The Falkland Islands are situated in the South Atlantic 480 km from the South American continent and 14’000 km from London.
The geographic situation of the isles makes them an ideal base for the exploration of the Antarctic, 1’200 km away.
The two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland are surrounded by 700 islet and rocks amounting to a total surface area of 12’173 km2 which is about the same as that of Northern Ireland. The isles cover a region of 257 km in length (East-West) by 136 km in width (North-South).
The coasts are extremely indented and provide numerous anchoring places for boats. Sheltered creeks, long beaches of white sand and steep cliffs offer visitors very varied panoramas.
The land is basically made up of meadows and moors. Numerous streams, ponds and lakes, most of which are not very deep, give life to a dry and rather forbidding countryside.
Topographically speaking, the isles are generally cut by valleys with the highest point being Mount Usborne, at 705 metres, on the eastern isle and Mount Adam at 700 metres height, on the western isle. The slopes are often covered with fields of stones probably due to the collapsing of mountain summits, thousands of years ago. The presence of strange stone rivers in certain parts is still today a mystery.
The main places of interest are (see map):
-Stanley (East Falkland):
The capital of the Falklands resembles a small English village (about 2’000 inhabitants) but possesses a Governor's house, a cathedral and a large range of commodities and services. The houses are built on a slope above the port. Formerly, in the times of sailing ships, Stanley was an extremely busy port. A stopping-place where they took on fresh supplies but also a terminus for boats in a deplorable state, which had just failed to get round Cape Horn, after having struggled for weeks. As a witness to this time, the Maritime History Trail has been created around Stanley bay and it is an occasion to discover one of the finest collections of wrecks in the world!
-Around Stanley (see map):
Cape Pembroke and its historic lighthouse.
Several battlefields of the 1982 conflict, Wireless Ridge, Mt.Tumbledown, Mt.Longdon, Mt.Harriet, Two Sisters.
Gypsy Cove and its magellanic penguin reserve.
-Darwin / Goose Green (East Falkland):
1982 war monuments, memorials and Argentinian cemeteries.
Bodie Creek Bridge, the most southerly suspension bridge in the world.
-Port San Carlos / San Carlos (East Falklands):
Small farm colonies which were in the headlines of newspapers all over the world during the 1982 conflict, as being the place where the English forces landed but which are now better known for trout fishing in the San Carlos River.
-Volunteer Point (East Falkland):
This place, difficult to gain access to, offers the biggest colony of King penguins in the Falklands and perhaps also the biggest colony... of tourists (apart from Stanley)!
-Port Howard (West Falkland):
The biggest settlement on the isle (about 40 inhabitants) which houses a large quantity of livestock: 42’000 sheep and 800 head of cattle.
The Warrah River just near, is one of the best places for trout fishing.
-Fox Bay (West Falkland):
The only woollen mill in the Falklands may be found here, it produces woollen clothes. The wool being generally sent in its raw state to England to be washed, spun, dyed and shaped.
The most southerly inhabited island which has 7 residents. This small island, 8 km long by 2,4 km wide, boasts a spectacular range of wildlife: elephant seals, sea lions and more than 40 different species of bird including the gentoo penguins, magellanic penguins as well as rockhopper penguins. Leopard seals, killerwhales and whales may be occasionally seen.
This island, about 38 km long, is situated to the north of West Falkland. Its landscapes are very attractive, the Western mountains contrasting with the Eastern plains. Beaches of white sand, ponds, marshes, tussock plantations, moors and cliffs offer refuge and protection to a great variety of birds and mammals such as penguins and sea lions.
-Saunders Island, New Island, Carcass Island...
and many other faraway little isles offer surprising sceneries and abundant wildlife such as albatross colonies or... lamas (Guanaco)!
Text: © M.Chabod / F. Bettex • Photos: © Fabrice Bettex / Mysterra