When Is the Best Time
Land Diving is a custom that takes place from the first Saturday in April until the last Saturday in June, usually 13 times in 2023 and 2024. The New Zealander AJ Hackett got inspired in Pentecost for Bungee Jumping. All of us were nervous that morning that everything worked well, from the flight in the morning from Port Vila to the private transport to the heart of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu.
There is limited space, and flights fill up quickly for this event each Saturday. Advanced booking is recommended. Only very few airlines offer this trip. Some cruises provide this spectacle, too, but just for their guests.
We made our booking six months in advance. Regarding the weather, Pentecost experiences much precipitation until late April. May gets drier, and June is the best choice if you like to watch these breathtaking jumps.
Vanuatu is famous for land diving in Pentecost. It is a group of 83 islands, mostly undeveloped. Although Santo and Efate have a tourist infrastructure, paved roads, and electricity, you may end up in a region without these standard amenities. If you would like to watch this incredible once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, you have to arrive at one of the two main tourist hubs: either in Port Vila, Efate, south of Pentecost or in Luganville, Espiritu Santo, north of Pentecost.
Only limited days and flights between the islands are available. Proper planning is essential.
Available Trips for Land Diving in Pentecost
You get a pick up from your hotel between 7.30 and 8 am. The flight to Pentecost takes roughly 1 hour from Port Vila. It’s a scenic flight over Cook’s Reef and the active volcanos on Ambrym Island, weather-dependent.
The flight goes to Lonorore Airfield, southwest of Pentecost Island. It is a basic airport without any amenities. The guides wait at the airport until all planes and guests arrive.
A toilet is available, but I would prefer the bush if I could choose.
The shuttle in the open jeep takes roughly 20 minutes on a muddy, bumpy jungle track.
- The shortest trip is just the traditional Land Diving on Pentecost and back to your departure airport. The price is roughly 49.000 VT / 390 € / 600 AUD.
- Another tour includes a stop on Epi Island for lunch at Lamen Bay. You can snorkel in the bay afterwards, which is famous for turtle and manatee spotting. We didn't spot any of them. The price is slightly higher for another stop on one of the more remote islands. The price is roughly 53.000 VT / 415 € / 650 AUD.
For booking with Air Taxi Vanuatu
- Air Vanuatu offers a 2-night package on Saturdays and Wednesdays. This sounds fantastic with a two-night stay on Pentecost Island. The problem is getting it confirmed, and it may happen that even a week before, you still don’t know if you are booked on the flight. This happened to other travellers we met on Tanna Island.
6 Facts and History About Naghol - Land Diving
- Naghol, Nagol, or N'gol is a Bislama word. The language is spoken on the Vanuatu Islands by the local Ni-Van, the indigenous people. Each tribe has a different local dialect, and some tribes can’t understand others.
- Land diving is the most unique custom of Melanesia, which takes place from April to June only. It’s celebrated by the Sa tribe and associated with the annual yam harvest in the southern part of Pentecost.
- Young boys aged seven start to practice land diving to allow their bodies and back to get used to it. They dive from the lowest rung and men from the higher levels between 20 and 30 meters. They land on soft soil free of stones.
- The preparation already starts in February/March. Building the tower (tarbegol) with local timber takes roughly five weeks. Important is that the most elastic tree vines are chosen carefully. The vines' length must fit the divers' weight and is wisely selected by the most experienced members of the tribe without any scales or measurements. This works only at the end of the rainy season.
- In February 1974, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Islands of Vanuatu. She should get the best program on her visit, and land diving was held in February for the queen. It was the wrong time of year to use the tree vines; they broke, and the diver had a fatal accident.
- Nowadays, it’s more commercial and held more often (weekly) than in the past, but always only between April and June.
Packing List for the Day Trip (Limit 5 kg Bag)
- Toilet paper (It's not the kind of restrooms you are used to)
- Bottle of water and snacks; you can't buy anything on the tour
- Umbrella (April wet season; May/June drier)
- Sunscreen and sun hat; there isn't any shade.
- Insect repellent: mossies can be an issue.
- Wear trainers for the short walk on the dirt part.
The islands of Vanuatu have a tropical climate. It’s warm throughout the year and gets hot and humid during the rainy season with temperatures above 30°C. The season officially lasts from November to March, but the wettest months are January to April. The western side of Pentecost experiences more rain. Cyclones are more likely to happen between January and March. The Category 5 monster, Cyclone Pam, hit Vanuatu in March 2015. It was the worst natural disaster ever.
From May to October, the dry season is the best time to visit Vanuatu. Occasional rain occurs. Day temps are pleasant, below 30°C, and nights are slightly below 20°C. Therefore, if you wish to watch the famous land diving custom, I highly recommend May and June, the beginning of the dry season.
Usually, Land Diving is held for 30-40 people, but the audiences increase if it’s presented for cruise ship guests. There is much space for everybody to sit and stand around the diving tower. Due to the limited number of seats and flights available, you will always sit in the first row to attend this cultural spectacle from an ancient time.
Best Months to Visit
Location and Tips
I will give you all the details to be part of this custom which is only held from April to June. I provide the best time, and how to book such a thrilling trip. You may have seen such footage by Nat Geo but it is possible to witness it on your own. The whole day was a great adventure which we will never forget. I highly recommend combining this experience with a visit to Tanna to stand at the top of the crater rim of the active Mount Yasur volcano.
We travelled to Vanuatu and took all the pictures and footage. Contact me if you wish to use any of my photos, but I will take action against picture theft.