An epiphany visit to the Kings

So, over Epiphany weekend we headed out of Stanley into Camp to stay at Johnson’s Harbour. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon as we headed out of town for the drive which was a little over an hour. The roads were good and we were soon pulling into the settlement. The boys were thrilled that the accommodation had a trampoline (so were Chris and I as it kept them out of our hair!) We got the vehicle unpacked, the fridge loaded and inspected the joint – STUNNING!

We headed out shortly afterwards for a walk to Magellan Cove in the late afternoon/evening sunshine. We found the tide out and plenty of stones on the beach to turn over and hunt for signs of life!

A great way to spend the evening, finding starfish and crabs galore in the sunshine before wandering back to the settlement for some dinner and bed.

The following day was the main event of off roading to Volunteer Point and the largest King penguin colony here in the Falkland Islands. Our driver, Tony, arrived, bright eyed the next morning and we packed boys, clothing, lunch, cameras, lenses and binoculars into his Rover and off we went. We were very pleased to have someone else driving after a couple of very wet weeks and no knowledge of the route the prospect of bogging seemed highly likely with inexperience (ie us) at the wheel. We headed out a less travelled route not initially heading straight to Volunteers but calling to Cow Bay first where we got our first look at a group of King Penguins together. The boys climbed some unsuitable cliffs whilst we got up close to the penguins and watched them picking out feathers for their moult. A fair few of them looked quite shabby because of this but in groups they were generally quite grand.

We then continued around the coastline stopping briefly for walks and exercising the boys as well as stone collecting on one beach where Sam found his (now) most prized possession, meet Skully:

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Complete penguin skull (we think)

We arrived at Volunteer Point almost perfectly in time for lunch and the view as we approached the beach was pretty stunning with a mix of people and penguins in shot:

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Volunteer Point

We drove on down to the beach and were dropped off at the ‘visitor centre’, otherwise known as, toilets and small hut with seats in which you could eat lunch. This was, however, utter luxury compare to anywhere else we have experienced. Having eaten our lunch we went off to see the Kings. Prepare for photo overload, first ones from Chris and I:

These ones with brown fluff are last year’s chicks having their first moult, the boys found the ‘Hooded One’ very amusing! Then we also got sight of some eggs that were being incubated carefully, we were a couple of weeks too early for chicks.

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The colony

And the following photos were taken by the boys:

Whilst we enjoyed the King Penguins, both Chris and I felt that Volunteer’s itself was the most ‘touristy’ penguin experience we have had and we did not enjoy it as much as other things we have done. This is quite ridiculous to say when there were probably a maximum of 15 other people we saw there in a HUGE space, but you know, there were signs and a hut and facilities and stuff. Very different to being the only 5 sitting at the top of a rockface watching the rockhoppers.

We returned via a different route to Johnson’s Harbour settlement, again very grateful for our driver. It was a glorious sunny evening so whilst the boys bounced we shared a pot of tea and a chat with our driver. Then whilst Chris cooked I walked the boys out of the settlement in the sunshine to get rid of some energy:

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The three

The following day we walked out of the settlement back to Magellan Beach and a bit further, the tide was in and so no rock pooling or star fish hunting was not possible, but there was plenty of walking, rock jumping, diddledee diving and goodness knows what else to fill the morning. We also go this view back towards the settlement:

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When we headed back to the settlement we called into the shearing shed where work was in full flow. The two men shearing are the top two shearers in the island and the one who leases the farm is now off at the world championship shearing contest in New Zealand, his wife is also one of the top wool handlers. So it was quite a shed to witness in work.

Before long we were heading back into Stanley relaxed and reuperated.

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