I’m so excited to share this post with you because I get to write about one of my favorite things–PENGUINS!! A few weeks ago, Amos and I got to see King Penguins at Volunteer Point in Stanley, Falkland Islands. Go grab your travel bucket list and a pen. Write down, “See King Penguins at Volunteer Point.” In all my travels, this is the most special and fun thing I’ve done and I wholeheartedly believe that you’ll love this experience just as much as I did. I’m here to give you the inside scoop on everything you need to know about having this magical experience.
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In This Post:
Where and What Is Volunteer Point?
Volunteer Point is located in the northeast area of East Falkland (one of the two main islands that compose the Falkland Islands). It’s home to the largest King penguin colony that’s accessible to people, and it’s also home to many Gentoo and Magellanic penguins. It’s part of Johnson’s Harbour Farm which covers nearly 36,000 acres. There are over 1000 breeding pairs of King penguins here. Volunteer Point is also home to Volunteer Beach which is a two-mile-long gorgeous and white sandy beach where the penguins live. The beach is surrounded by grassy banks which provide habitats for the penguins.
How Do I Get to Volunteer Point?
To get to Volunteer Point, you’ll have to fly into Stanley on East Falkland or you can take a cruise that docks in Stanley for the day. If you are a cruise ship passenger like we were, you can either book the excursion to Volunteer Point through your cruise line or you can arrange the tour independently.
Can I Spend the Night in Volunteer Point?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any accommodation options at Volunteer Point so you’ll have to stay in Stanley. However, sometimes it’s possible to stay at the warden’s house depending on availability. Space is very limited so you’ll want to check in advance. Our tour guide, Nobby, is besties with the warden so he was able to give us some deets on staying here. He said not to expect a Ritz Carlton type stay, but that the warden will take good care of you. It’s the perfect stay if you are wanting to really experience the scenery and wildlife.
Our Day at Volunteer Point:
Once we got off the cruise ship, we were approached by several locals who were offering a tour to Volunteer Point. We arranged a private tour with Nobby and started our journey to Volunteer Point.
Our tour guide warned us that the drive was going to be exciting and he was not lying. The two-hour ride there and back was bumpy to say the least. The first hour or so of the drive wasn’t that rough because we were driving on gravel roads. The last hour was spent off-roading and bouncing from side to side in a 4 x 4 Land Rover. Nobby passed our time by telling us stories about his life in the Falklands and the history of the islands.
We came down a hill and saw the beautiful ocean with the warden’s house on the left-hand side. Nobby said that’s how you know you made it to Volunteer Point. I looked to my right and saw a group of Magellanic and Gentoo penguins. The excitement and childlike wonder pulsed through my body. I grabbed my phone to take a photo and noticed that I didn’t have any cell service. I felt like was in some far off, mystical place with these incredible creatures and felt completely off the grid. All I could see was the ocean, some sheep and penguins everywhere. I wish you could have seen this view with me. It was completely breathtaking and peaceful.
As Nobby pulled into our parking spot, he familiarized us with some rules. The biggest rule is to not touch any of the wildlife and to remain a reasonable distance from them. We were told that if the penguins walk away from you, you are making them uncomfortable and to back away. After this short briefing, we were told to return to the vehicle in two hours and to go have fun.
I didn’t waste any time and immediately jumped out of the car. We were free to wander around and take as many photos of impressive wildlife. There were a few wardens around to answer questions and to make sure that you weren’t intruding in the penguins’ personal space. I grabbed Amos’s hand and dragged him to where all the King Penguins were. We saw close to 1000 King Penguins in one area with their chicks.
We were both amazed and thrilled at the size of them. We were told that the penguins are pretty big, but we didn’t understand just how big they were until we saw them. I’m 4’11” and it felt like the penguins were as big as me. Most of the ones we saw were nearly three feet tall and weighed around 30 lbs. We learned that King penguins are the second largest penguin species after Emperor penguins. The adult King penguins had an almost black head with orangey/yellow spots on both sides of the head and the top portion of their chests. Meanwhile, the chicks were a brown fluff-ball. All we could hear around us was squawking and screeching. It was a penguin’s world and I was just living in it.
