Antarctica - The 7th Continent - Specially Created Holiday for Single Travellers
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Here are a few reasons why you'll be able to travel with confidence with Just You:
You will be met at the airport by a dedicated Just You representative
A friendly Tour Manager will host your holiday and make sure it runs smoothly
We'll show you the must-see sights and some of the hidden gems too
You'll always stay in a room of your own with no single supplement to pay
Many meals are included, allowing you to dine with your fellow travellers
You can join in as much or as little as you like - the choice is always yours
All of our holidays are protected by ATOL or our financial protection insurance
We'll help you take care of all your holiday essentials: find out more >
This tour is now SOLD OUT, but we do have more fantastic Antarctica tours available:
Experience awe-inspiring landscapes and nature at its most sublime on this once-in-a-lifetime expedition sailing to the Chilean Fjords and Antarctica.
- The services of a Just You Tour Manager
- Return flights from Heathrow with Avianca
- Use of an airport lounge in the UK
- 2 nights in 4-star hotels and 2 nights in flight
- 16 nights full-board on MS Midnatsol
- 50 meals: 18 breakfasts, 16 lunches, 16 dinners
- Welcome drink in Santiago and farewell get-together on board the ship
- Overseas transfers & other transportation
- A representative to greet you at all UK airports
- Sail through the narrow Canal Gabriel
- Make a landing on Cape Horn (weather and sea conditions permitting)
- Cross the Antarctic Convergence
- View Antarctic penguins and huge icebergs from the deck of the ship, and look out for whales too
- Board smaller Polarcirkel boats and get closer to your surroundings
- Visit Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands
- Explore Carcass Island, a nature-lover's paradise
- Complete the loop of the legendary Magellan Strait
- Bird-watching in the Falkland Islands
- Scenic air tour
- Falklands Islands nature walk
- Port Stanley highlights tour
- Port Stanley history tour
Today we'll fly to Santiago de Chile, arriving on Day 2.
Get to know your travelling companions over a welcome drink this evening.
We'll fly to Punta Arenas today and board the MS Midnatsol. We'll gather for a welcome dinner this evening.
Today we'll sail south in the Magellan Strait, passing Isla Tucker, famous for its colony of Magellanic penguins, birds, dolphins and sea lions. The captain and his crew will show their navigation skills as we sail through the extremely narrow Canal Gabriel.
Deep and surrounded by soaring mountains, the Chilean fjords are truly spectacular and staying on deck to take in the views is highly recommended. Gazing at the jaw-dropping scenery is sure to become your favourite activity. You might not see a single person on shore, just endless wilderness.
In one of the fjords, we'll board a small boat for a closer look at the natural surroundings and wildlife.
When ranking the mythical places on earth, Cape Horn is surely high on the list. Before the creation of the Panama Canal, seafarers had to pass this infamous rocky island in order to cross from one side of the Americas to the other.
If the weather is good the crew will do their best to make a landing on Cape Horn. This area is known for high seas and challenging conditions and if we make it ashore this will be a great achievement.
Prepare yourself for Antarctica. Enjoy a film, join a lecture or relax and enjoy the onboard facilities.
As we cross the Antarctic Convergence the air will get crisper and colder. Antarctica will overwhelm you – everything is endless and white and the ocean is full of icebergs, we may see whales too.
Maybe even more awe-inspiring will be your meeting with the huge colonies of penguins. They are not afraid of humans so you can look forward to true close encounters with this most charming of bird species.
Over the next six days we'll go ashore to explore the impressive Antarctic landscape and see penguins and fur seals. From the deck there are lots of chances of seeing whales too. We'll enjoy close encounters with wildlife and glaciers, old whaling stations and relics.
You are in one of the most remote areas of the world but you will not be bored for a single second. We'll see South Shetlands and Cuverville Island, home to a large colony of gentoo penguins. Neko Harbour is beautifully located in the innermost part of Andvord Bay and Paradise Harbour got its descriptive name from the whalers during the last century.
We can also look forward to visiting Half Moon Island, considered a jewel of diversity in the polar landscape. We'll join the expedition team and explore Antarctica with landings to get a close look at thousands of penguins and seals.
