Sustainable Tourism In Antarctica Exists, And Here’s How To Find It

A journey to the South Pole may not be on everyone’s bucket list, but for many, it is the experience of a lifetime. If you’re going to visit Antarctica, you need to do your research and do it with as light a footprint as possible. Sustainable tourism in Antarctica exists and here’s our guide to kick start your planning.

Getting Started

Before departure to Antarctica’s deep interior, there’s a lot of paperwork involved. First, travelers’ medical and personal forms are thoroughly checked. Bio securities information is provided on non-native species. And then, specific packing lists are required for each traveler. This is all part of the vetting process to safeguard the environment. Accountability to the Antarctic Treaty and internal safety guidelines of polar travel leaders are paramount.

An iceberg near the South Pole | PIXABAY

Curiosity in Antarctic travel continues to rise with the increase of climate change and the uncertainty of the region’s stability. Its long history of record breaking polar explorers has romanticized the destination, making it a popular, albeit expensive, destination.

With increased travel, however, comes an increased focus on environmentally sound travel policies. As a result, succinct and clear environmental procedures are part of a growing number of travelers’ booking requirements. This helps to reduce or offset their travel footprint and protect the beauty of nature. 

Responsible Tour Operators

So how do we visit the edge of the world with conservation in mind? Start by booking travel through accredited members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Review operators’ environmental practices – including use of alternative power sources and waste disposal.

From small group itineraries with G Adventures, to skiing and skydiving with Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, there is something for everyone.

sustaInable tourism in antarctica
Majestic emperor penguins in Antarctica | SIGGY NOWAK

Relax in a shipboard suite for glacier viewing. Live on the ice near one of the largest penguin colonies. Or take the ultimate descent skydiving over the Ellsworth Mountains. You can even ski, bike and climb some of the most iconic locations in Antarctica, all in comfort. Depending on your travel style, there are plenty of experiences for you to choose from.

Choose to experience Antarctica by land or sea with several IAATO members that operate small ship itineraries along the coast or limited deep-field operators that take you into the expanse of the white desert.

Glacier Camping

In the heart of Antarctica you’ll find the Union Glacier field camp – the only private seasonal tourism camp site in Ellsworth Land Antarctica. The camp has undergone EPA site approval to minimize impact on flora, fauna and geological features.

sustainable tourism in antarctica
Interior view of a king guest sleeping suite at Three Glaciers Retreat (Featured image also from ALE) | ANTARCTIC LOGISTICS & EXPEDITIONS (ALE)

Seasonal glacier camps are constructed and dismantled each season, with minor interference to their surroundings. Therefore, elements of camp design have thoughtfully blended sustainability with modern comforts.

Quality of travel, and ultimately quality of life, are significant to consumers as vacation days are limited. Antarctica is at the top of the list for places that exemplify the beauty of nature, making it all the more important to embrace sustainable tourism when visiting.

-Liz Galloway