Preparing an expedition

Travelling to the Antarctic is different to travelling to other parts of the world. There are particular things you need to do to prepare.

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This is not only because the region is inhospitable and dangerous but because its largely untouched and pristine status needs to be preserved.

Non-government travel to the Antarctic is only possible in the summer season (November to March). This is when there's 24 hours of daylight, water temperatures rise and sea ice melts allowing access. We advise the other Antarctic Treaty parties of all planned trips by October each year.

You must notify MFAT of your plans well ahead of time because of the approvals and permits needed under the Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has the final say on whether an activity can go ahead and any special conditions.

Steps to take when planning a trip

Trip organisers, both private and commercial, must take the steps 1-6. If you're part of a tour party, your tour operator should advise of any special preparation you need to make.

  1. Notify MFAT at least three months before you go
  2. Submit an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)
  3. Provide details of your contingency plans and insurance
  4. Get the appropriate permissions
  5. Have a National Representative accompany you
  6. Complete a trip report on your return

Contact us

For all correspondence regarding your plans:

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Unit
Environment Division
Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade
Post: Private Bag 18 901, Wellington 6001, New Zealand
Tel: +64 4 439 8000

1. Notify MFAT at least three months before you go

You must complete the Advance Notifications Form and email it to us as soon as possible. We recommend you do this at least three months before you plan to leave.

We’ll contact you once we’ve received your form to discuss the Environment Impact Assessment you need to submit and the various permits required.

2. Submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

The EIA is a formal document you need to supply that identifies and predicts the environmental impact of your planned activity, and how to minimise this. It requires Ministerial approval which may come with certain conditions or directions about specific activities.

Use this guide when completing your EIA:

3. Provide details of your contingency plans and insurance

Before your journey starts, you must send us evidence that you have:

  • contingency plans and sufficient arrangements for health and safety, search and rescue, and medical care and evacuation
  • adequate insurance or other arrangements to cover the costs of search and rescue, and medical care and evacuation.

If these arrangements rely on other operators or national Antarctic programmes, you must have their written agreement. If you haven’t got the support of other operators or a national programme, then there are extra requirements you need to meet. You will have to provide proof of these requirements, which include:

  • equipment in good working order with back-ups
  • participants who are prepared medically, physically and psychologically
  • participants who can use equipment properly
  • first-aid equipment and experience.

4. Get the appropriate permissions

You need special permissions to visit:

  • historic huts and Antarctic Specially Protected Areas
  • Scott Base and NZ field stations
  • New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands
  • Australia's Macquarie Island

Historic huts and Antarctic Specially Protected Areas

When you complete the EIA you’ll be asked to describe the activities you’re planning. Special permits are required for visiting historic huts and other Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, as well as removing or introducing any flora and fauna, and other activities. The Foreign Affairs Minister issues these special permits as part of the EIA process.

Scott Base and New Zealand field stations

If you wish to visit Scott Base, you must get permission from Antarctica New Zealand’s Chief Executive before you leave:

Tel: +64 3 358 0200

Your visit details must be confirmed with the Scott Base Manager 24-72 hours in advance of your arrival.

Tel: +64 2 409 9700

You also need permission from the Scott Base Manager before visiting any other New Zealand field stations.

The Minister will reiterate the requirements above in your letter of approval.

Visiting New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands

The Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, Bounty Island, Campbell Island and the Snares Islands are protected national reserves, and often included in voyages to the Antarctic. If you wish to land at any of these islands you’ll need a Department of Conservation (DOC) permit, and arrange for a DOC representative to accompany you.

For more information, contact the Southern Islands Area Manager:

Tel: +64 3 214 4589
Email: at the DOC Southland Conservancy

Visiting Australia’s Macquarie Island

This island is part of the Australian state of Tasmania. The island and surrounding waters are a nature reserve and part of a World Heritage Area. Access requires written permission from the Director of National Parks and Wildlife.

Read the Guidelines for Tourist Visits(external link) 

5. Have a National Representative accompany you

You may be required to have a National Representative accompany you on your trip. The National Representative makes sure you comply with the EIA, any special Ministerial directions, and permits. You’re required to cover the representative's costs including travel, accommodation and food.

6. Complete a report on your return

You must complete a trip report and email this to us within three months of your return. This includes giving any other information required as part of the permit conditions or forms you’re required to submit as directed by the Minister. You may also be required to provide reports to other government agencies including DOC.


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