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Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

London, England
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Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

Hi all, I'm hoping some of you knowledgeable people may be able to help me. We have a week-long trip to the Faklands planned from October 6th to 13th, flying LAN from Santiago to Stanley on the weekly flight. The flights are booked and we now 'just' need to plan the itinerary.

We'd like to see as much as possible whilst we're there, and we already know we'll spend a day or two in Stanley obviously, but I want to ensure we plan in the 'most important' thing before planning anything else. This is to plan a trip to Volunteer Point. Ideally we would like to stay overnight there - which I gather might, in theory, be possible - because we'd like to spend plenty of time there and also be there either first thing in the morning, the evening, or preferably both.

I had planned that we might hire a car for our trip - a 4wd, obviously - and that we might get to Volunteer Point this way. The Falklands Tourism website suggested it is possible to hire vehicles, but the tour operators through whom we booked our flights, International Tours and Travel, say not. I came on here to research it and have seen some very negative feedback about ITT (together with some more positive reviews) and now I don't know what to think.

We generally prefer independence when we travel and I am very disappointed if we're going to have to 'tour' for everything, even though I accept it'll be necessary for some parts of the trip. I obviously don't expect that there is public transport on tap (!) but would be gutted to find we must do everything with a guide.

All help gratefully received - on vehicle hire and Volunteer Point and - well, anything else really! There may be more questions after this too...

Stanley, Falkland...
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1. Re: Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

My background - I moved to the Falklands in January from the UK. I have explored a couple of islands and around Stanley, and parts of East Falklands. I know beaches near Stanley where I can see penguins every day of the year. I have not been to Volunteer Point for a couple of good reasons - cost, and navigation (and that I've seen a fair number of King Penguins on South Georgia).

So, my take on it (and I have a 4x4) is that the track to VP is across unmarked boggy land. No road. The local drivers have been driving Land Rovers since the age of 4 and know the countryside. I know I would either get lost or stuck, or both.

I have travelled extensively in Africa. The roads on the Falklands are worse than any I came across there. The "main" road to the airport is gravel and described a a "disgrace" by many residents. Hence some of the odd restrictions with car hire. On my first week here, I went to the biggest car hirer and asked to rent a car for the weekend. "We don't have any" was the reply! "But I haven't said when I want to hire", I said. "Don't matter, we don't have any. They've all gone". So, a unique concept of customer service....

(There are about 4 firms that rent cars Let me know if you want details).

I think there is a hut at Volunteer Point, where the warden stays, but I'm not sure if you can stay there.

Possibly worth asking Falklands Conservation or the land-owner. But ITT are a respected local firm, and they should know what they are taking about.

Another reason I've not been desperate to see VP, is that the islands have an incredible display of wildlife. I've been to Carcass, New, Sea Lion and Bleaker which have all been fantastic (especially Carcass and Sea Lion), but some people tell me Saunders or Pebble or Weddell are just as good...

In 30 minutes I can be on Bleaker or Sea Lion by small plane from Stanley's airport (not the international Mount Pleasant).

So why would I want to drive for 6-8 hours to see some penguins at Volunteer Point? Sea Lion has Gentoo, Magellanic**** and Rockhopper penguins plus Elephant seals giving brth at that time of year, plus Orcas, plus Caracaras, plus Cobbs Wren.....

There are so many places to see here. Volunteer Point is famous because that's where the King Penguins are, and thats where the cruise ship sell trips to their passengers.

But, you can WALK to see penguins in Stanley. However, there is no money in that for cruise ships or car hire firms!

No - you do not need a guide. But if time is short, (and its an expensive trip) you may think that using one is good value. However, you certainly can just hire a car and head out onto the open road. Just don't expect an extensive network of well-maintained roads!

Stanley, Falkland...
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2. Re: Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

Magellanic*****

I originally called them Jack@ss penguins, as that's what they are called in South Africa, but Tripadvisor refused to accept that "profanity"!

London, England
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3. Re: Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

Hi there, thanks so much for taking the time to write such a detailed and helpful post. In the time between me posting my thread and you posting your reply, things have moved on a little (to my surprise!)

Reading some other threads here on Tripadvisor, I found the name of a local guide and decided to contact them to ask about Volunteer Point. Turns out they will be acting as warden this season with their wife! so although I still need to fix the exact date as I have a couple of options depending upon what else we can do with our itinerary, I do have that bit arranged (I'm really quite amazed). You're right, though - it isn't cheap (to get there, the accommodation is very reasonable once we're there). But I had also read threads on here (which is what prompted me to contact a guide) suggesting exactly what you have - a bad idea to try and drive to Volunteer Point. I'd assumed - naively, as it turns out, and totally incorrectly but to be fair, I'd done it based upon the impression given by the official tourism website - that whilst there'd be a lot of unmetalled roads, there would actually mostly be roads! Clearly not, by the sound of it, but I'm not complaining, we're not coming to the Fakllands because of their extensive road network!

