If you are looking for a must see unique experience, you, one that will leave an imprint on your mind – then a stunning and very scenic helicopter ride over Montserrat island to see an aerial view of the active Soufriere Hills volcano, and the now desolate city of Plymouth that was destroyed in its furry wake, should be on your travel bucket list.
Adventure, nature and science enthusiasts alike come to explore and view this natural phenomenon. The best way to see this exclusion zone and the only way to get an up close and view of the active volcano are by helicopter.
It is possible to visit the exclusion zone by ground, but you must have special permission from the police and be escorted by the company of an authorized tour guide. This is to ensure safe and rapid evacuation if need be. There is actually an alarm system installed around the island, in case there is volcano activity that could affect the rest of the island.
The Soufriere Hills volcano is the most studied volcano in the world. It is located in the southern part of the island and was thought to be dormant for 400 years prior to its awakening in 1995. Between 1995 and 1997, the eruptions and pyroclastic flow from the eruptions destroyed the once lush capital of Plymouth. Two-thirds of the island’s population was forced to flee, leaving less than 1200 residents by 1997. As of 2016, the population rose once again to approximately 5000 inhabitants, all residing in the North of the island. That is what information I learned.
This excursion is as unique as they come.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy this helicopter excursion is from Montserrat’s closest neighbouring island of Antigua. There are a few operators to choose from that are based in Antigua, I booked through Caribbean Helicopter tours, who offer plenty of tours a day and provide great customer service. If you book online with them, you will save $10.
My first helicopter experience, I was pretty excited, and I can confirm, it won’t be my last.
A short 15-minute flight from St. Johns Antigua to Montserrat, which boasts views of pristine blue waters, and lush mountainous islands, will leave you in complete awe and amazement from the beginning of your excursion.
Upon arrival to the island of Montserrat, you will immediately fly right beside the 3000-foot-high active Soufriere Hills volcano. You can feel its majestic power, and see smoke, ash and steam being emitted from it. There is usually always a cloud cover over the very top.
From there you get taken straight into the destruction zone.
Plymouth has an eerie ghost town feel and look, with absolutely zero vegetation or animal life. The whole abandoned city is under a blanket of ash, some parts up to 40 feet deep. The helicopter gets nice and low so you feel as though you are right among it all. I can’t imagine being there and experiencing a heart breaking situation such as this.
It’s amazing to see the landscape difference from where the pyroclastic flow from the eruption touched in comparison the lush landscape that was untouched. There is a clear line down the middle.
After the tour of Plymouth, they take you one last time past the volcano, for the last look at one of natures biggest wonders.
There is no denying that the scenic 50-minute helicopter flight over the island of Montserrat and the Soufriere Hills volcano is absolutely awe-inspiring, heart-wrenching, and will be a travel experience that will not be forgotten.