Petra, Penguins and Publicity
Sunday 15th Jan
We'd lowered our expectations, since we couldn't possibly improve on yesterday's penguin-packed delights, could we? But... we could! And did. What a day!
The trip was to Seal Bay, a large area of coastline near Port Louis. Our guide was Petra, a pleasing coincidence (in Call Of The Penguins my main penguin character in the book is named Petra). This Petra is a Falklander in her 20s whose talents include sheep-shearing and cross-country driving, as she ably demonstrated by driving us through a lake!
Today's community of rockhoppers had chosen a gloriously scenic spot. We watched, enthralled, as parents fed their chicks and bounced their craggy way to and from the sea. While Ursula photographed incoming penguins from a ledge, I strolled along the clifftop to take in the views, following a little, lone Magellanic. I like the way the Magellanics seem less busy than the other species. They often waddle off on their own romantic wanderings.
Our next destination was 'Swan Pond', an absolutely beautiful beach with pristine white sands and turquoise waters. Penguins were everywhere. They pottered about, gossiped together or simply basked among the drifts of sea cabbage, a pretty silver-leafed plant bursting with bright yellow flowers.
(This posse of moulting King penguins stood absolutely still beside the pond. And on the hill you can see a tiny hut, which is a loo with the best view in the world!)
I'd brought along a few editions of my books on the off-chance of getting a book-with-penguins shot. The gentoos, quite fascinated, were happy to help with publicity!
We almost stumbled into a sea lion, who was sprawled out, disguised as a rock. Luckily he was just as surprised as we were and galumphed hastily into the sea. He was the only one here, but next Petra took us to a cove where we could look down on a whole crowd of them. Many were family units, with affectionate couples and pups, playing amid much roaring, bleating and bellowing.
We stopped again briefly at a gentoo colony in the hills. We noticed quite a lot of dead chicks as well as the very lively ones. There could be many causes for the deaths, such as extremes in temperature, but avian 'flu is a worry. It hasn't yet reached the islands, thank goodness, and we have been stopping often to disinfect boots as a precautionary measure.
On the drive back Petra shared some unwelcome news: our day at Volunteer Point (a colony of Kings and a big highlight of The Falklands tour) was to coincide with 3 cruise ships so the place would be milling with tourists. We've been so spoilt until now, having everywhere to ourselves, but we wondered if we could swap our Volunteer Point trip to tomorrow instead, which was down as our free day in Stanley. A quick phone call and ... bingo! We will get to see Volunteer Point tomorrow - my birthday!