Tanna Island with Tourism Vanuatu

Sony Ambassador

Digital Imaging Ambassador

After my success capturing Santo Island, Vanuatu tourism contracted me to photograph Tanna Island, a place with a reputation for its untamed spirit and incredible natural beauty. With Mt. Yasur, the most accessible active volcano in the world, and vibrant tribal communities, Tanna Island promised a journey unlike any other.
Tanna Island is a short flight from Port Vila, the capital of the many Vanuatu Islands. Unlike some of the other islands in the archipelago, Tanna boasts a distinct, untamed beauty that includes a combination of lush tropical rainforests and rugged landscapes shaped by volcanic activity. Its cultural heritage remains strong, with traditional Kastom villages preserving ancient customs and ways of life. The island’s unique topography and rich culture set it apart as an adventure-seeker’s paradise and a place where nature, culture, and raw beauty converge.
The journey began with traveling to the volcano from the west side of the island, an adventure in itself. Riding in the back of a pickup truck through the jungle, we traversed a narrow, winding road with banks rising on either side. The black sand contrasted with the vibrant green foliage, creating a striking visual. The journey heightened my anticipation for the volcano’s awe-inspiring spectacle.
Thundering booms of Mt. Yasur greeting us as we arrived. Staying close by the volcano made every moment feel alive—lava exploding, thundering sounds echoing through the night, and the glow of the lava painting the sky. It was raw and powerful, and I couldn’t help but be captivated.
We ventured to the edge of the crater, expecting to be far away and need the 100-400mm, only to find ourselves incredibly close to the lava. Wide-angle shots became my go-to on the 14mm and 24mm, capturing the surreal scenes around me. As the sun set, the volcano’s true beauty emerged with the red glow of the depth of the crater, and I was left in awe of the natural wonder.
Capturing Tanna’s untamed beauty wasn’t without its challenges. Living in the traditional huts the volcanic ash falling from the sky was relentless, coating everything outside in a fine dust. My gear took an absolute beating, in the dark of the night I wanted to capture the stars with the glow of the Volcano. Walking across the barren ash field without moonlight I was blinded by ash falling from the sky and reflecting with my headtorch. It was like a blizzard but ash. I covered my mouth and eventually made it into the clear to look up and see stars. Shortly after each thundering boom ash would fall again. I’d cover my mouth and hide my gear and wait out the next opening to quickly set up and shoot again. This was my first night and an eye opener to the raw beauty of Mt Yasur Volcano.
The waterfalls near the volcano provided a refreshing break from the intense heat and adventure. The 40-minute hike was worth every step as we reached the swimming holes surrounded by lush greenery. The cool water was a welcome respite, and the natural beauty of the area made for some stunning photographs.
The tribes of Tanna Island were another highlight of the trip. Visiting the Vanuatu Kastom villages was like stepping into another world. The people still lived their traditional ways, with no modern influences interrupting their day-to-day lives. Dancing with the stunning backdrop of the volcano created unforgettable memories. The warmth of the community and their hospitality left me inspired and grateful.
One of the most incredible experiences on Tanna Island was visiting Port Resolution. Known for its breathtaking scenery and tranquil beauty, Port Resolution offered an abundance of natural wonders and thanks to a new friend Henry that invited us to Canoe across the bay. We then figured out why he took bananas with us, he threw the bananas in the hot spring and explained one time when it was younger, him and some mates stole a chicken in the village to cook it in the thermal vent. We had a bit of trouble with the large swells and lost all our bananas but it was the funniest 3 hours. It was hot work so we finished it off with a fresh coconut.
The adventure continued in Port Resolution with a visit to Shark Bay, a stunning location where the ocean waves crashed against the shoreline. The power of nature was palpable here, and the pristine environment left me feeling humbled by its raw beauty. The bay provided the perfect backdrop for photography, capturing the essence of the island’s untamed spirit.
Another eye-opening experience was the cannibal tour, where we were led into a ‘trap’ under a giant banyan tree. As our guides shared the history of cannibalism that ended in the 1970s, I was struck by the depth of Vanuatu’s past and the journey the island has taken. The tour was both eerie and enlightening, giving us a deeper appreciation for the island’s cultural heritage.
The local cuisine on Tanna Island was a delightful experience. The island’s organic food, particularly during mango season, was a treat for the senses. The community’s friendly nature shone through as we shared meals and stories, feeling welcomed and at home. And I tell you what, they weren’t the smallest plates either!!
Our first day in Port Resolution Jade was invited to weave mats with the women which made us instantly feel accepted into the community. I had good fishing chats with David the owner of the accomodation to which he invited us fishing on his boat. Though we couldn’t go far with only 3L of fuel as it was a 5hr drive to get more fuel, it made for a fun trip and allowed us to see epic waves breaking on the reef.
One of the most memorable highlights of the trip was visiting the Blue Cave. Accessible only by boat, the journey to the cave was an adventure in itself. Once inside, the experience was magical—swimming through the cave’s opening and being greeted by a brilliant beam of light illuminating the space. This hidden gem was the perfect way to end our journey on Tanna Island.
Despite visiting during the rainy season, we were incredibly fortunate to only encounter two days of rain. This allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in the island’s wonders, from the vibrant culture to the breathtaking landscapes.
Tanna Island offered an experience like no other. It’s a place where tradition, nature, and community converge, offering an unparalleled experience for those seeking raw adventure and untouched beauty. While I left the island feeling exhausted, I also left with a sense of fulfillment and a deep appreciation for the Vanuatu people.
Vanuatu’s allure is undeniable, and my time on Tanna Island was a journey of a lifetime. If you’re seeking an adventure off the beaten path, Tanna Island is the place to be. Let the island’s wild heart guide you and be prepared for an unforgettable experience.