So thanks for your thoughts, and they are noted, but I think my husband will certainly feel the extra money and time is worthwhile to see the King Penguins. I can't see we're ever likely to get another opportunity in the whole of our lives...

But the rest of your post is also really, really helpful (and LOL at the profanity of the penguin name, for crying out loud!) Basically, aside from about 2 days taken up by the Volunteer Point trip, I think we'll head either to Sea Lion Island or to Saunders Island (and preferably the latter because it'd be nice to 'go out West'), The rest of the time I'm thinking we'll spend in and around Stanley, potentially with a hire 4x4 for at least some of it. ONe thing that wil influence all of this is cost - I keep reading how expensive FIGAS filghts are but there's nothing written down anywhere that gives any kind of a feel, so I'm a bit scared ! Do you have any idea, have you taken any? I'll obviously have to contact them or their agents for some quotes as a next stage.

Anyway thanks again for your thoughts, I can see I might be fluttering my eyelashes to pick your brains again!

Finally - what has brought you to the Fakllands (nosey question I know, feel free to ignore me if you want!)

Stanley, Falkland...
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4. Re: Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

Hi,

My wife has a job here. There are many "contract workers" on fixed-term contracts. making up the shortfall in local manpower.

Am happy to help. I have a couple of friends coming out later in the year, so I am giving them similar advice.

Who is the Volunteer Point guide? (It used to be Mickey Reeve?) Just wondering if I know him. However, I can't see you'll have any problem (apart from cost) getting someone to take you. However, staying overnight, means someone has to make TWO trips - there and back to Stanley, twice. You might find someone who lives nearer VP to take you but then, you'd have to get to them and leave you car there, or they would have to come to Stanley to pick you up. Either way, you are increasing your costs considerably.

FIGAS - Yes, their operation can be a bit mysterious until you get to know it. It has some unique processes, like announcing on the radio the flight schedules and names of all passengers the evening before ! So no nipping off quietly to Saunders Island for a naughty weekend!

The costs are different for residents and visitors, as is the luggage allowance, so its probably better asking them directly or the agents. Don't expect Ryanair prices. I think its around £120 per leg. But it's more like a taxi service. They tailor the flights each day to meet demand.

All luggage and passengers are weighed. Dogs, cats and penguins are cheaper to carry than sheep! (this is an 8-seater plane!!)

If you want to see photos etc of some of the islands, send me a Private Message (click on my name and choose "Send message").

cheers

Stanley, Falkland...
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5. Re: Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

Hi,

I've just seen your review of the Waterfront cafe. Good timing on your part!

Just wondered how you are getting on, and how you got to Volunteer Point?

I'm arranging a trip in November and have been told the track is very wet. Who did you use?

Are you leaving tomorrow? Hope you had a good trip.

London, England
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6. Re: Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

Hi there, in haste as my expensive internet card is about to run out! I didn't look at the name of the person who did the review before me so I didn't notice it was you - sorry! yes, still here and returning home tomorrow on the Chile flight. Volunteers - Derek Pettersson and his wife Trudi are wardens this year - more accurately, Trudi is the warden but they both live there. They were wardens for 2 or 3 years, before Mickey was for the last couple of years, and now they are back again. I got in touch with Derek not for that reason but as a guide I saw recommended on here, and asked him about Volunteer Point. Of course, he was in a very good position to advise! In the end, he picked us up from MPA and took us straight to Volunteer Point when we arrived - we stayed there 2 nights with full board in the wardens' cottage (they have 2 guest rooms for this purpose though we were lucky in only having us staying there therefore we could use the extra room for our many bags!)

Volunteer Point was AMAZING. I honestly can't imagine a better experience. WE subsequently went straight to Sea Lion Island which was good, but honestly not as amazing as Volunteer Point. I can highly recommend it, and recommend going via Derek. His day tour adverts are in many of the tourist places including one up in the foyer of The Waterfront, I noticed, so you can get in touch with him that way. Got to go! Will write more reviews when I'm home!

Stanley, Falkland...
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7. Re: Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

Many thanks. I have booked with Charlene Rowlands, who also has a good reputation. But hopefully I will meet up with Derek at some point.

Were the elephant seals at Sea Lion, yet? They usually attract killer whales.

Hope you have a good journey home,

8. Re: Planning week-long trip in October - help please!

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