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Falkland Islands (UK)

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World Region: South America

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      27.04.2010 18:37
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      Takes quite a bit of effort to get here but definately worth it

      Not many people have been to the Falklands (including the only other reviewer on here) even though almost everyone in the UK has heard of the place due to the Falklands conflict. It is a truly incredible place, and I urge you to read on a learn a little more about this incredible place.

      There are three main reasons why people go to the Falklands. Firstly, and the main reason is that they go as part of the British military presence. Secondly, they visit as a tourist to see the incredible wildlife, most of these visitors are on cruise ships that also visit South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Lastly, people go there to work, whilst the Falkland Islands try to employ as many locals as possible there are of course certain jobs where locals don't have the necessary qualifications or skills, so outsiders fill these jobs, usually on 2 year contracts.

      I was lucky enough to visit as a residential volunteer for Falklands Conservation for nearly 4 months over their summer 09/10, and help this organisation with the valuable work they do around the islands. This has given me a varied look at the many different islands in the Falklands, living on settlements, living in Stanley, meeting the locals and the wildlife too.

      Note: 'Camp' in the Falklands is short for 'Campos' and basically means countryside, bush, outback, anything outside of Stanley. Camp driving is off-road 4x4 driving.

      ++++ Getting there ++++

      From the UK there are two main options, either way you will need your passport:
      Fly from Brize Norton on the military flight, this goes twice a week to Ascension in the middle of the Atlantic for re-fuelling, and then on to the Falklands, the journey is long leaving late at night and arriving the following afternoon. On the return you leave early in the morning, and arrive back at Brize early the next day. The aircraft is a Boeing 737 or similar and is contracted from a commercial airline so come with pleasant staff, TV's, films, the usual. If the plane isn't full after take off you can move around and probably find 2 or even 3 seats to spread out and sleep on. The food is good, and there is plenty of it, nice toasted panini's, cooked breakfast etc. again if the plane isn't full they will have too much food so you can have seconds usually! On the Ascension stop you stay in what is called 'the cage' a fenced compound with a small refreshments café so that you don't wander off on the island, this usually takes ! Baggage limits are good, and if like me you are going to work, or are a resident then you can take 54kg of luggage (£1350), or 27kg for a regular tourist passenger. There are a limited number of civilian seats, and if you're not working in the Falklands, a resident, or going for military reasons the tickets are rather expensive, around £1975 return. You also have to book well in advance to make sure you get a seat, especially at the start/end of school holidays. Going this way you can also take a holiday on Ascension, which is well worth it if you are making all the effort and cost of flying this way. I will be reviewing Ascension too, so have a look at that if you are interested. 'Residents rate' which workers also get makes this journey comparable to the LAN Chile flight. Visit the Brize Norton website for current prices as they regularly change, also check what documents you need, and also documents for whoever is going to drop you off at Brize.

      The other option is on a LAN Chile flight. For this you have to first fly to South America, and stay over night, then take the connecting flight that takes you on to the Falklands. Going this way it makes sense to spend some time in South America to get the best value from your flight. This is the cheapest way for a tourist to get to the Falklands, although you do get a rather restrictive baggage allowance of only around 24kg or something like that. Bad news for me as my photography gear weighs nearly 20kg! I don't know much else about this flight as I didn't do it, but by all accounts it is perfectly good and many people take this route. This flight is also used by the cruise ship companies for transfers so at times it can be very busy, so again, book well in advance.

      Both of these flights fly into Mount Pleasant airport, the military base. To get to Stanley you can either go by bus which requires booking, be picked up by friends, or get a taxi which is the most expensive option.

