Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, tourism to Antarctica had almost come to a complete standstill. Neither from Chile, nor Argentina or South Africa could the providers of expedition tours lead their guests to the deep south. One exception was the New Zealand company Heritage Expeditions, which was able to carry out voyages thanks to its many years of experience in the expedition business and a sophisticated protection concept. And just like on the other side of the southern hemisphere, the company is getting ready to tackle the new 21/22 season now.
Heritage Expeditions’ tried and tested small expedition ship, Spirit of Enderby arrived in Lyttelton Harbour yesterday, November 23, and her crew have now completed their arrival test protocols after a 30-day voyage to New Zealand, with preparations for the coming season in full swing. Heritage Expeditions made headlines last year when the New Zealand government obtained an exemption to bring the purpose-built expedition ship down from its home port of Vladivostok, Russia. With New Zealand not set to reopen to international tourism until April 30, 2022, Heritage’s focus this year will again be primarily on domestic visitors. And these are very interested in New Zealand’s southern nature.
Heritage Expeditions owners Aaron and Nathan Russ said they were delighted to be able to share the most remote parts of New Zealand’s amazing sub-Antarctic region with guests again this summer. “Aaron and I grew up exploring the Southern Ocean and it’s an incredible privilege to share these very special places again with adventurous New Zealanders,” Nathan commented. It is a testament to the company’s experience, tenacity and commitment to safety that Heritage Expeditions was one of the few cruise companies that was still able to operate despite the global challenges, Aaron further explained. “Our proven health and safety protocols have resulted in successful and safe expedition voyages in the COVID environment since November 2020, including our recent incredible Russian Far East season.”
To ensure the continued safety of everyone on board following the advent of the Delta Variant, additional measures were taken and everyone travelling on board all Heritage Expeditions vessels, including guests, crew and expedition team, were now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with a WHO-approved vaccine, Aaron said. Furthermore, the protection concept used last season will also be applied to the Spirit of Enderby this year. Heritage Expeditions Southern Ocean season begins Nov. 30 with its 13-day Galapagos voyage in the Southern Ocean and includes expeditions to Fjordland and Stewart Island and the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands. In February, after an absence of two years, the owners hope to bring the Ross Sea and its treasures closer to the guests. In addition, the ship also operates its 18-passenger yacht Heritage Explorer, which follows the wild coastal regions of New Zealand, offering a glimpse of the unique natural environment.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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