When you climb Mt Yasur, an active volcano on Tanna Island of Vanuatu, Oceania you can wear a helmet if you like.
Will that protect you from falling rocks? Oh no, our guide told us with a grin, if a hot rock collides with your body you will instantly disintegrate.
The helmets are for if you get scared and fall over when running from the volcano. As if you needed a bigger reminder that your body is frail when compared to the power of mother nature.
It is both humbling and a huge adrenaline rush viewing an eruption.
Standing on the crater of a live volcano, listening to and feeling the rumble beneath your feet as it prepares to clear its throat. Small splats of lava belch from tiny vents with slopping noises as the pressure builds beneath the surface.
Suddenly the volcano erupts with a guttural roar that rattles your teeth and hot rocks explode into the air, leaving a fiery trail and hitting the ground with an alarming thud. There is a powerful and exciting moment of terror when you aren’t quite sure if you are going to die.
And then you are waiting, desperate for the next eruption.
This should occur in approximately eight minutes. Yasur is one of the most consistently active volcanoes on the planet and a perfect place to view an eruption in relative safety. The reason is that the lavas that erupt from Mt Yasur are relatively silica poor.
Lavas that are rich in silica tend to be more sticky, trapping gases and erupting more violently due to large build up of pressure. The volcanism is caused by the Pacific tectonic plate being thrust over the Indo-Australian plate, forming the island chain of Vanuatu.
The activity level of the volcano is continuously updated and they won’t let you go if the level is 3 or above (at level 3 lava bombs are thrown beyond the rim of the crater where you would be standing). It’s worth planning to stay a few extra days on Tanna in case the activity level is too high. Then you have more chance of seeing an eruption.
Tanna is a beautiful place to stay too with plenty more to see, including traditional kastom villages, amazing snorkelling, game fishing (everything you catch is given to the local villagers who then sell it back to the resorts) and many other experiences. Besides… you might end up wanting to see the volcano twice.
Why go to Yasur instead of Stromboli on Sicily?
Having been to both I would say that Tanna is a better experience. At any time up on Stromboli you are sharing the view with 80 other people (the limit allowed on the crater, there are hundreds more waiting at various levels on the mountainside) while on Tanna it will likely be a smaller group.
At Stromboli you stay for a shorter time since the next 80 people are waiting. At Yasur we were able to beg our guide “just one more eruption… or two… pleeease…”.
And for those less mobile, Yasur may be an option while Stromboli all but impossible. To get to the crater of Stromboli it is a 900m, steep hike, while at Yasur you park part way up the volcano from which it is a 10 minute walk, not as steep and you can take at your own pace.
There is, however, a pizza restaurant from which you can view eruption further down the mountain at Stromboli which is definitely a selling point.
Written and contributed by withsparkles