Vanuatu's Original Bungy
If you thought bungy jumping was a New Zealand invention, then think again. Kiwi entrepreneur AJ Hackett developed his idea from an ancient ritual that takes place on Vanuatu’s remote Pentecost Island – and it’s a far cry from the commercial version.
The ritual of the N’gol, or Nagol, has been practiced for many centuries on this rugged island, and it's an awe-inspiring experience to see the jumpers make their leap with little more than a jungle vine wrapped around their ankles. Each year, when the yam crop emerges in early April, the villagers in the south of the island build towering wooden platforms (some up to 30m high), lashing them together with vines.
From April to the end of June, the men and boys make a spectacular leap from the towers with only the elastic liana vines to break their fall. Each diver must select his own vine and it’s a fine art – if they are too long, he can crack his skull on the ground, and if they are not long enough, bones can be broken as he is jerked back into the tower. As the vines stretch at the end of the dive, the land diver curls his head up and his shoulders touch the earth, making it fertile for the next year’s yam crop. Beneath the towers, villagers dressed in traditional costume sing, dance and stamp loudly on the ground to help bring forth bountiful harvests.
The Story of the Pentecost Land Dive
Legend has it that land diving evolved from the story of a woman who was trying to escape the violent beatings of her husband, Tamale. He found her hiding in a tall tree and when she refused to come down, climbed the tree to fetch her. As he made his final grab for her, she leaped and Tamale jumped after her, not realising his wily wife had tied liana vines around her ankles to break her fall. Today, the practice of land diving continues both as a fertility rite and a show of strength, and also as a message that the men of Pentecost won't be tricked again!
Land Diving Packages
Several tour companies can arrange organised trips to view the land diving ritual, and Vanuatu Tourism can put you in touch with local operators. Day trips leave from Vanuatu’s main airport at Port Vila and include return flights, transfers, an entrance fee, plus a picnic lunch and guide. Multi-day packages are a popular option and allow you to join village celebrations after the jump, including traditional music and dancing, and a feast of home-cooked food shared with the successful jumpers.
- Island Tours
- Wrecks to Rainforest
- Vanuatu Discovery
More About Pentecost
Most of Pentecost’s population is concentrated in the north and along the west coast. It is only in the south of the island that traditional rituals, such as the Nagol, have been maintained. The island’s mountainous interior is densely forested, with dramatic waterfalls and rivers. Pentecost has some good bushwalking and the clear, cold rivers are ideal for a cooling swim on a hot day.
Getting to Pentecost
The domestic branch of Air Vanuatu offers flights from Port Vila to Lonorore on Pentecost Island. For flight details, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Images courtesy of Vanuatu Tourism