This week I’m taking you on a special detour to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island. As a voyage to these magnificent islands begins, the vibe on board is one of uncontainable excitement, and rightfully so. Whether it’s your first Antarctic cruise or your tenth, every time you visit these exotic islands it’s a unique experience that will change your world. The wildlife is even more in-your-face than in Antarctica, and the weather can be more of a challenge at times, which makes the experience of exploring the islands that much more rewarding.
Descending Upon The Falklands
Any keen birder will be overwhelmed with delight at every stop, and anyone who didn’t consider themselves a birder can’t help but become one. The birds may not fly, but penguins are just as much a bird as the black-browed albatross that you will find at your first stop at West Point Island in the Falklands.
This albatross is a majestic bird with a 6ft (2m) wingspan that allows it to glide effortlessly just a few feet above your head. You become a master multitasker as you simultaneously watch underfoot so that you don’t accidently walk too far in the tussock grass and find yourself in the middle of a rockhopper penguin colony. You will be within feet of nesting birds that are roughly the size of a large lamb with wings.
If you weren’t curious about the nature of birds before that sight, maybe the sight of 60,000 nesting pairs of king penguins at Salisbury Plain will change your mind. 60,000 is a conservative guess, and keep in mind that it’s pairs. 120,000 adults, add on 60,000 chicks, and another 30,000 non-breeding teenagers and you’ve got yourself a penguin population that’s twice the human population of Boulder, Colorado (home of the Nat Hab headquarters)!
On to South Georgia Island
Landing in South Georgia is like landing at a movie set with comedic animals as the stars who all crave the viewer’s attention. It’s impossible to decide which is the most peculiar animal to watch—the fur seal pups, born with a comical cheeky aggression that they try to assert at any possibility, the king penguins waddling away in their own little world, or the big, brown king penguin chicks who are completely oblivious to everything and anything (much like a young human teenager!).
If you want a bit more action you can track the Skuas and Giant Petrels as they fly over the colony in search of prey, or watch as the male fur seals assert their dominance as they fend off other males from entering their territory. And if that’s not enough, find a wallow of elephant seals and revel in their fantastic flatulence and bizarre burps that seem to be ever present.
If all of that wasn’t quite enough, the skillfully sculpted icebergs waiting for you in Antarctica will officially open your eyes to a hidden world at the end of the earth.
Here’s to finding adventure in the poles and beyond,
Check out more of Nate’s photography of the polar regions in his online gallery: http://natesmallphotography.com/about.html.
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