Hot lava, black magic & jungle trails


Our plans for a lazy Vanuatu resort holiday evaporated the moment we discovered that the island of Tanna is home to one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes.

After an early flight from Port Vila, we wandered out of Tanna’s tiny Whitegrass airport, jumped into a 4WD and headed off on a bumpy ride across the central highlands towards Mt Yasur.

View towards Mt Yasur from central Tanna

As we got closer to Yasur, the rough track through the jungle suddenly gave way to the ash plain.

Mt Yasur ash plain Mt Yasur ash plain Mt Yasur ash plain

We spent lunch at Port Resolution (there’s no port — just a postcard-perfect bay surrounded by palm-lined beaches & a couple of villages), where we hiked to some volcanic steam vents, cooked corn & plantains in hot springs on the beach, watched local fisherman fan out across the bay in canoes, and were treated to a home-grown, home-cooked vegetarian feast at Chez Leah.

Port Resolution Changing room on the beach

Then, with fingers crossed that the rain would hold off, it was back to Mt Yasur just in time for the main event — watching the sun set from on the rim of an active, erupting volcano.

Car park at the summit of Mt Yasur Mt Yasur erupting at sunset

The regular eruptions sent lumps of lava flying up above us, the distance making it seem as if they were traveling in slow motion, before they thudded back into the crater’s ashy, rocky inner slopes.

Mt Yasur erupting Mt Yasur erupting

As the sun went down the show got even better.

Mt Yasur erupting Mt Yasur erupting Mt Yasur erupting Mt Yasur erupting Mt Yasur erupting

We stayed in a family-run bungalow in a village in Tanna’s central highlands. The view looking out over a jungle valley towards the ocean & Mt Yasur was pretty special.

View from our bungalow across Tanna
Rachel Our bungalow

After a morning spent wandering around the village with a couple of friendly four-legged guides, we visited the Black Magic village. Whatever happens in Black Magic village stays in Black Magic village, but suffice to say you shouldn’t miss it if you find yourself on Tanna.

Esso & Rachel
Dog & horses in the village Black Magic village chief

We spent the afternoon walking Tanna’s kastom trails with our host Rachel, through the jungle, gardens, plantations & villages, past the nakamals under enormous banyan trees, learning about life on Tanna.

A banyan tree A horse in a village A pig in the jungle

A surprise torrential rainstorm turned our leisurely stroll into a slippery climb down a valley, wade along a river and scramble up the other side, but eventually we emerged from the jungle into Esso & Rachel’s garden, drenched & covered in mud, but glad we stuck around a bit longer to see more of Tanna than just the volcano.

Rachel on a kastom trail Flower

The next morning, with our short visit to Tanna over, we jumped into Esso’s ute & headed back to Whitegrass to fly 500km north to a completely different island — the intriguing Espiritu Santo…

Cyclone Pam was a frequent topic of conversation with everyone we met.

Tanna was devastated when it took the full brunt of the storm in 2015 — most structures were damaged or destroyed, as were the gardens that supply most of the food, and infrastructure was wiped out. The island’s isolated location meant aid was slow to trickle in. The following year was spent battling to recover under a severe El Niño drought.

If you’ve read this far, please consider lending Tanna Projects a hand.