Antarctica Dream Adventure 04 – Off-road to Volunteer Point and Penguins

Falkland Islands a British overseas territory

We left Octantis by Zodiac and landed on the dock at Port Stanley. Port Stanley is the capital city of The Falkland Islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean. As a British overseas territory, the Falklands have internal self-governace, but the United Kingdom takes responsibility for their defence and foreign affairs. This explained why Octantis took our passports as we checked in to the ship. At first we thought it unusual, but we were going to land in part of the United Kingdom.

The Drive to Volunteer Point

We then boarded the off-road vehicles in groups of four. The first third of the drive was on a finished road.

We had an excellent driver who gave us a good commentary during the drive. When we passed a curio, Louise asked what it was and he stopped so that she could take a photograph and he explained that when people leave the Falklands they come to this spot and, if they want to come back they leave one shoe and if they do not want to come back they leave two shoes.

Antarctica Dream Adventure shows a place where people leaving The Falklands leave one shoe if they want to return and two shoes if they do not.
The shoes curio

The second third was a dirt road. Not rough and definitely not true off-road, that was still to come. At the end of the dirt road there was a gate which just opened on the day we were there, 1st November, as the beginning of the visitor season.

Antarctica Dream Adventure signs for the beginning of the off-road section of the drive
Entry to the true off road section

From this point the going was much slower and rather bumpy. Our driver very nearly got bogged, but made a good recovery.

First Sight

After the long and sometimes bumpy drive, the first strange or unexpected thing you see are sheep with their “this year” lambs grazing and completely oblivious to the penguins and their cacophony.

Antarctic Dream Adventure takes us to Volunteer Point in the Falkland Islands where sheep are grazing among the penguins
Sheep and lambs grazing in the Penguin colony

The Beach

The beach at Volunteer Point makes an excellent background for taking pictures of the King Penguins and the Gentoo Penguins. The sand is very light colored and can give the impression that the penguins are on snow. The very strong wind blows the sand at a low level giving the impression that there might be a ground mist.

King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus)

King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) are the second largest species of penguins. They walk very upright and at a steady pace. However, they do appear to have a problem deciding where they, as a group, want to go. Apart from individuals, they tend to be in smallish groups or in a very long line – following the self appointed leader.

To view Richard’s gallery of King Penguins click here

Antarctica Dream Adventure a King penguin on a mission
King Penguin a lone walker
Antarctica Dream Adventure a group of King penguins descending the sand dunes
Small group of King Penguins
Here we come, this is our highway!
Antarctica Dream Adventure a column of King penguins heading for the water to go fishing
King Penguin column
King Penguins to the sea then back again. A demonstration of their confusion.
Antarctica Dream Adventure a conference of King penguins
Where shall we go conference?
Antarctica Dream Adventure a group of King penguins with their orange feathers standing out
Which way did they decide we should go?

They are just so adorable and great fun to watch

The Threat- their only predator at The Falklands

Antarctica Dream Adventure a sea lion off the beach scaring the King penguins
A Sea lion was swimming up and down along the beach

A few times a long column of King penguins were marching to the sea, to find and eat their lunch. Then the dark head of a sea lion would pop up, they would hesitate, stop, then turnaround and head back up the beach to the sand dunes.

Occasionally a brave penguin returned by itself after being out feeding. The penguin would launch out of the water on its stomach pushing itself up the beach away from the water, then stand up and walk inland.

Antarctica Dream Adventure a King penguin shots out of the waves on his stomach
King Penguin returning from lunch
Antarctica Dream Adventure a King penguin stands and starts to walk after coming ashore
then stands up

After a slightly inelegant entrance, albeit avoiding the predator, after standing the walk is very nonchalant.


At this time of year the King Penguins are moulting. This process means that as their feathers are shedding their protection layer from the cold is being removed, thereby they cannot survive the temperatures of the water. This lasts for two to three weeks, but it means that the penguins cannot go to sea for food and that they are fasting for the entire period. It also means their chicks are fasting and do not really know why.

Antarctica Dream Adventure shows a molting King Penguin
King Penguin in the Molt

By this time the chicks are almost as tall as the adults and their fluffy fur coats make them look bigger than the adults. In a month or two the young will shed their “baby coat”, which has kept them warm during the harsh winter, and get their adult plumage. At this point they can go into the sea for the first time and start to feed themselves.

Antarctica Dream Adventure- King Penguin chicks in their "Baby Coats"
King Penguin chicks

Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

The Gentoo penguin is smaller than the King Penguin and is black and white with no other colored feathers. It has a bigger tail which swings from side to side as it walks.

To view Richard’s gallery of Gentoo Penguins click here.

Antarctica Dream Adventure a Gentoo Penguin walking up to the sand dunes  fighting the fierce wind
Gentoo Penguin walking up to the dunes

The King Penguin Colony

King Penguins huddle as a group to withstand cold
This year’s young wanting to be fed

Gentoo Nesting Area

The Gentoo Penguins build a nest for the incubation of their eggs, usually two eggs a season. The nest is usually built as a circle of small pebbles. However, at Volunteer Point the beach is sand and there are no pebbles so the Gentoo use mud.

Gentoo Nesting Area.
Nearly ever Gentoo Penguin is on their nest incubating the eggs
Incubating the eggs.

Rufus-chested Dotterel (Zonibyx modestus)

Remembering that we are in the Southern Hemisphere, at the start of Summer, this is probably a breeding pair that have just arrived. They are not yet in full breeding plumage as the rufus on the front will develop down to the black band. The Falkland Islands are the southernmost and easternmost limits of their migration range.

Pair of Rufus-chested Dotterel

It is always great to see Shorebirds, wherever we are and it was somewhat unexpected here.

Gear: Nikon Z 8, Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, Z TC-1.4x, iPhone SE

If you missed Penguins at West Point Harbour (Antarctica Dream Adventure 03) click here.

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2 Responses to Antarctica Dream Adventure 04 – Off-road to Volunteer Point and Penguins

  1. Jim Kranias says:

    Fascinating facts. Super research and photos, Richard and Louise. I will be sticking to the common names, as opposed to the scientific names. 😊

  2. Joyce Barbour says:

    I love your photos, the penguins with the ewe and lamb!
    I love your trip. Allan and I are thinking of going next year. Who did you travel with? Did they offer any kayak excursions?
    It looks like you had a wonderful trip! So exciting and interesting!
    Now it times to have a great Holiday season. Enjoy!

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