Is it worth it to visit the Falklands & South Georgia?

We get the question all the time from prospective passengers. Many people know they want to step foot on the 7th continent but are not sure whether or not adding in the Falklands & South Georgia is worth the extra days and expense. We certainly understand 20 days is a long time to spend on a ship and these voyages are not cheap. Our Polar specialist Brandon embarked on a Sub-Antarctic Island voyage aboard the National Geographic Explorer to visit both locations and gain some firsthand insight to assist in answering this question. Below are some of the highlights from his journey.

As we sailed to the Falklands black browed albatross and giant petrels soared around us and the captain slowed the ship to get a good look at a southern right whale.

Southern Right Whale

Arriving in the Falklands we were very fortunate the conditions cooperated to allow us a visit the largest nesting black browed colony in the world. On shore we maneuvered our way through the 5 feet tall tussock grass where we were greeted by what seemed like an endless amount of nearly fledged chicks, each sitting on their individual mound nest. The parents would fly in just feet overhead to drop off the next meal. In a few weeks these chicks would be ready to fly and will spend a few years at sea before returning to the colony. Witnessing such an expansive colony and watching the chicks interact with the parents up close was quite an experience and certainly not a sight any of us had seen in Antarctica.

Black Browed Albatross

Continuing in West Falklands we visited another black browed albatross colony, but this time we were able to check another penguin species off the list as the colony was intermixed with rockhopper penguins. After our walk back the local residents of the island invited us into their charming farm house for tea and desserts.

Rockhopper Penguins

After a couple days of excellent bird watching and experiencing life in the Falklands, we set sail for South Georgia.

As the ship approached South Georgia the white capped mountain peaks and flowing glaciers appeared on the horizon. Fur seal pups were porpoising around the ship as we sailed towards Salisbury Plain, the second largest king penguin colony on the island. I had seen countless images of the sheer numbers of king penguins on South Georgia but none can do justice to the sites (and sounds!) of standing at the edge of a this enormous colony. As I sat down to take everything in four curious penguins quickly approached me and one began pecking at my boot. It’s not every day we get the chance to have such a close interaction with the world’s second largest penguin! A small group of us hiked up a hill behind the colony to get an incredible 180 degree view. I was still taken aback at the sound of the colony, even from a distance! I had seen large gentoo, chinstrap and Adelie colonies in Antarctica but none could compare to this experience.

King Penguin Colony

We had the opportunity to visit Prion Island, home of the nesting wandering albatross. The wondering albatross have the longest wingspan of any living bird averaging 10-11 feet.  They can live to be 60-70 years old and spend most of their lives at sea soaring in the winds of the Southern Ocean. As we walked up the boardwalk fur seal pups waddled their way through the tussock alongside us. From the lookout points we saw a few albatross on the nest and were able to witness one take off.

Wandering Albatross

Back onboard we were excited that the conditions were holding up to allow us an afternoon hike from Fortuna Bay to Stromness. This historic route was the last four miles that Shackleton, Worsley & Crain took before finally being rescued after their epic 36 hour crossing of South Georgia in 1916. We couldn’t have asked for better weather with blue skies and excellent visibility of this incredible rugged landscape. Walking in Shackleton’s footsteps and imagining what those men went through over 100 years ago was definitely a highlight!

Shackleton Crossing

So is it worth it to add the Falklands & South Georgia to your Antarctica voyage? If you have the extra days and means to afford the longer trip, absolutely! These Sub-Antarctic islands will add wildlife species and both a historical and cultural element that you would not get just visiting Antarctica. Speaking with several passengers onboard, some just were not aware of what the Falklands & South Georgia offered when they booked their first trip to Antarctica and wished they had booked the longer loop with all three locations the first time around.

Contact us for more information Falklands & South Georgia voyages.