We are delighted to announce our fourth Wild Fibers Tour to The Falkland Islands. In the relatively short time we have been traveling there, it has grown exponentially in popularity. The once-a-week flight from South America is now selling-out more than eight months in advance during the high season. And so please bear that time frame in mind if you are contemplating joining us in 2020.
Why we go?
For many people the first mention of The Falklands elicits recollections of headlines from 1982 during the Falkland War with Argentina. This otherwise unremarkable tiny archipelago off the Argentine coast seemed to vanish from the international radar after the last Naval vessel sailed home. For those who fancy wild fibers, however, The Falklands is one of the finest destinations on the planet, housing nearly one half million sheep amongst a population of 3000 humans and with no trees or bushes of any real significance to contaminate the fleece, Falkland wool is deemed some of the cleanest and brightest in the industry, Without exaggeration (promise), Falkland wool is in a class of its own. But that is only a small part of why we go there.
As with all of our Wild Fibers Tours, we are dedicated to providing opportunity and access not afforded to the common traveler. Our itineraries are designed to combine a love of fiber and craft while optimizing the very best from our surroundings and the local culture. With fewer than a dozen lodges throughout the outer islands, our Falkland Islands Tour is equal parts enchanting and exclusive.
The famous whale bone church in downtown Stanley,
January 24 (mandatory arrival)
Punta Arenas, Chile
Depending on whether you choose to explore other parts of Chile before the tour begins, perhaps a side trip to Torres del Paine, which is close by, we will officially gather for dinner before our departure to The Falklands the following day. We encourage people to arrive a day early not only to ward off a bit of jet lag, but also to enjoy exploring the sights in Punta Arenas. A remote outpost in its own right, this is where the successful voyage to retrieve Shackleton's men from Elephant Island was ultimately launched from. For those wishing to honor this extraordinary chapter in polar exploration history, we will meet at the Shackleton Bar for cocktails earlier in the evening.
Punta Arenas claims to be the southern most city in the world although Puerto William is technically further south and so is Ushuaia (Argentina). Regardless of its latitude, Punta Arenas offers a unique blend of Scandinavian style architecture, featuring brightly colored roofs mixed with South America's Spanish influence. There is an excellent museum with exhibits on local cultural history. The original inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego (Feugians) dressed in guanaco skins and painted their bodies with symmetric patterns. It also has a tremendous exhibit on polar exploration. Seemingly no matter where you dine, the food is outrageously delicious with avocados the size of your fist and enough ceviche to fill your pescatarian cravings.
The original Fuegians in their traditional dress - or lack thereof.
Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Following breakfast we will leave for the airport and our quick non-stop flight to The Falklands. Luggage limits are strict and we urge people to pack accordingly. We will be met by coach at the airport and taken to The Malvina House in "downtown" Stanley. Situated directly across the street from Stanley Harbor, one can often feel the full effect of the notorious Falkland winds just carrying your suitcase inside. Because of its central location, it is also the ideal place to explore this small city (population approximately 2600) and poke about the local craft shops, enjoy some tea (it is a British overseas territory, afterall) and begin to embrace a world that is all-things-penguin.
Saturday night dinner at The Malvina House is considered the premiere destination by locals, a testament to the chef's talents, and the obvious choice for our first meal in the islands.
We will travel to Pebble Island after breakfast on a Britten-Norman Islander plane, part of the FIGAS (Falkland Island Government Air Service) fleet. The flight to Pebble Island is less than an hour and provides a perfect overview of the islands and seas below. It is quite possible to spot whales from your window seat—everyone has one. Pebble Island offers 19 miles of unspoiled serenity (which also means internet is limited!) For the next three days, we will occupy the entire (and only) lodge on the island, indulging our passion for wild fibers and wildlife.
The sheep have been chased from the runway and we're cleared for landing.
No need to worry about which baggage carousel to check for your luggage.
After settling into our rooms at the lodge and enjoying tea and sweets, the fiber challenge (for those who so desire) begins. Riki Evans, owner of Pebble Lodge and a lifelong farmer will face-off against the local farmer in a shearing competition down at the farm. Frankly, we're rooting for the sheep! With raw wool in hand the spinning begins and for others, you are free to begin exploring this piece of paradise. There are paths aplenty with penguins, sheep, cormorants, and a four-mile beach within easy walking distance of your backdoor. You can also find your favorite seat in the lounge and enjoy a perfect afternoon read.