A range of optional excursions will also be available for you to enjoy, or you can join an onboard lecture if you wish.
Full details of the landing options available in Antarctica can be found on our website, but please remember that weather conditions and ice will determine the exact nature of your programme and schedule.
After the remote and magnificent Antarctica it might seem a little surreal to arrive in this miniature England with red phone boxes, red buses and English pubs.
You are free to explore Port Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands.
Alternatively join one of the optional shore excursions to explore the wilderness and discover more wildlife.
Nature-lovers will rejoice as we reach Carcass Island. This is a bird paradise with a rich variety of ducks, geese, penguins, albatrosses, caracaras and wrens. It is also one of the few islands where trees grow.
We will board small boats and go ashore for further exploration, hiking and a closer look at the birdlife.
As we complete the loop of the Magellan Strait we'll have time to think about everything we have explored, seen and discovered on this amazing trip. We can also reminisce about our experiences and recall the best parts of our thrilling expedition at a farewell dinner this evening.
As we arrive in Punta Arenas it's time to say goodbye to our expedition team and disembark the ship. We'll transfer to the airport and fly to Santiago for an overnight stay.
We fly back to the UK on day 20, arriving on day 21.
Experience even more of your destination by adding one or more optional excursions to your holiday before you set off. Right now is the perfect opportunity to do that – with everything booked and paid for you’ll have even more to get excited about and all you’ll need to think about while you’re away is having a great time.
By the way - look out for ‘Optional Excursion Packages’. For some holidays we’ve grouped a selection of excursions into a package which means you can make a saving when you book in advance.
Prices shown may vary according to departure date and are subject to change. The full range of excursions will be detailed in your holiday information pack, sent approximately 15 weeks prior to departure.
Stanley Air Tour - Prebookable Only
No better way to take in some of the Falklands landscape features then by air! Come along on a sight-seeing a bit out of the ordinary in one of the five twin engine Britten-Norman Islander aircraft operated by the Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS).
From the pier a 15-minute drive will take you to the airport where you will be met by your pilot, who will give you a full pre-flight safety briefing before you take off. You will get a complimentary scenic air tour booklet, which gives you information on the places you may see plus a brief history of FIGAS. A map with points of interest will also be included. On the plane, each passenger will have a headset to be able to listen to the pilot and converse with each other.
Your flight will be approximately a 35-minute adventure giving you a taste of the rugged mountainous terrain, wild landscapes and the natural coastal beauty of this part of the Falkland Islands. A few places of interest you may see include Stanley & Harbour, Gypsy Cove, Cape Pembroke Lighthouse, Lady Elizabeth shipwreck, Kidney Cove, Port Louis, Mount Tumbledown, Longdon, Two Sisters and Harriet, Rock formations locally known as “Stone Runs”, Fitzroy Farm and Bluff Cove Lagoon.
Photos are permitted on the flight, and if you have a keen eye you may be able to spot a whale or two, dolphins or even an albatross in flight.
Once you have retuned back to the airport you will be given the opportunity to view the exclusive range of FIGAS Scenic Air Tour souvenirs before your return to the pier.
Duration: Approx. 1.5 hours/ morning
Walking Information: Requires giid mobility to get in and out of the aircraft
Hurtigruten Code: A-FAI19
Stanley Nature Trek - Prebookable Only
For the nature enthusiast, this is an exclusive opportunity to view the Falkland Islands flora and fauna. Transfer to nearby Whalebone Cove; where the walk will begin. This tour entails 3.5 miles / almost 5 kilometres of brisk walking over the uneven terrain. The expert guide will distribute a tour specific illustrated checklist and give a general background to Falkland wildlife and what you might expect to see: Falkland Thrush, Upland and Kelp Geese, Longtailed Meadowlark, Falkland Steamer Duck, Magellanic Penguins, various endemic ferns, shrubs and grasses, Scurvy Grass and Diddle-Dee. In spring, you can also see the Pale Maidens - the national flower.
As well as seeing numerous species of flora and fauna, there are also spectacular views of Stanley.
Duration: Approx. 3 hours/ morning
Walking: Moderate/ Strenuous – Good physical condition and mobility necessary. Due to the changeable weather it is advisable to wear warm, waterproof clothing and sensible footwear. Binoculars recommended.
