Visitor Management Plan: Gold Harbour

From South Georgia Website

Jump to: navigation, search

(For the Visitor Management Plan disclaimer, copyright and funding click here.)

Download the pdf booklet version of this page here. This is best suited for two-sided printing. Note, for a duplex printer, you need to print using 'short edge binding.'

Gold Harbour landing site
Gold Harbour landing site
Near the edge of the colony
Near the edge of the colony


(Sketch Map. Not for navigation purposes). Download large size jpg of map  here.
(Sketch Map. Not for navigation purposes). Download large size jpg of map here.

Latitude: 54˚37`S

Longitude: 35˚56’W

(20km north of Cape Vahsel.)

Key Features

  • King penguins
  • Elephant seals
  • Light-mantled sooty albatross Location Map


  • Topography:
Gold Harbour is backed by an amphitheatre of hanging glaciers and cliffs at the base of the Salvesen Range. The rapidly retreating Bertrab Glacier has left a series of lagoons, the largest of which is lined by a wave-swept moraine which marks its former recent extent. The northern entrance to the bay is protected by Gold Head and a series of bluffs and cliffs which jut out to the east. Nestling between the bluffs of Gold Head and a steep-sided lateral moraine to the south, lies a tussac-covered glacial outwash plain riddled with small streams and pools, site of a large king peguin colony.

  • Fauna:
Confirmed breeders: king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua), light-mantled sooty albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata), white-chinned petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis), blue-eyed shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps georgianus), snowy sheathbill (Chionis alba), kelp gull (Larus dominicanus), brown skua (Catharacta lonnbergi), Antarctic tern (Sterna vittatae georgiae), South Georgia pintail (Anas georgica georgica), elephant seal (Mirounga leonina), fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella).
Introduced Land Mammals: Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus)

  • Flora:
The area behind the beach is covered in tussac and Antarctic hairgrass. Large patches of Acaena herbfield cover the steep slopes encircling the site between the lateral moraine ridge and Gold Head. Sparse lowland fellfield is found along the top of the moraine ridges while the undulating plains on the plateau above Gold Head host a mixt of mainly Festuca grassland, tussac and mire and bog communities.

  • Other:
Kelp beds and a number of isolated reefs fringe the coastline around Gold Head. A few isolated rocky outcrops, some of which are partially submerged at high water, extend from the landing beach near the north end of the bay.

Visitor Impacts

  • Known Impacts:

  • Potential Impacts:
Disturbance of wildlife, trampling of vegetation on slopes leading to Gold Head.

Landing Requirements

  • Ships:
Ships carrying 200 or fewer passengers. One ship at a time.
Maximum 2 ships per day (midnight to midnight).

∗ A ship is defined as a vessel which carries more than 12 passengers.

  • Visitors:
No more than 100 visitors ashore at any time, exclusive of expedition guides and leaders. 1 experienced guide per 20 visitors.

Visitor Areas

  • Landing Area:
Landing beach is in northern corner of the bay close to Gold Head cliffs.

  • Closed Areas:
Closed Area A: king penguin colony and a 10m buffer zone around its perimeter.

  • Guided Walking Areas:
Hikes to Gold Head should be lead by a guide with local knowledge. Care should be taken in route selection up the ridge and on Gold Head as white-chinned petrels burrow in many of the tussac ridges and mounds and there is a large Antarctic tern colony on the Festuca grassland slope above the beach. Additionally routes should avoid the edges of the mire and bog communities which are more susceptible to trampling.
Keep at least 10 metres from any light-mantled sooty albatross nests, and approach in small groups, taking care not to surround the nests. Hikes to the moraine ridge to overlook the Bertrab Glacier lagoon should be lead by a guide with local knowledge.

  • Free Roaming Areas:
Upper beach area between landing site and the king colony - wildlife permitting.

Visitor Code of Conduct

  • Behaviour Ashore:
Walk slowly and carefully. Maintain a precautionary distance from wildlife and give animals the right-of-way. Increase your distance if any change in behaviour is observed. Keep 10 metres from breeding light-mantled sooty albatross nests and from the king penguin colony edge.
Be alert to fur seals hidden in the tussac and elephant seals in wallows.
Do not stray into the king penguin colony. Avoid the king penguin access routes between the colony and the beach. Take particular care not to disturb, or shift, moulting king penguins.
When lower beach area is crowded with wildlife, particularly during elephant seal breeding period, visitors should be encouraged to stay on the upper beach area.

  • Cautionary Notes:
Gold Harbour is exposed to the south and east and may be subject to swell. Strong katabatic winds can descend from the Bertrab Glacier with little warning.
Beware of waves caused by ice falls from the Bertrab Glacier when walking near the shore of the lagoon area.
Take care near the cliff edges surrounding Gold Head, particularly in strong winds.
Minimise use of ship lights at nightfall to reduce risk of bird strikes.

  • Biosecurity:
All landings must comply with GSGSSI biosecurity measures and self-audit checks must be carried out prior to landing.
  • © Copyright GSGSSI 2013. (Click here to read GSGSSI Disclaimer)