To many seafarers the Falklands are best remembered from a time when Merchant Ships and their crews came to their rescue but now more than twenty five years later a visit to the islands in Darwin’s anniversary year is one of the ultimate wildlife viewing destinations.
Those looking to follow in the footsteps of famous naturalist Charles Darwin in this anniversary year should look no further than the Falkland Islands. 2009 celebrates all things Darwin – 200 years since the birth of one of the most influential scientists and researchers, 150 years since the publication of his famous book ‘The Origin of Species’, plus the release of Creation – a new movie based on Darwin’s fascinating life, starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly.
Often on people’s travel wish list, there’s no better time to visit and explore the Falklands than in this commemorative year. Darwin has long been associated with the Galapagos but his time on the Falklands is less well known, despite it hosting some of the best natural history and variety of wildlife which Darwin was so fond of reporting on. In fact, Darwin spent exactly twice as long in the Falklands as he did in the Galapagos, during his two visits (1833 and 1834) on board the HMS Beagle.
For the ideal ‘Darwin inspired’ adventure, begin a visit in the settlement of Darwin on East Falkland. Named after the naturalist, this is where Darwin spent much of his time while in the Falklands and its waterfront setting makes it the ideal location for watching wildlife such as night herons, ruddy-headed and upland geese, and blackish oystercatchers.
Be sure to catch the special commemorative Darwin exhibition at the Museum in Stanley, a one and a half hour drive from Darwin, before heading outside the settlements to do some exploring of your own. With over 770 islands in the archipelago, there’s no shortage of unspoilt wilderness! The wildlife viewing experience is unsurpassed, with abundant marine and birdlife; elephants seals, sea lions, rare birds of prey, black browed albatross and five different breeds of around 770,000 penguins live on the islands, to name but a few.
For adventure seekers, the rolling countryside or camp (surrounding the capital Stanley) offers horseriding, fishing and fabulous walking. Darwin spent some of his time with the gauchos, and a camp visit is a must for anyone wanting to experience the ‘real Falklands’, from working sheep farms to spectacular beaches crowded with elephant seals. The islands are a nature lover’s haven and it’s an off-the-beaten-track destination, which welcomes visitors back time again with its unspoilt, raw quality and idyllic charm.
The best time to visit the islands October to April when the average summer temperature (December to March) is 15º Celsius (59º Fahrenheit) and the islands have more sunshine hours than the UK. There are over 40 international tour operators offering tailor-made packages and escorted tours and visitors can fly there weekly using a LAN flight from Chile or the charter flight operated from RAF Brize Norton in the UK by the Ministry of Defence twice weekly.
Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - November 2009 Issue