These activities are for wimps, when compared to standing on the lip of a mountain that spits boiling hot juice. If you’re looking for an epic adventure, climbing and peering into the mouths of these natural deathtraps might well be for you. Let us ease you in to this gently.
Molokini crater, Hawaii
The first volcanic beast on our list is a partially submerged crater. While it’s not exactly dangerous – it last erupted about 230,000 years ago – Molokini is still a sight to behold. The crater itself has a stonking area of 23 acres, and part of it pokes above the water to form a small islet in the ocean between Maui and Kaho’olawe islands, Hawaii.
Visitors can book a glass bottom boat trip and motor right into the belly of the crescent. Then, if they dare, they can jump out, go snorkelling and get up close to the rocks. Rare marine life also loves this cosy spot. The crystal-clear visibility (often exceeding 30 metres) means snorkellers and divers can spot turtles and all manner of sea creatures at different depths. The unusual rock, and high algae concentration, attracts a range of colourful critters including 250 strange-looking fish species, such as jacks, emperor fish, hawk fish, bigeye scad and Hawaii’s former state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Really.
In this area there are also often sightings of humpback whales, which range from 12-16 metres in length. Blink and you may miss them jumping above the ocean surface, but if you do witness one it will stay imprinted in your memory forever.
To finish off your trip, hang around after your snorkel session and wait for the sun to set. It’s possible to book sightseeing and barbecue trips with tour companies in the area. They’ll cook you a feast, while you crack open a beer, and watch as the orange blob dips on the horizon, behind the crater.
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2. Villarrica, Chile
Set in the Patagonian Andes, this volcano offers adventure-of-a-lifetime stuff. It’s one of only five volcanoes on Earth with an active lava lake inside its crater. Guided hikes start at the Pucón Ski Resort 1400 metres up, and ascend Villarrica’s snowy peak.
The gruelling hike will take around eight hours, and sights of interest along the way to keep you going include natural glaciers and a chance to peer over into bubbling magma.
3. Cerro Negro, Nicaragua
Aesthetically, Cerro Negro is a bit dull. But you don’t come here for the photo ops, you come here to whiz down the side of this volcano on a board.
After a steep 45-minute climb on black sand, dressed in orange jumpsuits and goggles, boarders stop at the crater’s rim and get ready to slide down the 728-metre face. The rapid descent is nothing short of absolutely thrilling.
4. Merapi, Indonesia
Translated as ‘Mountain of Fire,’ this is one of the most active volcanoes on earth. For more than 300 days a year, smoke can be seen bellowing from its mouth. And the brave can dice with death by embarking on a challenging hike to its summit.
En route, walkers will see temples, Buddhas and maybe even some tropical spiders and snakes. Survive the climb, though, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views over the surrounding national park.
5. Whakaari, New Zealand
Captain Cook was the first European to spot this volcano on the North Island’s Bay of Plenty coast. He named it White Island after clapping eyes on the plume of smoke rising in the distance; little did he know that it was more than 200,000 years old.
It’s possible for tourists to get up close to the hissing and roaring crater via helicopter or boat. In a helicopter, you can actually fly into the mouth of the crater or, if you’ve arrived by boat, walk around its edge.
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