I recently completed a circumnavigation of the incredible Falkland Islands aboard the Hans Hansson. Like so many who travel to this remote South Atlantic archipelago, I expected the wildlife encounters to be spectacular — and they were. But what left the greatest impression on me was witnessing the friendship between two of my shipmates: Silvia and Marc.

A flock of albatrosses on the Falkland Islands.

Silvia is an accomplished photographer, and Marc is a penguin aficionado. They met in a choir group back in their hometown in Germany and decided to make the journey to the Falkland Islands together. What makes their story unique is that Marc is blind.

Silvia and Marc follow a penguin down a beach in the Falkland Islands.

Each day, Silvia led Marc in and out of the zodiac that took us from the boat. She guided him over slippery rocks and through the tussock grass. Their combined determination never wearied.

A group of people backpacking in the Falkland Islands.

Silvia leads Marc on a hike in the Falkland Islands.
Marc records penguin sounds in the Falkland Islands.

I watched the pair as we hiked for hours en route to one of the penguin colonies. Upon arriving, he recorded the sounds of the penguins we encountered and she took photographs. Though I often tried, I could not fully imagine how much courage and stamina the excursions must have required — not only from Marc, but from Silvia, too.

A colony of penguins swarms a rock in the Falkland Islands.

While Marc couldn’t see his beloved penguins, not one of us could claim to have enjoyed the encounters more.

In fact, I found myself pausing more often on this trip to pay attention to my senses: the pungent smell of Southern elephant seals, the spongy feeling of Diddle-dee moss under my boots, and the hollow tapping sound an albatross bill makes when mending its nest in the rain.

A close-up of an elephant seal in the Falkland Islands.

This experience left me with a greater appreciation for the gift of all senses, and for the truly extraordinary gift of friendship.

As Helen Keller so aptly said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.”

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Maji Bransfield
Maji Bransfield is an avid traveler based in Chicago. Her passion for unique journeys is only equaled by her desire to share her experiences. Currently, she is on a quest to spread her love for the beauty, creatures, and history of the Antarctic region. For more information, visit MajiBransfield.com.