Activities

Apart from the land diving, you can take jungle walks to waterfalls and banyans and the stone ruins of a feasting hall, where 100 people were killed by the eel spirit. Other tours include visits to villages to see kastom dances. North of the airstrip is Waterfall Falls, tumbling down behind Waterfall Village into pretty rockpools.

The Land Divers of Pentecost

The men of Pentecost spend many weeks building towers up to 35m high by binding tree trunks, saplings and branches to a tall tree with vines. The tower sighs as it bends in the wind; you’ll sigh, as you see the men make their spectacular leaps to ensure a successful harvest.

Each diver carefully selects his own liana vines, then an experienced elder checks to ensure that it’s strong and elastic enough. The soil in front of the tower is cleared of rocks, then loosened. Fathers teach their young sons to dive from their shoulders. Boys practise diving from boulders into the sea. At age eight they are circumcised; then they can make their first jump.

Between 10 and 20 males per village will dive. Each man prepares in turn while his friends tie his vines. The women sing and dance below. As each man raises his hands he tells the crowd his most intimate thoughts; the people stop their singing and dancing, and stand quietly – these could be his last words.

Finally the diver claps his hands, crosses his arms and leans forward. In slow motion, falling, he arches his back. The platform breaks away. Snap. The vines abruptly stop him. Only his hair will touch the soil, to fertilise the yam crop. The crowd roars its appreciation, dancing, stomping and whistling in tribute.

The colour and sounds add to the atmosphere: men wearing small red-dyed namba (penis sheaths), clearly visible from so high above; women wearing white grass skirts made from wild hibiscus, spinning and twirling. It’s a huge drawcard for tourists (even cruise ships pull in to Pangi), and has (controversially) morphed from an event that happened each Saturday for a month, to one that occurs more frequently from April to June. Commercial filming of the event is banned.