Vanuatu is most well known for the naghol, or land-diving on the remote island of Pentecost, where in a unique rite of passage which is the fore-runner of modern bungy-jumping, males throw themselves from high towers with only vines tied to their ankles to break their fall. Famously, when the Queen of the United Kingdom visited the islands, this land-diving was held out of season when the vines were dry, and one of the divers broke his neck and died.
Vanuatu is about more than the naghol though: there are active volcanos, deeply forested hillsides, remote volcanic coastlines and a number of tribes living traditional kastem lives. You can even find bizarre cargo cults here: one which worships the mythical John Frum, and another who venerates Prince Phillip.
Lying a few hours off the coast of Australia in the South Pacific the island nation of Vanuatu has been voted one of the happiest places in the world to live! Although it has been ravaged by competing missionaries fighting to bring their religion to the islands, there are many people who have opted to lead a traditional kastem (custom) was of life, eschewing 21st century Western life and sticking to their traditional ways.
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Land-diving in tribal Vanuatu in the South Pacific
Website, Images and text © Steve Davey/stevedavey.com 1990 - 2019
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Steve Davey is a writer and photographer based in London. For over twenty years he has travelled to some of the most remote, exotic and spectacular places on earth, photographing and researching a variety of features. Steve is the author of the Footprint Travel Photography and has launched a range of travel photography tours to show people some of the fantastic places he has travelled to whilst improving their photography