What: Land Diving Festival (Naghol Festival in Sa language).
Where: Pentecost Island Vanuatu.
When: As the first yam crop of the season emerges (normally late April to May) and runs throughout June.
Tours can be made via the Vanuatu Tourism Bureau.
In the remote South Pacific on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu, men of the Sa Tribe build a 98-foot tall tower out of jungle wood, climb to the top, and jump off, tethered by vines tied around their ankles. Welcome to the island that gave birth to the crazy practise which in the West is known as Bungee Jumping!
Legend states that the first person to take the leap was a woman, but these days only men are allowed to jump. Those taking part in the dive will spend the night under the wooden tower to ward off evil spirits and are greeted the next morning with a feast, singing, and dancing. Before a man dives, he airs his grievances and makes amends atop the platform, so that if he should die, he dies with a clean slate! While it’s rare that anyone gets killed, ruptured spleens from accidental crashes are a serious concern. On an island without a hospital, it’s an extremely serious injury!
Ninety-eight feet below, tribal members sing and dance to help the diver remain brave. The village men and boys dive from these rickety structures with only two vines attached to their ankles to break their fall. To do it right, the vines should pull the divers up so near to the ground that their hair touches the soil. This is said to fertilise the ground, guaranteeing a bountiful yam harvest. The islanders of Pentecost dive for many reasons. Some jump for the sheer joy of it; others jump to prove they’re committed to their ancient traditions. Foreigners are not allowed to take part in the ritual. It is strictly forbidden and is thought to bring bad luck to the harvest.
Plan ahead as visitor numbers to Pentecost are limited by the small number of guest houses. Air Vanuatu has two weekly flights to Pentecost from Port Vila, but planes hold only about 20 passengers.
Vanuatu Tourism (www.vanuatutourism.com)
by Zaynin Kanji