active), the islands are 80% glacierized thanks to a cold ocean current originating in the Weddell Sea. The eight most southerly islands in the group were discovered by Captain Cook in 1775, while the northern three had to wait until 1819 for their fame to spread beyond the penguins. Though rich in wildlife, the islands still have no human inhabitants.
Sealers made the first landing in 1818, but it took more than 150 years before tourists first started coming to the islands. Today, most of the islands' visitors are drawn by a chance to see the five million pairs of chinstrap penguins that breed there - one of the largest penguin colonies in the world.
Wildlife watching is the Falkland Islands' main attraction. Though the islands' many birds and marine mammals are relatively tame, observers should keep a conscientious distance. Penguins are the most famous residents, with five species breeding regularly on the islands' beaches, headlands and estuaries. Also, look for large colonies of beautiful black-browed albatrosses, crested caracaras, cormorants, falcons, hawks and swans, as well as elephant seals, sea lions, dolphins and killer whales.
Trekking is a good option, though many landowners and the tourist board now discourage camping because of the fire danger and disturbance of stock and wildlife. The stretch from Seal Bay to Volunteer Point on the northern coast of East Falkland offers a magnificent mixture of broad sandy beaches and rugged headlands with penguins always in view. And if hiking the route is not your thing, you can always arrange horseback riding in Stanley.
Fishing for sea trout, mullet and smelt is another popular pastime, especially at the Murrell River, within walking distance of Stanley. There are many other suitable places in camp, as well as deep-sea fishing from launches across the islands. Fishing season runs from September through April, with March and April the best months for hooking trout.
Windsurfing is possible in sheltered waters such as Stanley Harbour, but only the truly adept can avoid being swept off to South Africa on the prevailing winds. Experienced scuba divers may enjoy exploring the islands' many shipwrecks. Wet suits are essential for any water sports aside from swimming in Stanley's public pool.
Although there's some evidence that Patagonian Indians reached the Falklands in rudimentary canoes, the islands were uninhabited when Europeans began to frequent the South Atlantic in the 17th century. A British expedition made the first documented landing in 1690, whereupon they claimed the islands for the crown and named the sound between the two main islands after a British naval officer, Viscount Falkland. The name was later applied to the whole island group.
No European power established a settlement on the islands until France landed a garrison at Port Louis on East Falkland in 1764. (A small community of fishermen from St Malo lent the islands their French name, Îles Malouines, from which the Spanish Islas Malvinas derives.) When Spain caught wind of the settlers' presence, they pressured the French government to remove the garrison by citing the papal Treaty of Tordesillas, which had divided the New World between Spain and Portugal. The French complied, and in 1767 the Spanish went on to oust a British settlement at West Falkland's Port Egmont too. (Under threat of war, Spain restored the settlement the following year; the British gave it up of their own accord in 1774, though they held tight to their territorial claims.) The Spanish erected a penal colony at Port Louis, only to abandon it in the early 18th century as the town's ranks swelled with maverick whalers and sealers.
In the late 1820s, nearly a decade after Buenos Aires declared its independence from Spain, a government-backed entrepreneur from Buenos Aires, Louis Vernet, moved to the Falklands and asserted himself as its governor. In 1831, his seizure of three American sealing ships triggered reprisals from a hot-headed US naval officer, whose retaliatory attack left Port Louis beyond restoration. Vernet scampered back to Buenos Aires, leaving a token Argentine force in Port Louis until 1833, when they were expelled by the returning British.
Under the Brits, the Falklands languished in isolation until the mid-19th century, when sheep ranching replaced cattle and wool became an important export commodity. The English-owned Falkland Islands Company swallowed most of the island's best land, and all remaining pastoral land was occupied by immigrant shepherds by the 1870s. With each succeeding generation, more and more landowners retreated to Britain and ran their businesses as absentees. The UK granted the islands colonial status in 1892.
In the 1970s, the local government began encouraging the sale and subdivision of large landholdings to slow high rates of emigration, and nearly every unit was snapped up by local family farmers. Other major changes to the economy came with the expansion of deep-sea fishing in the surrounding South Atlantic and with the Falklands War.
Since their departure in 1833, no Argentine government had given up claims of sovereignty over the Falklands. Though the British were slow to publicly acknowledge Argentina's seriousness, by the late 1960s, they began to view the distant islands as a politically burdensome anachronism to be discarded with all judicious speed. Britain's alliances with Argentina's military government - giving the latter a significant voice in issues of the Falklands' transportation, fuel supplies, shipping and immigration - began to worry the pro-British islanders. Argentina's brutal Dirty War in 1976 did little to alleviate their concerns.
