You’ve heard of Tornado Hunters (well you have if you remember the movie Twister or the Netflix show of the same name), but now get ready to dive into the fiery world of Volcano Hunters, adventurers who seek molten lava deep in the Earth’s crust. What exactly is volcano hunting you ask and why would you want to go near that? Well if you have a taste for adventure you probably already know.
Volcanoes are most commonly found in the ‘Ring of Fire’, which are the areas bordering the Pacific Ocean basin. So think everywhere from the USA, to Central and South America (Nicaragua and Guatemala have plenty!), New Zealand, Canada and many Asian nations like Japan and Indonesia. Indonesia actually has the most active volcanoes of the 1,500 in the world. It seems to be islands like Indonesia and Hawaii that aren’t backed up by giant land masses and are closer to the middle of the Pacific get the most tectonic plate activity and therefore have the most active volcanoes.
Now, people are travelling to these active areas at a growing rate to ‘hunt’ the dangerous and awe-inspiring mountains. Volcano Hunting is by its most simple definition, travelling to get up close and personal with volcanoes. It can include studying them (we’d recommend keeping this to trained professionals and scientists only), to looking at lava in the crater or it flowing, looking at active vents (think New Zealand’s Rotorua and Tongariro National Park), and hiking up them or into the crater. Some people take holidays to shop, and some take holidays to see volcanoes. It makes sense really, seeing lava in real life is on a lot of bucket lists because it’s cool.
Why do people do it? Consider the enduring legend of Pompeii for a moment. After all these centuries we’re still fascinated by the sheer violence of Mother Nature and what she inflicted on that small Italian town with little warning. It’s horrific, and visiting the museum there gives you a glimpse into what the town’s inhabitants final moments were like thanks to the volcanic ash preserving much of the damage. Why are we so fascinated by it? It’s the thrill and the uncertainty. Perhaps it reminds us we’re alive on a planet we don’t fully understand. Studies show that dopamine, the happy chemical, shoots up in the brain after we avoid dangerous situations. That’s what adrenaline junkies chase and that adventure is what volcano hunters are seeking.
There are countless Reddit feeds dedicated to people sharing pictures and videos if their close-ish (or sometimes very close) encounters with volcanoes. As someone who stared into the pit of Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua, I totally understand the pull of seeing into the Earth’s core. I remember how vicious yet beautiful it was, and how I knew I would probably never see anything so raw again in my life. The bright red lava was splashing like waves in the ocean, cooling and cracking into chunks of black again and again while we debated the extreme heat and power that makes something like that move so violently beneath the ground on its own accord. We actually had to leave earlier than we would have liked that day because National Geographic (Nature Hunters extraordinaire) were filming the below look into the crater.
Volcano Hunting may be a newer term, but humans have been putting themselves near the craters and pits for eons. From volcano boarding to toasting marshmallows over slow moving lava, we’re willing to put ourselves near the power of a volcano for fun in every country where you can find a volcano around the world.
Where can you go volcano hunting? Hawaii is a great place to start. It has a lot of active volcanoes, and you have the best chance of safely seeing a lava flow there (that’s where the volcano erupts slowly and lava runs down the mountainside into the ocean – hopefully not houses!). Public Affairs specialist, Jessica Ferracane of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park tells CN Traveler that Hawaii is perfect for Volcano Hunters and they have plenty of options across the islands: “Kīlauea is the only volcano on Earth erupting from two different locations—the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent and the summit crater—simultaneously.” The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is seeing growing numbers of people flocking there to see something amazing. In fact a whopping 1.8 million people visited in 2015 which is up 8.25% on the previous year!