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Pentecost Island

So do you want to see the birthplace of modern bungee jumping? Then travel to Pentecost Island known for naghol or land diving. 

This pencil thin, northern island, about 40 miles long and under 10 miles wide, lies about an hour flight from Vila. There is frequent service on Air Vanuatu arriving at Lonorore Airfield on the southwestern side of the island.

The entire island is dotted with villages and naghols or land diving sites. This custom referred to as “gkol” ranks as the most hair-raising practice in all of the South Pacific, if not one of the strangest in the world. To ensure a successful yam harvest, village men laboriously construct towers of poles and saplings and lash them to tall trees with vines. These towers are built in increments up to 100’ tall.

A villager then chooses his own liana vines that are securely wrapped around his ankles. He ascends the tower and the entire proceeding stop as all eyes are focused on the diver. Then in a true leap of faith, he swan dives off the tower. If all was calculated correctly, only the top of his head will brush the ground symbolically fertilizing the yam crop. This practice is not only to ensure a good harvest but serves as a right of passage and mark of bravery. Open to all men, only boys who are circumcised upon their 8th birthday are then permitted to join the ritual.

In 1979, a bunch of mad Brits at Oxford University actually made the first bungee jump, with nylon rope in place of vines.  But in 1988, A.J. Hackett and Chris Allum, opened the first commercial jump site in Ohakune, New Zealand thus giving birth to the commercial mania for this extreme sport.

Other than yam diving, Pentecost is a haven for hikers with trips to waterfalls, ruins and isolated villages.

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