Depart London on an overnight flight via Madrid or São Paulo to Santiago, Chile.
- On arrival in Santiago we transfer to a hotel right beside the airport terminal. The remainder of the day is free to relax after the flight, or possibly head into the city to explore.
- Accommodation: Santiago, 1-night.
- We continue our journey with an early morning flight, via Punta Arenas in the south of Chile, to Mount Pleasant international airport in the Falkland Islands. From here we transfer to our hotel in Darwin, roughly one hour’s drive away.
- In the late afternoon/early evening we walk the shoreline to look for Magellanic and blackish oystercatcher, black-crowned night-heron, rufous-chested dotterel, kelp and ruddy-headed geese and our first Magellanic penguin.
- Accommodation: Darwin House Hotel, 1-night on full board basis.
- Today we transfer to nearby Darwin airstrip for a flight to Sea Lion Island, the most southerly inhabited island of the archipelago. It measures just five miles long by one-and-a-half miles wide, has a resident population of five, and the only purpose-built lodge on the Falkland Islands.
- Just five minutes walk away is a colony of breeding southern elephant seals. Although the huge beachmaster males will have finished their monumental battles by this time, there should still be up to 100 impressive juveniles on the beach. However, the breeding season of the island’s eponymous southern sealions will be in full swing by now.
- During our stay we visit colonies of gentoo and rockhopper penguins, with their ever-present blackish cinclodes (known locally as tussac-birds), snowy sheathbills and brown skuas. Land birds include the endemic Cobb’s wren, and we will do a walk after dinner to look for short-eared owl, listen to drumming South American snipe and do some star-gazing. Offshore cetaceans may include orca.
- One of the local specialities is the striated caracara, a raptor which is now virtually restricted to the Falkland Islands, having been almost wiped out of South America.
- Accommodation: Sea Lion Island, 3-nights on full board basis.
- We fly on to Bleaker – a low, flat island – for a two-night stay. Bleaker has two self-catering bungalows which were built recently to an extremely high standard.
- Bleaker has a good colony of gentoo penguin, plus several colonies of Magellanic penguin and king cormorant, a large pond, and many wonderful walks. The eastern end of the island is readily accessible and is good for sea-watching. Big Pond attracts a number of interesting waterbirds including silvery grebe. White-winged coot were also present on a previous visit – the first breeding record for the Falklands!;
- Accommodation: Bleaker Island, 2-nights on full board basis.
- We fly on to wildlife-rich Saunders Island, the site of the first British settlement in the Falkland archipelago, which is now one large farm of around 30,000 acres.
- Saunders is best known for the sizable colony of black-browed albatross on its northwest side, at the location known as The Neck. Arguably one of the best wildlife sites in the islands, The Neck is home to large colonies of Magellanic and gentoo penguins, and a small colony of king penguin. Many other bird species are present during the year, along with a small colony of elephant seals.
- During our stay, we occupy a cottage in the settlement and take day trips to The Neck and elsewhere. We also visit The Rookery, a superb location that offers an opportunity to photograph the rockhopper “shower”, a natural spring where the resident penguins line up at the end of the day to wash the salt from their feathers before continuing up the cliff to the main colony.
- The various other species we find in and around the colonies include southern giant petrel, rock shag, king shag and the odd striated caracara.
- Accommodation: Saunders Island, 3-nights on full board basis.
- We continue to Pebble Island. Named after the unusual, translucent, semi-precious stones found on its beaches, Pebble is home to more than 40 bird species that include gentoo, rockhopper, macaroni and Magellanic penguins, imperial cormorant, waterfowl and black-necked swan. The eastern end of the island has wetlands and large ponds that hold many waterfowl and wading birds. The settlement sits on a narrow neck of land right in the middle of the island, close to a four-mile-long sandy beach which sometimes doubles as an airstrip.
- Accommodation: Pebble Island, 3-nights on full board basis.
- We fly to Stanley, situated in the northeast of East Falkland, and check into our hotel.
- Weather permitting, we take an afternoon boat trip from Stanley to Kidney Island, during which we chum for seabirds. We hope to attract some of the South Atlantic seabirds, especially shearwaters and petrels including, with luck, Wilson’s storm petrel, which are hard to see from the shore. In the past we’ve had impressive gatherings of over one hundred black-browed albatross close in to the boat. On six of our eight pelagic boat trips we have recorded royal or wandering albatross, and in 2008 enjoyed a brief visit from two northern giant petrels – our first in the Falklands. This trip also provides a wonderful opportunity to photograph the tiny capital – with its brightly-painted houses and attractive coastline – from the sea.
