Mt Yasur Volcano – Vanuatu

grey Mt Yasur Volcano   Vanuatu

Air Taxi – Vanuatu


Mt Yasur Volcano on the island of Tanna is one of the world’s most reliably active and easy to access volcanos. Following a short hop in a single engine aircraft (piloted by a chap who looks just out of school) you take a two hour four wheel drive trip that ends within fifty metres of the lava. On the way in, Eddie our driver stops on a vast plain of black ash that leads to the conical volcano. I start to get disappointed, thinking that this is as close to the action as we are getting. After we’ve all had a chance to soak up this surreal landscape we are urged back to the four wheel drive and bundle out of the truck sometime later, right near the smoking top.



The flight to Tanna Island

A concerned looking guide takes control of our huddle and tells us that, as Mt Yasur’s activity is a high two out of five, we will not be climbing to the top today. As if on cue the volcano makes an unnerving boom and throws a baby-sized lump of lava towards us. The wind is coming our way, and this is also a bad thing as the smoke is blown into our field of view and obscuring any more volcano babies that may try to land on our heads. We all readily agree that safety should be the main priority so we all grab our cameras and busy ourselves with taking photos.

grey Mt Yasur Volcano   Vanuatu

Mt Yasur ash fields

grey Mt Yasur Volcano   Vanuatu

Mt Yasur from a distance

At one point I wander off to take a leak. With my back turned to Mt Yasur I go about my business but am expecting a smack on the back of the neck … this is how they all die in the movies.

The guide bolts up to the top to check conditions. Once there, he starts frantically waving us all up. I start to think that this may be just part of the show but Kevin, a quietly spoken Aussie who was here yesterday, assures me otherwise.

grey Mt Yasur Volcano   Vanuatu

Mt Yasur eruption

“Five minutes,” the guide shouts. “Five minutes only, then we go…”

At the top I am sure to hold Jette’s hand (not solely for her benefit) as the volcano booms and sends powerful shockwaves through us. Occasionally a few bits of lava land too close for comfort but none as big as the initial baby. Volcanos are unpredictable and hugely intimidating. They’ll go quiet, hissing and humming like one of Willy Wonka’s chocolate machines, then BOOM! A huge plume of lava lurches into view.

grey Mt Yasur Volcano   Vanuatu

Volcanic eruption

I discover that you can ready for a photo by watching for shockwaves through the smoke. The sonic boom of these impossible explosions warps the smoke and you can clearly see a quiet shockwave pass through the smoke like a ghost just before the boom. Light travels faster than sound. This only gives you half a second or so to brace for the boom though.


 Mt Yasur erupting (and wife cursing!)

The activity seems to be picking up and our guide hurries us in the dark down the stairs and to the relative safety of the trucks.

Just as we are turning to go, the volcano gives us one final farewell. The biggest one yet.

A bright bulb of lava comes into view as the sound reaches us, making us all catch our breath.

Those tourist office people were right. Seriously, if you only do one thing in Vanuatu.


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