Hurtigruten code: A-FAI1
Stanley History Tour - Prebookable Only
This two-hour guided walk through Stanley is an ideal opportunity to understand the pioneering history of the tiny capital of the Falkland Islands and all of its fascinating evidence of very British roots.
Beginning at the Jetty Visitor’s Centre the group will walk to the nearby Christ Church Cathedral and the Whalebone
The walk will then progress to the oldest streets of Stanley, where the guide will describe not only the main characteristics of the town’s architecture but the destruction caused to it and its occupants by the peat slips of 1878 and 1886.
Visit renowned landlady Kay McCullum for tea and homemade cakes, before visiting Nutt Cartmell Cottage located on one of Stanley’s oldest streets Pioneer Row.
Cartmell Cottage was one of thirty kits sent from Britain in 1849 for a detachment of military ‘pensioners’ who came to the Islands as settlers in the mid-1800s.
Your walk continues through the older streets of Stanley, taking in Government House, the 1982 Liberation Monument and finishing at the Historic Dockyard and Museum which you can enjoy at your leisure.
Duration: Approx. 2 hours
Hurtigruten code: A-FAI14
Each room features air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, LCD TV with cable channels, minibar, tea/coffee-making facilities and private bathroom with a hairdryer. Other hotel facilities include a fitness centre and an indoor rooftop swimming pool with views of the mountains.
Just You have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the hotel images provided on this website and images of room types displayed may vary to those offered on your tour. Therefore due to the possibility of inadvertent errors we do not guarantee their accuracy. Hotels, airlines used and flight times are subject to change and will be confirmed in your final documents.
Dates and Prices
Monday 01 January 2018
Monday 01 January 2018
22:05 London (Heathrow)
04:15 Bogota (Eldorado Intl)
Tuesday 02 January 2018
07:36 Bogota (Eldorado Intl)
15:31 Santiago (A M Benitez)
Saturday 20 January 2018
16:16 Santiago (A M Benitez)
20:23 Bogota (Eldorado Intl)
Saturday 20 January 2018
23:04 Bogota (Eldorado Intl)
14:30 London (Heathrow)
What our Tour Managers say
We asked our Tour Manager to sum up what they really love about this tour. Here's what they said:
Deception Island, South Shetland Islands
One of the highlights of the South Shetlands, Deception Island is a distinctive ring-shaped volcanic caldera, a portion of which has collapsed and created a navigable opening into the flooded interior. The natural harbour within includes Whalers Bay, home to an abandoned whaling station known as Hektor, as well as a derelict British base.
Half Moon Island,South Shetland Islands
Staggeringly photogenic and blessed with some of the most spectacular Antarctic scenery imaginable, Half Moon Island is a glittering gem amongst these island treasures. Its serrated and creviced cliffs are home to a large colony of chinstrap penguins, as well as Antarctic terns, kelp gulls, snowy sheathbills, Wilson's storm petrels and several species of seals who are regular visitors to the island.
Yankee Harbour, South Shetland Islands
Early sealers in the area used Yankee Harbour on Greenwich Island as a frequent base of operations, its remarkable setting providing a natural safe haven for the sailors. Remnants of those early days can still be seen littering the shoreline, but the big draw for visitors here is the large colony of Gentoo penguins, whose numbers are estimated to be around 4,000 breeding pairs.
Situated in the scenic Errera Channel, Cuverville Island boasts the largest known colony of Gentoo penguins. The narrow Errera Channel offers a spectacular passage to and from Cuverville as icebergs become trapped and grounded in the nearby shallows. Watching from the observation decks as our navigators weave the ship carefully between the icebergs is as exciting as being surrounded by the throngs of nesting penguins onshore.
Neko Harbour with its Gentoo penguin colony lies nestled in Andvord Bay, surrounded by the mountains and high glacier walls of the peninsula. Named after a factory whaling ship from the early 1900s, Neko is one of the rare places in this area where you may land on the Antarctic mainland.