The waiting period for an official handover proved too lengthy for Argentina's itchy-fingered military junta, and in April 1982 they invaded the Falklands and set up outposts in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The seizure briefly rallied Argentines behind their government, until Britain sent a naval task force to retake the islands. After 72 days and nearly 1000 casualties (three-quarters of whom were Argentine), the war ended with Argentina's surrender and its president's resignation. Following the war, most Falklanders wanted little to do with Argentina, preferring to emphasize their ties with Britain and build upon their relationship with Chile. Today, Argentine president Carlos Menem continues to publicly renounce the use of force to support his country's claim to the islands while also bragging that the Falklands will be Argentine any day now.
both the official language and the language of preference in the Falkland Islands, as the populace is almost universally of British descent. A handful of immigrants also hail from South America, mostly from Chile, and roughly 2000 British military personnel - locally known as 'squaddies' - reside in the Mt Pleasant airport complex. Because of the islands' isolation and small population, most Falklanders are skilled at doing everything they need to survive, supplementing seasonal work like peat cutting and sheep shearing with their own mechanical and agricultural projects.
Falklanders are also exceptionally hospitable, often welcoming visitors into their homes for a 'smoko,' the traditional midmorning tea or coffee break. This is especially common in 'camp' - the islanders' name for anyplace outside Stanley - where visitors of any kind can be infrequent. When visiting people in camp, it's customary to bring a small gift - rum is a favorite.
A highlight of island life is the annual summer sports meetings, bringing together the usually isolated islanders to share stories, meet new people and catch up with old friends. Visitors are welcome to join in the festivities, which include horse racing, bull riding and sheepdog trials. The meets take place in Stanley between Christmas and New Year's Day and on West Falkland usually toward the end of February. West Falkland's sports rotate yearly between settlements.
The Falklands comprise two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, plus over 200 smaller islets some 480km (300mi) east of Argentina. Combined, their area is about the same as that of Northern Ireland or the US state of Connecticut. Grassland and shrubs dominate the hilly-to-mountainous landscape, with peat bogs and 'runs' of quartzite boulders breaking up the terrain. There are no native trees. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, some 1280km (800mi) to 1900km (1200mi) to the east, were the Falklands' dependencies until 1985, when they were constituted as a separate colony of Britain. (They're still administered from Stanley by a civil commissioner who serves concurrently as governor of the Falklands.)
The islands' main draws are its assortment of relatively fearless birds and animals and the bushwalking necessary to see them. In terms of wildlife diversity, only the Everglades and the Galápagos Islands can compare. If you're coming from the northern hemisphere, chances are good that nearly every creature you see will be new to you, and even if you're not, you won't have seen them in such profusion. The five species of penguin that take up residence on the Falklands between October and March are probably the biggest attraction, but equally impressive are the massive elephant seals, sea lions and other marine mammals that breed on the islands' beaches.
<b>Getting There & Away</b>
Transportation to the Falkland Islands is strictly by air. There are biweekly civilian flights from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, England, and regular weekly flights from the airports of Santiago and Punta Arenas in Chile. Mount Pleasant International Airport is about 60km (35mi) west of Stanley.
<b>Getting Around</b><img src=http://www.tourism.org.fk/images/l-gettingabout-on.jpg>
Mount Pleasant International Airport and Stanley are connected by regular bus service, but transportation outside the two is sporadic and expensive. The only regular inter-island flights are courtesy of the Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS), which flies 10-seat puddlejumpers on demand to grass airstrips throughout the Falklands. The 14kg (30lb) baggage limit is strictly enforced.
Boats for day trips can be chartered in settlements throughout the islands. Rental cars are available in Stanley, and some camp lodges provide 4WDs with driver-guides for their guests. Visitors may use their home driver's licenses for up to 12 months. Driving is on the left.
Fritz and Olga Hoffmann's Sovereignty in Dispute: The Falklands-Malvinas, 1493-1982 provides an interesting, encyclopedic review of the islands' history, especially as it concerns the age-old British/Argentine dispute over sovereignty. Wayne S Smith's Toward Resolution? The Falklands/Malvinas Dispute is another voice in the matter.
The Battle for the Falklands is a cool assessment of the politics and strategy of the 1982 war by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins. If that doesn't quench your thirst for the nitty-gritty details, try One Hundred Days: Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander by Sandy Woodward and Patrick Robinson. (If you're still interested, there are dozens of other books written about the conflict. Choose a perspective and take your pick.)
Pierre Boulle (author of Planet of the Apes and Bridge Over the River Kwai) penned The Whale of the Victoria Cross, a novel about a British warship that mistakes a whale for a submarine during the Falklands War and then takes it as a mascot.
Novelist John Langley's Avenge the Belgrano paints the picture of a group of Anglo-Argentine terrorists plotting to destroy the British submarine Conqueror in retaliation for its sinking of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano during the war.
On a less pugnacious note, Wayne Lynch's Penguins of the World is that rare coffee-table book that's both interesting and informative as well as being full of pretty pictures.
2000 Lonely Planet Publications. All rights reserved.
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