Extreme Destination: VANUATU

Vanuatu is an island nation in the South Pacific. It is also one of the smallest countries in the world. But for those interested in adventure and sport, there is a lot to do. Some of the best snorkeling and sea kayaking can be found here. Vanuatu’s islands also offer visitors two of the most exciting—and dangerous—activities in the world: volcano surfing and land diving.

Volcano Surfing
On Tanna Island, Mount Yasur rises 300 meters (1,000 feet) into the sky. Yasur is an active volcano, and it erupts¹ almost every day, sometimes several times a day. For centuries, both island locals and visitors have climbed this mountain to visit the top. Recently, people have also started climbing Yasur to surf the volcano.
In some ways, volcano surfing is like surfing in the sea, but in other ways it’s very different. A volcano surfer’s goal is to escape the erupting volcano—without getting hit by flying rocks! It’s fast, fun, and dangerous—the perfect extreme sport.

Land Diving
Most people are familiar with bungee jumping, but did you know bungee jumping started on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu and is almost fifteen centuries old? The original activity, called land diving, is part of a religious ceremony². A man ties tree vines³ to his legs. He then jumps head first from a high tower. The goal: to touch the earth with the top of his head—without breaking the vine and hitting the ground hard. Every spring, island natives (men only) still perform this amazing test of strength.

¹ When a volcano erupts, it throws out a lot of hot rock called “lava.”
² A ceremony is a formal event such as a wedding.
³ A vine is a plant that grows up or over things.

© 2017 National Geographic



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