The Falklands: Once a Warzone, Now a Piece of Paradise
Take one archipelago approximately 12,000 square km in size, with one main township. Add 3,000 residents, mostly of British descent and 500,000 sheep. Throw in a smattering of penguins (of five different species), a dash of political turbulence and a social community where everybody knows your name (or nearly!). Result: The Falkland Islands.
Located some 483 kilometres east of the Patagonian coast of Argentina, The Falkland Islands is a self-governing British overseas territory. With the majority of people descending from the British, it’s not unsurprising to find life not dissimilar to the UK. English is the spoken language and culture and diet are very similar to Britain also.
But unlike Britain, you won’t find McDonalds, Tesco, Starbucks or any other chain store for that matter. There are no trains packed with people studiously avoiding eye contact. Rather, you’ll find cute shops and locals stopping to chat and a relaxed, easy going ambiance as people go about their day.
There are some stark differences however! You won’t come across any breeding or nesting penguins in the UK! The close proximity to Antarctica means The Falklands are also frequently visited by fur seals, sea lions, orca, dolphins and whales. The Falklands are also home to some of the largest albatross colonies in the world. Unfortunately, The Falkland Islands’ only native mammal, the warrah (also known as The Falkland Islands wolf), is now extinct.
Whilst life on The Falkland Islands is usually pretty quiet, it isn’t immune to political unrest. Controversy between Britain and Argentina over sovereignty of The Falkland Islands dates back to the early 1830’s with simmering tensions reaching armed conflict in April 1982 when Argentina invaded the islands. Argentina briefly occupied the islands until June of the same year when a UK expeditionary force regained them. The war resulted in 117 minefields, containing around 20,000 mines left on the islands. Attempts to clear the mines were made, however following a large number of casualties, this was stopped in 1983. Although Argentina and the UK re-established diplomatic relations in 1990, neither party can agree on the terms for future discussions on sovereignty. Therefore relations have deteriorated and although The Falkland Islands are self-governing, the UK is responsible for defence, mainly in case of a further invasion from Argentina.
In saying that, life on The Falkland Islands is pretty good! There is virtually no unemployment and medical care and education (to university level) is free. Students must travel abroad to study at university but a high proportion of them return afterward. It’s a quiet life in The Falklands with no nightclubs or frantic hubbub of large cities. In fact, it’s actually very similar to village life in the UK with a few local pubs, a sociable community and everyone going about their business.
Sheep-farming used to be the main source of income, however in recent years tourism has increased greatly and The Falkland Islands are often included in travel itineraries en route to Antarctica including Ponant and Silversea cruises. This is a unique spot in the world, combining a touch of Britain with a smidgeon of Antarctica and is well worth a visit!