On the headland of the East Coast of East Falklands lies Volunteer Point, named after the ship “Volunteer” which visited in 1815, and a part of the Johnson’s Harbour Farm. The farm itself spans 54,300 acres with the nature reserve including Volunteer Point spanning a further 10,025 acres.

In the early days, sealing and whaling was a major source of income around the Falkland Islands and its dependencies.  The fur seals on Volunteer rocks were hunted for their skins almost to extinction.  In a first attempt at sustainability the sealing then took place in alternate years until it was eventually outlawed.  It was suspected penguins were also killed for many years.

From the early days of occupancy the farm was in the hands of the Smith Family.  The grandfather of Osmund Smith being one of the first owners.  Osmund used to do a lot of his shepherding on foot and spotted the first King Penguins at Cow Bay in 1948, they moved down the point in later years and have been growing steadily in numbers for years.

Osmund Smith

Osmund Smith

Osmund himself., on reaching the grand old age of 90 in 2011, decided to sell the farm and he wanted to do so in one lot, not piecemeal.  Jan Cheek, born in Stanley, had sold her shares in a very successful fishing business years earlier had always joked that if Volunteer Point ever came on the market that she would like to own it, little did she ever think the opportunity would become a reality.

Jan talked with Osmund and they were both in the knowledge there would be potential overseas buyers and commercial groups interested in such an important wildlife area and farmland who might have wanted to exploit it or make it private and therefore inaccessible to islanders.  Another consideration was that as it was such a large farm and an important part of the islands economy and Jan was determined that it remained such.  She knew that with care, farming and wildlife could co-exist as they had for many years previously.  Jan put in a generous bid for the farm, taking in to account the area of particular interest and natural beauty as well as it being one of the largest privately owned farms on the islands, she was delighted when it was accepted.

Jan CheekDriving from Stanley you’ll pass Johnson’s Harbour Farm house where the road ends before travelling over Camp through rough and often boggy track to get to Volunteer Point, but when you get there you’ll see a stunningly beautiful place with an amazing array of wildlife. 2 miles of white sands, often covered with lines of penguins coming to or going from the sea.  In the lagoon you’ll sometimes find the little ones frollicking and playing, a safe haven from the Southern Sea Lions that often patrol the shore line at sea looking for the penguins.

In 1971 a count of the King penguins is registered at 31 pairs, a count in 2014 reached 1238 nesting pairs and in total around 3000 adults.  June 2015 a count of the King chicks came to 746.  Gentoo pairs in the 2015 season 3600 and the Magellanic is estimated at around 3000 (they are much harder to count due to being in burrows and running around the green at great speeds)

Most visitors come to Volunteer Point on a day trip.  It is a 2.5 – 3 hour drive from Stanley with only half of the way on road, it can be a bumpy ride with the only facilities when you get there being a portacabin for shelter from any bad weather and basic toilet facilities.  Keeping things like this actually make more sense than you may imagine.  Improving the roads will encourage more visitors, possibly coaches of people.  more people means the wildlife will, over time, not be wild, or move away from the area to quieter parts.  Volunteer Point is where  the most Northerly and most accessible colony of King penguins live, we want people to come and see them, understand them, admire them, but we also want to keep them safe and to live life as nature intended.

Derek and TrudiIf you want to stay longer than the few hours you get on a day trip you could always book in at the wardens lodge.  This needs to be booked many months in advance due to the popularity and that they can only take 4 people at a time.  Ideal for photographers and videographers to get that crucial sunrise – sunset shot.  It also gives you a few hours before and after the day visits to be with the wildlife literally on your own.

The Wardens Lodge has basic facilities.  The welcome from the wardens, Derek and Trudi is sincere, they truly understand the importance of their job looking after the wildlife in Volunteer Point and go out of their way to help guests get the most out of their stay. In order to book a place at the Wardens Lodge you’ll need to use the contact page to send a message or email to the wardens who can let you know availability. They have been wardens at Volunteer Point for 6 out of the past 8 years (with Micky Reeves doing the middle 2 years) so thoroughly know every part of the area, are keen photographers themselves and cook you a great all inclusive breakfast, lunch and dinner during your stay.

Wildlife found at Volunteer Point include over 40 species of birds including Geese (Upland, Kelp and Ruddy Headed), South American Tern, Oystercatchers (Magellanic and Blackish), Gulls (Dolphin and Kelp), Rock cormorants and Falklands Skua (Sea Hen) as well as peregrine falcons, variable hawks and many more come to visit for the lucky photographer.  On land you’ll see thousands of penguins including King, Gentoo and Magellanic and if you are really lucky you may get to see Southern sea lions and even Sei whales.