Monthly Archives: October 2014

SEA LION TO BLEAKER

It’s just a 10 minute flight to Bleaker and because of aircraft rotations, we had to leave at 0830, which meant a 0700 breakfast, but we still managed an early trip down to the beach. Caught another glimpse of the orca out in the bay and dodged the fast lumbering bull elephant seals as I got in their way – not that I meant to, but you walk past them and they look fast asleep and the next minute, they are up on their flippers and moving really fast! Also had another look at the seal carcass, which is now reduced to a pink skeleton being picked over by the cara caras. Sorry to leave here – there is so much wildlife and you become so absorbed with everything around you.

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Arrived on Bleaker and our hostess, Elaine, was more than happy to take us out or leave us to our own devices with lots of guidance. We opted for the latter, so Elaine showed us where to go and what to see and dropped us off South of the settlement so we could walk back. We needed the exercise and enjoyed our walk back along the coast stopping for a delicious packed klunch overlooking a bay watching steamer ducks with chicks, rock shags and the graceful giant petrel. On the way, we ticked another box when we came across a colony of night herons with several nests and quite large chicks.

Back to our house for tea – we are the only guests sharing a house with 4 ensuite bedrooms, kitchen and lounge;there is another house with two further bedrooms an there are available for singles, couples, families or groups on a full service basis in high season or self catering in the winter.

We said we wanted to do more walking, so Elaine then dropped us off at the far end of the island for us to walk back the 8-10 km. the very end of the island is a nature reserve, I.e. no livestock grazing. We had to walk carefully because this is also where lots of southern giant petrels have their nesting sites – really amazing being so close and it was sometimes difficult to see them because they were so well camouflaged, even though these are massive birds. Also, lots of cliff colonies of rock and king shags and always, kelp and upland geese, kelp and dolphin gulls, South American tern, sheathbills, oyster catchers, etc. We walked across the meadows of diddle dee and tussock grass seeing plover, dottrels, finches and tussoc birds, with brown skuas always on the lookout for unattended nests, until eventually, we reached Sandy Bay, a long expanse of beautiful white sandy beach. We had come to see the gentoo penguins (and a few jackass too, coming out of their burrows) and what a beautiful picture they made in the late afternoon sunshine. Then out of the blue came a commotion in the surf and there was a pod of the spectacular black and white Commerson’s dolphin – yet another tick on the list of amazing Falklands wildlife.

Back to the house for a super dinner of roast lamb with mint and trimmings. Elaine’s husband odes the faming on the island and they kill their own beef and lamb. So tasty, I had third helpings! Gorgeous sunset. Back to Stanley in the morning…

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Pebble Island Pebble To Sealion

 


Pebble is a super island and we wish we had more time there. The Pebble Lodge is also a great place to stay and the owner, Ricky, with his team, is a perfect host. This morning, we took another Land Rover trip and the image above is a really typical island scene, penguin, sheep and geese, all in the same scene. We also went up to the HMS Coventry memorial and then down to see the wreckage of an Argentine Mirage, one of three shot down over the island by RAF Harriers in 1982.

All too soon, we had to be back at the airstrip for our flip to Sea Lion Island. This was all the way from north to South and we picked up and dropped off locals at Port Howard and Shallow Harbour on the way. Met by the very pleasant Carol at the Lodge; lunch and the straight out for a ride, surprisingly, cross country in a Land Rover (!), this time with new friends we had already met at Carcass and a young mother from Stanley who had come for a long weekend with her 19 month old son. Lots of stops to look at small birds in the undergrowth, including plovers with their chicks. Then on to the HMS Sheffield memorial, which also happens to be on the cliffs where there is a massive rockhopper colony – even though we have seen so many now, they are still so fascinating and endearing.

Back to the lodge for tea – as usual with lots of home made biscuits and cakes and then out for a walk.

