Snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

The corals look like a painter came by with an incredibly broad palette of colors – this purple was quite striking; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

The corals look like a painter came by with an incredibly broad palette of colors – this purple was quite striking; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

While snorkeling off Loh Island, I had the opportunity for the first time to try some underwater photography, borrowing a friend’s underwater point-and-shoot camera.  The results will give you an impression of the area, but are pretty basic compared with some of the photographs made with big digital cameras enclosed in giant waterproof housings and external strobe lights.

 

The Torres Islands had a cyclone come through in the past few years which damaged a lot of the corals and diminished the fish population – as we sailed northwest, the underwater enviro

The Torres Islands had a cyclone come through in the past few years which damaged a lot of the corals and diminished the fish population – as we sailed northwest, the underwater environment daily became more diverse; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

Another purple-tipped coral; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

Another purple-tipped coral; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

The area we were in is at the southeast corner of what’s known among divers and scientists as the “Coral Triangle.”  This is regarded as one of the world’s most biologically diverse underwater regions – rich in not just corals (living animals, not stone or rock formations!) but fish and other underwater fauna.

 

The corals varied widely in both shapes and colors; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

The corals varied widely in both shapes and colors; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

An noted in the World Wildlife Federation web site (quoted above), the fishing practices in this area are unsustainable – we saw very few fish much bigger than this small tropical fish

An noted on the World Wildlife Federation web site (quoted above), the fishing practices in this area are unsustainable – we saw very few fish much bigger than this small tropical fish as the locals have overfished the area (the recent cyclone did damage, too); snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

A Moorish Idol swam by -- the Moorish idol got its name from the Moors of Africa, who purportedly believed the fish to be a bringer of happiness; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Island

A Moorish Idol swam by — the Moorish idol got its name from the Moors of Africa, who purportedly believed the fish to be a bringer of happiness; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

“The Coral Triangle is a marine area located in the western Pacific Ocean. It includes the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands.  Named for its staggering number of corals (nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals alone), the region nurtures six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and more than 2,000 species of reef fish.  The Coral Triangle also supports large populations of commercially important tuna, fueling a multi-billion dollar global tuna industry.  Over 120 million people live in the Coral Triangle and rely on its coral reefs for food, income and protection from storms.  Current levels and methods of harvesting fish and other resources are not sustainable and place this important marine area and its people in jeopardy.  A changing climate threatens coastal communities and imperils fragile reefs.  The challenge ahead is to develop sustainable solutions for the Coral Triangle’s inhabitants and protect one of the most diverse marine habitats on Earth at the same time.  Together with conservation partners and the governments of the region, WWF works to safeguard this important region for its people and the world… The Coral Triangle hosts an astonishing amount of marine life.  Seventy-five percent of the world’s coral species are found here…  and this is an important place for tuna to spawn.  Whales, dolphins, porpoises, dugongs and whale sharks feed, breed and migrate in these waters.” — from the World Wildlife Federation’s website: www.worldwildlife.com

 

We were incredibly luck to spot (and photograph!) the elusive Leopard Shark; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

We were incredibly lucky to spot (and photograph!) the elusive Leopard Shark; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

A pair of Trumpet Fish (vary adept at camouflaging themselves) swam by just as we were heading back to our Zodiac to return to the ship; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuat

A pair of Trumpet Fish (very adept at camouflaging themselves) swam by just as we were heading back to our Zodiac to return to the ship; snorkeling off Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

 

Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

The rhythmic music for the Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu, was provided by about a half dozen men who performed in the center of the outdoor performance area und

The rhythmic music for the Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu, was provided by about a half dozen men who performed in the center of the outdoor performance area under a “tabernacle” of palm fronds beating wooden sticks on boards on the ground

 

Once a year the people of Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu, hold a traditional ceremonial dance that celebrates the coming of age of its boys.  [See our previous blog post for an introduction to “Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu“.]  For a week in advance of the ceremony, the boys go off to a private part of the island to construct their head dresses that aren’t seen by anyone until the ceremonial dance.  The head dresses are burned after the performance to protect the boys from any spirits that may be in them.  The islanders knew in advance of our planned visit and postponed the dance from its traditional date to wait for our arrival day for the performance – we all felt very honored when we learned this!

