Naghol: How to Witness Vanuatu's
Land Diving Festival

Vanuatu's Naghol ceremony is held on Pentecost Island

One of Vanuatu's most unique, indigenous attractions is Naghol (or N'Gol), land diving ceremony. It's held annually on Pentecost island, during the months of April and May and sometime in June. This is one of the local Vanuatu customs, done to ensure a bountiful yam harvest. This very versatile vegetable, similar to the sweet potato, is cultivated locally for the consumption.

If you are an adventurous traveller you ought to visit Pentecost island in April or May and visit this unusual, ancient ceremony that's the predecessor to modern bungee jumping. In addition to its yam harvest purpose, Vanuatu Naghol is also used to demonstrate the warrior abilities of the local men.

Traditional Vanuatu
Yam and other food is traditionally prepared and cooked in the "earth oven" in Vanuatu
by the local Melanesian people, as part of their Melanesian feast.

History of Land diving in Vanuatu

The locals believed that long ago, there was a woman called Tamalie. She used to be mistreated by the husband and hence she opted to run away. She came across a tall tree and decided to climb it since the husband was running after her. When she reached the top, she quickly tied the vines to both of her ankles and jumped. The husband followed right after her, not having tied his ankles with the vines. She had a safe dive as the vines broke her fall, while the husband died.

From that time onwards, the local men have been practicing the land dives, in order not to be tricked again by the women. This explains why the women are not allowed to come close to the structure, leaving the men alone to undertake the activity and prove their masculinity.

How it happens

During the time of planting yams in the Southern region of Vanuatu, the locals believed that one way to ensure fertility to the soil was contact between the hair and soil. Therefore they had to come up with a way in which they would ensure this. And hence the bungee jump was invented. The two vines attached to the structure would then be tied to the participant's ankles not to break. The boys together with the men of the region would build up tall structures, around 20 to 30 meters high, from strong sticks which would was to be firm enough. They are often so accurate such that the participant does not reach the ground but his hair is in contact with the soil.

Just in case you are wondering, it is done without any safety equipment. The least experienced jumpers often start from the lowest jumping levels, while the experienced jumpers dive from the highest platforms, as this drawing below shows.

Vanuatu Naghol or land diving ceremony
This wall mural depicts the ceremony of Naghol (also known as land dive),
held on Pentecost island in Vanuatu, during April and May annually, for good yam harvest.

Reasons for the dive

The local people believe that Naghol brings about a series of benefits and meanings to the men participating in it. The locals believe that land diving brings about a sense of masculinity and brevity to the participants. When the dive is done accurately, it ensures a bountiful yam harvest. They believe that the dive can enhance the wealth of the divers and prevent them from suffering the illnesses associated with the wet season.

Requirements for the jump

The jump is done between the months of April and May specifically because this season is dry and best for holding the structures firm to the ground. The season also ensures the best elasticity of the vines (also called lianas) and enhances the safety of the participant. The vines are often chosen by an elder, depending on the participant's weight and height. If the vine is too short, the participant might end up colliding with the structure, if it is too long, he might hit the ground and die.

The participant has to be male. In case where the participant is not from their community, he has to be conversant with their culture before participating in the jump. Even as an observer, it is breathtaking to see, as the divers are not wearing any protective gear, and the tower is really high.

How to get there

Over time, this ritual has become one of the exotic tourism attractions in the region. Many tourists are now booking flights with Air Taxi, operating from Port Vila's domestic airport, on Efate island. This airport is adjacent to Port Vila Bauerfiled International Airport.

Pentecost is one of the most often visited islands in Vanuatu. Pentecost tours are available from tour shops in Port Vila. But it's good to book your tour in advance, as number of visitors to Pentecost island is limited for each Naghol land diving ceremony, allowing only a certain number of guests to attend Vanuatu Naghol ceremony.

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Vanuatu Naghol
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