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Chile and the Falklands Wildlife Holiday: Penguins and albatrosses

14 days from £5421pp

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Chile and the Falklands Wildlife Holiday: Penguins and albatrosses

14 days from £5421pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to hotel in the capital.
 

Your hotel in Santiago's in the pleasant residential and commercial quarter of Providencia. Santiago is set in a broad valley between ranges of the Andes, with majestic snow-capped peaks, and a smaller coastal range with a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Santiago is a huge metropolis, a mix of the old and the contemporary, with quarters of tree-lined avenues and affluent tranquillity and others full of commercial bustle. 

Santiago Chile

Day 2

Guided excursion to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar.
 
Take a guided day trip to the Pacific port of Valparaiso and the beach resort Viña del Mar. Valparaiso was a commercially important port until the Panama Canal opened.

It has long retained a certain tumbledown charm and plenty of character, making it one of Chile's most interesting and photogenic cities: however nowadays it is having a bit of a renaissance, its peeling façades receiving a colourful facelift. Steps, winding lanes and a series of funicular railways connect the upper and lower city.

From Valparaiso, it's a short drive north along the coastal road to Viña del Mar, the main seaside resort serving Santiago with a very different feel from its larger neighbour. Once a glamorous town attracting celebrities, its charm is now rather parochial but the casinos, resort hotels and the beaches are very popular at weekends.

Valparaiso

Day 3

Fly to the Falklands Islands, transfer to Darwin; visit war sites.
 
Today, you’ll fly from Santiago to Mount Pleasant, the islands’ airport on East Falkland.

Still most commonly visited as a day’s excursion from Antarctic cruises, the islands are growing in popularity in their own right. A week’s visit allows you to observe a good sample of sub-Antarctic wildlife - enough to satisfy those who do not have the time to cruise to Antarctica. You’ll stay in farmhouses or small owner-operated lodges and travel by light aircraft and 4WD vehicle.

It’s a drive of less than an hour to the old settlement of Darwin, named after naturalist Charles Darwin who visited the islands in the 1830s. The place relates a narrative of the Falkland Islands’ history. There is plenty to see from the 1982 conflict, and there are also vestiges of the gauchos' occupation in the 1800s. While staying at Darwin House, a converted farmhouse built in typical Falkland’s style, you can spot birds from its waterfront location: night heron, blackish oystercatchers, ruddy-headed and upland geese visit the environs of the property.

Darwin was once the largest settlement after Port Stanley but it now has a permanent population of just 7 and serves as a sheep-farming location as is nearby Goose Green, famous for its role in the 1982 conflict. If available, the owner of the guest house will escort you on an informative tour of the battlefields and memorial sites.

Darwin House, Falklands

Days 4-5

Fly to Pebble Island, home to huge penguin colonies.
 
Fly by the Falkland Islands Government Air Service’s 8-seater Britten Norman Islander to Pebble Island on the tip of West Falkland (30 mins). On a clear day, the relatively low- altitude flight provides you with exceptional views of the Falkland’s coastlines and inland scenery.

Pebble Island is one of the larger outlying islands, with a varied landscape of large ponds, moorland, long sandy beaches and rocky cliffs. The western side of the island is mountainous and the eastern side flat with wetlands and tussock grass. The only settlement is located on a narrow isthmus close to Elephant Beach, the longest sand beach on the Falklands at just over 7km.

Pebble Island is renowned for its wildlife: it is home to large gentoo, rockhopper and Magellanic penguin colonies. It is one of the premier bird-watching destinations in the Falklands: thanks to the wetlands, it is a major wildfowl breeding site; not only are there 42 Falklands species, but also many visiting birds from South America and beyond. Species include king cormorants, giant petrels and black-necked swans.

Pebble was used by Argentina as an airbase during the 1982 war and was made famous after a successful SAS raid to destroy aircraft. There is no material evidence of this today but there are 2 Argentine crash sites which can be visited and a memorial to HMS Coventry sunk by the Argentines with 11 fatalities.