 

A village elder led the procession of boys from the edge of the clearing into the performance area, dancing around the “drummers” pictured in the previous photograph; Ceremonial Danc

A village elder led the procession of boys from the edge of the clearing into the performance area, dancing around the “drummers” pictured in the previous photograph; Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

At the beginning of the dance, the boys_ faces were hidden behind green leaf fans, but they proudly introduced their individually hand crafted, colorful head dresses, Ceremonial Dance

At the beginning of the dance, the boys’ faces were hidden behind green leaf fans, but they proudly introduced their individually hand crafted, colorful head dresses, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

The boys were joined by a group of village women dancers, who also entered the performance area with their faces hidden behind green leaf fans, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Isl

The boys were joined by a group of village women dancers, who also entered the performance area with their faces hidden behind green leaf fans, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

A close up of the women dancers with their fans lowered, later in the dance; Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

A close up of the women dancers with their fans lowered, later in the dance; Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

A look at the women dancers_ feet and ankle “bracelets”, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

A look at the women dancers’ feet and ankle “bracelets”, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

Each of the boys_ head dresses was individually crafted, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

Each of the boys’ head dresses was individually crafted, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

A close up of the boys_ head dresses, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

A close up of the boys’ head dresses, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

A portrait of the musicians after the Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

A portrait of the musicians after the Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

Two of the musicians lingered a moment with me for their portrait, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

Two of the musicians lingered a moment with me for their portrait, Ceremonial Dance on Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

The beach where we landed our Zodiacs to spend the morning meeting with the local people and watch a traditional cultural performance [see our next blog post], Loh Island, Torres Islands

The beach where we landed our Zodiacs to spend the morning meeting with the local people and watch a traditional cultural performance [see our next blog post], Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

The last island we visited in Vanuatu – Loh Reef Island, with a population of about 200 — was in the country’s most northern group of islands, the Torres Islands.  The Torres Islands were among the last South Pacific Islands to be charted.  The Loh islanders still practice the subsistence agriculture and fishing practices of their ancestors.  The traditional religion of the island has been supplanted by Christianity (brought by missionaries) beginning at the end of the 19th century.  The national government helps support the local schools and the island’s medical center.  The most famous species on the islands of the Torres group is the coconut crab, which has become an important cash crop since the opening of an airstrip in Linua on Loh Island.

 

Upon approaching the beach for our landing, our Zodiac was “attacked” by fierce Loh Island warriors with their traditional weapons, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu; after we land

Upon approaching the beach for our landing, our Zodiac was “attacked” by fierce Loh Island warriors with their traditional weapons, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu; after we landed these two warriors posed for a portrait

 

The beach was full of kids and adults extending a warm welcome to their home island, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

The beach was full of kids and adults extending a warm welcome to their home island, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

All of the homes on the island are built in a traditional style, with 100% of the materials coming from the island, including the thatched roofs, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

All of the homes on the island are built in a traditional style, with 100% of the materials coming from the island, including the thatched roofs, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

A very important food source and cash crop for the islanders is the coconut crab, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu-

A very important food source and cash crop for the islanders is the coconut crab, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

Another family_s home with the laundry drying out front, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

Another family’s home with the laundry drying out front, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

All of the children on the island were very friendly and interested in their visitors, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

All of the children on the island were very friendly and interested in their visitors, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

We had the opportunity to visit the medical clinic that is staffed by a nurse and takes care of most medical issues for the islanders (with financial support from the national government

We had the opportunity to visit the medical clinic that is staffed by a nurse and takes care of most medical issues for the islanders (with financial support from the national government); the locals do have a small co-pay for services; Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

These children were very excited, as they had just gotten an ice cube to suck on – from the ice cooler that we brought ashore with bottled water for our group of Residents who were sta

These children were very excited, as they had just gotten an ice cube to suck on – from the ice cooler that we brought ashore with bottled water for our group of Residents who were staying for the traditional cultural performance, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

The interior of the Seventh Day Adventist church in the middle of the village, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu; it is one of several churches on an island with a population of only 2

The interior of the Seventh Day Adventist church in the middle of the village, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu; it is one of several churches on an island with a population of only 200

 

