The Falklands, Home to Penguins and Seals

Off To See Penguins, Sea Lions and Seals

Tracks across open range in the Falklands
Magellanic Penguin

Deep in the South Atlantic there is an archipelago known as the Falkland Islands. Generally, these are isolated, windswept islands where raising sheep and cattle are the main businesses. Covering about 4,700 square miles, the Falklands has a population of a little over 3,000 pe

The tourist business here is thriving and the main attraction is tours to the isolated coasts to see penguins, seals and sea lions. Stanley, the capital is located on the far eastern tip of East Falkland. It is nestled behind a double natural harbor where most cruise ships anchor, and is the starting point for most excursions.

A Gentoo Rookery

The day we spent in the Falklands, we booked a tour in advance with a local company (Falklands Style Off-road Tours), and went out to Dolphin Cove, about eighty miles from Stanley. The trip was in a 4X4, mostly over dirt roads after leaving Stanley. We traveled almost two hours past ranches and peat bogs and ended with a few miles of open country to the coast. Dolphin Cove is on a private ranch and we were introduced to the woman who manages the property. Just to offer some insight into the people who live here, when asked how often she gets into Stanley, she said about four or five times a year.

A King penguin
A Gentoo rookery

Driving in wheel tracks over open country towards the sea, we started spotting rookeries of mostly Gentoo penguins. Our guide (Wayne McCormick) said that they walk inland, sometimes as far as a mile, to dig their nests. One group of three was in our track and, in trying to run away, they kept right in front of us running at full speed for some distance. (You had to have been there – funny.)

Seals and pups

Our first official stop was at a bluff overlooking a rocky beach and a harem of seals had been giving birth that day. The harem was overseen by a good sized bull and the dark newborn pups were scattered across the rocks with the new moms watching over them. There were also large numbers of buzzards hanging around attracted by the byproducts of the births.

 

Magellanic Penguins coming ashore

Shortly after that, we made a couple of stops near large gentoo rookeries. These birds have no real fear of man and you can actually walk right up to them. The largest group we found seemed to have adopted a King Penguin who stood almost a foot taller than the Gentoos. The Kings look very much like the famous Emperor but they are not as large. We also stopped and watched some Magellanic Penguins come ashore at a rocky area. A Falkland penguin population guide can be found HERE.

Whale bones bleaching in the Sun

We returned to Stanley with a couple of hours to spare before our ship sailed. While it was a long day, it was well worth the effort. We have actually taken tours to see penguins in other parts of the world, but none of them came close to our day in the Falklands.

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Photo Essay – The Keukenhof

It’s coming up Spring in Europe and that means it’s Keukenhof  time in Amsterdam.

For additional information about the Keukenhof click  HERE.

Open 21 March to 15 May 2019

The Keukenhof is unarguably the largest flower gardens and show in the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Official site click HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For additional information about visiting the Keukenhof click  HERE.

Port of Call Stanley, The Falkland Islands

Stanley the Capital of the Falkland Islands

Growing in popularity with cruise ships, the Falkland Islands are located over a thousand miles east of Argentina. The archipelago consists of two main and 776 smaller islands. The capital is Stanley on East Falkland which is home to a majority of the nation’s three thousand residents. The big attraction is the wildlife with some of the world’s largest concentrations of penguins along with seals and sea lions that come to breed and raise their young. It is also a frequent stop for cruise ships visiting Antarctica.

 

Stanley and the inner harbor

Where Your Ship Docks

Stanley is located on a large natural double harbor. Unfortunately, the docking facilities cannot accommodate most cruise ships so, for almost everyone, it is a tender port. The larger ships will most likely anchor in the outer harbor while the smaller ones can anchor closer to the town’s landing.

There are no facilities at the dock but restrooms can be found at the visitor’s center only a block away.

Transportation

Stanley is a very small town and there is little in the way of public transportation. Most visitors book tours out to see the wildlife but you can also visit battlefields and beaches or enjoy a little hiking.

