Land Diving on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

Val Mills By Val Mills, 19th Feb 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Other

Land diving on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu is said to be the original bungy jump. A trip there is like going back in time.

Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

Pentecost Island is one of the 83 islands making up Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides) in the Pacific. It is a beautiful island, made up of beaches, jungles and mountains. The island is 190 km north of Port Vila in Vanuatu. The northern part of the island is slightly developed, but in the south life continues as one imagines it always has. Pangi Village in the south has no electricity, one village telephone and a couple of trucks. It also has thatched huts, canoes on the beach and the friendliest people you can imagine. It is from Pangi that cruise ship tourists venture into the hills to witness the ancient ritual of land diving.

The First Land Dive

Bungy jumping may seem a modern adventure sport, but it originated on Pentecost, where it has been practised for many centuries. The story of Naghol, or primitive land diving, had its origins in a love story gone wrong.

The story tells of a young woman, who was unhappy in her marriage, and tried to escape from her husband, Tamale. He found her hiding in a tall tree. When she refused to come down, he went up to fetch her. As he approached her, she leapt from the tree. Tamale jumped after her, not knowing she’d tied a vine to her ankles. He died, she lived.

The practice of land diving continues still, as a show of strength and a fertility rite.

Land Diving on Pentecost

Naghol, the primitive practice of land diving, is when men and boys jump from a tall tower constructed of branches, tree trunks and vines, with only a vine tied to their ankles. Young boys take part from the age of seven or eight when they have been circumcised.

In April each year, when the yam crop is nearing harvest, the men in the south build towers about 20 to 30m in height. Each man is responsible for choosing his own vine. The length and suppleness of these is important, as if it is too long, death is likely.

In April and May, the jumping takes place. Each man makes many jumps during that time. With the vine tied around their ankles, men throw themselves off the tower. As they near the ground, they curl their heads in and hit the ground with their shoulders. This supposedly is to make the ground fertile for the following year. Boys of seven and eight start jumping from a low tower once they have been circumcised.

Only One Death

In all the years this primitive fertilisation rite has been performed, there has only ever been one death. In 1974 Queen Elizabeth visited the island. As a demonstration for the Queen, the jump was performed in the dry season when the vines were less elastic. A vine snapped and a man plunged to his death.

Unspoiled Paradise

Visiting Pentecost is like going back in time. The village of Pangi may seem primitive to some, but people there live an idyllic lifestyle, barely touched by the traps of civilisation. If ever you have the chance to visit, do so during May, so that you, too, may witness the wonderful land diving ceremony.


Bungy Jumping, Land Diving, Pacific, Pacific Islands, Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

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author avatar Val Mills
Self-published writer, coffee drinker, enjoying life. Also found at and

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
19th Feb 2011 (#)

wow.. so the Queen watched the man die! That must have been a tragic embarassment!

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author avatar Retired
19th Feb 2011 (#)

Interesting article...sounds like somewhere I'd like to visit.

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author avatar Nancy Hill
20th Feb 2011 (#)

Land diving/bungee jumping - either way, I'd much rather watch it than do it.

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author avatar Denise O
21st Feb 2011 (#)

Sounds and looks like a gorgeous island. I am not a fan of the land diving but, I do want to sky dive, weird huh. LOL
Nice read. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
8th Jul 2011 (#)

Very fascinating article, Val. Thank you.

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author avatar Cal
15th Jun 2012 (#)

I just got back from Pentecost and was lucky enough to watch the Land Diving.

It was incredible. I loved every minute of it.

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