We have seen so much wildlife over the last couple of days, but this afternoon was just wild life central! Across the field from the lodge dodging the Magellenic penguin burrows and on to the beach where there were scores of elephant seals, with the bulls every now and then challenging each other with loud roars and charges along the beach with the dominant male chasing the loser into the surf. Then watching fascinated as Southern gain petrels tore at a dead seal pup and then, gorged, had to run along the beach to to make flight. Turkey vultures fighting for their share too and cara caras waiting in the wings for scraps. Between the beach and the dunes were little islands of nesting gentoos, maybe a hundred or so on each with little groups of messengers waddling in between them. In the dunes themselves were the ubiquitous geese and the occasional sea lion. We moved across the headland to another beach, also crowded with penguins, elephant seals and birds and looked out to sea and there was a pod of about eight orca, hunting the swimming penguins. They were a way off shore, but really clear in binoculars. These were unlike other orca I have seen; more yellowy brown & black in marking than white & black- one big male even had white markings to the front of his body and browny ones to the rear. Just stood watching for ages, every now and then distracted by male elephant seals charging into the surf in front and to the side of us and by penguins darting along in the shallows. Never seen so much wildlife all in one place. Walked back in the fading light, being careful not to damage the entrances to Jackass penguin burrows. Warm, welcoming lodge and good dinner in pleasant company.

The Flight from Pebble Island

Because of the FIGAS flight pattern, early pick up in the morning for short flight to Bleaker Island.

Find out more about the Falklands here

Check out all our trips t the Falklands here

 

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CARCASS TO PEBBLE

The flight times for the Falklands Govt Air Service (FIGAS) are only announced the previous evening depending on forecast weather conditions and demand – they also only use 3 Islander aircraft with just 5 passenger seats. So our flight from Carcass to Pebble Island didn’t come in from Stanley until 13.30. So that meant we had a whole morning on the island and Rob, the owner took us out in his battered Land Rover for a gentle ride after breakfast up to Leopard Bay. There are no rats on Carcass, so there are lots of small birds, many of which are ground nesters, and Bob pointed these all out to us – Falklands thrush, Cobb’s wren, siskins, meadowlarks, Tussoc birds, plovers and more. Coming down to Leopard Bay, we say loads of Magellenic penguins coming in and out of their burrows and then at the bay was the gentoo penguin colony with the birds coming down to the beautiful sandy beach in company of an upland goose and her 6 goslings – there were a couple of snowy sheathbills there too, looking for any easy pickings.

Back to the lodge for tea and then off in the other direction to end up at the airstrip. And then another amazing highlight. We came to a beach with a haul out of elephant seals – all females and pups apart from one massive bull. There were a couple of other males lurking offshore not daring to come near the beach. So, we wandered up the beach and some of the females lifted their heads and gave us a roar. The bull seemed to just be enjoying lying around, occasionally opening his eyes, or rolling over, when all of a sudden he woke up and started lumbering, quite fast, along the beach and launched himself on top of one of th females. She roared and squirmed and after a few minutes, the bull just rolled off and seemed to doze off again, but a minute later he was off to try his luck again. This cow rejected him too, but he was determined and charged off again and this time he was successful and we watched voyeuristically as these massive animals mated. A very special moment.

Carcass Lodge is a great place to stay on a trip to the Falklands and Rob and his wife Lorraine are superb hosts.

A 20 minute flight to Pebble Island and something different again. The island is one of the main stops on the battlefield tour circuit and we learnt all about the SAS operation on the island in the early days of the 1982 conflict. The main attraction, though, was the birds and especially the penguins. There are 3 types of penguin on the island, Magellenic, rockhopper and gentoo, but we saw two more – there was a lone king penguin standing by one of the ponds – unable to swim because it was still moulting, and then, in the middle of a rockhopper colony, there was just one macaroni, with its bright yellow head feathers. Lots more upland and kelp geese, skuas, 3 kinds of shag – rock, king and imperial – petrels, turkey vultures, cara caras and the beautiful light grey dolphin gull with its bright red beak and legs. Some good company again at dinner, another super and enlightening day.

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STANLEY to CARCASS

Interesting day yesterday, Saturday, and brilliant day today, Sunday!

