Extreme environments

Step 1: Read the key terms list below. Make sure that you understand and could give a definition to somebody else.

Step 2: Read the information in Section 1. Answer the exam questions here. 

Extreme environment tourism

Extreme environments are locations with particularly difficult or harsh environments. This could be to do with the climate (extremely hot or cold), terrain (extremely mountainous for example) or particular landscapes (Jungles, deserts etc)

Extreme environment tourism involves people going on ‘adventure’ holidays to an extreme environment. This may be to do a particular activity such as rock climbing, white-water rafting or BASE jumping. This can also be to see particular landscapes and animals. People often go on holiday to extreme environments for the challenge and adrenaline rush from accomplishing particular activities whilst there.

Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls

Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls

Extreme tourism destinations are usually marketed to people looking for a challenge and who like to take risks. They are quite often arranged through special-interest groups and organisations. Usually, hotels and normal tourist attractions are not available and so people going on these types of holidays are usually prepared to camp and to provide for themselves.

Extreme environment tourism – Antarctica case study

Penguins in Antarctica

Penguins in Antarctica

Antarctica is the southern most continent. It is a vast environment of ice, extreme cold and wildlife. Over 100 tourist companies operator trips to Antarctica. In 1993 there were 9,000 tourists visiting Antarctica annually. This has now risen to over 50,000 annually. Visitors usually fly to New Zealand or Argentina and then take a cruise ship to Antarctica. There is no commercial airport.

Environmental impact of tourism in Antarctica 

The environmental impact of a tourist in Antarctica is high compared to other destinations. Popular activities include skiing, kayaking, claiming and scuba diving. All of these activities have an environmental impact and disturb the natural environment and wildlife.

Tourists often want to visit particular areas where there is an abundance of wildlife for example and so these areas quickly become honey-pot sites. This means that the environmental impact of tourism in Antarctica is uneven with some areas far more popular and therefore more affected than others.

Animals, in particular penguins and seals, are disturbed and do not like to be touched by humans. Baby animals are particularly vulnerable to human interaction and are often abandoned after having interaction with humans.

Accidents have also occurred where cruise ships have collided with ice bergs and unchartered rocks. Oil spills can occur as a result of this and these pose a huge risk to wildlife.

How does Antarctica cope with tourism? 

All tour operators taking ships to Antarctica must be a member of IAATO, which has clear rules and guidelines on what tourists can and cannot do whilst visiting Antarctica.

Visitors are not allowed to visit SSSI (Sites of special or significant scientific interest). This is so rare and precious wildlife and landscapes are preserved and protected. Bird Island is an example of a SSSI where tourists are not allowed to go.

A permit must be granted for any activities in Antarctica and these must be planned in detail in advance.

No ship carrying over 500 passengers can land in Antarctica in order to keep visitor numbers down.