Thursday, January 26, 2023
The most popular penguin tour in the Falkland Islands is the 7 to 8 hour one that goes to see a large King penguin colony. I know HAL does that tour and I know of at least one independent tour operator that does the tour. I thought about signing up for this tour but the description said there would be a long time on rough road and I didn’t think my back could take it.
Instead I signed us up for HAL’s tour “Bluff Cove Penguin Rookery.” The tour description states
About the Excursion – 3 hours
King and Gentoo penguins and other bird species of the Falklands are the stars of this award-winning scenic, off-road excursion to Bluff Cove Lagoon — a privately owned wildlife haven.
Meet the Bluff Cove team on the pier and head out by minibus for a 20-minute journey through Stanley and across the rolling hills to Bluff Cove Farm. Transfer to a Land Rover 4×4 and relax as your skillful driver navigates the rugged off-road terrain for another 20 minutes.
Upon your arrival at the Bluff Cove Lagoon penguin rookery, knowledgeable and friendly rangers will brief you about what to expect and what to look for. Stroll through the penguin colony, which features a scenic backdrop of a large lagoon and a white, sandy beach that is occasionally patrolled by sea lions from the nearby island. This pristine reserve is home to more than 1,000 breeding pairs of gentoo penguins, which protect the growing colony of king penguins and their chicks. Magellanic penguins, which burrow on the nearby island, can also be found on the beach. Bird species that frequent or nest in the area include skuas, upland geese, ruddy-headed geese, Magellanic oystercatchers, South American terns, dolphin gulls, flightless Falkland steamer ducks, snowy sheathbills and southern giant petrels.
Warm up with a cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate served at the legendary Sea Cabbage Café on the beach and enjoy delicious home-baked treats including scones with diddle-dee jam and fresh cream (gluten-free options available). Bask in the warmth and aroma of the peat stove while the enjoying splendid vistas of waves crashing on the sandy beach and penguins porpoising in.
The Bluff Cove Museum & Shop, also by the beach, depicts life in the Falklands and tells the story of Bluff Cove. Learn about the farm, the nearby 1863 ‘sugar wreck’, the 1982 war with Argentina and the fabulous lagoon wildlife.
You will have an hour of free time to take photographs, stroll along the beach and look around the museum. A small gift shop sells unique Bluff Cove souvenirs, including Bluff Cove tweed items made with the farm wool, and postcards that can be stamped and mailed from here. Look for samples of knitted, crocheted and felted local wool work displayed on the walls of the café and museum.
After an unforgettable visit, your Land Rover 4×4 driver will take you back to the minibus for the return journey to Stanley. Make the most of an opportunity to see the new Stanley Museum at the historic dockyard.
Notes: US dollars are accepted at the museum gift/souvenir shop. Modern restrooms are available at the café and museum. Tour involves traveling over rugged terrain in a Land Rover 4×4, and is not suitable for guests with back and/or neck problems. The 300-yard walk to the beach is mostly flat and there are courtesy vehicles ready to drive guests with mobility limitations. Assistance is available for guests using a wheelchair. Wear comfortable walking shoes and warm layered clothing with a windbreaker. Bring sunscreen.
A few minutes after 11:00, three vans showed up to pick us up. June was our driver. She has lived on the Falklands for 40 years. On the thirty-minute drive to the rookery, she talked about the 1982 War with Argentina, the current government, and the education system.
The van seating was tight and the aisle was very narrow to get to the seats. I was glad that the ride wasn’t too long. When we arrived at the rookery, we did not change vehicles. The van just bumped along the dirt road until we reached the penguins.
We were met at the site by the park ranger (they called them wardens). He told us to remain outside the white flags. If the penguins walked outside the flagged area, give them 6 feet of space. Don’t touch them. Don’t feed them.
There were so many penguins – King and Gentoo. I never did see any Magellanic penguins.
There were other birds around also.
Skua – the penguins will put up a fuss when skua fly low if there are eggs or small chicks. Since the chicks are bigger now, the penguins were not as threatened (said the warden).
There was a skua flying overhead and one sitting on a bench. When the flying skua landed, the other skua jumped on him. It was a brief scuffle. One flew away and the other went to the bench. Penguins just kept going about their business.
A buzzard was also flying around but the penguins paid no attention to him. The geese just stayed in the field away from all the penguin commotion.
Before we made the walk to the cafe, we took one last look at a penguin high-stepping his way across the water.