The smile says it all – the entire community was warm and welcoming, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

The smile says it all – the entire community was warm and welcoming, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

Terrific views out the front doors of these homes near the beach, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu-

Terrific views out the front doors of these homes near the beach, Loh Island, Torres Islands, Vanuatu

 

Mavea Island, Vanuatu

Mavea Island, Vanuatu, looks like (and is) a tropical paradise

Mavea Island, Vanuatu, looks like (and is) a tropical paradise

 

Mavea Island is a small island in Vanuatu across a small channel east of Loganville, Espiritu Santo Island (commonly referred to as “Santo”).  The population is about 200, with only 34 speakers of the Mavea language which is dying out as it is not usually spoken outside of the home, with Bislama (a national language of all the Vanuatu tribes) and English having become prevalent.

 

A pareo with local flavor, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

A pareo with local flavor, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

 

One of the “Water Women” on shore, before the group_s performance, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

One of the “Water Women” on shore, before the group’s performance, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

 

We visited Mavea in the afternoon to watch a performance in the waters off the beach by “Water Women”.  These Vanuatu women have developed a program of “water music” where they use their hands (and arms) to “play” the water (like drumming) to make rhythmic sounds, accompanied in some songs with their singing – fairly unique and, as a result, they now travel around the Pacific to perform.  There is music DVD that has been released (see: www.wantokmusik.org) and a feature length film and DVD made in 2014, “Vanuatu Women’s Water Music”.  Some footage from the film can be viewed on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMFazztdbAI

 

The “Water Women” performing in the surf, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

The “Water Women” performing in the surf, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

 

Another of the “Water Women” on shore, before the group_s performance, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

Another of the “Water Women” on shore, before the group’s performance, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

 

The “Water Women” performing in the surf with our ship visible at anchor in the channel and Espiritu Santo Island in the background, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

The “Water Women” performing in the surf with our ship visible at anchor in the channel and Espiritu Santo Island in the background, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

 

A Mavean father with his daughter on the beach, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

A Mavean father with his daughter on the beach, Mavea Island, Vanuatu

 

Two young boys on Mavea Island, Vanuatu, happy on the beach after watching the “Water Women_s performance

Two young boys on Mavea Island, Vanuatu, happy on the beach after watching the “Water Women’s performance

 

Sailing back to our ship in the channel after the performance, late in the afternoon, we saw amazing cloud formations (including a “hand” reaching upward from the clouds above the sh

Sailing back to our ship in the channel after the performance, late in the afternoon, we saw amazing cloud formations (including a “hand” reaching upward from the clouds above the ship), Mavea Island, Vanuatu

 

 

Riri Riri River and Blue Hole, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

the-coastline-around-luganville-espiritu-santo-vanuatu-has-many-beaches-with-small-resorts-having-been-built-up-over-the-past-few-decades

The coastline around Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, has many beaches with small “resorts” having been built up over the past few decades

 

Espiritu Santo (commonly referred to as “Santo”) is the largest and generally regarded as perhaps the slowest moving of the Vanuatu islands.  Luganville is a quiet, unassuming town at the eastern end of Espiritu Santo.  On the morning of our visit to Luganville, we opted for a Zodiac ride and wet landing to a beach where he boarded a van for a ride to the location on the Riri Riri River where we could board a traditional island outrigger canoe to paddle to Santo’s largest Blue Hole.  Along the way we journeyed through lush, pristine jungle on the river that had fresh water fish and birds singing overhead.  At the deep water Blue Hole, we had an hour for swimming and watched some friends performing “Tarzan swings” from a vine rope tied to a tree to jump into the water.

