For our last few landings we would visit various landing points for Falkland Islands hiking, and we arrived at Carcass Island around 730AM on February 22, 2022. After breakfast, we disembarked around 945AM.
This Falkland Islands hiking route was a 6 mile roundtrip walk over meandering hills, and was clearly marked, as it showed signs of a route that the farmer on the island used as well – there were well worn grooves for a tractor or truck. On the dock at Carcass Island, we got our first glimpse of the Striated Caracara also known as a Johnny rook, which is a very inquisitive bird that was already very interested in our gear.
Up the path a few more were chowing down on a penguin carcass, which was fitting for the island (although Carcass Island was actually named after a ship). We walked through the farmer’s land, and then out to the shrub covered main island, with the winds blowing and a few Upland geese fighting against it to take flight. Despite the wind, it was a warm 50+ degree day, so we quickly stripped our life vests and jackets off. I hiked up my pants as best I could as well. Even with the wind aiding us, by the end of the hike we had sweat in our crooks and nooks, crannies and fannies.
A little more than halfway on our Falkland Islands hiking route we observed some more tussock grass that was taller and more mature than any we had seen in South Georgia. A few more hills and we came to our destination, a sandy beach that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Caribbean, all we needed now were some margaritas and tiny umbrellas to go in them (which would have immediately blown away as the wind had not abated). It was nestled next to a penguin colony mixed with Gentoos and Magellanic (also known as jackass penguins because of the sound they make) penguins. This was our first chance to see the Magellanics, and we really liked their coloring and patterns.
Closer up on the beach we also had the chance to see one of the endemic bird species to the Falklands, the Falkland Steamer Duck also known as a logger duck. It is a flightless duck species, and it was cute to see them waddling around, and using their wings to get some speed to come out of the water, and even to move on land, but never to take off.
We then turned around and headed back, with the wind now in our faces it was slow going heading back, and not nearly as much fun. As we were walking by the farmstead the owner passed by, and we thanked him for allowing us access to explore his island. He said he was happy to have us, that he liked all of the international visitors, and that we were only the 6th ship this year. In 2021 and 2020 there were no ships, but they have been up to 22 in 2019, so the pandemic had hit them hard, but we weren’t sure how much an impact that had on their day to day or viability as a farm. Allowing visitors to partake in some Falkland Islands hiking was seemingly a secondary source of income, but profitable nonetheless. When we got back to the ship our faces were heavily covered in sand and grit.
Making our usual rounds to the science center allowed us to check the expedition’s progress on the plotted map – we were almost at the journey’s end!
After lunch we landed on Saunders Island another privately owned satellite island from the two main islands for some more Falkland Islands hiking. We also learned that the farmers who owned these islands were paid substantially for us to be able to visit. That also incentivizes them towards conservation and maintaining the health of the ecosystem. Overall we viewed the setup as a win/win and net good. The owners were parked by our landing in their cars, and it we had the opportunity to speak with them a bit, one had a dog in the car who understandably enjoyed watching the penguins as there were tons of Gentoos down below on a beach swimming.
We hiked over a small hill and down to a beach on the other side of the island that had beautiful sand, even more Gentoos, and a few Magellanics running around. We still enjoyed the parents running away from the chicks and the chicks chasing them, and noticed here there were some extremely chonky chicks with huge badonkadonks swishing back as forth on this island. Much chonkier than in Antarctica or South Georgia.
Imagine this video set to Benny Hill music:
Crossing most of the beach we had two options up or down from a whale skeleton guide post. We decided to go up first and quickly passed stragglers who were tentatively of the slope. We also felt the walking poles actually didn’t help much in these situations and were glad we had learned to forgo them.
We quickly got to the cliffside destination to behold about 30 black-browed albatross chicks, and a few adults interspersed as well. The chicks weren’t doing much, but I enjoyed watching some of the adults feeding them, and the few that soared away from the colony or overhead. We spent some time soaking them in.
On our Falkland Islands hiking route on Saunders Island, we then pivoted down the hill, took a right at the whale skeleton, across a hard packed easy to walk on sand to a rocky outcropping where we got our first view of the rockhopper penguins.
Rockhoppers were smaller than the other species we had seen and looked slightly angry with their long yellow eyebrows or crests. They actually whirl their crests by shaking them side to side to attract a mate, but from our vantage they looked almost like little mohawks, or like a slicked back greaser haircut when they just come out of the water.
We enjoyed watching them, as well as the other wildlife, and for awhile the Rockhoppers were mostly sedentary, but with some patience they started to show off there namesake hopping around and up from the water.
They were very cute and we spent a good 20 minutes or so just enjoying watching them, with many other admirers around us. In time we had to head back, but it was a fulfilling second stop, and we remarked about how you never knew what you were going to get at the landings, and usually it was better than you expected.
Here’s our food recap for the day:
- Breakfast: the same, but CJ came up with an ingeneous idea to put bread with some cheese, egg, and bacon on it through the toast machine to make a breakfast sandwich. It worked, but she had to keep an eye on it to ensure the bread didn’t go through the whole machine and flip.
- Lunch: Lunch was again delayed because too many people all came at one time. We really wish they would hold people to their times more or at least give bookings at that time preference. We finally sat and actually had some great options to choose from. CJ started with Lebanese taboule, then we both had a Thai chicken soup which was more like chicken noodle soup with maybe a slight hint of lemon grass. Then the highlight was Mexican chicken tacos that turned out to actually be burritos. We couldn’t figure out why they had called it tacos, and joked with the servers that it was of course actually a burrito and the kitchen had served a burrito earlier in the trip that had the same form factor, so they should have known that! It did taste good though, and even came with a small bit of cheese inside and sides of salsa and guacamole. Weirdly it was accompanied by fries, but we weren’t complaining.
- Dinner: Dinner was amazing! As we entered they first gave us a bright blue drink called “From Antarctica with Love”, which consisted of gin, vodka, rum, blue curacao and the bartender Neil’s secret sour mix (I later tried to pry and get the recipe, but he was not giving out his secrets). They opened dinner up to a full seafood buffet in the way that we thought they could where they still served the items out to us. We both grabbed some Caesar salad, and CJ went back for heaping seconds – it was the first time we saw an ample amount of leafy greens that we could have in an unlimited way. They had pretty good sushi, crab legs, lobster bisque, and the accouterments to go with it such as soy sauce and wasabi. No ginger however, which CJ lamented. I also tried a bit of reindeer, which was quite tender and tasty with a gamey flavor. We both went back for seconds, and really enjoyed the meal.