 

Money

Oddly, the Falklands have their own version of the British Pound which probably cannot be exchanged outside of the Falkland Islands. The British government even warns visiting Brits to change it back before heading home. There are no currency exchanges or ATMs in town. Fortunately, many of the businesses will take Pounds, Euros and US Dollars. Ahead of our visit, we arranged with our guide to pay with US dollars and then just confirmed the exchange rate after our tour.

Christ Church Cathedral

Attractions

Penguins in the Falklands

As already noted, the big attraction here is the wildlife and taking a tour is highly recommended. You will also hear a lot about “the war” from the locals and there are a number of sites to visit. In town there is a really nice Falklands National Museum and Christ Church Cathedral has a magnificent whalebone arch which can’t be missed.

A Note of Caution – The Falklands were the focus of a war between Great Britain and Argentina in 1984. When the Argentine military seized the islands they installed over 30,000 land mines along stretches of the coast to stop the British from landing (it was useless). There is still an ongoing project to remove the mines and any marked areas extremely dangerous and should be respected.

The Bristol Hotel In Buenos Aries

The Bristol at Avenue 9 de Julio
The Bristol Hotel A Great Choice For Location and Economy in Buenos Aries

On a recent trip to Antarctica we passed through Buenos Aries twice. The first was an extended visit and the second was a place to stay in transit. In both occasions we stayed at the Bristol Hotel in were very happy with the experience.

The Bristol Hotel is located in a good location near the Obelisco at Avenue 9 de Julio, Cerrito 286, C1010AAF CABA, Buenos Aries, Argentina.

The hotel lobby

When looking for a hotel and evaluating your stay afterwards there are a number of things we use to rate the hotel:

  • Location
  • Price
  • Cleanliness
  • Comfortable beds
  • Hot water
  • Helpfulness of the staff
  • Room size

After those, most considerations are esoteric and relate to luxury and exclusivity. Generally when we travel our budget is one of the major considerations. For this trip we selected the Bristol Hotel first because of its location. Also at US$50 a night and with four star on Google reviews we couldn’t resist.

A queen room

On check-in we were pleased with our choice. The location was right in the center of things, the staff was friendly and helpful and the room was well appointed and clean. The beds proved to be comfortable and there was plenty of hot water.

Two twin beds

Located near the hotel are lots of cafes and good restaurants. Only ten blocks to the northeast are a number of pedestrian walking streets with lots of interesting shops. All-in-all we were very pleased with our selection.

A Great Steak In Buenos Aries

Don’t miss great steaks at incredible prices in Buenos Aries.

A 600 gram, bone-in Ribeye…

Argentina is most famous for the tango and gaúchos and nowhere is that tradition celebrated more than in Buenos Aries. The gaúchos are South American horsemen honored for their skill, but they are above all else, cattlemen and Argentina is a country that knows something about beef.

When you visit Buenos Aries every barrio (neighborhood) has a tango dance club along with at least one truly great steak restaurant. Many restaurants use parrilla al carbón in their name, a description which simply indicates that they grill over a traditional coal fire and I can’t think of a better way to prepare a good piece of steak.

The interior was warm and comfortable

On our recent trip we stayed at a hotel only a block from the Obelisco and only a half block west was the Revire Brasas Bravas, a steak restaurant that we had located online. The address was Av. Corrientes 1124, C1043AAY CABA, Argentina. Our first visit was so fantastic we went back again a few days later.

The biggest issue with our first visit was language. Nobody spoke English and we had a lot of difficulty ordering a steak (our Google translator let us down). How do you ask for a rib eye medium rare in Spanish? It took a while but we eventually got our order placed. A one and a third pound, bone in, rib eye grilled to perfection was the result. We had also thought we were ordering two glasses of Malbec and were presented with a bottle instead. The result was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had and a great bottle of wine and the final check was under $38. At home I would have paid more for just a steak.

Desserts included!

Ordering on our second visit went much easier as the waiter spoke passable English and we enjoyed another great steak. Our recommendation, if you find yourself in Buenos Aries near the Obelisco, pay a visit to Revire Brasas Bravas! You won’t regret it.

Dolphin Watching On Indian River Florida

dolphin surfing a boat wake
Dolphin surfing the boat wake

A day spent on the Indian River in Florida was an easy adventure. Just south of the Kennedy Space Center the water and land intertwine making a sanctuary for marine life and water birds sharing the space with expensive estate homes and marinas.

