A fantastic journey to the ‘Land Before Time’
– one of the few places on Earth to see
active lava lakes in the heart of the twin volcanoes
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Ambrym island is the remains of a huge volcano. A thousand years ago it erupted with such force, thirty cubic kilometres of earth ejected into the atmosphere, altering the planet’s climate for the next three years. The now collapsed caldera in the island’s centre is twelve kilometres across!
Ambrym remains volcanically active, the last major eruption in 1913 killed hundreds and opened a fracture line across the island from East to West in a staggering series of blown out craters. Today, two large ‘parasitic’ vents along the rim of the caldera, Benbow and Maroum volcanoes, still rumble away. From the rims, the very core of the volcanoes can be seen as bright orange lava lakes, swirling and spitting in endless fury.
The landscape is beyond description, a primeval world of ancient tree ferns, eerie mist shrouded jungle and jagged black moonscape. It is of no wonder that the people of Ambrym are steeped in traditional or ‘custom’ magic. Ambrym offers the most spectacular treks anywhere in the South Pacific, but should only be done by reasonably fit and adventurous people experienced at walking tours. It’s awesome and eerie, especially camping above a seething lava lake.
To appreciate this magnificent Island, a five day stay is recommended. From Craig Cove on the West coast, it’s a 3-4 hour small launch trip to Solomon Douglas Bungalows in the woodcarvers village of Ranon on the North coast.
The two room bungalows are of local materials. Each room has one double and one single bed, no power, cold water. The fixed menu is simple, local cuisine.
Three days is hopelessly inadequate for this place. Day 1 and 3 are consumed with boat travel and plane flights. That leaves Day 2, for actual ‘tours’! So five days is optimal, but for those with little time and fit legs, a three day tour is possible.
FOUR or FIVE DAY ITINERARY from Port Vila
Fly from Port Vila to Ambrym and then by boat to Ranon Village. This sheltered waters boat trip takes you along the north coastline of Ambrym to Ranon (a woodcarving village) (N.East). You’ll see interesting buckles and folds and old lava flows along the shoreline & you could ask the driver to stop for a brief swim in the hot springs halfway along the coast. Recommend that the afternoon of the first day be spent on a relatively short walk ( around 3 Km) with guide through the jungle up to the very traditional village of Fanla, where you could view a demonstration of the ROM dance, usually only ever seen on special ceremonial occasions to which outsiders would never be invited. Accommodation at Ranon is at Solomon Douglas including breakfast.
Half day walk up to the ash plain and the other half climbing up Maroum to look into the crater and returning down to set up camp. Tents and sleeping bags are provided. It will be cool at night, but should be dry weather at this time of year. Island-type food is provided, so it is a good idea to bring muesli bars & snacks to supplement. One or two guides will accompany you and carry all the gear plus water. You just carry your own day pack plus a water bottle. Bring some insect repellent, a roll of toilet paper and a few rolls of film. You’ll only be able to buy tinned meat & rice in the small store on Ambrym.
Explore around Maroum, as there is another active vent at its base. You’ll need the afternoon for the walk back down to Ranon village. Overnight at Solomon Douglas bungalows.
OPTION: You can spend an extra night (total 2 nights) up on the ash plain, you could also climb up to the other volcano of Benbow, nearby. Some amazing topography here. It is like being on another planet.
Day 4 or 5
If this is the last day, then after breakfast you’ll be gearing up for the return 2.5 hour launch trip, so that you arrive at the airport by 1000 for the 1100 or 1140 flight.