The harbour is paradise not only in name, but in splendour and scenery as well. Protected from the winds of the nearby Gerlache Strait, Paradise Harbour offers another rare opportunity for a mainland landing and some of the finest vistas the Peninsula has to offer. Here you can find the Argentine base Almirante Brown and the Chilean base Gonzalez Videla, as well as colonies of neighbouring penguins.
This 11 kilometre long and 1.6 kilometre wide channel is one of the most beautiful passages in Antarctica. It bestows upon the traveller a glimpse into what fascinates us most about this incredibly contrasting environment; it is sublime yet imposing, delicate yet daunting, alluring yet inhospitable.
Its location in the picturesque Penola Strait makes Petermann Island a great spot for iceberg- and whale-spotting and offers spectacular views across the channel to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The British base of Port Lockroy on Goudier Island was built in 1941 and abandoned in 1962. It lay empty until 1996 when it was refurbished as a museum by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. It has since become one of the most popular sites in Antarctica and offers a unique peek into life in an Antarctic base in the 1950's.
The mountains and high glaciers around Wilhelmina Bay ensure plenty of dramatic scenery and sculpted ice from tiny floating pieces to large bergs. The bay is a choice feeding ground for whales and seals and therefore was a rich hunting ground for the whalers of the past.
The huge ice shelves of the Antarctic continent give birth to mile-long tabular icebergs. The strong currents of the Weddell Sea conspire to bring these massive flat-topped bergs north into the Antarctic Sound at the north-eastern end of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Brown Bluff lies on the coast of the Antarctic Sound at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. As the name suggests, the landscape is dominated by an ominous 745 metre high cliff. The towering, rust-coloured bluff is volcanic in origin and the beach is peppered with lava “bombs”. Adélie penguins, Gentoo penguins, kelp gulls, and cape petrels can be found breeding here and Weddell seals are also regular visitors.
Your ship, MS Midnatsol
- Two-story panorama lounge
- Separate a la carte restaurant
- Fitness room
- Amfi theatre for educational lectures and conference facilities
- Year built: 2003
- Passenger capacity: 500
- Beds: 638
- Car capacity: 35
- Length: 135.75m
- Speed: 15 knots
- Ship yard: Fosen Mek. Verk. (N)
- Gross tonnage: 16151
- Beam: 21.5 m
|One bed, one sofa bed, tv|
|One bed, one sofa, limited / no view|
|One bed, one sofa bed|
|One bed, one sofa bed, kettle|
|One bed, one sofa bed, kettle|
Cosy Polar Inside cabins can be found on all decks. All cabins include bathrooms with shower/WC. Most of the cabins have separate beds where one doubles as a sofa, while some are equipped with a double bed or upper and lower berths. All the cabins have individual specifications.
Polar Inside – Standard
Some of the comfortable, standard inside cabins have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa. Other cabins have upper and lower berths. These cabins are grade ”I”.
Polar Outside cabins are situated mostly on middle or lower deck and all have bathrooms with shower/WC. These have one bed and one sofa bed. All the cabins have individual specifications.
Polar Outside - Limited/no view
These are comfortable outside cabins, situated on both lower and upper deck. They have one bed and one sofa bed. These are cabins with limited or no view and are grade “J”.
Polar Outside - Upper or middle Deck
The largest outside cabins in this category are located on the upper or middle deck. These have one bed and one sofa bed and are grade “O”.
Relaxation and comfort are the hallmarks of MS Midnatsol's Arctic Superior cabins. Situated on both upper and middle deck, they all have bathrooms with shower and WC. They are also equipped with tea and coffee-making facilities. These have one bed and one sofa bed. All the cabins have individual specifications.
Arctic Superior - Upper or Middle Deck
These comfortable cabins are situated on upper deck. These have one bed and one sofa bed and are grade “P”.
Tour Blog by Yvette
Tour Manager, Yvette, led our 19th December 2016 Antarctica tour and wrote a blog about her experiences. Read below to find out more about this incredible place and why a tour to Antarctica really is a tour like no other...
Punta Arenas, Chile
When we arrived in Punta Arenas in southern Chile it really did look like the end of the world. As South America's most southerly town, our guide described it very differently; “This isn't the end of the world,” she said, “This is the beginning!” And so it was for us too as the starting point for our voyage to Antarctica, the 7th continent...
