For tourists looking for an extra boost of adrenaline with their holiday experience, it doesn’t come more adventurous than a volcano watching trip to one of the world’s most volatile destinations.
Ethiopia’s Danakil Desert is home to one of planet earth’s most extreme environments and has been dubbed the ‘cruellest place on Earth’.
With violent volcanoes, blistering air temperatures, toxic gases and land masses being ripped apart by enormous planetary forces, it’s an unlikely tourism hotspot but that’s exactly what it’s becoming.
Holiday firm VolcanoDiscovery is taking intrepid travellers inside the Afar Triple Junction – one of the most active territories found anywhere around the globe.
Instead of palm trees, sun loungers and five-star accommodation, visitors are greeted with a bizarre combination of sights that look like nowhere else on Earth.
In this turbulent region, the huge Arabian tectonic plate is pulling away from a new rift dividing the African Plate in two.
The colossal divide – which sees massive shelves under the surface of the Earth gradually separate – is causing two new ‘incipient’ plates to form, which scientists now call the Somali Plate and the Nubian Plate.
The results are tremors and volcanic activity as gaps appear along the rift – allowing lava deep inside the planet to spew to the surface.
And one bout of sightseeing includes the incredible Erta Ale volcano. As a continually erupting volcano it casts a spectacular image across the sky.
Looking like a scene of biblical destruction one of its pits known as the ‘gateway to hell’
Another destination allows sightseers to take in a massive sulphuric lake. Nicknamed Yellow Lake by Africans – because of the striking colour – the phenomenon is caused by high sulphur in the volcanically active region.
And nearby are incredible salt plains. With little life there – because the salt kills vegetation – it make Danakil seem even more extra-terrestrial.
VolcanoDiscovery offers a three week tour for around £3,000 that begins from capital Addis Ababa.
Retired civil servant Kwama Ofori, 67, from London, holidayed with the firm and several other paying tourists in November.
He said: ‘This is much more interesting than a week by the pool.
‘But people who visit here should remember they are not getting a luxury beach-side hut.
‘It’s a harsh environment full of strange smells and sights. But its like nowhere else and an amazing and different thing to see.
‘The whole place is made up of colours and views you get to see on a scale like nowhere else.
‘This is one of the most geologically active places on Earth. And the result is active volcanoes like Erta Ale, earthquakes and odd looking lakes full of noxious gases.
‘And the heat can be almost unbearable. One day it hit 45 degrees centigrade. But it was all worth it.
‘I just wanted something different.’
VolcanoDiscovery founder Tom Pfeiffer, 40, a vulcanologist from Germany, said: ‘People are happy to pay this money for a two week tour of one of the strangest places on Earth.
‘We meet you in Addis Ababa and we take care of everything for the whole trip. All you have to do is sit back and take it in.’