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Guidelines for Antarctica visitors


PolarQuest is a Member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a member organisation founded in 1991 to advocate, promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic. IAATO is an industry group that has resolved to set the highest possible tourism operating standards in its effort to protect Antarctica. This effort is unique, and the challenge to maintain environmentally responsible tourism exists to this extent in no other region of the world.

Activities in the Antarctic are governed by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and associated agreements, referred to collectively as the Antarctic Treaty System. The Treaty established Antarctica as a zone of peace and science.

In 1994 the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties adopted Recommendation XXVIII-1 Guidance for Visitors to the Antarctic [Bookmark #1]. This guidance is intended to ensure that all visitors are aware of, and are therefore able to comply with, the Treaty and the Protocol. Visitors are, of course, bound by national laws and regulations applicable to activities in the Antarctic.

While the Recommendation sets out a general code of conduct for all visitors to the Antarctic – and we ask all visitors to abide by these guidelines – experience has taught that a few additional codes of conduct can allow visitors the optimum experience while minimizing any potential for disruption to this un- spoilt and unique environment.

Thus, when you go ashore, we also ask that you:

  • Walk slowly, occasionally stopping to give wildlife the time and space they need.
  • As a general principle, keep noise to a minimum and avoid approaching birds and animals any closer than 5 meters / 15 feet; in some instances even this may be too close, so watch the birds’ and animals’ behaviour as you approach and stop, or retreat, if they show signs of disturbance.
  • Be aware of your location relative to your fellow visitors – making sure you do not surround animals or cut off their route to the sea.
  • Heed the advice of your guides; they want you to gain as much as possible from your experience while treading softly on this unique environment.

IAATO guidelines Avian Influenza 2023-24

Since 2021 the increasing intensity of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 outbreaks has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of seabirds around the world. Marine mammals, including seals and sea lions, have also been affected.

The Antarctic community, from Antarctic Treaty parties to scientists, National Programmes and the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) is concerned about the heightened risk of avian influenza arriving in Antarctica via animals migrating to and from the region. This could have a
serious impact on the local wildlife.

We are committed to the robust procedures in place to protect Antarctica from pathogens and non-native species. Due to the increase of avian influenza elsewhere in the world, we are heightening our vigilance with regards to operations this season.
Here is how you can prevent it being introduced and spread:

Before you go

Before you leave home ensure anything that may come into contact with the Antarctic environment – including clothing and equipment - is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

  • Use IAATO’s Don’t Pack a Pest guidance to assist you (see link below).

In Antarctica: Visiting Wildlife

Existing protocols, including daily biosecurity procedures and maintaining minimum distances from
wildlife, are an essential part of protecting Antarctica.

In addition, it is required that you:

  • Do not sit, kneel or lay down.
  • Do not place any equipment on the ground or snow.

If in doubt, ask your guides for direction.

Find out more about Avian Influenza from the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Important information to watch and read:

IAATO Video Avian Influenza
IAATO Don't pack a pest
IAATO Guidelines for Antarctica visitor
IAATO Reducing waste guidelines