On the island of Gaua there sits, unsuspectingly, one of the most remote and active volcanoes in Vanuatu. At its base lies Lake Letas, a crater lake of freshwater, home to an abundance of prawns and eels and bordered by pore-cleansing hot springs.
If that wasn’t enough, as you follow one of the rivers out to the coast, you’ll find Vanuatu’s highest waterfall.
This 3-day wilderness hike, which will send you up to the volcano’s rim, around the base, out to the hot springs and down to the waterfall, will treat you to some of the most magnificent sights you can find in Northern Vanuatu’s Torba Province.
No matter where you stay on the island, simply tell your host that Mt Garet is on your list, and they’ll pull everything together for you.
Read more: An Insider’s Guide to Gaua
- Breathtaking view of surrounding islands from the top of the volcano
- Smoke billowing out of two of the five craters
- Hot springs on the edge of the lake (complete with a volcanic body scrub)
- Victor’s Campsite – located by the river under the most incredible banyan tree
- Siri Waterfall – the highest waterfall in Vanuatu (120m!)
Depending on where you stay on the island, you may drive to the beginning of the hike or you may just walk. It’s only a 2-3 hour undulating walk to Victor’s Camp by the lake (where you’ll stay for both nights), so it’s nothing too strenuous. Around 12km from the airport.
If you’re travelling with someone who likes the odd day walk, but doesn’t necessarily have the ability or desire to do the more hardcore activity of summiting the volcano, it’s worth taking this walk to Victor’s – they can relax by the lake while you hike up. It’s a beautiful spot, right underneath an Enid Blyton-esque banyan tree.
You’ll be welcomed by Victor himself, who owns the land, and he and his family will ensure you don’t go to bed hungry. They’ll even put on a spread of meals, and treat you to traditional kava welcome afterwards.
You’ll begin day two with a 30 minute rigger canoe to the volcano. Get your camera ready! This is one of the most magnificent views you’ll witness. Mount Garet sits front and centre as you glide your way to shore.
It’s only an hour hike up to the rim of the volcano, but it’s a steep one, and the last 20 minutes are very exposed to the elements.
It can be incredibly sunny, but it can also be incredibly windy, so hold onto your hats! You can spend as much time as you like up there, walking around the craters, peering in, and looking out over the expansive ocean and all the islands surrounding you.
On the way back, there is an optional detour to mud pools, natural boiling water streams and hot springs. If you’re feeling knackered, the hot springs are an absolute must, no matter how hot you are from the walk.
Victor and his wife will ensure you have a delicious lunch packed, so you’ll enjoy some rice and coconuts under a tree somewhere. Dinner is provided, and you’ll be treated to a variety of dishes using local cabbage, chicken and yams. I had some of my favourite meals at Victor’s!
On day three, you’ll wake to another delicious breakfast, take an outrigger canoe out to the mouth of one of the rivers, and hike your way back to the coast.
This can take upwards of four hours (despite only being around 10km), as you’ll stop by Vanuatu’s highest waterfall along the way. Siri Waterfall, which boasts a 120m drop, will welcome you with open arms.
Once you get back to the road, you might boat, truck or walk back to your accommodation, depending on where you’re spending the rest of your time on the island. We recommend Chez Maureen Bungalows for a running shower, a big meal and a cold beer (a serious luxury on the outer islands!).
The last leg up the volcano is very exposed, and you’ll feel the weighty punches of the hot sun straight away. You may be donning a hat, but your shoulders will be begging for the cream.
- Paper facemask
If you’re sensitive to smell, the sulphur can really get to your lungs. I was fine without one, but if you’ve got asthma, you’ll definitely need one.
- Hiking poles
Once you start on the hiking poles, you never go back. These will be on my essential gear lists for every microadventure from now until eternity. You (and your knees) will thank me later.
- Toilet paper
When you gotta go, you gotta go.
- Bottled water
Or purification tablets! The lake is freshwater, so you can top up there if you haven’t got enough bottled water on you. Take more than you need, there’s nothing worse than running out of water.
How To Get There
If you’re looking to take on the hike, reach out to the Travel Centre on nearby Santo at RESERVATIONS@SANTO.TRAVEL. They’ll give you a quote and help you arrange your trip.
Most travellers fly into Vanuatu via Port Vila and use Air Vanuatu to fly between islands.
If you’re going in the wet season, it’s important to be aware of the grassy runway. Gaua doesn’t see the amount of traffic than some of Vanuatu’s other islands (part of its charm!), but it does mean that heavy rain can cause the airstrip to flood and for the flights to be affected.
Once you’re in Gaua, whoever you stay with can organise everything for you. I know, this is probably too vague, but I need to emphasise the strength of the network of operators. All you need to do is turn up, let your host know you want to do the hike, and the guide will be on your bungalow’s doorstep the next day to take you there. If you’ve got a lot of gear, your host can ensure you have a porter or two to help with your bags.
Day one and three are easy, with mild undulations. Day two up to the rim of the volcano (797m above sea level) is a short but hard hike. Definitely manageable with regular breaks if you’ve got low-moderate fitness. The view is worth it, I promise!
Three days usually, however, we did it in two days by getting the first two to three hours done early in the morning. This worked really well because we beat the heat!
If you’ve got the time, I’d suggest doing it over three days, but leaving early on the first. This way, you won’t get caught in the midday sun and can enjoy the rest of the day swimming in the lake and exploring the surrounding area.
Find out why Vanuatu will be our first international trip