Melanesia Expedition: Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

The summit at the center of Ambrym Island, Vanuatu, is the home of the active volcano and its two craters (some smoke is visible coming out of them)

Ambrym is a volcanic island in the archipelago of the Republic of Vanuatu. The name, Ambrym, means “here are yams” (ham rim in Ranon language). Captain Cook anchored off the island in 1774. The active volcano has two craters near the summit and is regarded as the most active volcano in Vanuatu. Most of the island, other than the large, desert-like caldera of the active volcano is covered by thick jungle. We visited the small village of Ranon in the north, with a wet landing at the black beach from Zodiacs from our Ship, which was anchored off shore.
The jet black volcanic sands of Ambrym Island give this place a mysterious air – it is Vanuatu’s “Black Magic” epicenter. Perhaps fittingly it is known as the home of Vanuatu’s sorcery where tall mask carvings and dancing rituals have been passed down through the millennia. The “bush material” costumes set against a jungle background in the Rom Dance at Ranon Village were fascinating for both photographers and amateur anthropologists.

The men, half in masked costumes and the other half nearly naked have begun the Rom Dance

“The most striking custom dance is the Rom dance. It is held every year in Northern Ambrym and is followed by a pig-killing ceremony. Traditionally it has been an exclusively all male event and kept very secret. The masks, which are made especially for this event, are superb. The outfits worn for the dance are destroyed immediately after the dance is finished so the spirits won’t haunt the dancers.” –

The Rom Dance’s rhythmic music and dancing are captivating and mesmerizing

Each outfit is individually handmade and not seen by any of the villagers (or guests) until the dance begins

This costumed dancer is not someone you want to meet in your nightmares

Two young villagers who were also captivated by the Rom Dance


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