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Tanna Island 2

One of the performers smiles at us. Image: Brent Stephenson

Tanna Island: Day Six – It was a lazy morning on board the National Geographic Orion, with many guests taking the opportunity to sleep in before heading down for a late breakfast.

But for me it was all about experiencing Vanuatu and its natural wonders.

The night before, staff on board told me that if you wake up early enough you can catch a steady stream of wedge-tailed shearwaters feeding.

Which is why I start this entry in the early hours of the morning with a view of a glorious feeding frenzy outside my window.

At times it was dribs and drabs of birds but at one stage there were hundreds of birds using their natural instincts to catch fish.

Every now and then another species of seabird would whip across the sea like the Providence, Kermadec and Tahiti petrels, the smaller collared petrel, and Tropical shearwaters with sooty terns and several common noddies.

As we drew closer to Tanna Island, so too did the steep sides clothed in green tropical vegetation and coconut palms loomed, and Mount Yasur was there in front of us.

Every now and then a puff of dark sooty smoke rose from the top of the mountain, which made guests on board all the more excited to see the volcano up close and personal.

The ship’s naturalist and photo instructor, David Cothran gave us a brief rundown of the Island as the ship anchored not far off the beach.

We boarded Zodiacs and made out way ashore.

Locals greeted us to the Island with singing and dancing. Of course none of us could resist capturing the traditional performance on camera, especially when the cute and friendly children popped out to imitate their parents.

Tanna Island

The crater of Mount Yasur glowing. Image: Brent Stephenson

“Puff of dark sooty smoke rose from the top of the mountain, which made guests on board all the more excited to see the volcano up close and personal.”

After a few more pictures, we loaded up the 4WD vehicles and headed up the mountain.

The rough track up the side of the mountain to the top of Yasur took about 40 minutes, but was well worth it. We had stunning views before taking a short walk to the top of the trail to overlook the crater.

It was spectacular.

Every now and then a huge booming sound with massive glowing bombs being ejected hundreds of feet into the air.  The constant gurgling sound, like a hungry stomach, interspersed by huge booms was just amazing and the steam and sulfur cloud that surrounded us just added to the atmosphere.

As the sky gradually darkened as the sun got lower, the glowing crater became more menacing, and the massive glowing lumps of lava being ejected into the air really came to life.

Cultures_of_the_South_Pacific_New_Zealand_to_the_Solomons

National Geographic Orion’s inaugural route.

Some of us chose to stay on the top of the mountain till after dark, reveling in the experience, and gradually we headed back to the ship.

Back on the landing beach it was dark as we headed back to the ship, with lively conditions at the side-gate making things interesting.

But again ably assisted by the seamen and drivers we made it back onboard for another outstanding dinner, recounting stories of the day.

Be sure to check out Cruise Passenger tomorrow as National Geographic Orion heads to Port Vila.

Otherwise click the links below to catch up on the ship’s inaugural voyage:

Day Five – Experiencing National Geographic Orion’s delicacies
Day Four – Norfolk Island
Day Three – Captain Mike Taylor shares love of cruising
Day Two – Bay of Islands
Day One – The Christening

jeremyWORDS: Jeremy Lindblad