Bungee Jumping! The very word causes a spike in the adrenaline levels and creates an unquenchable thirst for adventure! Bungee jumping might be one of the most sought after experiences today but it has been a part of a tradition cherished by the brave-hearts of Pentecost island, Vanuatu for years.
Naghol: Land diving festival of Vanuatu, Pentecost Island
Saturdays throughout April and May
So what exactly is this?
An incentive for bungee jumping, this tradition involves men jumping off wooden towers head-first, from a height of 20-30 meters with only two or three vines tied around their ankles as safety gear. The ritual takes place every year during the months of April and May as the dry season of yam harvest is the best suited to construct the wooden towers. This old ritual has now gained the significance of a major tourist attraction.
The preparations start with about 30 men clearing the land and constructing a wooden tower, which takes two to five weeks. The soil is tilled and fresh wood is used to construct this tower. There are several platforms, the lowest being around 10 meters high. The vines to be tied to the diver’s ankles are selected by the elderly of the village as per the diver’s height, which need to be elastic, supple and full of sap in order to ensure safety.
Prior to the day of the ritual the participants settle all their pending business, and sleep beneath the tower the previous night to ward off evil spirits. On the day of the ritual, men wear boar tusks around their neck with the traditional nambas. Women wear traditional grass dresses and show their support by singing and dancing. It is said that the closer the diver gets to the ground, the better will be the harvest. The ritual begins with the less experienced divers diving from a lower platform, followed by the more experience ones who take their leap of faith from much higher levels.
How did Naghol come to be?
In the 1970s the ritual was considered a demonstration of cultural identity since it was a means of protesting against colonialism. In 1995 the people vowed to get royalties for this tradition from bungee jumping enterprises. Land diving holds special importance in the island’s history. Some of the events in history include the attacks of French and British troops in some villages when many were arrested and young men were made to land dive in the presence of the French commissioner so that the arrested inhabitants were released, which was followed by them singing a song to mark the bravery of the locals.