 

a-tapestry-printed-with-a-map-of-the-islands-of-vanuatu-was-for-sale-with-others-in-an-open-air-market-as-we-returned-from-the-riri-riri-river-and-blue-hole-luganville-espiritu-santo-vanuatu

A tapestry printed with a map of the islands of Vanuatu was for sale (with others) in an open air market as we returned from the Riri Riri River and Blue Hole, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

 

our-intrepid-explorer-and-your-blogger-in-a-traditional-island-outrigger-canoe-on-the-riri-riri-river-heading-to-santos-largest-blue-hole-luganville-espiritu-santo-vanuatu

Our intrepid explorer and your blogger in a traditional island outrigger canoe on the Riri Riri River, heading to Santo’s largest Blue Hole, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

 

canoeing-down-the-riri-riri-river-to-the-blue-hole-luganville-espiritu-santo-vanuatu

Canoeing down the Riri Riri River to the Blue Hole, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

 

a-view-of-the-riri-riri-river-from-our-outrigger-canoe-luganville-espiritu-santo-vanuatu

A view of the Riri Riri River from our outrigger canoe, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

 

the-waters-of-the-deep-blue-hole-really-are-blue-luganville-espiritu-santo-vanuatu

The waters of the deep Blue Hole really are blue, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

 

the-riri-riri-river-blue-hole-was-a-perfect-spot-for-a-morning-swim-luganville-espiritu-santo-vanuatu

The Riri Riri River Blue Hole was a perfect spot for a morning swim, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

 

this-beautiful-flower-was-in-bloom-by-the-side-of-the-riri-riri-river-luganville-espiritu-santo-vanuatu

This beautiful flower was in bloom by the side of the Riri Riri River, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

 

 

Ambrym Island School (children’s choir), Vanuatu

the-men-on-ambrym-island-vanuatu-are-respected-for-their-wood-carving-skills

The men on Ambrym Island, Vanuatu, are respected for their wood carving skills

 

After watching the spectacularly costumed men perform the Ambrym Island Rom dance [see our previous blog post, “Ambrym Island, Vanuatu], we had a chance to walk around Ranon Village and meet some of the locals and shop at the open air market.  The men are well known as wood carvers.  A group of us then hiked up to the local school where we had a chance to hear several songs by the children’s choir.  The highlight of the afternoon was our collective donation of several boxes of school supplies to the school.  Our group turned the tables on the children and sang to them, and then they joined us in singing several songs in English, including the classic “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, with all of us dancing and moving our arms to point to the correct parts of the body as we sang.  A wonderful time was had by all and we all made new friends.

 

a-group-of-island-men-entertained-us-with-their-local-songs-in-the-open-air-market-on-ambrym-island-vanuatu

A group of island men entertained us with their local songs in the open air market on Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

we-purchased-this-wood-carving-from-this-ambrym-island-wood-carver

We purchased this wood carving from this Ambrym Island wood carver

 

the-childrens-school-choir-gathered-in-their-school-yard-at-ranon-village-on-ambrym-island-vanuatu-with-our-ship-visible-in-the-background

The children’s school choir gathered in their school yard at Ranon Village on Ambrym Island, Vanuatu, with our ship visible in the background

 

a-close-up-of-some-of-the-school-choir-children-on-ambrym-island-vanuatu

A close up of some of the school choir children on Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

our-residents-on-the-ship-collectively-donated-lots-of-school-supplies-to-the-ranon-village-school-on-ambrym-island-vanuatu-including-necessary-classroom-supplies-like-paper-and-pencils-plus-some-sp

Our Residents on the ship collectively donated lots of school supplies to the Ranon Village school on Ambrym Island, Vanuatu, including necessary classroom supplies like paper and pencils plus some special treats including laminated maps of the world (which they have never had) and hula hoops and frisbees for outdoor play time

 

we-turned-the-tables-on-the-children-and-sang-a-few-songs-to-them-and-then-they-joined-us-in-several-choruses-of-head-shoulders-knees-and-toes-here-the-children-are-pointing-to-t

We turned the tables on the children and sang a few songs to them and then they joined us in several choruses of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” (here, the children are pointing to their ears), Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Knees and toes

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Knees and toes

And eyes and ears

And mouth and nose

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Knees and toes.

