Mount Yasur - Tanna Island
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With 500 explosions each day and being one of the most accessible volcanos it’s a must to visit Mount Yasur if visiting Vanuatu. There is increasing activity from May onwards during the drier season due to colder night temps. Tanna Island is a rip-off, however, it’s worth coming here for Yasur! Continue reading to figure out your best time for this once in a lifetime adventure, our 7 must-know tips; 1) Volcano Activity and Accessibility 2) Weather 3) Crowds 4) Where to Stay and Where Not 5) What to Wear and Bring 6) Transport 7) Things to Do on Tanna Island.
Yasur Volcano Activity and Accessibility
The activity is monitored to protect the local people and tourists. The Mount Yasur Volcano is a high-risk area. There is a permanent exclusion zone which is prohibited from entering. Volcano activity is scaled into five levels. Already level three is severe and dangerous. Since the end of 2015, the activity is at level 2. In June 2018 an ash plume was up to 1.5 km / 5000 feet high. November 2019: Strong explosions occur. Be aware of the risk when visiting Yasur.
- Level 1
It's a couple of years ago that this level occurred.
- Level 2
This is a fascinating and thrilling level, but risky as well. It's not recommended to visit the volcano with kids for safety reasons. There is already a risk to get hit by lava bombs. The fiery eruptions are getting stronger during the dry season and colder nights temps from May onwards. Colder temps increase the activity. Nearby houses get shaken by some of the stronger eruptions which are terrifying loud, especially during the night.
- Level 3 and Level 4
Ash plumes may get thrown to the other side of the volcano to the huge ash plain where you pass the volcano by 4 WD Jeep. If this happens the village, the eastern side, and the Yasur Volcano are not accessible.
Check the recent activity of Mount Yasur
Weather / Climate
Usually, there is a dry and a wet season on Tanna Island, Vanuatu but Mount Yasur has its own microclimate. Rain occurs throughout the year due to the many eruptions and ash clouds. During the dry season, it often rains in the night or morning. The wet season lasts from November until April. Day temps are around 30°C. while nights are still pleasant around 20°C. During the dry season, day temps range between the mid to high 20s and night temps are colder on average between 14°C to 18°C.
Visiting Time and Crowds
Tours to the crater rim are offered from dawn till dusk.
- The morning tour starts very early in darkness around 4 am without the ceremony. Pro: very view people come so early to experience the active volcano. You experience the active volcano with its fiery lava in darkness and with daylight as well. Con: Showers occur quite often.
- During the day lots of day-trippers come here but still bearable. Pro: You can stay on one of the other islands as well. Con.: It’s impressive but not as spectacular as during the evening. The glow is most breathtaking in pitch darkness.
- The tour in the evening starts around 4 pm with a ceremony before you drive up to Mount Yasur. You arrive shortly before sunset; when it gets dark, it is just mind-blowing. Con.: It can get crowded between 40-80 people. You should experience at least one tour in the evening.
The main tourist attraction of Vanuatu is the Mount Yasur volcano 361 m high and easily accessible. Erupting for more than 800 years already up to 500 times each day. In the beginning, you get frightened of the noise at each explosion but by the time you get used to it and at the end addicted. Tanna Island doesn’t have the infrastructure you are used to. Most accommodations are cheap, basic and with shared bathroom. A hot shower is rare. Although Tanna has its own coffee plantations, don’t expect to get a good one only at the White Grass Hotel. The island has roughly 30.000 residents.
The view to Mount Yasur from the village
The National Park entrance of Mount Yasur is about 1.5-hour drive from the White Grass Airport. Most accommodations close to the volcano require a fee of 2.500 p.p. for the pick-up. A self-organized transport is cheaper but may take a couple of hours, and you miss the opportunity to watch the spectacle already on your day of arrival. Rain showers are common throughout the year around the volcano. If it’s not raining, don’t think twice just book the tour. The drive to the village next to the volcano is already spectacular. When you enter the gravel and bumpy road, the adventure begins.
Mount Yasur in the distance
The view to Mount Yasur from far away is already promising. Due to the fertile volcanic soil, the lush vegetation and the ancient banyan trees are just beautiful. When you get closer to Mount Yasur, you drive above an ash plain which looks like a lunarscape. You could get to the crater rim from here, but that’s dangerous and prohibited. Sometimes you can watch people ash boarding (volcano boarding).
Close to the volcano are several guesthouses and lodges as well as in the distance on the hills. Check wisely which lodge you like to book in advance. These are the ones we can recommend since we’d been there. Ours was the worst we’ve ever been to especially the food. We were starving most of the time. We’d chosen this lodge due to the perfect location just opposite the National Park entrance. A big mistake!
Accommodations Mount Yasur
- Low Budget with an outstanding view, plenty of delicious food and guided trips by the owner as well. We met the same group of photographers both nights at the volcano trip, and they recommended the Volcano Eco Treehouse. There was even a Wifi signal available.
- If you prefer comfort and an amazing location at the beach on the western side of Tanna not far from Mount Yasur the Friendly Beach is the perfect bungalow with en-suite bathroom. This is our favourite now since we had this awful experience at our stay in the village.
- If you are limited in time, or you don't want to miss common amenities, we can highly recommend the White Grass Ocean Resort and Spa. We came here twice for lunch and snorkelling as well. The staff was super friendly and the food outstanding but still affordable. They offer the Mount Yasur evening trip for their guests as well as diving and plenty of other tours.
The Guided Tour to the Crater Rim
First, the local tribe starts with a ceremony and dancing. Asking the chief for entrance to the volcano. The gift is a kava root. The women have unique Tannese face painting.