- The following day a three-hour Land Rover drive takes us to one of the biggest penguin colonies of the Falklands, at Volunteer Point. At this time of year the king penguin chicks are just hatching.
- We will also have an opportunity to explore Stanley, the Falkland Islands capital, with its beautiful Christchurch Cathedral, Whalebone Arch and various memorials to the 1982 conflict.
- Accommodation: Stanley, 2-nights on full board basis.
- Early departure from Stanley to Mount Pleasant airport to catch our flight via Punta Arenas to Santiago, Chile, where we overnight before the journey back to London.
- Accommodation: Santiago, 1-night.
Day 18 Depart Santiago
Day 19 Arrive UK
Chilean Patagonia extension
Departing Stanley, we transfer to Mount Pleasant airport for a flight to Punta Arenas in Chile. On arrival we transfer to a hotel in the centre of this small city.
Accommodation: Punta Arenas, 1-night on full board basis.
We drive northward into Torres del Paine National Park, en route passing through areas of southern beech forest and looking for guanaco, southern grey fox and Patagonian skunk.
There will be plenty of opportunity to stop for photos along the way – including groups of vibrantly-coloured Chilean flamingoes that can be seen on the alkaline pools. We also often see black-necked and coscoroba swans on the shores of Ultima Esperanza Sound at Puerto Natales.
As we approach the national park there are splendid vistas of the hilly terrain, and if the weather is clear we will have distant views of the towering Paine Massif (in the indigenous language paine means blue), a magnificent stand of rugged granitic peaks that dominates the entire area. We explore the southern and western regions of the park, which covers an area of 181,000 hectares in all,
Accommodation: Torres del Paine National Park, 3-nights on a full board basis.
Today we explore the southern beech forests, where birds such as Magellanic woodpecker and austral parakeet can be seen, and – if lucky – we may spot the shy Andean deer known locally as huemul. One highlight of our visit is Lago Grey, where colossal icebergs lie stranded on the southern lakeshore after drifting slowly away from the face of Grey Glacier. Despite its somewhat austere name, this glacier is one of the most beautiful and colourful in Patagonia.
We take a boat trip from the southern shore right up to the impressive mouth of Grey Glacier, one of more than 40 outlet glaciers that originate up on the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, in the hope of seeing an iceberg calving. The opportunities for dramatic photography are many and varied and in the evening we can once again head out to photograph the spectacular sunset and cloud formations.
We continue exploring the alkaline ponds and reed-fringed lagoons on the eastern side of the national park, which is home to approximately 120 bird species. The flora and topography are also extremely interesting and provide great opportunities for both macro and landscape photography.
Each evening we have a further chance to photograph the mountains and clouds at sunset, and explore the wealth of creative possibilities.
Drive back to Punta Arenas in time to catch a flight to Santiago, where we overnight in a hotel.
Accommodation: Santiago, 1-night including breakfast.
Day 22 Depart Santiago
Day 23 Arrive UK
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- Meals (except in Santiago)
- Guided activities
On the Falkland Islands we stay in comfortable lodges and hotels. Rooms are en suite, with the exception of some rooms at Darwin and all on Saunders Island. We can offer a very limited number of single rooms, but these may not be available throughout the tour.
On the Patagonia extension in Chile we stay in comfortable hotels in stunning locations.
All main meals are included.
This tour aims to provide as many opportunities to photograph bird life as possible. We will visit many gentoo, rockhopper and Magellanic penguin colonies, as well as a black-browed albatross colony. At this time of year king penguins will still be incubating their single eggs and year-old young will be moulting out of ther brown downy plumage. On Sea Lion Island we will see the endemic Cobbs wren.
- Striated caracara
- Magellanic penguin
- Falkland thrush
- Sooty shearwater
On this tour we will have opportunities to photographic marine mammals including whales and Commerson’s, and Peale’s dolphin, and visit beaches where sea lion and elephant seals recline.
- Southern sealion
- South American fur seal
This tour takes us from Stanley, the Falkland Islands capital, to four smaller islands, each with its own superb wildlife locations giving us the chance for some memorable photography.
Weather permitting, our tour included a boat trip around the waters of Stanley to Kidney Island – giving us the opportunity to photograph one of the smallest capitals in the world, with its beautiful coloured houses and coastline, form the mariners’ viewpoint.
Our tour has been designed to maximise the potential for photography – with superb light, stunning sunsets and sunrises, fantastic scenery and approachable wildlife this dedicated photographic tour is an opportunity not to be missed.
Price includes return scheduled flights London – Mount Pleasant – London, and domestic inter-island flights.