Pentecost Island

Travel Guide Oceania Melanesia Vanuatu Pentecost Island

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Introduction

Pentecost Island is one of the 83 islands that make up the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. It lies 190 kilometres due north of capital Port Vila. Pentecost Island is known as Pentecôte in French and Pentikos in Bislama. The island was known in its native languages by names such as Vanu Aroaroa, although these names are not in common use today. Pentecost has also been referred to as Raga or Araga, a tribal name that originated in the north but is now widely applied to the whole island. In old sources it is occasionally referred to as Whitsuntide Island.

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Geography

Pentecost is a lush, mountainous island which stretches north to south over some 60 kilometres. It has an area of 490 km². The mountain range, of which the highest is Mount Vulmat (947 metres), marks the dividing line between the humid, rainy eastern coast and the more temperate western coast. The coastal plains, cross-cut by small torrents, are generally very green and ideally suited for plantations and livestock.

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Events and Festivals

  • Nagol Land Diving - This is perhaps the cultural tradition of the ni-Vanuatu which has made the nation famous all over the world. Said to be the pre-cursor of modern bungee jumping, Nagol land diving sees local men of the southern part of Pentecost Island jumping off wooden towers from heights of up to 98ft with only tree vines tied to their feet as part of a coming-of-age ritual. Previously held once a year, the tradition now takes place every Saturday from April to June to accommodate tourists who want to witness this death-defying ritual of the locals.

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Weather

Pentecost Island has a warm and humid tropical climate with breezes bringing some relief of the stiffling heat during the afternoon. Temperatures typically are between 23 °C at night and around 30 °C to 32 °C during the day. The rainy season lasts from November to April with occasionaly typhoons hitting the islands. The water temperature ranges from 22 °C in winter to 28 °C in the summer. Cool between April and September, the days become hotter and more humid starting in October. South easterly trade winds occur from May to October. Vanuatu has a long rainy season, with significant rainfall usually occurring almost every month. The wettest and hottest months are December through to April, which also constitute the cyclone season. The driest months are June through November.

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Getting There

By Plane

Pentecost has two airports, Lonorore Airport in the south-west and Sara Airport in the north, at which small airplanes land two or three times a week. Lonorore was upgraded in 2008-2009 with a new tarmacked airstrip capable of handling larger aircraft and operating in wet conditions; Sara remains a short grass airstrip. Air Vanuatu has flights to/from Santo and Longana from both airports, with additional flights to/from Port Vila from Lonorore Airport.

By Boat

Cargo ships travelling between Port Vila and Luganville supply the island's west coast, although few ships visit the east coast, where sea conditions are rough and the population is sparse.

Pentecost Island receives regular visits from yachties, who anchor at the villages of Loltong, Waterfall and Panngi. Panngi also has a jetty capable of receiving cruise ships, which make occasional visits during the land-diving season.

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Getting Around

A rutted dirt road runs from the north to the southwest of the island, and another road connects Salap in the southwest to Ranwas in the southeast. However, many villages are accessible only by steep mountain footpaths.

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Eat

Lap Lap

The traditional dish which you will most likely be offered once during your stay is a root vegetable cake called lap lap. Essentially this is either manioc (cassava), sweet potato, taro or yam shaved into the middle of a banana leaf with island cabbage and sometimes a chicken wing on top. This is all wrapped up into a flat package and then cooked in hot stones underground till it all melts together into a cake.

Tuluk

Tuluk is a variation of lap lap with the cake rolled into a cylinder with meat in the middle. It tastes a lot like a sausage roll. You can find these again in the market (usually from mele village people) but they will be served from foam boxes to keep them warm.

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Drink

Kava

Kava is a local drink, made from the roots of the plant Piper methysticum, a type of pepper. Kava is intoxicating, but not like alcohol. Its effects are sedative. Some travellers have experienced a hangover from its consumption. Kava is consumed in private homes and in local venues called Nakamal. Some of the resorts also offer kava on occasion for travellers to try. Kava is served in a "shell" or small bowl. Drink the whole shell-ful down steadily, then spit. It's handy to have a soft drink on hand to rinse with afterwards, as the taste of kava is strong and not very pleasant. It is worth noting that the kava available in Vanuatu is generally a much stronger variety than the kava found in other Pacific islands such as Fiji, where it is comparatively mild. Four or five large shells in a typical kava bar will leave the inexperienced drinker reeling (or worse) after a couple of hours, and it can take a day to recover. Good advice to experience kava as pleasantly as possible is to go with an experienced drinker and follow their lead, take the small shells, and stop after an hour and a half. It's quite easy to find a local kava drinking buddy, just ask around your hotel and you'll find volunteers - maybe at the cost of a shell or two. Kava bars (or Nakamals) are normally dark places with very dim or no lighting at all. This is because bright lights and kava intoxication do not go together well - so be careful with flash photography, which may not be received very well in such venues.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 11:15 on Jul 17, 17 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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