For visitors to southernmost Patagonia, travel to the Falkland Islands makes for an intriguing detour, but an inflexible one. There is only one weekly flight, on Saturday, from the Chilean city of Punta Arenas to the Mount Pleasant International Airport (MPN). Likewise, travel within the islands requires, for the most part, using air taxis whose itineraries depend on demand rather than fixed schedules. For a visit this short, and with limited accommodations, advance arrangements are nearly essential. Depending on availability, other sites could be substituted for those mentioned.
Most visitors enjoy the islands between October and March, when migratory seabirds and marine mammals return to the shoreline to breed. The concentrations of penguins, cormorants, albatrosses, elephant seals, and other species are greatest in December and January, when chicks and pups are present; these are also the longest days of summer, with more flexibility for wildlife-watching. That said, signature bird species such as the king penguin are present year-round.
Arrive at Mount Pleasant and make an immediate FIGAS flight connection to Pebble Island, West Falkland. Overnight at Pebble Island Lodge, with a visit to 1982 combat sites and nearby seabird and marine mammal colonies. Alternatively, fly to Saunders Island, with self-catering accommodations; visit 18th-century ruins of the earliest British settlement and the bird-rich shoreline.
Enjoy a full-day exploration of Pebble Island wildlife sites, with gentoo and rockhopper penguins, the occasional king penguin, and sea lions. Alternatively, on Saunders, take a long but rewarding hike to diverse penguin and black-browed albatross colonies at “The Neck” or to similar wildlife at “The Rookery.”
Catch a FIGAS flight to Carcass Island, West Falkland, with elephant seal colonies and many birds, including an abundance of the striated caracara, a rare but remarkably tame raptor. Stay at Carcass Island ranch.
Take FIGAS to Sea Lion Island, East Falkland, home to three penguin species, large elephant seal and sea lion colonies, giant petrels, uncommon small birds, and large stands of native tussac grass, more than two meters high. Stay at Sea Lion Lodge.
Alternatively, visit Bleaker Island, which has most of the same wildlife as Sea Lion, with less expensive but still comfortable accommodations.
Do morning sightseeing on Sea Lion or Bleaker, with an afternoon FIGAS flight to Stanley. Find hotel or B&B accommodations in town.
Take a full-day overland excursion to Volunteer Point to visit the king penguin colony, also with gentoos and Magellanics, returning to Stanley in the afternoon. Do a Friday-night pub crawl, if desired.
Morning is free for sightseeing in Stanley, with an early-afternoon departure for Punta Arenas.
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