Punta Arenas, once one of the busiest ports in the world until the Panama Canal was built, is not only the starting point for trips to Antarctica, but also the launching point for all trips to Patagonia.
So after a short orientation of the little town with a statue dedicated to Magellan as its focal point, we boarded the ship, Hurtigruten's Midnatsol (midnight sun), our home for the next 18 days. Not a large ship by cruising standards, the Midnatsol is probably best described as a nice, comfortable expedition ship with about 380 passengers aboard.
The first day at sea has been in pretty calm waters (let's hope it stays that way!), cruising through the Chilean Fjords and just generally getting into the ship's rhythm.
Our first highlight on this incredible journey was arriving in the Garibaldi Fjord, just after 2:00pm.
We ventured in to the zodiacs for our trip up to the glacier, one of the few in the world that is actually growing each year. Travelling up through the icebergs to get there was really exciting and we were justly rewarded when one of the huge chunks of ice broke away from the glacier and crashed into the water. Wow!
It's now 11:00pm and it still looks like daylight outside. Yesterday was the summer solstice (21st December) and therefore the longest day of the year, and at this time of the year here in Patagonia it gets dark for just about two hours before dawn breaks again. Actually, in Antarctica our daylight hours will be even longer and it will hardly be dark at all. I'm really looking forward to experiencing that!
We are all getting pretty excited about heading to Antarctica, but before that we have yet to encounter Drake's passage - a 36 hour crossing of one of the world's roughest stretches of water. The captain has said that conditions are looking very favourable at the moment but we'll see… it's still a couple of days away!
Before that, however, we have one more day in the fjords tomorrow at Puerto Williams, a day ashore do some hiking in this wonderful area of lakes and mountains in Patagonia.
Puerto Williams, Patagonia, Chile
Today has been a different day, spent almost completely ashore in the little town of Puerto Williams. I think we've all appreciated the time spent on 'terra firma' as tonight we start sailing towards Cape Horn which is set to be a rough stretch of water. Nine times out of ten the waters are so rough that landings on Cape Horn are impossible, so we'll see soon enough how we fare!
Puerto Williams is on the Chilean side of the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia is on the other Argentinian side. We glimpsed the sun shining in the little town of Ushuaia in the distance on our hike this morning and of course that's the alternative place to sail to Antarctica from. The advantage we had of sailing from Punta Arenas is that we got to experience a little bit of Chilean Patagonia in the fjords yesterday as a bonus, which is not something I would have wanted to miss.
The little hike this morning took us past the yacht club, the last place the yachts call in to as they sail around the world via Cape Horn. The commercial centre of this little town consisted of a couple of little shops and a funny little supermarket and houses made of tin. This really is a one horse town and we even found the horse on our hike this morning!
Puerto Williams was once the naval hub for the Chilean navy but since the operation here has scaled down, the little town gains most of its income from the cruise ships that pull in on their way to Antarctica. I think someone, however, should help them make more from this opportunity and encourage them to stay open in the afternoons! Talk about missed opportunities…
That said, it was a great hike along the sea shore to Robbolo Bay this morning with fabulous views towards the glaciers of Tierra del Fuego… next stop, Cape Horn (hopefully!)
Cape Horn, Chile
Arrived in Cape Horn, the graveyard of the seas, in what can only be described as a mill pond! Nine times out of ten, they can't land on the Cape but we arrived in weather where it's hard to imagine a storm ever brewing up. Not a whisper of wind!
The first penguin has been spotted! In the singular… there was one solitary penguin on the shore but with colonies of 30,000 in Antarctica, I didn't worry too much about trying to capture the moment with my camera.
We had an hour and a half to explore the Cape National Park, still in Chile - time enough to visit the famous statue of the albatross (not that it looked much like an albatross to be honest) the lighthouse and just to enjoy the wonderful vista before we depart at 2:00pm this afternoon to sail the narrow Drake Passage, 36 hours of the rough waters where the two oceans meet. I'd like it to be rough for about an hour so I can get photos and if it's really this calm, I think I'm going to be a little disappointed but I only want it to be rough for an hour! I felt sea sick yesterday but then realised I was still at the dock of Port Williams so I'm hoping positive thinking will carry us through…
Antarctica landing: Half Moon Bay
Drake Passage can be in one of two moods - drake shake or drake lake! Fortunately for us we had the latter. At first I thought I'd wanted it to be rough just for the experience, but as I lay in my bunk at the very front of the ship, I quickly realised that I didn't! I honestly bobbed along like a cork! 600 miles at roughly a speed of 20 knots took 36 hours and it would have been a very different experience if it had been rough.
