Tanna Island

Yasur Ash Plains
Photo by: PhillipC, Creative Commons

Tanna Island is located in the far south of Vanuatu, in Tafea province. It is only 550 square kilometers in total area, but ironically it has a large population density compared to most islands. There are around 20,000 inhabitants, a vast majority of which are tribal Melanesians. The island is famous for Mount Yasur, a very accessible, active volcano, and its John Frum adherents, a religious cargo cult based on a World War II American soldier John Frum.

Vanuatu owns 82 Melanesian islands. 65 of the islands are inhabited. Most of them are of volcanic origin, with volcanoes regularly dotting the island group. Because of this, the country is rocked periodically by earthquakes. The geographic profile of the island is steep and rocky, and in some places, simply uninhabitable. Only small areas of land are suitable for agriculture and urban development. Despite its modernity, the traditional Melanesian culture still exists, and the natives resort to their own subsistence farming and fishing for their needs.

With the influx of tourism however, the Vanuatuans have something to smile about. The hit reality show series called Survivor was shot at one of its islands, and this triggered a wave of migrants and tourists. Tourism is strongly supported by the government.

Tanna is, more than anything else, famous for the chosen five tribal men who travelled with UK’s Channel 4 crew for the filming of Meet the Natives. The five men, characteristic of their village, worship Prince Philip of the Duke of Edinburg as a god. The group travelled to England to meet with the royalty offscreen. The men also made a series of trips to the United States, courtesy of the Travel Channel.

The native tribes and villages of Tanna are famous tourist destinations in their own right.

Yasur Volcano Trips. Its active status and accessibility made it an attraction to foreign guests. The volcano periodically spews out fire, lava, smoke, and rocks in non-threatening degrees, allowing tourists to conduct trips unharmed. Most of the official island tourism outfits have a day or night tour to the volcano as part of their tour programs.

Cave Trips. Caves also dot the eastern portion of the island, much like Espiritu Santo. A lot of these are nearby lodges and resorts, so the caves are accessible just by walking.

Port Resolution. This eastern scenic port was named after Captain James Cook’s ship the H.M.S. Resolution, after he landed here in 1774. It is only a stone’s throw away from Yasur Volcano.

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