Mt Yasur : Just Like Jurassic Park (Without the Dinosaurs)
In late August this year, as part of the annual Tok Tok tourism trade event sponsored by Air Vanuatu, a few lucky media personnel attending got the chance to experience some of the wonderful activities available around Vanuatu.
The following is a first person account of one of the group’s trip to the incredible Mt Yasur Volcano on Tanna Island, with such vivid description you’ll feel like you were there too!
Recently, I was lucky enough to spend 6 days in Vanuatu as part of the recent TokTok event. The event was a showcase of all the amazing sites, locations and experiences that Vanuatu has to offer. And let me tell you, there is A LOT!
It was my first time visiting Vanuatu and if I were to discuss all of my experiences in a single post, it’d be a very, very long post. So I’m just gonna stick to one thing in this instance: The Mount Yasur Volcano.
Oh man. This was something ELSE!
The Yasur volcano is located on the Island of Tanna – a 35 min flight from Vila on Air Vanuatu and is absolutely the number one place you need to visit when you’re in Vanuatu. It’s amazing. Very little of the island has the public infrastructure I am used to coming from Melbourne, Australia. Streetlights are very uncommon and just like the other islands in Vanuatu, there are no traffic lights, but the most notable of difference is that paved roads are very infrequent. This has its charm of course. It makes everything seem a little more adventurous, but it’s not until you jump in your truck/4WD and head on over to Yasur that you realize how great paved roads are. To say it was a bumpy ride is an understatement.
Bumpy roads aside, the trip to the volcano is an experience in itself. You wind through jungles and trees that look like a set from Jurassic Park. Local villagers walk alongside the road and every single one waves to you with a massive smile and excited wave.
As you get deeper into the valley, the trees and ground begin to change. The soil begins to turn very dark and sandy as a result of increased volcanic ash. The trees begin to take on different shapes and colors, until eventually you turn a corner and you’re confronted with a sea of smooth dark sand. A giant lake of volcanic ash that spans for kilometers. Right in the middle of this sand ocean sits Mount Yasur. Huge, with steady stream of white smoke billowing from it’s peak. Our truck sped along the ash flats. Over sand dunes, skirting the edge of the massive volcano above us.
And then the mountain spoke…
A grumble that was like an amplified version of a jet taking off, a thunderstorm and a crack of a whip, all combined into one 10sec+ grumble. The ground shook.
My fellow travellers just looked at each other and all said in unison ‘Woooooaaah’. Our tour guide just smiled (that trademark Vanuatu smile). That was the moment when it dawns on you that you’re actually deliberately driving into the mouth of an active volcano.
Eventually the sand dunes turn back into jungle (and bumpy roads) and it’s a 30-minute ride winding up the mountain to reach the peak. Once you reach what can only best be described as the car park (the least rocky part of the mountain), it’s about a 15-minute hike to the top.
The mountain is dotted with small vents that pump out a steady stream of volcanic steam. Giant volcanic boulders and rocks cover the slopes of the grumbling mountain. The view from the top is breathtaking. And I know I used this line earlier in the post, but it looked like Jurrasic Park. An almost untouched jungle, that stretched from mountains to beach. The sun light peaked through the clouds in bright glowing streams. Beautiful is an understatement. No photo could possibly do this scenery justice.
Oh… that’s right. I’m on a volcano!
The angry noises of the mountain are a lot louder up here now too. Scarily loud.
Once at the pinnacle, you get your first glimpse of what exactly is making all the noise. One loud explosion is followed by multiple chunks of bright orange lava being propelled into the air, landing on the side of the volcano’s entrance with loud thuds. Below, is a pit of constantly churning, liquid fire. Molten rock, so hot that it flows and moves like waves of water in a massive pool of heat and lava. The occasional explosion makes the entire audience (now about 20 people) sigh in uneasy yet excited awe.
By now it’s about 5.40pm, and the sun is going down. ‘This is the best time to be up here’ our tour guide tells me. ‘It’s like mother natures own fireworks show’. And boy, he wasn’t wrong.
Once the sun completely disappears, Yasur put on it’s real show. It’s as if the volcano becomes 50x more active. The explosions become more evident with a constant stream of sparks and fire shooting into the sky. When a big eruption happens, it lights up the entire area. An area that was so pitch black that it was difficult to see your hand in front of your face becomes instantly lit up with a bright orange glow, highlighting a crowd of faces.
I could’ve quite easily stayed there all night. There are very few people of earth who have sat on the very edge of an active volcano and watched it propel molten rock into the night sky. It was an experience I will never forget and one I cannot recommend enough to anyone who will listen.
Do yourself a favor and experience Mount Yasur for yourself. It’ll be one of the best experiences of your life.