April 8, 2013

Pentecost Jump 1-VAN106

Located in the South Pacific Ocean and just 3.5 hours flying time from Sydney is the Republic of Vanuatu, an island nation formerly known as the New Hebrides. Captain James Cook named the islands during his second voyage of discovery and Europeans began settling there in the 18th century.  Vanuatu’s two largest towns are Port Vila on the island of Efate, which is also Vanuatu’s capital and Luganville on Espiritu Santo. 

Pentecost Jump 2Unlike anything you have seen before, bungy jumping is something that the locals on Pentecost Island do with a difference.   Nagol, meaning “land diving”, involves local men and boys jumping from a man made tower with a vine secured around their legs.  The aim is to touch the ground with their shoulders.  This annual ritual needs to be seen to be believed and can be witnessed between April and June each year on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Nagol goes back nearly 15 centuries, long before the world’s first commercial bungy operation opened in 1988.  Each April, when the first yam crop is ready for harvest, the people on Pentecost Island begin building towers from branches, vines and tree trunks.  It takes five weeks to construct a suitable 20-30 metre tower.

Local men carefully select a vine, knowing that a few centimetres can make all the difference.  After tying the vine to their legs, they dive headfirst from the tower platform at 72km per hour, aiming to land with their head curled under so that just their shoulders touch the ground.  It is believed that this feat will make the ground fertile for the following year.

Land diving is reserved for the locals but it’s worth travelling to Pentecost Island to join with the entire village as they gather to sing and dance while watching the tribal daredevils tempt fate.  This awe-inspiring ceremony is something that you will never forget and well worth a visit.

Pentecost Island also offers visitors pristine beaches, reefs, untouched forests, mountains and jungles as well as exotic wildlife.

Sandra Tiltman    

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