Photo courtesy of Chris, Quark passenger.
Early in the Antarctic travel season each year, passengers aboard the Quark Expeditions Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica expedition spend two days each in the Falklands (Islas Malvinas) and on beautiful, remote South Georgia.
Teeming with wildlife, the Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic consisting of two main islands – East and West – and over 750 smaller islands. Travelers have an opportunity to explore both main islands as we make daily landings and explore the area in Zodiacs.
The Falkland Islands are a Wildlife Watcher & Birder's Paradise
Birders and photographers find themselves in paradise here; some of the world's rarest and most captivating birds make their home in the Falklands alongside majestic King, inquisitive Rockhopper, cuddly Gentoo and fascinating Magellanic penguins.
This is one of the greatest places on earth to get up close and personal with a variety of penguins, which are incredibly active early in the season when we visit. With an estimated 800 miles of coastline and fourteen species of marine mammals, the Falklands are an explorer's nirvana.
Port Stanley, the capital of the islands, is a popular stop-off with a rich history and a population of just over 2,000 residents. Several shipwrecks lie in the harbour and the town is home to the Falkland Islands Museum, several shops and Government House, home of the archipelago's Governor.
You'll have time to wander and explore Port Stanley. Be sure to chat with a few of the locals! If you're lucky, you'll catch a farmer in town visiting or stocking up on supplies. Warm, friendly people, the agricultural community in the Falklands typically open their farms for viewing and even allow visitors to participate in farm life firsthand. Sheep farms dot the countryside and some farmers still milk their cattle by hand.
The immediate reaction to landing in the Falklands for the first time is one of overwhelming wonder and awe at the spectacular scenery. Once you've recovered, you'll fall in love with its history, culture and idyllic lifestyle.
South Georgia a Destination for Explorers, Yesterday and Today
Continuing on, your next stop is South Georgia, one of a collection of islands deep in the South Atlantic Ocean. Incredibly remote and barren, it's surrounded by smaller islands and islets just off the coast.
Once an important destination for seal and whale hunters, South Georgia is home to the historic Grytviken Church (The Whaler's Church) and is the final resting place of famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
The vast expanse of mountainous terrain here remains among the most pristine and untouched on the planet, thanks in large part to the island's lack of an airstrip. Accessible only by boat, South Georgia is a destination few will ever have the opportunity to visit in their lifetime.
Massive colonies of penguins inhabit the island, alongside petrels, prions, gulls, terns, shags and skuas. Birdlife International has designated South Georgia an Important Bird Area, recognized internationally as a crucial habitat for the conservation of bird populations. Visiting the beaches of South Georgia will open your eyes to the importance of each and every natural element on the island, from the grasses to the mountains, with an incredible number of species dependent on the ecosystem here for their survival.
The wonder doesn't end when the sun sets. A clear night in South Georgia will leave you dizzy at the incredible display above; some have likened star-gazing in the area to being in a planetarium, as illustrated above in this spectacular photo from Quark doctor Sam Crimmin. Light and air pollution don't exist here, where you can view even low magnitude stars with the naked eye. Look for Orion, the hunter, and Sirius, the brightest star in the Southern Hemisphere summer sky.
The Falkland Islands and South Georgia stops are an excellent South Atlantic prelude to the majesty of the Antarctic. Call one of our polar experts at (888) 979-3622 (or +1-802-490-1645 outside of North America) to learn more about the adventure options and natural attractions these areas have to offer!