Volcanoes not only provide incredible natural beauty for you to experience on your vacation, but they are fast becoming hot spots for some new extreme sports, from descending into a lava pit to volcano boarding mountain slopes.
Republic of Vanuatu, an island nation the South Pacific Ocean, could be paradise on earth; it’s tropical climate means the island is carpeted with virgin rain forest, while the hundreds of kilometres of unspoiled beaches are among the best in the world. The pristine sea surrounding the islands is rich in marine life and some of the best scuba diving in the world can be found here. But the island provides something very different in respect to the usual topical island fare.
Take an expedition to the most active volcano of Vanuatu: Marum Volcano on Ambrym Island and experience the great contrast between the lush green forest and the arid moon-like landscape of the volcano’s upper plains. Then descend into the volcano’s caldera to get into as close proximity as possible with the churning lava. Volcanologists Geoff Mackley, Bradley Ambrose and Nathan Berg pioneered a route to the very edge of the lake of fire at the heart of the Marum volcano. With fire brigade breathing apparatus and heat-proof proximity suit it is possible to stand on the very edge and view the incredible show for over 40 minutes. This is extreme volcano touring, but similar craters in the area are more accessible and provide a taste of this hard core volcano tourism.
If you’re looking for something that gets the wind in your hair and is more in line with traditional extreme sports you could try Volcano Boarding, a new form of downhill ‘surfing’ that uses pieces of plywood to shoot down the side of a volcanic ash plain at incredible speeds. Originally developed on the slopes of Nicaragua’s Cerro Negra, the sport is still in its infancy.
Using a simple piece of ply, participants can surf standing up or sit on the board for a faster, safer ride that can reach speeds of up to 60 kph. Protective clothing and goggles must be worn as the coarse ash can give some serious cuts and bruises if you do come off it. Because of the thick, coarse material carving is much more difficult in respect to sand boarding, so volcano boarding has more in common with snowboarding than its dry powder cousin, so this is an exhilarating vertical high-speed descent.
Photo credits: Carsten Peter National Geo, Bradley Ambrose