The Falkland Islands is bidding to become a must-see destination for wildlife tourists.
The South Atlantic islands have become a regular stopping point for cruise liners from North and South America and Scandinavia attracting more than 60,000 visitors from 90 different countries last year.
There are also regular twice-weekly 15-hour MoD flights from the UK – with a refuelling stop on Ascension Island in mid-Atlantic – as well as a Spanish service via Madrid and Punta Arenas in Chile.
Now a new tourism strategy has been launched to exploit the abundance of wildlife and stunning scenery of the islands – just 400 miles from Cape Horn – and boasting the southern most capital in the world – Stanley.
The Falklands, a British Overseas Territory made up of two main islands and 700 smaller ones, rose from obscurity in Spring 1982 when Argentina invaded.
The despatch of a Task Force on a 7,500-mile journey and the subsequent conflict which claimed almost 900 lives – 255 of them British – made the islands world famous.
Tourism has now become the fastest growing industry – supplementing an economy based on farming and fishing – and although tours of the 1982 battlefields are still undertaken most visitors come to enjoy the wild and unspoilt landscapes, beaches and wildlife.
Jake Downing, newly-appointed general manager of the Falkland Islands Tourist Board, said: “There are fantastic opportunities for UK visitors to the Falklands – it really is nature’s best kept secret and is just waiting to be discovered.
“The cruise market is getting stronger all the time and demonstrates the growing popularity of the Falkland Islands.”
Star wildlife attractions include 1m penguins from five different species, 800,000 Black-browed albatross, killer whales, elephant seals, 200 species of birds and 300 species of plant life.
Tourism officials say it has the best sea trout fishing in the world and ample opportunities for hiking, riding and golf.
The best time to visit is October-April during the southern hemisphere Spring and Summer when the average temperature is 15ºC (59ºF).