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.