Vanuatu – Tanna

Tanna is Vanuatu’s biggest draw card because of Mt Yasur, one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes. It is a rugged, spectacular island with poor road infrastructure which is surprising given the number of tourists and aid groups who pump an enormous amount of money into Tanna. We visited primarily because of the volcano, but came away surprised at having experienced a bit more – black sand beaches, real traditional culture and village life, decent snorkeling around cobalt coral gardens, and friendly people. Oh, and coupled with a fiery and active volcano experience, let’s just say that Tanna didn’t disappoint. Our trip coincided with the arrival of Cyclone Donna, so we didn’t realize that our inbound flight was the last one the island would see for a few days due to Air Vanuatu’s overcautious cancellation policy. From the petite Whitegrass Airport, we were met by a friendly Rex Morgan, owner of our village bungalow, Tanna Magic, that we booked on Airbnb. Since the weather forecast showed rain on the horizon, we were keen to visit the volcano straight away as we had heard disappointing feedback from those who had visited during inclement weather (zero visibility, low hanging cloud and fog). So it was a mad dash from the east coast of the island toward Mt Yasur, a journey of 90 minutes along a rough and bumpy road via 4WD, with the black ash road deteriorating as we neared the base of the volcano. We arrived as the afternoon group was starting their ascent of the volcano and reached the crater rim after an easy 10 minute walk. From the rim, we observed the colors of the volcanic crater change just before and after sunset. Our group was allowed to roam around a third of the crater’s edge, making for an unforgettable sunset backdrop. As dusk approached, we were rewarded with an exciting display of erupting lava and fireworks emanating from the volcano’s 3 vents. Even without safety goggles, we thoroughly enjoyed our volcano experience despite the relentless attack of volcanic particles! Our homestay experience with Rex and his family was quite nice as Marlene prepared delicious meals and Rex organized our daily activities. Other highlights of our Tanna visit included a jungle hike which gave us insight into traditional village life, a black magic tour which explored Tanna’s custom and culture of circumcision rites, marriage binding, and transition away from early cannibalistic activities to Christianity, etc. Our only regret was not pushing hard enough for the John Frum Cargo Cult visit – we had read beforehand that Friday was the day to visit but Rex mistakenly told us that Wednesday is the cult’s main day of worship which we later found out is not true! In retrospect, we enjoyed our Tanna visit but must forewarn potential visitors that it is prohibitively expensive for budget travelers. You pay a lot for what you get as it feels like tourists are milked for as much as possible (entry fees, transport, tours, and food). There are also no ATMs or banks on the island so you must bring enough cash with you or else stay at the high-end resorts where you have an option to pay with credit card (with high end fees). Was it worth it? Yes, if you really want to have easy access to an active volcano. But our next Vanuatu volcano visit would be to the island of Ambrym which has two lava lakes.

Landing at Whitegrass Airport - little did we know but this was the last flight in for several days due to Cyclone Donna Mt Yasur advertisement claiming to be the world's longest continually erupting volcano Map of Tanna Island; Whitegrass Airport View of Tanna's east coast as we drive to Mt Yasur volcano Robby taking a photo of the stunning landscape. 4WD transport is essential as Tanna's roads are in rough shape Scenery as we near Mt Yasur Despite getting pelted by volcanic ash and dust, Robby sports a smile as we head to one of the world's most accessible volcanoes Mt Yasur belching in the distance Another view of Mt Yasur as we drive towards the visitors' center Thrill seekers can "ash board" down the side of Mt Yasur! Road to Mt Yasur's visitors' center - it doesn't look too bad here but worsened as we neared the volcano Massive banyan tree at Mt Yasur's visitors' center. We learned that tree house accommodation is quite popular near the base of Mt Yasur Path leading to Mt Yasur's visitors' center Vanuatu post box - a unique place to mail a postcard; Mt Yasur Volcano Robby smiles at the crater of the volcano Panoramic view of Mt Yasur's crater Becky at Mt Yasur We were able to shift around the crater of the volcano, shocked that we could get this close to it Selfie at Mt Yasur volcano Looking down to the base of the Mt Yasur - the villages there are in dire danger because the active volcano could erupt at any moment As dusk approaches, we are treated to an awesome sound and light show (the explosions were occuring during daytime but we couldn't see them until now) This mini eruption sounded like thunder clapping in the distance - it was surprisngly loud Night panorama of Mt Yasur volcano Admiring mother nature's awesome performance - bring safety goggles or eye protection because the constant volcanic ash and dust pelts you constantly Our bungalow at Tanna Magic, a small village near Laupukas (about 10 km from the airport) Becky mimics the carved totem; Tanna Magic guesthouse Rex (our host at Tanna Magic) cuts up papaya and sugarcane for us to snack on during our village walk Robby dons a fern headdress that Rex makes for him and blends into the forest Village elder weaving floor mats Typical village huts - the left hut will be cyclone proof upon completion Ni-Vanuatu woman cleaning pots while surrounded by village dogs Both children are carrying large knives - only in Vanuatu! Becky showing village kids their photo Meeting the village chief (in the cowboy hat) Piglet checking us out Village scene Banyan trees dot the Tanna landscape Becky taking a photo of school kids playing during recess Friendly school girls strike their best pose Group photo by the school flag pole Robby shows the kids their photo Hair braiding session Leading a scared horse downhill to cross a river Taro plants - a staple for most Ni-Vanuatu Villager calling out a warning from atop the banyan tree; Black magic tour Becky smiles as she gets "attacked" by villagers showcasing their cannibal history - the missionaries who converted Vanuatu were brave (foolhardy) men! Demonstrating the magic leaf which is used to quickly create a makeshift stretcher Creating fire the old fashioned way! Robby getting surprised in the banyan tree The boys let out their best war cry Village chief comes out to conduct the marriage binding ceremony; Black Magic Tour Singing and dancing ensues afterwards Robby is selected to become honorary village chief for a bit! Becky at the entrance of a banyan tree hut Robby sipping kava at a banyan kava bar Hog locked up inside a banyan tree's storage area Hungry puppies feeding from their mama; Tanna Magic guesthouse Despite the perfect weather, Tanna's Whitegrass airport cancelled flights for 2 days in a row (stranding tourists as a result), supposedly because of "Cyclone Donna" Raymond, Jason and Marlene smile in the back of the pickup truck Beach scene near Rockwater Resort (east coast of Tanna) Panoramic view of our snorkel spot - a pretty cobalt coral garden and lots of healthy fish here A collection of sea shells Robby acting silly Pretty sea shells by the sea shore Raymond and Jason having fun at the beach Cyclone proof church near Loukahmal (the villagers will gather here for safety in the event of a bad storm) Despite the bad weather, Robby remains hopeful that our flight from Tanna to Port Vila will be a "go" today Saying goodbye to Rex's family at church before our ride to the airport Oh happy days! The plane from Port Vila arrives after much anticipation and we are allowed to board for our outbound flight Goodbye Tanna! Thanks for the interesting adventure foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

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