Toward the end of 2012, at the peak of speculations if there would be an apocalypse because of the Mayan Calendar prediction, there was global attention on volcanic eruptions.
Besides elevated volcanic activities as one of the alleged omens of an Armageddon, air travelers could still recall the impact of the eruption a few months back of two volcanoes in Iceland which disrupted travel to Europe and the U.S.
However, instead of fearing these end-of-the-world portents, amid more reports of increased volcanic activities in different parts of the world, crafty tour operators are benefiting from these potential volcanic blasts by promoting volcano tourism.
Dubbed as the greatest show on Earth, it would not be difficult to earn from these volcanic activities as there are about 600 active peaks spread in different parts of the world and between 50 to 70 erupt yearly.
The Web site Volcanic Report identifies earthquakes in at least 18 volcanoes last week including four in Alaska, one in Mexico, two in Guatemala, one in Nicaragua, four in Colombia, one in Ecuador, one at the border of Chile and Argentina and one in New Zealand.
ABC reported on Tuesday that Mount Tavurvur in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea spewed large plumes of white ash that rose 500 metres into the sky, prompting the suspension of flights in the area.
Mt Tavurvur had more powerful eruptions in 1937, 1994, 2006 and 2010.
For people interested in experiencing this kind of adventure, here are the 8 hottest volcano tourism spots in the world.
1. Kamchatka - Russian Far East
This area used to be closed to outsiders until the 1990s. The place has over 300 volcanoes with 29 of them active. Valley of the Geysers operates helicopter tours from June through October costing $990 per head. For that amount, the operator will fly over several active volcanoes and their crater lakes, and make three stops in Uzon caldera which features a 12-kilometre wide crater filled with boiling lake and mud pots, in the Valley of Geysers and the Zhupanova River which offers thermal hot springs.
2. Vanuatu - Yasur Volcano Safaris
The tour arranged by White Grass Ocean Resort for guests costs $100 per person to see Yasur, also known as the lighthouse of the Pacific due to its regular eruptions. Found in the island of Tanna, Yasur features an orange glow that comes from the volcano's interior.
3. New Zealand - White Island
This isle is just two kilometers across and 320 metres high. Visitors to the island are given a hard hat and gas mask as protection against toxic gases coming from the volcano's steaming fumaroles. The place offers scenes such as clouds of scalding steam, hissing fissures, acidic pools and the ruins of an old sulphur mining operation that closed in 1914 after lahar killed 10 workers. Fee for a peek at the place organised by White Island Tours is $158 per head.
4. Papua New Guinea
The place features black-sand beach and men caked with volcanic ash gathering the eggs of megapode, chicken-like birds that bury their eggs in warm volcanic ash to incubate the eggs. The eggs sell for 90 cents each at the Kokopo market but tourists can buy on the spot. Harbour cruise tours run by the Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort goes for 650 kina or about $300.
5. Hawaii - Island of Maui
American author Mark Twain described the sunrise from the top of Maui's Haleakala as the most sublime spectacle he ever witnessed. Besides the beguiling sunrise, the other attractions of the place are pineapple plantations and tropical rainforests and lava flowing into the ocean. A sunrise tour organised by the Haleakala Bike Company costs $101.99 when booked online, while lava boat tours by Lava Ocean Adventures are priced from $150 to $175.
6. Antarctica - Deception Island
Its flooded horseshoe-shaped caldera was formed by the eruption of the volcano 10,000 years ago, which released 30 cubic kilometers of magma in the surrounding sea. Since the volcano is still active, the sand at the shoreline could be warm to hot at low tide. Pendulum Cove beaches has blackened glaciers and more than 600,000 breeding pairs of penguins. The Antarctica Peninsula trips offered by All Aurora Expeditions, which runs for nine days from Ushuala to Antarctica, costs $6,875 for a triple-share cabin.
7. Eruption Tours
These kinds of tours bring tourists to active volcanoes at short notice, subject to volcanic activity and safety. One such tour in 2010 was the eruption of Iceland's Mount Eyjafjallajokull. One such organiser is Volcano Discovery which charged $210 for the Icelandic pyrotechnic spectacle in 2010.
8. Nicaragua - Cerro Negro
Nicaragua pioneered in volcano-boarding on the slopes of Cerro Negro, one of the most active of the country's 19 volcanoes. Big Foot Hostel and Volcano Board offers these types of tours for $28 per head, inclusive of a surfboard made of metal and reinforced plywood, orange overalls and protective goggles.