People who live on the 83 islands of Vanuatu in the Pacific Islands are familiar with the freakish and dangerous hobby of cliff diving, but they are more familiar with its horrific cousin, land-diving. The bizarre practice of land-diving was discovered by a tribal wife from the olden days of Pentecost, when she could no longer take the abuse of her husband and ran away to teach him a lesson. She climbed up a coconut palm tree, tied a knot around her foot, and jumped from the tree to what she supposed would be her freedom from her life in the Pacific Islands.
Currently, only men are allowed to land-dive in Pentecost, which is a bit ironic considering the source of their sport. Men are lined up to jump in small villages like Pangi, for the entertainment and amusement of their elders, who have already succeeded. With a good leap and a lot of luck, the men, ranging from 12 to 50, barely brush the ground, or come within inches of contact. Though they have not even seen most of their region of the Pacific Islands, they’re only too happy to shut their eyes and dive to possible death.
The social importance of this act is widely unknown, but believed to serve as a coming of age ritual in the Pacific Islands, and a means of proving oneself. Nowadays, the men are jumping for anxious tourists, which is causing more regularity in the jumps, and thus more injuries. Although the travelers understand that comprising an audience and paying for entertainment could equal death for a 12 year old “man” they don’t seem bothered by that possibility.
Pangi villagers talk to tourists about their aspirations of a performance area with mosquito netting, and of training younger and younger men to perform. They are excited about their ability to attract foreigners from distant lands, and their financial prospects. What the Pangi villagers do not often realize is that the tourists are trampling the nature out of their serene habitat, and that the attraction could attract unsavory land developers.