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Tourism in Antarctica Facts

Antarctic Tourism

Natural Glacier Arch In Norsel Point, Anvers Island, Antarctica.brPhoto by: G. Grant/NSFNatural Glacier Arch In Norsel Point, Anvers Island, Antarctica.
Photo by: G. Grant/NSF

Surf, sand, and sun pretty much cover what most people expect out of a vacation. Ice? Frigid cold? Glaciers? Not so much. Yet destination Antarctica has proven to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for open-minded individuals. The continent's landscape is often described as magical, surreal, unforgettable, and a glimpse of nature in its purest form. There are no tourist shops, restaurants, or places to get a tan. Antarctica provides only scenic beauty, looming ice carvings, and select animal inhabitants. Its appeal lies in its unparalleled setting and atmosphere that have been a mystery to humans for centuries.

Aerial View Of The Mt. Erebus Crater.brPhoto by: C. Dean/NSF Aerial View Of The Mt. Erebus Crater.
Photo by: C. Dean/NSF

The number of annual Antarctic tourists has increased from a couple hundred in 1969 to over 20, 000 at the start of the new millennium. Fortunately, in 1991 a group of seven Antarctic excursion directors founded the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), an organization that manages environmentally sound cruises to help protect Antarctica's pristine environment. It has become an esteemed voluntary organization with over 80 workers from 14 different countries. To ensure the safest travel (environmentally as well as physically), it is best to pick a ship or tour company that is an IAATO member. Visit their website, to find a complete member list.

Your Antarctic experience will depend a lot on what kind of voyage you take. There are basically seven different types of ships used for Antarctic tourism, each with its own benefits, shortfalls, and character.

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