After we “ooh and aahed” at the group of King Penguins, we walked down to the ocean. As we were walking down to the ocean, we walked amongst some banks where the Magellanic and Gentoo penguins burrowed. One little guy dug his way out of the burrow and started running towards the ocean. He was running so fast that he almost tripped and fell. That was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The ocean was a beautiful shade of turquoise with groups of penguins coming in and out of the water. The wind was quite intense near the ocean and everyone was getting slapped with sheets of sand. The sand felt painful as it slapped my face, but that didn’t stop me from soaking in the scenery. As I was gazing out into the ocean, I saw a school of dolphins jump out from the ocean. Dolphins are my favorite animal and that made the moment so magical. A few minutes after that, we spotted a seal that was hunting for its meal. It was fascinating to watch it hunt, and I was happy that it didn’t catch a penguin.
We couldn’t take the beating from the sand anymore so we went back up. We hung out with the King penguins one last time before it was time to go. By this time, the wind had picked up. We were hit with sudden, strong wafts of penguin poop. It wasn’t a very pleasant smell at all, but we still had fun. After thirty more minutes with these cuties, it was time to go.
It was difficult to leave these astonishing guys, but we had to make sure we got back on the cruise ship in time. I was thankful to be leaving with tons of beautiful photos and such great memories.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Volunteer Point?
The total breeding cycle for King penguins is around 14-16 months. This includes them laying the egg until they are ready for the ocean. As a result, King penguins are around Volunteer Point year round. You’ll see different stages of their lives depending on the time of the year that you visit. I’ve attached a photo below so you can read more about what you’ll see when you’re there and some general facts about them.
Tips for Visiting Volunteer Point:
Dress in layers- Volunteer Point is extremely windy! With the wind, it gets chilly. Make sure you are prepared for the chilly breeze. Dressing in layers is best because you can add or remove layers depending on the weather. Don’t forget the hats and gloves.
Make sure you keep your distance from the penguins- Not only will you will get a hefty fine for touching the penguins, but it’s also just rude and inconsiderate to touch them. You are visiting them in their home. Please be respectful and mindful of them. Follow the warden’s rules about keeping your distance. Some of the penguins are curious and will walk up to you. It’s precious when they do that.
Wear flat shoes- I know you may want to get the perfect picture for the ‘Gram with the perfect outfit, but it’s not worth sacrificing your safety and comfort over. My advice is to wear tennis shoes to protect your feet on the uneven ground.
Avoid the crowds- The best day to go is when a cruise ship isn’t in port. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that option as we were on a cruise. There were around 100-150 people when we were there. Since the area is so big, we didn’t feel crowded. Nobby told us that the warden also controls how many vehicles are allowed at Volunteer Point each day too. He also said that hardly anyone is there if you come on a day when a ship isn’t in port.
There are restrooms at Volunteer Point- They are located at the entrance where your guide will park the car.
Take extra care if you have back/neck problems- As I said before, the journey to Volunteer Point from Stanley is bumpy. Our guide did his best to avoid the holes and bumps. Even then, we still went over a few rough ones that weren’t visible. If you have back/neck problems, please be prepared for this.
Resources for Your Trip to Stanley & Volunteer Point:
Flights & Cruises: I use Kiwi.com and Skyscanner. These are my go two search engines that help me find cheap flights around the world and they will help you find flights to Stanley. If you are interested in cruising, I highly recommend CruiseDirect.
Accommodation: For hotels in Stanley, I recommend Hotels.com. I use it all the time because it provides the cheapest rates for hotels and hostels. Don’t forget to join their rewards program. Every tenth night is free!
Travel Insurance: You never know when accidents can happen. Don’t forget to protect yourself against flight cancellations, unexpected illnesses, theft and more. RoamRight has great customer service and benefits.
Tours: If you are visiting Volunteer Point, you will definitely have to use a tour company. You cannot do the tour on your own. Viator provides the best quality tours at great prices.
Have you visited Volunteer Point? If so, how was your experience? Let me know in the comments below.
I hope that this post about Volunteer Point will be helpful to you in planning your trip here. Don’t forget to pin it for later.
Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.