East End, Pebble Island
We will have the opportunity to explore both east and west ends of Pebble, beginning with the east, which has a bountiful population of Magellanic, Gentoo and Rockhopper Penguins. We will ride in our Land Rover along the shores of the fresh water lake, taking in the extraordinary bird life that is thoroughly enchanting even for the non-birders. Weather-permitting, we we will have lunch cliffside, with a busy Rockhopper colony below and the possibility of spotting a Macaroni Penguin or two. At this time of year, both penguins and cormorants will be tending their young, making for some extraordinary photo-ops along with a day filled with fun and excitement.
Lunch time by the sea,
Rockhopper ecstasy and Cormorant's new wings.
West End, Pebble Island
The west end of Pebble Island has a very different topography from the east, including three mountains (hiking available for the uber-ft and ambitious), historical wreckage sites from the war that are eerily still intact, and a huge (HUGE!) colony of Rockhoppers. We will drive to the most westerly tip of the island where the surf crashes with unrelenting abandon passing thousands of sheep (approximately 8000 live on the island), more colonies of Magellanic and Gentoo penguins. The sky is full of Johnny Rooks and Caracaras and no doubt the occasional albatross. Lunchtime along the beach (in a protected cove) is apt to be shared with a seal or two and every year to date we have been entertained by whales breeching on the horizon. All of this while enjoying a hot cup of French press coffee and a freshly bakes scone.
Tonight is movie night! There are two exceptional documentaries about the war produced by the BBC, providing a perspective not typically portrayed to an American audience. You will come away with a much different understanding as to the reason for the conflict and the dramatic impact it had on changing island policy.
* (optional 2-day tour to Sea Lion Island available, space limited)
We could depart for Stanley after breakfast, after lunch, or somewhere in between. The exact time is determined by FIGAS and broadcast over the radio the night before. Consequently, are plans for the day are flexible. Depending on our arrival time in Stanley we will head to the Marine Museum filled with fascinating photos and artifacts from the Islands' history. Plus, an actual Antarctic refuge hut from the 1950s that accompanies a comprehensive polar exploration exhibit. We will also have a private tour of the floating wool warehouse where all of the Falkland wool is tested and packed for shipping around the world.
Located 2.5 hours north of Stanley, Volunteer Point is home to the largest King Penguin colony in The Falklands. The first half of the drive is along a gravel road. The second half is not. If you have a bad back or are prone to car sickness, this might not be the ride for you. We will be off-roading over hill 'n dale, stopping at a local sheep farm for freshly-baked sweets along the way, and then have several hours to enjoy the nesting Kings along the shoreline. Their mannerisms and stature are quite different from the other penguins we will have seen, and we will be arriving just as the chicks are beginning to hatch.
Nearly 20 years ago, Hattie Kilmartin came to The Falklands on a 6-month contract as a cook at one of the lodge's on West Falkland - she has been here ever since. Now married to Kevin Kilmartin, owner of Bluff Cove Farm and several thousand sheep, Hattie's culinary talents have manifested in creating the best tea house in the islands, a fabulous gift shop stocked with blankets designed in a tweed to reflect the landscape, and eclectic selection of penguin paraphernalia. And, because it is shearing season, we will be treated to a private tour of the farm and shearing shed. Lunch will be at their home, featuring a farm-to-fork menu.
After our adventures at Bluff Cove, we will return to Stanley for some last-minute shopping, perhaps a pint at the local pub, and then our farewell dinner.
Our last day in The Falklands is all too brief. Soon after breakfast we depart for the airport and our flight home. Please note that when making your reservations, you will need to book your ticket to the Falklands (airport code: MPN), and we recommend allowing three hours for your connection in Santiago. Because of the potential for strong winds, the flight is often delayed and some may choose to overnight in Chile to reduce travel anxiety.
Maximum Group Size: 9 adults
Tour cost: $3955* (US)
Single supplement: tour price plus 30%
Please read brochure for a full description.
Please contact Linda Cortright for questions and availability.