It’s a very picturesque island with a beautiful 7km stretch of white sand (Elephant Beach), perfect for hiking. The island is named after the translucent colourful pebbles found on some of the beaches and used to make jewellery.

Pebble Island Cormorants

Days 6-7

Fly to tiny Sea-Lion Island, famed for its abundant wildlife.
 
Fly to Sea-Lion Island, one of the smallest in the Falklands archipelago, a top destination owing to the sheer mind-boggling abundance of easily observed wildlife. The endangered striated caracara, Antarctic skuas, southern giant petrels, and a host of passerines can be spotted.

Not to be missed are the southern sea lions at East Loafers, and the elephant seals which bask on the white sandy beach at the appropriately named Elephant Corner. The latter are close enough to be seen from the Sea Lion Island Lodge bar! Keep an eye open as there is the odd killer whale to be spotted off shore as well.

The island was formerly a sheep-farm but farming activities are no longer practised. Being small and flat it is easily explored on foot. The settlement consists of your friendly lodge (the only purpose-built Lodge in the Falklands, close to the airstrip) plus a few other old farm buildings which now accommodate staff from the lodge and research scientists. There are two landing strips (1 earth and 1 grass).

There is a memorial to HMS Sheffield which was sunk by Argentine forces in 1982 as well as graves of one of the 3 civilians killed during the Conflict.

Day 8

Fly to Mount Pleasant and continue to Port Stanley.
 
Fly to Port Stanley and proceed to your hotel overlooking the harbour.

Port Stanley is the capital of the Falklands and the only settlement on the island of a substantial size, with over 2,000 inhabitants. There are several places of interest easily explored on foot including the 1982 Liberation Memorial, Falkland Islands Museum and Lady Elizabeth shipwreck in Stanley Harbour.

Alternatively, wander around and admire the unique Anglo-Falklands architecture which dominates the centre and harbour front, Victorian-style brick or stone houses with brightly painted woodwork and corrugated iron roofs (known affectionately locally as 'wriggly tin'). This is the best place to shop or buy gifts.

Day 9

Visit Volunteer Point.
 
The 3hr drive by 4WD to Volunteer Point (mostly off-road) can be bumpy, but the scenery is very interesting.

You pass minefields, through 'stone runs' (geological features resembling giant dry river beds descending from near the mountain peaks), small farm settlements (including Port Louis, the first settlement on the islands), round beautiful Barclay Sound and alongside some of the many ponds which are a typical feature of the Falkland’s landscape.

Volunteer Point has a white sandy beach and is home to large colonies of king, Magellanic and gentoo penguins.

There is a host of other wildlife to be seen along the beach and on the lagoons.

Volunteer Point

Day 10

Fly to Punta Arenas in Patagonia, by road to Puerto Natales.
 

Fly to Punta Arenas, southern Chile. Continue (3hrs) by lonely road to Puerto Natales, a small town with a memorable setting, right on the shores of photogenic Last Hope Sound. The road takes you across inhospitable plains, battered by perpetual winds.

Puerto Natales looks out over icy sea and snow-capped peaks. The grids of one-storey wooden houses and small shops still have a frontier-town feel.

Your luxurious and innovative hotel, the Singular, retains parts of the original abandoned structure of an early 20th century refrigeration plant, built in what is now called Post Victorian Industrial style. The lofty ceilings, bits of restored machinery and little museum keep alive the memory of when the sheep was King.

Guanaco

Days 11-12

Excursions from the hotel, including to Torres del Paine National Park.
 
Choice of excursions from the hotel.

A choice of excursions is included such as glacier cruises, guided trekking, kayaking, biking and bird watching.

A highlight will surely be a visit to Torres del Paine National Park, dominated by a granite massif of smooth rock towers and icy pinnacles. Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have created a remarkable and unique environment. The area is a natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas).

Day 13

Transfer to Punta Arenas and fly to Santiago.
 

Transfer back to Punta Arenas airport (3hrs) and fly to Santiago (4hrs), overnight.

Day 14

Transfer to airport for international flight home.
 

14 days from £5421pp

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