1000 KING Penguins “WELCOME” 24 Canadians!
1000 KING Penguins “Welcome” 24 Canadians!
Tuesday, January 28/20
Our Falkland Islands experience was an “one of a kind” adventure.
Over a year and half ago I contacted the very best Falkland Island tour operator in order to book my passengers on his Falkland Island Volunteer Point excursion so we could visit the home of over 1000 King Penguins.
Only 200 visitors a day are offered the opportunity to visit Volunteer Point. There are 3000 passengers on the Celebrity Eclipse and over 2000 passengers on the Holland America Amsterdam which was also in port today so very get to mingle with the King Penguins.
I discussed this excursion with my passengers a number of times over the past year so they were very prepared for the day. We were ready to go ashore at 7am.
My experience paid off as I figured a way to get us off early – we were all on the first tender which ended up being a HUGE benefit. Boarding was a challenge because it was very windy and the sea was very choppy. I estimate the crossing took a good 20 mimutes. Getting off the tender was a bit of a challenge too because of the deteriorating weather conditions. The local operator was waiting for us. He was surprised that the ships tender service was operating.
We met our 6 very professional drivers and boarded their 4 x 4 vehicles. We were put on hold while the ship staff and port authorities debated what to do about the turbulent tender process.
Due to weather and sea conditions the Falkland Island port authority closed the port and tender service stopped but lucky for us we were already on the island.
Shortly we heard an announcement that tender services wouldn’t attempt to re-start until 3pm so we were told to start our journey. Communication on Falklands is a challenge – cell phones did not work where we traveled and wifi was non-existent.
Holland America didn’t end up unloading any passengers so when the port closed they departed.
Celebrity was in a bit of a bind – they also wanted to sail but there were around 300 passengers that got ashore and leaving us behind would be a major issue.
Volunteer Point is one of the worlds most unique destinations – its an adventure getting there which adds to the experience. The majority of the drive is through farmers fields – the farmer owns 55000 acres – our drivers were excellent and did the best to make the ride as smooth as possible by driving carefully and slowly but we still bounced all over the place – this is true off-roading – definitely a fun “amusement park” type experience.
Part way through our journey there was a washroom break at a farm facilities. There was also a bakery stand here for anyone that felt like a treat.
We were 30 minutes from Volunteer Point traveling through the farmers field when we received notice by radio for us to head back to the pier – weather conditions worsened.
In our 4×4 convoy there was another group in 6 vehicles – they turned around and we followed but our drivers started chatting and couldn’t understand the command for us to turn around especially since tenders were not running. They decided to be defiant and wanted to “make sure” that we needed to return. After a number of back and forth radio communications we heard a “Let’s Go To See Some Penguins” announcement so our 6 drivers turned their vehicles towards Volunteer Point and away we went.
Volunteer Point is a special place but it was extra special for us because my group of 24 + 2 Americans were the only ones there!
Before we got out of the vehicles to start our stroll another radio message arrived from the ship – we needed to be back by 2pm. This allowed us 40 minutes to “Walk With The Penguins”. I made sure my passengers understood we needed to adhere to this demand. We had more than enough time to get our wonderful pictures. Everyone was beaming when we arrived back to the vehicles. What an AMAZING experience.
It felt like we were competing on “The Amazing Race” as our experienced drivers headed back to the ship. My passengers even passed up the scheduled washroom break as they knew we needed to return to the ship.
Typically after visiting the Falkland Islands there is a long line of passengers waiting to re-board tender boats sailing to the ship. When we arrived at the pier there was a tender waiting “just for us”. Our local operator personally walked us to ship security and re-confirmed our passenger count with them. The ship staff was paged so they knew we were on our way and we were ushered on the tender.
There was a welcoming committee waiting for us when we arrived back on board – the documents officer and the hotel manager from Poland who I have dealt with on other cruises greeted us with big smiles. They were holding trays of hot chocolate to warm us up but the weather conditions had improved majorly – blue skies and next to no wind.
They kindly asked for us not to “spread the word” about our amazing experience on Falkland Island – after all over 2700 passengers did not get the opportunity to visit the Falklands but the 24 of us had enjoyed an “experience of a lifetime” with 1000 King Penguins.
Like they say “the early bird gets the worm”!
When I eventually find time to write my book this day will easily fill a chapter!
NOTE – Pictures will follow when wifi service improves.