A Spot of South America on the Isle of Wight

I enjoyed so much my time on the Isle of Wight last year (see my post – A Trip to the Isle of Wight) that I decided to return this summer as well. Alongside penguins and pandas, llamas and alpacas are my favourite animals, so I visited the West Wight Alpacas and Llamas farm situated near the quiet village of Wellow on the Isle of Wight. This is a large farm that was started in 2010 by a husband and wife team, and now provides a great day out for all the family. They offer a variety of farm activities, from feeding various farm animals to short walks and long treks with llamas and alpacas.

Llamas and alpacas originate in South America, and at least the former has been domesticated for thousands of years, primarily in the central Andes. In their book Llamas of South America, Conklin and Bjorklund say that “the llamas were domesticated over two thousand years before the coming of the Incas”, and since the Incas of Peru had no writing system to speak of, or iron, it was probably due to the llama that they were able to build such a great empire since the llama provided them with food, wool and means to transport bulky items.

Llamas and alpacas are both camelid breeds, but llamas are bigger and sturdier than alpacas and have coarser fleece. Their ancestors are said to be two wild South American camelids – the guanaco and the vicuña. The West Wight farm says it has seventeen llamas of Argentinian heritage “which are rare in the UK.” The alpaca, primarily seen in Peru, Chile and Bolivia, comes in two breeds, Suri and Huacaya, and the West Wight farm specialises in the Suri breed, keeping around seventy of those. I have also learned that female alpacas are called “hembras”, male alpacas are called “machos”, and baby alpacas are called “cria”. Since llamas and alpacas are social animals, it is most interesting to observe them in group interactions. Perhaps it was some exotic factor for me, but they appeared to me so elegant, gentle, friendly and inquisitive. They were a delight to feed and observe.

The West Wight Alpacas and Llamas farm also has other farm animals, including miniature donkeys, pigmy goats, rabbits and pigs. They have a café on their premises, and their souvenir shop sells such products as alpaca wool clothes, hand-woven Peruvian clutches and bags, soft toys, cards, etc.

My next stop on this trip was the Longshoreman’s Museum in Ventnor. I think people just pass this place by because, from the front at least, it looks like an ordinary seaside souvenir shop, but inside, just after you pass all the merchandise, there hides a quirky museum dedicated to the history of this region’s seafaring activities. There are displays that recreate life on the beach from the Victorian era, a section dedicated to the Isle of Wight shipwrecks, including maps, captains’ letters, photographs and paintings, as well as boat models. This little museum is a hidden gem.

15 thoughts on “A Spot of South America on the Isle of Wight

      1. My favorite memory of them is when we saw wild vicuña grazing near a fence along the road. One decided the grass looked greener on the other side of the fence. The vicuña sprang absolutely vertically over the 2m/6′ high fence and begin to graze over there. Amazing!

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  1. Fascinating stuff, Diana. Am I to understand there’s a difference in geographical distribution between the two, the alpacas more to the north, the llamas to the south?

    Wight is a place I’ve hankered to visit ever I went to Southampton Uni in the 60s, but have never made the effort before now. Ah well, it’s not going to disappear any time soon, is it?

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    1. I am glad you’ve enjoyed it. I am not sure about this geographical distribution. I guess llamas would thrive better in harsher environment, simply having in mind their physical characteristics? I think both are found across the Andes.

      And I definitely recommend Isle of Wight for a visit. For such a comparatively small place there is so much to do. For my next trip I already plan Quarr Abbey in Ryde and I also want to visit Shanklin.

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  2. 20 years ago the raising of llamas was somewhat of a fad here in northern California. We would go on homeschool field trips to llama farms, and at least once there was a big convention of sorts, where farmers brought their stock and welcomed even those of us who weren’t buying animals or products, but merely wanted to pet a llama 🙂

    I found them so fascinating, I’m sure I would have said they were my “favorite animal” back then. It was nice to see your photos and hear about them again.

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  3. Wow, you’re really making me want to visit the Isle of Wight now! That shipwreck section of the museum sounds like the sort of thing you’d have to forcefully drag me away from, and all the llama pictures were adorable! 😍 I’d never considered spending a vacation on a llama farm, but now you’re seriously tempting me… I’m so glad you had a good time!

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  4. So cute! I love llamas and alpacas and have always wondered what the actual difference between them was – it’s so nice that you got to see them in the Isle of Wight of all places! Seems like you had a great time!

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