Fireworks and smiles on Tanna Island
Was I nervous? Slightly. Was I excited? Oh yes! It was my first trip to the mighty Mount Yasur volcano on Tanna and having only ever seen active volcanoes from a distance I knew I was going to be in for a treat.
After a very short flight from Port Vila with Air Vanuatu (only 35 minutes) we landed at White Grass airport on Tanna. I could not stop smiling at the first impressions of the island while walking into the quaint airport building amongst a lush island backdrop.
You can choose to stay at one of the resorts near the airport such as White Grass Ocean Resort, Tanna Lodge and Tanna Evergreen, or travel further and stay near the volcano in a traditional island style bungalow, or even a treehouse for the really adventurous.
My group was staying near the volcano at Friendly Bungalows on the first night and near the airport at one of the resorts on the second night, so the adventure started with a two-hour drive from the airport in a four wheel drive ute. Holding on in the back of the ute while driving over the unsealed road was a wonderfully fun way to travel and experience the rawness of the island. Every person we drove past was waving and smiling and welcoming us – our smiles were just getting bigger and bigger as we travelled further.
En-route we stopped at a roadside market stall set beneath an ancient banyan tree and sampled some local organic fruits and nuts while chatting with the local ladies and their children. Again there were smiles everywhere. I had already fallen for this island and we had not even seen the main attraction yet!
After a two-hour thrilling and bumpy drive, we arrived at Friendly Bungalows and found a piece of untouched bliss by the beach. Our bungalows were island style rustic, very charming and all located right on the beach. All the meals here are home-cooked by Mary and her local staff – freshly caught lobster is very common.
After a good feed we were getting ready for our afternoon trip to the volcano. We got back in the ute and made our way onwards. We stopped along the way at a local village and witnessed a traditional Tanna custom dance before heading to some hot springs, which also appeared to be a local hang out right on a beach beneath Mount Yasur.
The drive to the volcano was fantastic with some awe inspiring vistas over the ash plains – perfect for that panoramic shot! We were nearly at the base when our guide ramped up the speed and we were zooming over the ash plains and up and down the mounds – certainly woke us up!
After the drive, the walk to the rim of Mount Yasur is only 10 minutes, which is why it is famed as one of the world’s most accessible volcanoes. We parked up and made our way up the path apprehensive of what we would find over the top.
After the short walk we met a few people gathered around the viewing points with their guides. This is where we saw the ash and smoke billowing from the two active vents. It was not until dark that the show really started and we saw how mighty the volcanic activity is. Bright eruptions blasted every few minutes in front of us with the sights and sounds unlike any firework show I had ever seen. It was hard to imagine that that morning I was in my boutique hotel in Port Vila and only hours later I was standing near the rim of the Mount Yasur volcano!
Yes the volcano is the highlight of Tanna and why people mostly travel to the island, but I would recommend to stay at least two nights (three is even better) so you can experience some of the unique culture and other activities on the island, such as the Black Magic Village tour, kayaking and horseriding. This way you can also sample the different styles of accommodation on the island as well.
Other highlights on Tanna include:
- · Black Magic cultural village tour
- · Horseriding
- · Kayaking
- · Snorkel into a cave
- · Custom dancing
- · John Frum Cult Village
- · Port Resolution
By Anne Morris, Vanuatu Tourism Office Australian Representative