      ++++ Accommodation ++++

      There are B&B's in Port Stanley, the Malvinas Hotel, and even a Motel! While getting somewhere to stay shouldn't be too hard it's worth thinking ahead due to the limited number of places, this may be more of an issue now with the number of oil exploration workers in the Islands. If you are exploring the islands there are plenty of houses available at the different settlements around the islands, these are generally well equipped and comfortable and most of the owners at the settlements will even pick you up from the local air strip if you arrange in advance and are nice to them. For more rustic accommodation there are 'Camp Houses' on some farms. Usually camp houses are fairly basic but comfortable, some require off-road driving to reach them, and generally they have a peat stove, peat open fire, a generator for electricity, and water from a tank which has to be pumped into it from a well. Some are easy to get to, and are well worth staying in for the real Falklands experience, those that are more 'out of the way' are best left to those who have friends or family in the Falklands as you can't take hire vehicles off-road. A lot of tourists will go and visit one or more of the smaller outlying islands, these have various grades of accommodation, and some allow camping too. Two of the most popular are Sea Lion Island and Carcass Island which are both full-board only, and during high season cost £88-£145 this might seem high, but they are incredible islands and well worth visiting as they have no rats and an abundance of spectacular wildlife and scenery.

      ++++ Port Stanley ++++

      The only town in the Falkland Islands, this is home to the majority of the population, and also where most of the Islands' facilities are based. There are two supermarkets, lots of tourist shops, hardware stores, bars, a few café's, a museum, the famous Cathedral with its whale bone arch, a leisure centre, a power station, school, radio station, bank, fuel station..... There are also tour guides who can do trips to see the local wildlife, tours of conflict battle sites etc. There is also an airport which flies to the outlying airstrips at other settlements and private islands. There are plenty of opportunities to go walking around Stanley to beaches, and into the hills too.

      Shopping: Prices are quite expensive, most things have been flown or shipped into the islands. An imported Iceberg lettuce costs £4.98, a Banana 87p.... Meat however is very cheap, Mutton is the main staple meat, it is really only called mutton because it's over 12 months old, this is due to the poor grazing so it takes longer for the lambs to grow. It is very tasty, we would get a whole Mutton carcass for less than £20, in the UK this would currently be about £100+. Beef is also cheap, a tray of mince being about £2-£3 which would easily feed 4 people.

      ++++ Getting around ++++

      Stanley is a small town, and you can get around on foot, or use a taxi which in town is only £3 per trip, £5 to Stanley airport. To get further afield there is a road network, these roads are loose stone, and the speed limit is 40mph, 4x4 vehicles can be hired but are limited in supply, also you are not allowed to take them off-road. Most visitors use FIGAS the government air service to get to remote settlements and the outlying islands. These flights are around £60+ depending on the specific destination. If you are staying for a while or have friends in the Falklands you will probably get to experience camp driving, this is quite serious off-road driving, and needs to be approached with care, but it is also great fun and allows you to get to some incredible out of the way places. Working for Falklands Conservation I regularly had to go off-road in one of their Land Rover Defenders, travelling as a pair to pull each other out of boggy holes.

      ++++ Wildlife ++++

      The wildlife in the Falklands is quite incredible, and is the main attraction for the vast majority of tourists.

      Everyone loves penguins, and this is one thing the Falklands aren't short of! King Penguins, Magellanic Penguins, Rockhopper Penguins, Macaroni Penguins, Gentoo Penguins all breed on these islands at a number of different colonies. The best way to see them is to visit an island with a penguin colony; alternatively there are trips from Stanley with tour guides who can take you out to Gypsy Cove or to see the Kings at Volunteer Point.

      There are also a variety of other birds too, Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Falkland Steamer Ducks, Tussacbirds, Caracaras and a particular speciality the Cobb's Wren. The best place to see lots of birds is on islands that are free of Rats, rats decimate the songbird populations, there are current efforts to try and eradicate rats from a number of small islands. Sea Lion, Carcass, George, Lively & Speedwell Islands are all inhabited islands that have no rats. Take care when there are Striated Caracara about, they have the nickname Johnny Rook, and are very mischievous, if you put anything down even for a second they will try and steal it, especially if it's nice and shiny, like a camera, they also try and steal the hat off your head!