We arrived at Mount Pleasant after quite a long flight from Santiago – 3 hours to Punta Arenas and then another couple to the islands. Staying at the Malvinas House hotel, the best on in town and clean and modern – not sure why, but much better than I expected!

We had a bit of a wander around Stanley this afternoon. It is only small and is just like a British coastal town – it is actually twinned with Whitby – except that all the roofs are brightly painted in red, green, blue or even yellow. There are 19th century buildings, some typical seaside cottages and even some Victorian villas, a cathedral and all the usual public buildings such as post office and police station. Of course, the principal war memorial is for the 1982 conflict and the other big reminder is the feeling of a garrison town with a massive military complex at the main airport, which is 30 miles outside town. So, we ended up at the Globe Inn, a typical squaddie pub with flags and war memorabilia. Not much happening at 6 pm but that would change later!

A pleasant dinner with Kyle and Samantha from the Tourist Office and then we just had to go out for last orders – this time at Deanos – and at 10.30 on a Saturday night, it was really buzzing with all the soldiers and airmen from the base mixing noisily with locals, especially the single girls and everybody just a tad worst for the weather! And then at 11.00 the bell rang and it was just like the old days – time! Everybody piled out on the pavement – there were even a a male and female bobbie hanging around just in case, but it was all really good humoured and we made firm friendships with soldiers from Leeds, Liverpool and Essex and one airman from South Wales. A great evening.

This morning the weather was bright and sunny with azure sky for our flight from the local Stanley Airport to Carcass Island. Four of us flew in the BN Islander over the hundreds of islands at no more than 3000ft, absolutely brilliant. Met by the owner of the lodge and driven over to the house in one of his 4 x 4s – that’s all everybody has here and over 90% must be Land Rover basics! The Lodge has 6 bedrooms and is all very relaxed with cups of tea and cakes on arrival.

One of the islands that wasn’t on our plan was West Point and that was disappointing because that was where there were nesting brown brow albatross. So serendipity, the boat that takes visitors over to West Point was moored in the bay and was going over there anyway, with room for 4 more. What an amazing afternoon! I had seen a nesting albatross before but nothing could have prepared me for a full colony of hundreds of birds nesting amongst the tussocks and, not only that, but sharing the space with even more rockhopper penguins. The albatross were flying overhead, sometimes missing by inches and the rockhoppers were almost underfoot -spent ages just enjoying the experience.

A couple of seals and lots more birds to see including various geese, some with goslings being watched hungrily by the striated cara caras, known locally as Johnny Rooks. Cobs wren, the redbreasted military starling, and, later on a couple of Magellenic penguins. This really is a magic spot

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CROSSING THE ANDES

We are now about 20 minutes away from Santiago and just flying over the Andes. I am in a centre row seat, so can only see part of the magnificent view from the windows, but fortunately, the in flight camera shows me what is underneath.
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We’re Off To The Falklands

 

The Falkland IslandsSimon and John leave today for their fact-finding trip to the Falklands. At Wildfoot Travel, we have been receiving more and more requests from birders and other nature and wildlife enthusiasts for itineraries that spend more time on the Islands.

We have lots of ship-based expeditions that call in on the Falklands and stay for. A couple of days or so, but that is just not enough time to fully appreciate the amazing wildlife in different parts of the Islands. We are going to see for ourselves and will then be able to offer a range of trips to suit all interests.

Today, we fly to Santiago in Chile and then tomorrow, onwards to Stanley. We ‘ll keep you posted with our progress, so watch this space!

Take a look at our wildlife trips and cruises to the Falklands here

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Paddleboarding: the only way to see Antarctica!

Stand Up Paddleboarding in AntarcticaLast week I wrote about camping in Antarctica. Well, while you’re there, why not try the latest thing: Paddleboarding!

