People walking around on the rocky shore with icy mountain in the background
Antarctic tourists stepping ashore (Photo: Stephen Powell)

The national Antarctic programs of many nations have been active in Antarctic and subantarctic regions for many years. These programs conduct research and other activities which are the key to protecting this region, and understanding its influence on the way our planet operates.

Non-government expeditions (primarily tourist ships) also visit the Antarctic. While commercial Antarctic tourism dates back to the late 1960s, there has been rapid growth since the late 1980s. This has led to a wide range of tourist and adventure activities.

The debate over the merits of Antarctic tourism echoes debates over other wilderness regions. Tourism has allowed many people who might not otherwise have the opportunity, to experience the wonders, and understand the importance, of Antarctica. Their experiences have led to a greater recognition in the wider community of the region's importance to the world. On the other hand, as more and more people visit the southern regions, the risks of environmental damage increase: wildlife disturbance, vegetation trampling, diseases and pollution are among the concerns.

The following pages present an overview of some key issues relating to Antarctic tourism. Comments that will improve the site and keep it up to date, or information on activities, are always welcomed by the site manager.