      Other native wildlife includes Elephant Seals, Sea Lions and occasional Fur Seals. These can be found at numerous beaches around the islands. One word of warning, Sea Lions like to rest in amongst tussac grass, so keep your eyes open if you are walking through it, they are usually as shocked to see you as you are of them and they will flee towards the sea so try not to be downhill of them, they can move surprisingly fast!

      ++++ Countryside ++++

      Outside of Stanley there is a vast expanse of moorland. This can be bleak at times, and can certainly be hostile when there is a gale blowing hail and sleet horizontally. However it can be equally beautiful when the sun comes out, the birds sing, and the native flowers bloom. There is no difficulty in getting away from people, the islands population is less than 2500, and 2000 live in Stanley, not much for a country the size of Wales. The hills are generally rocky topped, and there are famous stone runs which flow down the hills like rivers of stone. Everywhere else is covered by Diddle-dee, (similar to Heather), and Whitegrass, with Tussac grass on coastal fringes and islands especially. There is a wide variety of native flora, although much of this is at risk from over grazing and non-native invasive plants. There are a lot of sheep, producing excellent quality wool, although stocking levels are currently being reduced significantly.

      ++++ Phones and Internet ++++

      Cable and Wireless do have mobile phone sim cards for sale, which you can use to send and receive texts and make calls with when you are in Stanley. Mobiles rarely work in camp. This is only worthwhile if you are going to be staying for a long period. There is also wireless internet available at a number of locations, this is expensive due to the costs imposed by Cable and Wireless, the connection speed is acceptable.

      ++++ Other information ++++

      Falkland Islanders are proud of where they live, their heritage and their history. They, like most people don't like being told what they should and shouldn't do, and who they should or shouldn't be governed by. They have their own government and elections and are distinctly separate from the UK whilst at the same time being a Crown dependency of the UK. If you go to the pub and start mouthing off at the Islanders don't be surprised if you're asked to pick a window to leave through. Respect the people who live in this wonderful place and they will treat you warmly like a good friend.

      **Mines** When Argentina invaded they set out lots of minefields, these are clearly marked and fenced off with obvious signs. It is a criminal offence as well as very stupid to go in these or tamper with the safety signs etc so stay well clear. Some minefields are on or near beaches, so if you find anything suspicious on the beach phone the police. There are currently efforts being made to de-mine areas.

      If you ever get the chance to go to the Falklands, then go for it! It may be quite expensive, but it will be the trip of a lifetime, and of course, everyone loves Penguins!!

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      • More +
        24.05.2001 17:49
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        Malvinas for Argentina. Falklands for the British, and well, so we are talking about Falklands for the world. There's nothing there, a bunch of doggy people and sheeps, sheeps, and sheeps. Now because of teh British-Argentinian politic relations, its able to take a plane or a ship to get to the Islands from Argentina. But both kind of trips are not recomendable because it not a touristic place so prices are really high, the same happen with the accomadation. Maybe this is an opinion from someone that try it but never did it. But because of the inormation that i collected from argentinians, and english people from the navy, stay in Argentina mainland, Patagonia is beatiful and they have pinguins too!

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      • Product Details

        "The Falkland Islands are a dependency of the United Kingdom located in the south Atlantic Ocean. Cool, strong winds sweep the Falklands year-round, restricting the growth of trees. Stanley is the capital city. The islands are a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, but have been the subject of a claim to sovereignty by Argentina since the British invasion of 1833. In pursuit of this claim in 1982, the islands were invaded by Argentina, precipitating the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom, which resulted in the defeat and withdrawal of Argentine forces. Since the war there has been strong economic growth in both fisheries and tourism. The inhabitants of the islands are British citizens (since a 1983 Act) and under Argentine Law are eligible for Argentine citizenship, and are colloquially known as "Kelpers". Many can trace their origins in the Islands back to early nineteenth century Scottish immigration. The island's residents reject the Argentine sovereignty claim."