Our day at sea was spent with more wildlife lectures, information on the Tour Operators rules of conduct for good practice once in Antarctica and a lecture by the photographer giving top tips to get the best from your camera whilst in this magical wilderness.
Like most people on the ship, it has been my dream to come here for as long as I can remember. But believe me, it is far. Very far. We haven't seen land since we left Cape Horn and if Punta Arenas felt like the end of the world then this really is the end… a magical place that lies at the very south of the world. Even that makes me think ‘Wow’.
Just 25,000 people get to visit Antarctica each summer - remember we are in the Southern Hemisphere and it's now the middle of summer here. Imagine a football stadium - what does it hold? 70,000 people? That puts in perspective the number of visitors Antarctica has each year. And what a privilege it is to get the opportunity to come!
There are restrictions in place - only ships with 500 people or less can actually land here. The large cruise ships can only cruise nearby and the passengers aren't allowed to get off the boat. Our ship has 374 passengers and 114 crew members so that keeps us under the 500 mark. During the day our outer clothing for Antarctica and camera bags had to be vacuumed so we don't spread any foreign bacteria on to the protected land. Oh… and we aren't allowed to go within 15 feet of the penguins! Will someone please tell the penguins that!
We crossed over the 60 degree longitude line at 2:20pm on Christmas Day but didn't spot our first land until 5:00am the next day.
I set my alarm early for 4:30am. I really didn't want to miss a moment of our time here and the light is apparently the best early in the morning or in the evening for photography.
And then we arrived in Antarctica…
There aren't enough superlatives to describe the experience. Amazing and awesome all rolled into one.
Half moon Island in the South Shetlands has been our first landing. I wanted to maximise my time on land in Antarctica so I signed up for the snowshoeing, three hours of hiking trails amongst chinstrap penguins… who'd have thought that would be the most perfect Boxing Day! In the afternoon I made my second landing on the island and was allowed 90 minutes of frantic photographing of penguins. 20,000 chinstrap penguins live in this colony on the island which is also home to the Argentinian summer research station. Mountains, icebergs and just stunning scenery and this is just the first day here… already I know I won't want to leave!
I woke up this morning and the first thing I saw from my porthole window… two penguins sitting on an iceberg! How cool is that!
After that things just got better and better as the ship sailed towards Neeko Harbour. Our day was to be split between cruising and landing.
My dream/wish list for this was (amongst other things) to see/photograph a penguin on an iceberg and a seal yawning. Well, I got the seal and the penguin on an iceberg… and I'm happy to settle for the fact he wasn't yawning. In fact at one point I thought the seal was going to eat the two penguins... but not today! Phew, our vegetarians wouldn't have liked that one.
The landing gave us an option to climb high above the penguin colony but I chose to remain on the beach with my black and white friends. I was rewarded with some nice shots of the seal when he lifted his head from his sleepy state so for me it was the right choice.
The animals are so tame here. Not in the least bit threatened by us. They have a rule, as I explained earlier, that you can't go towards penguins and have to remain 15 feet away. What I never realised until I came here was that penguins build highways and they have right of way. Humans have to wait until the penguin passes, then you can go. Some of the highways in Neeko Bay are the deepest in Antarctica and it's such a funny sight to see these little heads bobbing along the highways. I've been asked how close you get to the penguins… well, they really do come up to you. They're super inquisitive and they move pretty fast. Not one person comes back from their penguin encounters without a smile on their face.
It was hard leaving Neeko Harbour as it had been such a perfect day. +7 degrees celsius, sunny and hot. There's no ozone layer down here so you really have to protect against the strong UV rays. I didn't and really got quite burned out there on the snow.
