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Vanuatu Volcano tips

April 4, 2016

You guys, you should visit Vanuatu and I’ll tell you why. It’s AMAZING. Really. The biggest highlight for me so far has been Tanna Island and Mt. Yasur, but rainy weather aside, I’m loving all of Vanuatu.

Right now I’m sitting at Hideaway Island Resort on the tiny Hideaway Island and rain is falling all around me. I’m *really*hoping it clears up tomorrow as I’m hoping to get out and snorkel, but having a down day today is fine with me, and even if it’s raining I’m still going to snorkel. This place is so cute and there are so many little places to sit and relax and enjoy the views.
Mt. Yasur:
I did as much homework as I could before this trip, but looking back I realize there was a lot I didn’t know/wasn’t able to find out ahead of time. Originally I had thought about booking my Mt. Yasur excursion on my own, but after realizing that flights alone to Tanna Island were more expensive than combo packages, I quickly threw that idea out the window. I contacted two different companies that provide excursions to Tanna and then booked the cheaper one. I highly recommend Unity Airlines for this trip. They didn’t provide as much communication as I thought they should have with regards to what to expect on this trip, so that’s why I am writing this.
The things they didn’t tell us: there is a departure tax on all domestic flights within Vanuatu. That said, I quickly realized that they were only charging the tourists the tax, as others just walked on past the counter without paying. They also didn’t tell us that there is a weight limit on what you can take on the plane, so that is something good to know ahead of time. They only allowed us 5kg to carry on and 10 kg to “check” (it’s just thrown in the plane behind you). The rest we had to pay to leave at the airport. These fees aren’t expensive, a few bucks here and there. But it would have been good to know ahead of time as you do want to use cash as much as possible here. They charge a lot to use credit cards (on the rare times they are even accepted) and ATMS also charge high fees. They also didn’t tell us that in certain months it can be cold up on top of the volcano. So it’s good to bring a jacket and wear long pants. I recommend long pants anyway as when the ash flies it can really sting your legs (and eyes, etc.).
We stayed at the Evergreen Resort and I absolutely loved it. Others found it a bit rustic but I found it delightfully charming. And the view of the stars at night was simply amazing. I highly recommend it. The food was good and our tour included dinner and breakfast. I think the value for money on this Unity Airlines package was really good.
From the resorts near the airport, it takes 1.5 hours to get to the base of the volcano. Then you have to wait there while all the other tourists show up. Once everyone is there, they perform some sort of ceremony (which felt like it was just for the benefit of tourists) allowing you to approach the volcano, and then everyone is divided into groups and you drive up closer to the volcano. Once you are at the very base of the volcano, you have to walk up a ways to get to the top. It takes around 20 minutes or so and is fairly steep. The last part of the walk is up volcanic ash and is a little bit difficult.  But once you are at the top it is so worth it! As the sun begins to set, you can see the eruptions of the volcano better and it becomes a spectacular fireworks show. The loud booms of each eruption are part of the fun and you can almost feel them. As I fell asleep that night I heard the loud explosions playing over and over again in my head. I dreamed of volcanoes that night. =)
After the sun has set you slowly descend the volcano using the provided flashlights and are driven to a fruit feast waiting for you. After drinking coconuts and bottled water and eating sugar cane and cucumbers and bananas you are driven 1.5 hours back to your accommodations where, in our case, dinner waits.  Be warned, though. The ride to and from the volcano will be like nothing you have ever experienced! If you don’t like bumpy rides, this is not for you. I can’t really put into words just how intense the ride is. The best way to describe it is wondering if all your internal organs are still in their original places once you arrive!
The next morning we checked out of our accommodations and were driven back to the airport to await the arrival of the charter flight arriving from Port Vila.
This was one of THE coolest experiences ever and I am so, SO glad that I forked over the money to do it. It’s expensive, but once you take into account all that is included, it seems like such a great deal. And it’s certainly worth every penny.
You should definitely add this to your bucket list!
General Vanuatu tips:
* You can drink the water. Some people say it makes them sick because they aren’t used to the high levels of minerals. I’ve been drinking it just fine though, in small quantities supplemented by bottled water that has been bottled elsewhere.
*To get around simply find a van that has a B on the license plate, tell them where you are going and if they agree, jump on. Costs 150 Vatu ($1.50 USD)
*Find an Au Bon Marche supermarket if you want to find Aussie/Kiwi or French food products. Prices are very reasonable.
*Visit Hideaway Island. I’m spending a few days here and I LOVE it already. Free boat ride to the island. There is an entrance fee if you aren’t spending the night here. Home to the world’s only underwater post office. You can mail postcards there.
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