Pentecost Island Land Diving Naghol Vine Diving

Pentecost Island is most famous for being the spiritual birthplace of the extreme sport of bungy jumping, originating in an age old ritual called the naghol, or land diving.

Kiwi entrepreneur and the man that introduced us to modern day bungy jumping using a series of intertwined elastic bands, AJ Hackett, developed his idea from this ancient ritual that takes place on Pentecost Island.

Between April and June every year, on a Saturday, men in the southern part of the island jump from tall towers (around 20 to 30 m) with vines tied to their feet, in a ritual believed to ensure a good yam harvest and fertility for men. The vine diving ritual is also now used to show acceptance into manhood.

The Legend of the vine jumping festival tells of a woman who ran away from her husband who beat her and hid in a tall tree. The husband, Tamale begged her to say sorry and come down but warned he may beat her a little more.

She refused so he climbed the tree after her and as he reached the top she jumped. In his anguish Tamale jumped after her, only to realise that she had tied liana vines around her ankles. The woman survived while Tamale perished. To this day, men jump from the towers as a show of strength to women in the village and as a statement that they cannot be tricked again. When the vine stretches at the end of the dive the land divers head curls under their shoulders and touches the earth, making it fertile for the following year’s yam crop.

Land diving was first given international exposure when David Attenborough and a BBC film crew brought back footage of the ritual during the 1950s.

Queen Elizabeth II , visited Pentecost in 1974 and witnessed a land diving ceremony, during which one unfortunate islander died because the jump was performed too early in the year, when the vines were much less elastic than usual.

Nowadays, tourists pay large sums of money to witness the ceremony, often taking day trips from Port Vila. These tours are often booked out so make sure you book in advance.

After an easy trek through the jungle you come upon the bungy site. The giant bungee tower is in a small clearing with a back drop of jungle and the structure itself is a crude tower with 5 bungee levels made out of native wood held tightly together with homemade ropes made out of liana vine. It is situated on a slight slope and the ground in the front is freshly tilled to help break the fall of the jumpers. This is an experience that will leave you holding your breath as you watch each magnificent man take the daring death defying plunge toward earth.

Your land diving day tour will also include taking part in village celebrations after the jump, including traditional music and dancing, and a feast of home-cooked food shared with the successful jumpers.

Pentecost Island land diving

 

Things to do on Pentecost Island

Pentecost is a small island, pristine and untouched and its beauty lies within its virgin rainforests, cascading waterfalls and clear blue streams and ocean waters. There is very little in the way of entertainment and most people visit for day trips or quick overnighters. Most tourists take in the Land Diving festival, a village tour, jungle walk and visit the gorgeous waterfalls and swimming holes.

Land Diving is not all that is on offer in Pentecost. There is the spectacular Waterfall Falls that cascade down the mountain and through the clear blue swimming pools out to the ocean. Melsisi is a local village on a hillside that overlooks a long coral beach, and here you will find an amazing Catholic Church Cathedral and mission that offer accommodation. Cultural village tours are available and Pentecost offers some of the most pristine rainforests in Vanuatu. There are lovely beaches with fantastic coastal views, with great snorkelling and a chance to swim with dolphins.

land diving

Explore underground caves, then climb up to the waterfall and watch as it cascades down the mountain, cool off in fresh, cool pools at the bottom. You can also visit (and taste only if you are male, as women are still not allowed to drink kava in Pentecost) Kava and coca and coconut plantations. Sand drawing is another interesting custom of the island. Symbolic figures are drawn in the sand in one complete movement, without lifting a finger, to depict ancient legends and customs.

For the more adventurous you can try mountain climbing. Mt Vetmar, at 887m above sea level, is Pentecost’s second highest mountain. It takes only half a day to climb and come back down. On top you’ll witness some fine views over south Pentecost and there are some unusual plants and birds to see in the rainforest.

Island Kastom tour. All the inland villages, (Bunlap, Ratap, and Lonlibili) are pretty traditional in terms of dress, (the men wear nambas the colourful penis sheafs and women grass skirts), spiritual beliefs, and customs such as village ceremonies and dance. The laws are imposed by a chief and everyone must obey them.

And after all your jungle trekking and mountain climbing you can relax that weary body at the natural hot springs at Hotwota.

Whilst Pentecost is a family friendly place to visit, there are not scheduled activities for children to enjoy. The land diving tour may be a little hard to take for some children or indeed, lead to replication in the more adventurous ones!

For a truly unique, tropical island, rough adventure holiday, a trip to Pentecost is well worth taking.

 

 

Pentecost Island is a lush, mountainous island which stretches North to South over some 60 kilometres It has an area of 490 km² and a population of 12,000 as of 1999. The north Pentecost village of Laone was the home of Walter Lini, who led Vanuatu to independence in 1980. Today, the ‘father of the nation’ is commemorated by a statue at the nearby Lini Memorial College.

Pentecost Island

Visiting Pentecost Island

Pentecost Island is for the adventurous traveller. Don’t come if you expect 5-star luxury, infrastructure and tourist facilities are basic. However, if you are prepared to rough it a little, you will be rewarded with a real island feeling which comes from genuine cultural experiences with friendly and welcoming local people.

Getting to Pentecost Island

Pentecost island domestic airport is Lonorore and is approximately 190 km from Port Vila. With less than 60 minutes flight time from Port Vila, Air Vanuatu offer return flights from Port Vila a few times a week.

Pentecost Island Transportation

Your resort can arrange transport for you, as there is no public transport available in Pentecost. 4wd are available for hire and can be arranged with your accommodation.

Pentecost Island Accommodation

There is very little in the way of accommodation Pentecost and what is available are village style bungalows made from traditional local materials with thatched roofs, coral walls and sandy floors. Facilities are very basic; however they are equipped with hot showers and flush toilets.

Typically these have a small restaurant operated by the owners with local foods. Visitors should consider bringing their own water and have extra tea, coffee, sugar that can be left behind as a small gift. Guest houses in Southern Pentecost are very busy during the land diving season from April to June. All services on the island are payable by cash in Vatu, so ensure you bring enough cash with you.

Pentecost Island Accommodation