The evening was spent calling in to Port Lockroy - the world's southernmost post office. Logistically our ship didn't do a landing at the post office but the post office came to us and all of our passports were stamped and postcards with the Antarctica stamps on will be winding their way back to the UK to the chosen few!
Today will be spent with the humpback whales and icebergs of Wilhelmina Bay and then on to Cuverville Island in the evening. It's hardly getting dark now so evening landings aren't really an issue.
Already this has been an amazing trip and we still have a few more days left yet. Can it get any better?
After 48 hours at sea and a very calm Drake Passage, we arrived at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Made up of a total of 776 islands in total, Port Stanley is the capital and of course the hub where most of the 3,000 inhabitants of the islands live either in town or the surrounding area, or in many cases, both. It's actually very common here for farmers to also own a little house in town as well!
It is a surreal sight as you enter this barren little port in the South Atlantic where you find more Union Jacks than you do in England, the money is in pound sterling or Falkland pounds which have the same value as the British ones, the islanders sound as English as we do and the pubs are more English than in England!
It may be hard to find a red phone box these days outside London because I think most of them have been exported to the Falklands. The houses look like they belong on the south coast of England, complete with lupins in the garden. Double decker red buses are parked up but unlike the British ones, these advertise Penguin Tours! The local newspaper - Penguin News - comes out once a month and they even have their own island radio station. Internet is still the dial up kind and costs about £200 a month for locals. A land of contrast for commodities - bananas cost £7 per kilo and diesel for the Land Rover (everyone owns a 20 year old Land Rover here!) costs 38p per litre.
But the surprise for me was when I went to the supermarket and found the shelves stocked with Waitrose own-brands. Everything from soup and toilet rolls to pickled onions and left over Waitrose Christmas crackers. The Falklands really is more English than England!
The locals were friendly and very quick to convey their own personal stories of life in the islands during the 76 days of conflict back in 1982. The museum has an interesting film, narrated by the children of the time relaying their personal experiences. The museum itself is a must for any visit to Stanley. It also tells the stories of all the great Antarctic expeditions that ultimately stopped here before heading further south. A statue head dedicated to Margaret Thatcher and even a street named after her is also on the tourist trail of the little town of Port Stanley, which has simply thrived since the conflict. A brand new school and hospital built. The government sponsors the youngsters of the islands if they choose to study at UK universities and it seems that most of them choose to return here once they graduate. That came as a surprise to me in some ways because to be honest, other than sheep and penguins, there really isn't much here. But I guess being somewhere where there is a real community spirit, where everyone looks out for each other and the crime rate is virtually nothing, there is also a lot going for the island.
Living on any island takes a certain type of person. It wouldn't work for me because I always want to know I can escape and go somewhere different if I want to. I asked a local driver what he did for holidays. After all, the Falklands nearest neighbour, Argentina - understandably have no direct flights in or out. All flights go via Chile or Ascension Island. The driver told me that he holidays in England. “Expensive to get there?” I asked, £1,700 return on the RAF flight to Brize Norton! Relative to the cost of a banana on the island then!
So, to sum up our day in Port Stanley - it's quite a barren landscape. Mid-summer here right now and the average temperature is around 14 degrees celsius and very windy. The tan here is from windburn. Wait 10 minutes if you don't like the weather and it will change is what the locals say and that seems about right. We took the little trip out to Bluff Cove lagoon - only accessible by 4x4s - to see the King Penguins. We haven't quite had enough of penguins yet! But here of course the penguins 'graze' or literally just hang out with the sheep and the cattle. How quirky is that! Tea and cake served in china cups overlooking the beach where the penguins surf in on the next wave. I could just have easily been at home in Cornwall but the difference being of course that we don't have the penguins there! The fire in the little Sea Cabbage cafe was heated by peat - even in June they needed a fire! And the cakes were memorable.
Would I want to live here? No, but it's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area if for nothing else other than its quirkiness and friendliness!
Tour Image Gallery
Please note: images shown below have come from various sources including customers, employees and partners and are representative of this tour but we cannot guarantee that all destinations or activities shown will feature on a particular departure. Images also provided by Dominic Barrington Riversdale7. Please click on the images below to view full screen.