Visiting the subantarctic islands

Southern rata, Carnley Harbour, Auckland Island. Photo: Peter Johnson.
Carnley Harbour, Auckland Island

To be one of the few people who land on any of these islands each year is a fantastic opportunity, a privilege and a responsibility.

Entry to the islands requires an entry permit which is obtained through a consultation process with the Department of Conservation. Permit applications are available from the Murihiku Office. 

Each visitor to the island must ensure they are not responsible for the introduction of a pest or disease to the Islands. To minimise this risk follow all permit conditions and the recommendations in the Minimum Impact Code. A single seed or insect could lead to the establishment of a new pest species that could alter the islands forever.

By complying with the following guidelines, you will be helping to keep these islands, precious organisms, species and ecosystems in the same state as when you arrived. 

Visitors to Enderby Island. Photo: D. Wierenga.
Visitors to Enderby Island

Minimum impact code – guidelines for visiting the islands

Download the guidelines in your language

Tread lightly 'take only photos, leave only footprints' 

  • Plants, animals, historic or natural features should not be disturbed or removed.
  • No plants, animals or firearms are to be brought onto the islands.
  • Collecting of natural or cultural specimens or souvenirs is prohibited.
  • Poultry products are not allowed on the islands.
  • Rubbish, including biodegradable waste, must be removed from the islands.
  • Visitors must keep to formed tracks and boardwalks.
  • Toilets are not provided at any visitor site.
  • Smoking is not allowed. All of the islands are smokefree.
  • All visits may be accompanied by a government representative

Show respect to our wildlife

The islands have many unique, rare and  internationally significant populations of many species.

  • Give all wildlife the right of way.
  • Get no closer than 5 m to all wildlife. This may be too close at times fo som species, eg penguins, fur seals.
  • Do not encircle any wildlife. Always give them room to move.
  • Keep noise to a minimum.
  • Do not follow if wildlife retreats.
  • Look for and respond to signs of wildlife in distress. Move alway promptly.
  • Promptly follow any instructions given by the guide or government representative.  

Turn down the lights

Any lights on board ship at night, (including cabin lights) can attract seabirds, which crash into vessels – often with fatal consequences. Only the minimum lighting required for navigation and safety should be used. Keep your cabin curtains closed at night to minimise this happening.

Government representative

A Department of Conservation representative may be on board to share their knowledge and enhance your trip. They will also assist the Expedition leader to ensure all permit requirements are undertaken.

Personal responsibility

Enderby Island, Auckland Islands. Photo: M J Williams.
Enderby Island, Auckland Islands

Take the quarantine risks your visit poses seriously. Check your equipment against this personal checklist.

  • All clothing, equipment and accessories thoroughly cleaned prior to trip.
  • Daypack checked immediately prior to landing for rodents, invertebrates and seeds.
  • Checked pockets and velcro, looking for and removing any stray seeds and dirt.
  • Footwear scrubbed with biocide, before and after every landing.
  • Only appropriate food products, no poultry products.

Contact the DOC Representative if you have any questions or concerns.

Travel requirements video

Advocating for conservation

The Department of Conservation has a statutory role to protect mammals and seabirds and to advocate for marine ecosystems. Achieving these goals is often reliant on the voluntary action and goodwill of those seeking to view these species. Our guidelines are outlined below, we appreciate your cooperation.


Salvins mollymawk on Snares Island. Photo: Jo Hiscock.
Salvins mollymawk on Snares Island. Feeding seabirds is discouraged, and actually illegal in any of the marine reserves.

The practice of chumming (attracting seabirds by feeding them) is an illegal activity in any marine reserve. Marine reserves surround all islands excluding the Snares /Tini heke islands. It is discouraged elsewhere because of the created change to the natural habits of the birds and the possibility this increases the risk of seabird bycatch in fisheries. Chumming also provides a potential vector for the spread of disease.


The use of helicopters in the New Zealand subantarctic poses an inherent risk to wildlife through bird strike and disturbance. Only consider using them in the case of an emergency or when there are management benefits.

Night lights

Night lights pose a threat to seabirds, inducing disorientation and increasing the chances of a fatal collision. Only the minimum required for navigation and safety should be used.

Proposed Coastal Plan: Subantarctic and Kermadec Islands

The proposed coastal plan is to assist in preserving these outstanding coastal marine areas.  The two key threats to these island groups are from bio security breaches and oil spills. However, the offshore islands are so remote and in such rough seas that to respond to either event will be very challenging. Given the significant natural values, a cautious approach focussing on prevention, is critical.

Hull inspections

The proposed plan requires all vessels intending to go inside 1000m from mean high water springs of the islands to have a clean hull.

Hull inspections can be undertaken in dry dock or in the water. The hull inspection form (linked below) must be completed during an inspection and sent to DOC prior to departure for the Islands. A list of dive and dry dock service providers approved by the Minister of Conservation to undertake those inspections is also provided below.

If there is not a dive service provider near the point of departure for a vessel, or for any other reason you wish to use one that is not on the list, you can request an alternative service provider be added to the list. To be approved the inspectors must be:

  1. Independent from the vessel owner/operator/company; and
  2. Be qualified construction divers. Divers must fulfil the requirements laid down in the H&S in Employment Regulations 1995. In particular they must hold a current certificate of competence for the category of diving required (Part III, 27) and meet the ‘requirements of diver’ (Part III, 32). All inspection work and cleaning are defined in the Regulations as 'Construction Work'.

Ensure sufficient time is allowed for any proposed providers to be checked & confirmed as suitably qualified prior to requiring them to carry out an inspection.

Tiama -transport to the Subantarctic Islands. Photo: Jo Hiscock.
Transport options vary from yachts to large cruise vessels

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Murihiku / Invercargill Office
Phone:      +64 3 211 2400
Full office details