 

we-turned-the-tables-on-the-children-and-sang-a-few-songs-to-them-and-then-they-joined-us-in-several-choruses-of-head-shoulders-knees-and-toes-here-the-children-are-pointing-to-t

We turned the tables on the children and sang a few songs to them and then they joined us in several choruses of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” (here, the children are pointing to their noses), Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

walking-around-the-village-before-sunset-we-came-across-a-typical-house-in-a-clearing-ambrym-island-vanuatu

Walking around the village before sunset we came across a typical house in a clearing, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

this-local-woman-was-very-friendly-and-loved-posing-for-portraits-in-her-yard-with-her-chicken-ambrym-island-vanuatu

This local woman was very friendly and loved posing for portraits in her yard with her chicken, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

the-summit-at-the-center-of-ambrym-island-vanuatu-is-the-home-of-the-active-volcano-and-its-two-craters-some-smoke-is-visible-coming-out-of-them

The summit at the center of Ambrym Island, Vanuatu, is the home of the active volcano and its two craters (some smoke is visible coming out of them)

 

Ambrym is a volcanic island in the archipelago of the Republic of Vanuatu, located in the central portion of the country (north of our previous stop at Tanna Island).  The name, Ambrym, means “here are yams” (ham rim in Ranon language).  Captain Cook anchored off the island in 1774.  The active volcano has two craters near the summit and is regarded as the most active volcano in Vanuatu.  Most of the island, other than the large desert-like caldera of the active volcano is covered by thick jungle.  We visited the small village of Ranon in the north, with a wet landing at the black beach from Zodiacs from our ship which was anchored off shore.

 

our-intrepid-explorer-with-one-of-the-men-from-ranon-village-who-welcomed-us-and-escorted-us-up-the-path-to-the-pressed-earth-clearing-where-the-rom-dance-was-going-to-take-place-ambrym-island-vanua

Our intrepid explorer with one of the men from Ranon village who welcomed us and escorted us up the path to the pressed earth clearing where the Rom dance was going to take place, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

The jet black volcanic sands of Ambrym Island give this place a mysterious air – it is Vanuatu’s “Black Magic” epicenter.  Perhaps fittingly it is known as the home of Vanuatu’s sorcery where tall mask carvings and dancing rituals have been passed down through the millennia.  The “bush material” costumes set against a jungle background in the Rom Dance at Ranon Village were fascinating for both photographers and amateur anthropologists.

 

after-we-all-assembled-in-the-clearing-two-ambrym-chiefs-came-out-and-welcomed-us-our-expedition-leader-speaks-bislama-a-creole-language-that-is-today-one-of-the-principal-languages-of-van

After we all assembled in the clearing, two Ambrym chiefs came out and welcomed us (our expedition leader speaks Bislama — a Creole language that is today one of the principal languages of Vanuatu, along with French and English — and translated for us), Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

the-men-half-in-masked-costumes-and-the-other-half-nearly-naked-except-for-their-penis-sheaths-called-nambas-in-bislama-have-begun-the-rom-dance-ambrym-island-vanuatu

The men, half in masked costumes and the other half nearly naked (except for their penis sheaths, called nambas in Bislama), have begun the Rom Dance, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

“The most striking custom dance is the Rom dance.  It is held every year in Northern Ambrym and is followed by a pig-killing ceremony.  Traditionally it has been an exclusively a male event and kept very secret.  The masks, which are made especially for this event, are superb.  The outfits worn for the dance are destroyed immediately after the dance is finished so the spirits won’t haunt the dancers.” – http://www.ambrym.com

 

the-rom-dances-rhythmic-music-and-dancing-are-captivating-and-mesmerizing-ambrym-island-vanuatu

The Rom Dance’s rhythmic music and dancing are captivating and mesmerizing, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

the-outfits-worn-for-the-dance-are-destroyed-immediately-after-the-dance-is-finished-so-the-spirits-wont-haunt-the-dancers-ambrym-island-vanuatu

The outfits worn for the dance are destroyed immediately after the dance is finished so the spirits won’t haunt the dancers, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

each-outfit-is-individually-hand-made-and-not-seen-by-any-of-the-villagers-or-guests-until-the-dance-begins-ambrym-island-vanuatu

Each outfit is individually hand made and not seen by any of the villagers (or guests) until the dance begins, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

we-were-joined-in-the-audience-by-many-villagers-who-also-immensely-enjoyed-this-special-performance-ambrym-island-vanuatu

We were joined in the audience by many villagers who also immensely enjoyed this special performance, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

details-of-the-superb-hand-carved-and-painted-masks-ambrym-island-vanuatu

Details of the superb hand carved and painted masks, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

this-costumed-dancer-is-not-some-one-you-want-to-meet-in-your-nightmares-ambrym-island-vanuatu

