Saunders Island: key information

  • Home to a sizeable colonies of rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatross
  • Grassy hillsides pocked with macaroni penguin burrows
  • Dramatic cliffs overlooking pristine white sandy beaches dotted with gentoo and king penguins
  • Latitude 51°18'S, Longitude 60°14'W

Explore Saunders Island with Swoop

About Saunders Island

A wildlife photographer takes her shot at Saunders Island (the Neck in the Falklands. In the background is a rockhopper penguin colony and a long beach with blue sea

The black-browed albatross colony overlooking The Neck at Saunders Island

The only evidence of settlement you're likely to see on landing at Saunders Island today is a small and blissfully remote holiday cottage, but the island's human history is the oldest in the Falklands: the first British settlement was founded here in 1765. It lasted only 10 years before being abandoned (during which it was briefly captured by the Spanish), but the flag and plaque its occupants left behind are a key part of Britain's claim to the Falklands.

Visitors today arrive for the birdwatching and the opportunity to spot four species of penguin in one location. Parts of the island remain an active sheep farm: it is a somewhat jarring experience to see sheep grazing in the hills above a rookery full of penguins.

Wildlife at Saunders Island

A crouching rockhopper penguin in a stream at Saunders Island (the Neck) in the Falkland Islands

Rockhopper penguin at Saunders Island

Wildlife sightings start the moment you land at Saunders Island. A small colony of gentoo penguins nests on the southern side of the Neck, along with small number of king penguins. Due to their unusually long breeding cycle, fluffy brown king penguin chicks are present throughout the year. Look out for various waders and pipers as well as large numbers of dolphin gulls.

The beach at Saunders Island can also be a good place to spot Commerson's dolphins playing in the surf. Measuring just 1.5m in length, their charming black and white markings have something of the giant panda about them.

Walking up from the beach, you can usually spot magellanic penguins coming in and out of their burrows. Imperial shags nest among the rockhopper penguin colony at the cliffrise. The colony is next to a small stream giving a good opportunity to see the penguins drinking and bathing.

A 20 minute walk beyond the penguins you will find the black-browed albatross colony, overlooked by the appropriately named Rookery Mountain. The colony is several hundred pairs strong. 

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Cassia says

Visit Saunders Island on a bright sunny day and the white sandy beaches and turquoise sea will make your photos look like you've been to the Caribbean – just with penguins swapped out for the palm trees.

Cassia Jackson Polar Specialist

Visitor guidelines for Saunders Island

Landings are made on the beach at The Neck: which side of the isthmus the ship anchors at can vary according prevailing weather. The northern side is overlooked by the cliffs of Rookery Mountain; the path up to the rockhopper penguin and black-browed albatross colonies leads gently up a grassy slope from the southern side of the isthmus. The starting point is marked by the weathered and lichen-covered skeleton of a sei whale. Do not climb over the fences that mark the way: they are there to control the sheep or protect the bird colonies.

NOTE: Ship itineraries and visits to specific landing sites in the Falkland Islands can never be guaranteed. Plans can change as fast as the weather in the South Atlantic: decisions on which locations to visit are always made on the day by the ship's captain and expedition leader.

More Falkland Islands landing sites

Many southern sealions lie on the rocks on the beach at Bleaker Island in the Falkland Islands

Bleaker Island

The narrow curved line of Bleaker Island is a great place for birdwatching, with three species of penguin, an enormous imperial shag colony and plenty of waterfowl.

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A black-browed albatross stands in the sunshine against a sea background at West Point in the Falkland Islands

West Point Island

West Point Island is home to a large cliffside colony of black-browed albatross at the end of a hillside hike, which makes it a popular call for expedition cruise ships. 

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A colony of Magellanic penguins on a sandy beach at Carcass Island, Falkland Islands

Carcass Island

The white sandy beaches of Carcass Island are a popular draw for expedition cruise ships, with visitors coming here for the colonies of magellanic and gentoo penguins.

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Rocky cliffs on the headland at New Island in the Falkland Islands

New Island

In the southwest of the Falklands, New Island is one of the most scenic places in the archipelago, and is home to one of its most busiest and thriving seabird colonies. 

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What our customers think of Saunders Island

Most memorable moment? Seeing the penguin and albatross colonies on the Falkland Islands (Saunders Neck and West Point Island). Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Carole Gates - USA

Most memorable moment? First excursion on Saunders Island in the Falklands with 4 penguin species and albatross and other birds. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Derek Smithee - USA