Vanuatu: Most Insane Bungee Jump Ever

The New Zealander credited with popularizing bungee jumping, A. J. Hackett, made a confession to Islands writer Amanda Jones. “I didn’t invent it,” Hackett told her. “I just saw these mad buggers dive headfirst off a tower in Vanuatu and I thought, ‘Wow, that might actually be fun if you had a bit of elastic.’” At that, Amanda took photographer Jon Whittle to Vanuatu to see the amazing leaps for themselves.

Read more about the island of Vanuatu: Exotic Travel: Island Life in Vanuatu

1. Vanuatu Bungee Jumping | Extreme Bungee Jumps | Islands
Bon Francisco, star jumper in the Nagol Land Diving ceremony of Pentecost Island, Vanuatu, stands at the top of a forty-foot tower, ready to leap.Jon Whittle
2. Vanuatu Bungee Jumping | Extreme Bungee Jumps | Islands
Bon falls away from the rickety tower made entirely of liana vines and hand-cut pieces of wood. The tower takes more than two weeks to assemble and is only used for three months each year.Jon Whittle
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Why do they jump? Legend has it that the Nagol began with a domestic dispute when a battered wife climbed a tall tree to escape her husband. When she refused to come down and apologize, he climbed after her and she leapt from the bows of the tree presumably to her death. The husband jumped after her, unaware she had secured liana vines around her ankles that subsequently saved her life. He died, of course, and the Nagol ceremony is repeated every year to ensure men are never again fooled.Jon Whittle
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As Bon gains speed the tribe, dressed in penis sheaths and grass skirts, hoot and holler in time with their rhythmic stomping.Jon Whittle
5. Vanuatu Bungee Jumping | Extreme Bungee Jumps | Islands
At this point in the dive, Bon brings his hands and forearms up to protect his face, because in several seconds, he will hit the ground headfirst.Jon Whittle
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Before the jump a Kastom doctor watches each man who will dive that day. If any of them are not of a clear mind he will disallow their leap.Jon Whittle
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The ground rushes up to meet Bon, and from where I’m standing things are about to go horribly wrong.Jon Whittle
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As Bon reaches the length of the liana vines that are tied around his ankles, a terrible sound of cracking wood rings out over the sounds of the tribe. The platform holding the vines has shattered and fallen against the side of the tower. This is normal, and the slow action of the break might be the thing that saves the life of the jumper.Jon Whittle
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With an ominous thud, Bon Francisco does his best impression of an auger, smashing into the muddy slope of the hill upon which the tower is built. To take this photo I was ten feet away from the point of impact … and felt the thud.Jon Whittle
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One of the liana vines around Bon’s ankles has snapped, highlighting the fact that the Nagol is unburdened by any thoughts of engineering or precision.Jon Whittle
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Two other tribesmen move in with machetes to cut the remaining vine from Bon’s ankles. He hops to his feet. He is visibly winded and trying hard to conceal it, but otherwise seems completely uninjured.Jon Whittle