Another successful educational tourist season recently finished down here at Macquarie Island. The visits recommenced this summer after several years of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
A limited number of ships visit Macquarie Island during the summer as part of voyages that go to New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands and sometimes also to Antarctica. Most visits feature landings at Sandy Bay and the isthmus, as well as an off-shore small boat cruise at Lusitania Bay to see the biggest king penguin colony on the island. Sandy Bay is always a highlight with an opportunity to see breeding king and royal penguins.
Tourist visits are carefully managed by Macquarie Island’s rangers, including biosecurity monitoring, looking after the wildlife and maintaining visitor infrastructure. This year the rangers have had help from Parks and Wildlife Service and NZ Department of Conservation reps who have travelled on board each ship. This has been very important for ensuring the visits are managed well – all visitors must have clean boots and other gear, there are limits on how many people can land at the same time, and the ship must comply with important biosecurity precautions.
Reinstating safe access to the Sandy Bay walkway has been an extra challenge for rangers this season – part of a walkway was damaged during a destructive easterly swell during the winter. The walkway platform repairs and the installation of a temporary ladder were challenging, due to the remote location and access difficulties, as well as the limited availability of materials until the next annual resupply. The walkway helps tourists view the endemic royal penguin colony at Sandy Bay.
Everyone who visits Macquarie Island is passionate about this place. Many Australians (and several Tasmanians) come to visit an Australian sub-Antarctic island. Others have often travelled a very long way – this year we had a lot of visitors from as far away as USA and Scandinavia. Several people were visiting for the second or third time.
We also enjoy seeing special visitors who have a long-term affiliation with the island. This year we were visited by the ranger who killed the last cat here in 2000, the project manager of the very successful Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program (declared a success in 2014), a former Parks and Wildlife Service manager involved in the management of the island when it was first declared a reserve (in the 1970s), a man who visited as a scout 50 years ago, and a geophysicist who worked here in 1969!
Here are some photos from the rangers of visitors enjoying the spectacular island during the educational tourist visits this summer.