Indian River shore
The coast from the Indian River

Recently we took advantage of a Groupon and booked a morning excursion with Good Natured River Tours and we had a great time. Cruising out of the marina next to Grills Riverside restaurant the trip went out on the Indian River and circled back toward Banana River and the tip of Merritt Island.

A number of dolphins seem to have made their permanent home in these sheltered waters and in addition to raiding crab traps they really love surfing in the wake of boats. That alone makes the trip worthwhile.

feeding frezy

Brown pelicans, anhingas, herons and gulls where everywhere. At one point the water near the riverbank was a froth and we went over to take a look. It seemed a large school of fish had come in and the seabirds, along with a few dolphins were taking advantage of the situation. The water was an explosion of froth, wings and flippers with hundreds of anhingas sticking their heads out of the water or bursting into flight.

All along the river’s banks were trees and boat sheds with the nests of Osprey decorating their tops, where male Osprey were hoping that there handiwork would attract a female.

Onboard everyone was busy with phones and cameras trying (hoping) they would be fast enough to catch a photograph of a dolphin as their dorsal fins broke the surface. Not an easy job. The sky was blue and the temperature pleasant and the crew were very knowledgeable about the wildlife and area. It ended back at the marina with a late lunch on the deck of Grills Riverside – highly recommended.

Grills restaurant
The deck at Grills

 

Port of Call Montevideo, Uruguay

Making a Day in the Port of Call Montevideo, Uruguay

Tucked in between Brazil and Argentina along the South American coast is the county of Uruguay. Its capital and major port is the city of Montevideo where over half of the countries population of three million live. A frequent port on many South American cruise itineraries the city is located near where the Rio de la Plata flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It is two-hundred fifty miles down river and east of Buenos Aries.

Where You Dock

Cruise ships normally dock at the Terminal Puerto De Montevideo which sits at the tip of a peninsula which covers most of the Tres Cruces barrio. A barrio is neighbourhood or district and Tres Cruces means “three crossings”, referring to the three major transportation routes which meet in the area. The port is well developed but does not offer a terminal adjacent to the pier. However only a couple of blocks outside the port is a shopping district and public restrooms are available in the Port Market*.

Transportation

While Montevideo is a large metropolitan area,Tres Cruces is the heart of the historic city with most of the sites within walking distance. Getting outside this area usually requires a taxi. While Taxis are common they are not cheap as gasoline is expensive here. A majority of drivers only speak Spanish so be prepared with written names of your destination. Expect to pay about UYU100 for a ten minute ride. Tipping is not usual, but rounding up is common.

Getting To and From the Airport. A shuttle is available between the airport and downtown for about UYS 800/950 or US$45. A taxi should cost about UYU 1500 or US$70.

Currency

Currently a Uruguay Peso (UYU) is worth about US$0.03. Most merchants in popular tourist areas will accept Dollars and Euros and most major credit cards can be used. If using currency expect small change to be in Uruguay Pesos.

Attractions

Just outside the port is The Port Market. Outside are street stalls and local shops and inside the main pavilion is a collection of cafes, bars and restaurants. The area is particularly famous for its steak houses.

Within the Tres Cruces area are a number of attractions like:

 

  • Locks Fountain at Av. 18 de Julio
  • Ramírez Beach, a wide sand beach & popular hangout
  • Galeria SOA, Candombe pedestrian Curuguaty
  • Palacio Diaz at Av. 18 de Julio
  • Ciudadela at Av. Intendente Municipal Juan Pedro Fabini
  • Fountain Plaza Cagancha at Dr. Enrique Tarigo
  • Galería Caubarrere Convención at Restos de la muralla de la Ciudadela at Buenos Aires
  • Mausoleo de José Gervasio Artigas at Prócer de los Orientales
  • Monument at Plaza Independencia
  • The Black Gallery Arte Contemporáneo at Calle Perez Castellano
  • Palacio Santos at Av. 18 de Julio
  • Monumento a Atilio Narancio
  • Palmera de Juana de Ibarbourou at Manuel Vicente Pagola