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The diversity in human culture is as widely varied as any landscape or wildlife we discover on our expeditions. And often, these cultural traditions are deeply rooted in the natural landscapes themselves. Nowhere is this more evident than on Pentecost Island in the Pacific paradise of Vanuatu. Here, deep in Melanesia, the people use the lush jungle vines as part of a cultural ritual and the world’s most breathtaking display of human bravery – land diving.

Melanesia is one of the most anthropologically diverse regions on Earth, and the Pentecost Island land divers engage in a particularly singular ritual that few outsiders have the privilege to observe. The event involves the entire community – those that construct the tower, those that chant and sing, and those that make the plunge – all linked in a deeply held sense of culture and belonging. This ancient tradition, a direct link to countless earlier generations, demonstrates the diversity of culture and the strength of human belief.

Every year from April to June, when the vines have the perfect amount of elasticity and strength, the several clans on the island gather at hillside clearings in the forest. The clansmen and boys spend a month erecting a 120-foot wooden tower by hand, using only materials from the tropical rainforest. The tower is anchored by vines and is held together without a single nail or screw.

The men of each community begin to climb to the top of their respective towers, where they tie just two vines to their ankles, and then take a death-defying leap headfirst into the empty space below. They can sometimes reach 45 miles an hour before lightly brushing the ground and springing back to safety.

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More than just a display of bravery, land diving on Pentecost Island is a tradition imbued with deep cultural and religious significance. Not only does the event serve as a rite of passage for the men of the community, island residents believe that the divers’ courage dictates the success of the next year’s all-important yam harvest and blesses the soil beneath the jumpers.

This unique tradition provides a window into Vanuatu’s rich history, celebrates the connection between the people and their landscape, and reminds us of the diversity of human culture. Nothing prepares for the custom of land diving. The few outsiders lucky to witness it experience fear, hope, celebration, praise, bewilderment, and wonder … and all leave Pentecost far richer for the experience.

To witness this extraordinary event in Vanuatu, contact EYOS at info@eyos.com to inquire about yacht charters and start your journey.

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