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How an Encounter with Penguins Changed Her Life

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Sep 16, 2019

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  Photo by Mark Koch

  Photo by Mark Koch

A closeup with nature in the Falkland Islands led this woman to embrace a higher eco-consciousness.

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This story is part of Travel Tales, a series of life-changing adventures on afar.com. Read more stories of transformative trips on the Travel Tales home page. And, though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

The Tale of Transformation
In most places we visited on the Falkland Islands, we were the only humans within miles. It gave us a unique opportunity to sit near the penguin colonies, observe the daily lives of these unique creatures, and develop a connection to them. Here, we were the outsiders—guests in the world of natural beauty that, sadly, is disappearing.

The Rockhopper penguins, with their tufts of yellow and orange hair and bright red eyes, were perhaps the most endearing. They were also exceptionally curious. As my husband lay on the ground to photograph them at their level, a small group came closer and closer, tilting their heads to get a better look. One even nibbled on the phone with its beak before walking away.

We felt humbled and privileged to be allowed to commune with nature in such an intimate setting. It strengthened our commitment to protect the earth and its wildlife in every possible way.

—Submitted by Diana Russler

Photo by Paul Carroll

Do This Yourself
The remote land of the Falkland Islands—300 miles off the southern coast of Argentina—is still truly wild country, with less than 3,000 residents. It’s a place where intimate encounters with wildlife like this happen all the time.

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Bird life is especially common here, including the several different species of penguins—from kings to gentoos and magellanics to the endearing rockhoppers this writer experienced. You can see them in a few different places, such as Port Stephens, in West Falkland; the Long Gulch, on Bleaker Island; and the 80-acre Kidney Island—a trip that requires a guide and permit. Watch them stroll along beaches or cling to remote cliffs.

Of course, penguins aren’t the only creatures found here: whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions are all here, as well as more than 200 species of bird. After a magical day of wildlife-spotting, you can retire to your cozy inn or explore the brightly colored wooden homes of the capital, Stanley.

Getting to the Falkland Islands isn’t super-easy, but it’s very doable: LATAM flies there from Santiago, Chile, and cruise ships run trips there as well.

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