After that, the visitors are separated into groups and led to one of the jeeps sitting in the trunk. It’s roughly a 10 minutes drive and another 10 walking to the crater rim.
When you get close to the crater you experience the first eruptions; the grumbles and groans, you get terrified and want to run away. Every view minutes (we came here in May at level 2) we got erupting lava and fireworks coming from the three vents. Fascinating! We did the tour twice in the evening — the advantage at the second time we’d know what to experience. We were more fascinated and less scared. The first evening it was utterly windy. We got so much ash into our face. At the second we were better prepared; the Tradewind was not that strong from another direction, and it was even better to watch the spectacle. Although just do it despite the long travel and whatever!
National Park entrance to Mount Yasur
What to Wear and Bring When Watching Mount Yasur
- Long trousers and long sleeves better a wind jacket; it’s often windy at the crater rim (Protect your entire body from the ash)
- Buff or hoody for your head
- Safety glasses (after the first tour all of us had little crumbs in the eyes until the next morning)
- Mask or scarf (depending on the Tradewind you inhale sulfur gas and ash)
- If having trouble with your ears; earplugs may be helpful, eruptions can be very loud
- Torch or headlight for the sunset and sunrise tour
- Insect repellent if not wearing long trousers and sleeves
Price per Person in 2018
- tour almost 10.000 VT / 80 € / 125 AUD
- tour 6.500 VT / 54 € / 84 AUD
- tour for free just the Jeep transport 500 VT p.p.
Most bungalows/huts look like this one
What to Bring If Staying for a Couple of Days
- Most so-called lodges are on a very basic standard; we had mice, spiders, and cockroaches, but slept well in our own sleeping bag.
- Enough drinking water. Our accommodation was running out of bottled water. We got to drink the rainwater only. Due to the massive ash in the air, it’s not advisable to drink.
- Lack of food and snacks depending on the accommodation. You can't buy anything around the volcano.
- Mosquito net protects you from the pest as well depending on the kind of lodge you choose.
- Soap and towel
What Kind of Tours Are Offered for Mount Yasur
- Day trips from Port Vila by Air Taxi Vanuatu - amazing view from the plane to the volcano
- One-night excursions are offered by the White Grass Hotel.
- Fly to Tanna for a couple of days; book the trip at your hotel or stay relatively close to Mount Yasur. This is what we did and recommend, but honestly we were travelling for eight months and had plenty of time. You may visit Vanuatu just once and to be on the safe side for the most thrilling adventure and force of mother earth stay at least two nights.
Transport on Tanna Island
It doesn’t matter where you stay you always depend on a shuttle. At the western side, it’s pretty easy just wait along the road for a cheaply shared taxi shuttle. Necessary are coins and small notes. On the eastern side, it’s more expensive and more difficult. Some lodges assist you, and sometimes local people offer you a lift for free. We experienced all of it during our five days stay. Several times we decided to walk a couple of kilometres.
Things to Do on Tanna Island
First of all, try to do as much as possible by yourselves. Some attractions and activities are a rip-off. Of course, the different communities like to participate in tourism. The majority are low budget tourists, and these prices are not affordable. Several guesthouse owners told us about their difficulty to get their rooms rented nowadays. Already viewer low budget tourists visit the island. We would do the trip again but three to four nights on Tanna only. We experienced friendly and attentive local people but also the opposite. We try to give you an idea of what is offered and what you can do almost for free or at least cheaper.
- Mount Yasur Volcano is expensive but worth to do at least once!
- Port Resolution; Situated eight km east of the National Park entrance. There are beautiful white sandy beaches and simple but good seafood restaurants.
- The giant banyan tree of incredible size. I assume this is the biggest banyan tree in the world. You can get there by feet. It’s a 5 km walk from Lenakel through lush vegetation and villages. Ask local people before where to start but not along the way to the tree. They want to guide you for a high amount and bend your ears. Getting there by a jeep we got asked to pay 3000 VT p.p. Figure out the location with a navigation app 'cause wifi is limited on the island, and you will find the tree easily. When you reach the area, you can see the massive tree down to the left. Someone from the community will sit there and ask for 2000 VT p.p. which is roughly 32 € for two. We spent there an hour or so. We walked through and around the tree. It was worth to do because we spent five days on the island. Afterwards, we walked back to our guesthouse close to Lenakel.
- The underwater cave; Utterly a rip-off. Located northwest on Tanna island. Accessible by boat only. There is a light beam through a 5-meter hole. You can swim into the cave at low tide and dive into at high tide. Price p.p. for the boat ride and the entrance roundabout 9.500 VT. We found a better solution ;) Have a look at the next point.
- The White Grass Hotel, Restaurant, and awesome snorkel spot; Come here for lunch, it’s delicious, and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Guests can leave their valuables at the reception and snorkel for free. At the back of the hotel are a boardwalk that leads you to the sea and a staircase. It's used for their boat trips and snorkelling as well. They have a long rope in the water for their guests which is pretty helpful to get back due to the current. The water is clear, and the corals are 10-15 m deep; the reason they didn’t get destroyed by Cyclone Pam in 2015. Snorkel to the left if possible; at low tide. Low tide makes it easier getting back. Not very far away you may spot turtles although they escape as soon as they recognize you. We assume they get hunted.
- Blue Hole One and Two for Snorkelling; It’s a stroll from the White Grass Hotel to the north. It’s nice but not spectacular for snorkelling. It's difficult to get in and especially out with the sharp corals. Hideaway Island at Port Vila was the best spot of all in Vanuatu.