It may have become popular in the warm waters of the Hawaiian coast, but Paddleboarding is at its most thrilling when experienced in Antarctica. Paddleboarding, or more specifically Stand-up Paddleboarding, is one of the most recent additions to the variety of outdoor sporting activities that can make a trip to Antarctica so much more exciting. Here’s everything you need to know about this new craze:

Mentally Preparing for a High Altitude Adventure

There is no getting away from it, high altitude training is as tough as it is rewarding. In order to reach whatever summit you have set your sights on, you need to be in the right place mentally. This might sound easier said than done but if you follow these pointers you will be well on the way to reaching great heights (excuse the pun). Seriously though, to have success, you need to be strong mentally and emotionally, have a positive attitude and be able to think in the moment. Last week I wrote about the physical challenges, this post deals with the mental.

The Best GPS Kit for Extreme Condition Expeditions

We all know that technology has become so incredible that the phone in your pocket is basically a super-computer you can carry around with you. Make a call, browse the internet, watch movies, play games, and, of course, use it as a GPS if you’re lost on the streets of a town you’ve never visited before.

But there’s one thing you can’t do. You can’t very well pop out your smartphone to calculate your location when you’re in the middle of, say, the rain-forest, at the peak of Everest, or wandering the snowy banks of the Arctic. Not because those areas haven’t been mapped – thanks to those geniuses at NASA and beyond, pretty much the whole world is under satellite surveillance – but because of the extremely hostile environment.

If you’re going off-road, you’ll need a GPS device capable of handling intense weather and unforgiving landscapes. Here’s our top picks for the best GPS for extreme conditions.

Physically Preparing for a High Altitude Adventure

If you are preparing to embark on a high altitude adventure, as well a strong mental disposition, you will also need to be physically prepared. It can be tough going and you need to be in peak condition as lets face it, once you get to high altitude, there isn’t an easy way out. To ensure you are ready for the demands high altitude will throw at you, you will need to put a significant amount of time and energy into a training regime. The last thing you want is your body not being up to the challenge when you are facing extreme conditions. In order to prepare as well as possible, there are four key areas you need to focus on.

Altitude Training

As well as the necessary fitness training (which we will come to), to properly prepare yourself for high altitude, you need to acclimatise to high altitude. This may sound like common sense but is vital. For those lucky enough to have access to hypoxic tents, altitude training is made a lot easier. For most people though, it involves heading to the hills for short duration climbs which will allow your body to increase your efficiency at dealing with altitude.

Strength Building

Hauling your body up around with a heavy backpack of supplies obviously requires a degree of physical strength. Make sure you hit the gym and focus on squats, pullups, pushups, lunges and dips as well as some free weight training. It may sound daft but once you get to a comfortable point in your training, try training with your backback on too to mimic real-world conditions.

Stamina Training

It is safe to say, you won’t be up and down a peak such as Everest in a matter of hours so you need to ensure you have the right levels of stamina. You need to have a right mixture of aerobic and anaerobic training so you can deal with high intensity and continuous movement.

You should ensure you training includes cycling, running, swimming and gym classes for the aerobic as well as interval training or Fartlek training to help improve your endurance.

Climb

It seems like common sense but getting as much actually climbing experience in before your big test is essential. As well as your endurance training, getting as much ‘boot on rock’ experience in will pay dividends when you come to your summit day.

If you keep on track with these four areas, you should be as prepared as possible for your big day. The only thing to remember then is to try and enjoy what will be a truly memorable experience.

Find out more out our trips here.

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Camping In Antarctica

It may not be for everyone but a visit to Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With its stunning views and wildlife, it’s one of the most fascinating places in the world. But as beautiful as it is, it’s also the coldest continent and therefore comes with challenges. The environment itself can be dangerous. Even in the summertime, it’s extremely cold. You should be in good health if visiting Antarctica because only basic medical treatment is available. It is the challenges, however, that make the Antarctic the ultimate destination for outdoor enthusiasts/campers.

More about Arctic Biodiversity

If I asked you to name one of Earth’s most diverse ecosystems, chances are you’d say the Amazonian rainforest, or a coral reef. But above the Arctic Circle, an impossible amount of wildlife exists in harmony with the bitter cold temperature in a fragile ecosystem that is completely dependent on the changing of the seasons.