More British Than Britain?
The remote Falkland Islands are located about 300 miles off the tip of South America and is considered a self-governing British Territory even though Argentina does not agree with this. The Falkland Islands has been under British rule since 1833.
To visit the Falklands, the two major ways to do this is either by air from London England twice a week or by a cruise ship. Our visit was by the cruise ship Celebrity Infinity, thus this article will be about that experience.
Most of the major cruise ship companies do include The Falkland Islands at some time, however the port in Stanley is too small to handle the large ships, thus the ship must drop anchor in the harbour and visitors travel by tenders (life boats) to shore.
The population of Stanley, the capital, is only 2,200 and the entire country is only 3,000. Thus when a large cruise ship comes in, the population nearly doubles!
The weather is interesting, as it normally is windy but not too cold or hot. The temperature ranges from about -5C (20's F) to about 20 C (high 60's to low 70's). When we were there in February (their summer) the temperature was about 10 C (50 F) so you need a jacket.
Your first impression when you visit The Falkland Islands is that it appears so British, in fact it almost appears more British than England itself! Every one has a British accent, they drive on the left side of the road, they use either the British pound or the Falkland Island pound currency (interchangeable) and at the only post office in Stanley there are two British telephone booths in front which still work!
In Stanley the Christ Church Cathedral is the most southern Anglican Church in the world. It is quite noticeable with its whalebone arch beside the church. Whaling used to be a large industry in the area a century ago but now it is mostly banned.
There are no traffic lights and no fast food restaurants in Stanley or the Falklands. Everyone is so polite and friendly. At the local pubs you can get British pub food and drinks, just like in England!
Sheep farming and fishing are big, however tourism is growing and any visit to The Falkland Islands must include a trip to one of the many penguin colonies located on the islands.
An interesting fact about the Falkland Islands is that there were no trees on the islands when explorers first reached them centuries ago due to the strong prevailing winds. Trees were introduced by settlers and in Stanley now there are many trees especially around the homes and buildings. However if you look in the countryside, you will not see any trees!
We visited the Bluff Cove Penguin Colony and to reach it, as with most of the penguin colonies, you have to travel in 4 x 4's across the peat bogs. We were fortunate as we took the morning shore excursion and by the afternoon, the bogs were too boggy and some trips had to be cancelled. The 4 x 4's always travel in conveys of 2 to 4 vehilces as getting stuck in the mud is common, thus one of the others will have to pull them out.
At the Bluff Cove Penguin Colony, we were treated to thousands of Gentoo Penguins in their molting stage and it almost looked like snow with so many feathers on the ground! With so many penguins around, you do have to watch out for penguin droppings as they get stuck in your shoes.
We also saw a few King Penguins hatching their eggs whereas the Gentoo Penguin eggs had already hatched and the young Gentoos were already growing rapidly.
At Bluff Cove, the owners have constructed a small musuem and a cafe called the Sea Cabbage Cafe, after the many sea cabbages in the area. You are offered tea (or coffee) and sweats which was a delight as there is nothing else around. Congratulations to Bluff Cove as they won the Seatrade Insider Cruise Award in 2009 for the best shore excursion as per this link: http://www.falklandpenguins.com/award_seatrade2009.asp
On the way back we could see men behind barbed wire locating and deactivating the land mines that had been planted by Argentina during the 1982 war. At the end of each day, the land mines that have been found are gathered togther and blown up and you can hear it and see the black cloud from the explosion. After seeing this, I agree that land mines should be banned completely as we were told that it would be many decades, if ever, before the tens of thousands land mines can be cleaned up!
The only negative thing that we could say about our visit is that it was too short! We wished that we had more time to explore the entire city, but our ship was leaving after a full day in the harbour. Its next destination was Antarctica and we did not want to miss that!
If you would like to see more photos which I took in the Falkland Islands, here is a link to my photos on Panoramio: http://www.panoramio.com/user/5399338/tags/Falkland%20Islands