This costumed dancer is not some one you want to meet in your nightmares, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

two-young-villagers-who-were-also-captivated-by-the-rom-dance-ambrym-island-vanuatu

Two young villagers who were also captivated by the Rom Dance, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

 

Mount Yasur (volcano), Tanna Island, Vanuatu

we-boarded-four-wheel-drive-trucks-owned-and-driven-by-the-locals-for-the-45-minute-drive-to-the-crater-rim-of-mount-yasur-timed-so-we-would-arrive-at-dusk-in-order-to-see-the-mountain-mount-yasur

We boarded four-wheel-drive trucks owned and driven by the locals for the 45 minute drive to the crater rim of Mount Yasur, timed so we would arrive at dusk in order to see the mountain, Mount Yasur (volcano), Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

“Mount Yasur is an active volcano on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, with a height of 361 meters (1,184 feet) above sea level, located on the South East coast near Sulphur Bay.  Mount Yasur has a largely unvegetated pyroclastic cone with a nearly-circular summit crater 400 meters (1,312 feet) in diameter.  It is a stratovolcano caused by the eastward-moving Indo-Australian plate being subducted under the westward-moving Pacific Plate.  It has been nearly continuously erupting for centuries, although usually it can be approached safely. Its eruptions, which often occur several times an hour, are classified as Strombolian or Vulcanian.” – airtaxivanuatu.com

 

as-we-hiked-up-the-ramp-and-steps-to-the-volcano-craters-rim-we-were-serenaded-by-singing-local-men-and-women-mount-yasur-volcano-tanna-island-vanuatu

As we hiked up the ramp and steps to the volcano crater’s rim, we were serenaded by singing local men and women, Mount Yasur (volcano), Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

As noted in our previous blog post [“Tanna Island, Vanuatu”] the glow of the Mount Yasur volcano was apparently what attracted Captain James Cook on the first European journey to Tanna Island in 1774.

 

three-of-the-men-who-serenaded-us-by-singing-as-we-hiked-up-the-ramp-and-steps-to-the-volcano-craters-rim-mount-yasur-volcano-tanna-island-vanuatu

Three of the men who serenaded us by singing as we hiked up the ramp and steps to the volcano crater’s rim, Mount Yasur (volcano), Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

Because of the importance of the volcano to the tourism industry in Tanna, the local government has created levels to restrict people’s access:

Level 0 – Low activity, access to the crater allowed

Level 1 – Normal activity, access to the crater allowed

Level 2 – Moderate to high activity, lava bombs may land beyond the crater rim, access to the crater is closed;

Level 3 – Severe activity with loud explosions, lava bombs ejected up to hundreds of meters outside the crater and large plumes of smoke and ash, access to the summit zone is closed

Level 4 – Major eruption affecting large areas around the volcano and possibly other parts of Tanna and even neighboring islands, all access closed

 

our-group-assembled-on-the-crater-rim-right-side-of-photograph-which-was-as-close-to-the-volcano-some-smoke-is-billowing-out-on-the-left-as-visitors-are-allowed-mount-yasur-volcano-tanna-islan

Our group assembled on the crater rim (right side of photograph) which was as close to the volcano (some smoke is billowing out on the left) as visitors are allowed, Mount Yasur (volcano), Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

The night we visited the live volcano activity was at Level 1, so we were able to drive up to the crater and walk to the rim to observe the eruptions.  This was very thrilling – a nearly unique experience in world travels, as Mount Yasur is so easily accessible (once you’ve gotten half-way around the world to Vanuatu!).  As expected, the volcano put on quite a show (aurally and visually).

 

we-were-given-quite-a-show-with-volcanic-eruptions-every-few-minutes-here-at-dusk-with-mostly-smoke-and-ash-visible-mount-yasur-volcano-tanna-island-vanuatu

We were given quite a show, with volcanic eruptions every few minutes – here at dusk, with mostly smoke and ash visible, Mount Yasur (volcano), Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

once-it-got-dark-the-show-switched-from-black-and-white-to-color-mount-yasur-volcano-tanna-island-vanuatu

Once it got dark, the show switched from “black and white” to “color”, Mount Yasur (volcano), Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

the-volcanic-eruptions-visible-from-the-rim-in-the-dark-were-a-spectacular-fireworks-show-put-on-by-mother-nature-we-now-understand-why-mt-yasur-is-considered-one-of-the-world

The volcanic eruptions visible from the rim in the dark were a spectacular “fireworks” show put on by Mother Nature; we now understand why Mt. Yasur is considered one of the world’s most accessible volcanoes; Mount Yasur (volcano), Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

Tanna Island, Vanuatu

three-local-tanna-women-who-participated-in-our-welcome-dance-when-we-arrived-at-tanna-island-vanuatu

Three local Tanna women who participated in our welcome dance when we arrived at Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

Tanna Island is an island near the southernmost string of islands making up the Melanesian country of the Republic of Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides, administered jointly by Britain and France until its independence in 1980).  Captain James Cook was lured ashore on Tanna Island in August 1774 by the same eerie glow that is still visible peering into the crater of volcanic Mount Yasur.  Cook named the island Tanna, misunderstanding the natives whom he had asked for the name of the island (they replied in their dialect, tana, the Kwamera language word for “earth”).  Nicknamed the “Lighthouse of the Pacific”, Mount Yasur has erupted numerous times and is currently going through a period of high activity.

 

women-of-tanna-performed-a-welcome-dance-for-us-on-our-arrival-at-tanna-island-vanuatu

Women of Tanna performed a welcome dance for us on our arrival at Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

The island did not play a major role in World War II (many battles were fought to the north, principally in the Solomon Islands).  “Tanna is populated almost entirely by Melanesians and they follow a more traditional lifestyle than many other islands.  Some of the higher altitude villages are known as kastom villages, where modern inventions are restricted, the inhabitants wear penis sheaths [Bislama — a Creole language that is today one of the principal languages of Vanuatu, along with French and English: nambas] and grass skirts, and the children do not go to public schools.  According to anthropologist Joël Bonnemaison, author of The Tree and the Canoe: history and ethnography of Tanna, their resistance to change is due to their traditional worldview and how they ‘perceive, internalise, and account for the dual concepts of space and time.’” – Wikipedi

 

men-of-tanna-performed-separately-from-the-women-in-a-welcome-dance-for-us-on-our-arrival-at-tanna-island-vanuatu

Men of Tanna performed separately from the women in a welcome dance for us on our arrival at Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

We anchored off shore and used Zodiacs (6 meter/20 foot inflatable boats) to come ashore in a “wet” landing (jumping out, into the surf and walking on to the beach).  We were met by many locals from the nearby village who were extremely friendly; many spoke good English and were happy to meet us and talk with us about life on Tanna.  We were treated to a welcome dance by separate groups of women and men before we boarded four-wheel-drive trucks owned and driven by the locals for the 45 minute drive to the crater rim of Mount Yasur, timed so we would arrive at dusk in order to see the mountain and then watch the volcanic eruptions from the rim as it got dark – a spectacular “fireworks” show put on by Mother Nature.  We can now understand why Mt. Yasur is considered one of the world’s most accessible volcanoes.

 

one-of-the-tanna-men-dancers-with-his-son-after-the-welcome-dance-on-the-beach-at-tanna-island-vanuatu

One of the Tanna men dancers with his son, after the welcome dance on the beach at Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

three-local-boys-sitting-in-a-tree-watching-the-welcome-dances-tanna-island-vanuatu

Three local boys sitting in a tree, watching the welcome dances, Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

one-of-the-local-women-with-traditional-face-paint-and-a-handmade-flower-wreath-in-her-hair-tanna-island-vanuatu

One of the local women with traditional face paint and a handmade flower wreath in her hair, Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

Tanna, a 2015 film depicting the true story of a couple who decided to marry for love, rather than obey their parents’ wishes, is set on the island, and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards

 

one-of-the-local-boys-watching-the-welcome-dances-tanna-island-vanuatu

One of the local boys watching the welcome dances, Tanna Island, Vanuatu

 

a-woman-dancer-with-her-daughter-after-the-performance-tanna-island-vanuatu

A woman dancer with her daughter after the performance, Tanna Island, Vanuatu