A Travellerspoint blog

June 2006

Cruise ship comes to town

One element of tourism that we have had little involvement in is the cruise ship. There are visits scheduled to come to Ambrym over the course of this year with two having been already.

Our work has focused more on ecotourism and bringing small groups to Ambrym but when the cruise ship was scheduled to come recently we offered to help out. The cruise ship that visited Ranon is owned by National Geographic and you could say it caters for the ‘top end’ of the cruise ship market. 100 weatlhy guests (mostly well educated retirees from the US) and 60 crew had been around the Pacific for a few months seeing a whole stack of cultural and natural wonders before coming to Ambrym.

The purpose of their Ambrym visit was to see the Rom Dance.

With all the big preparations already taken care of, our only task was to settle the nerves of the tour guides who would be interpreting the Rom to the curious tourists. We have developed a good working relationship with the guides in our tour guide training workshops and although they were nervous we assured them all would be well as they knew their stuff.

sring band.jpg
(The string share a joke while in the background the dancers assemble before a big crowd)

In the end the day proved to be a success with many in the community having an opportunity to earn income through selling handicrafts, dancing or being guides.

The highlight for the kids was a zodiac ride. The cruise boat crew were generous enough to offer swarms of kids joy rides out to their cruise ship and back.

kids jumping off ship.jpg
(Kids scramble to the shore after their joy ride)

For us it was great to see our guides in action and hear plenty of positive praise from the visitors and local community about their work.

cruise ship sunset.jpg
(Pippa showing the kids a National Geographic magazine which was a gift from cruise ship staff)

The big question – Are cruise ships good for the community?

From our point of view the income generated from the visit is sorely needed in the community, particularly when it comes to school fees. Even if the guides just spend their earnings on Kava, the money trickles back through the community as most families are involved in growing and selling the Kava plant.

jimmys wife and kid.jpg

kids looki.. camera.jpg

The impact of the visitors on local culture on face value seems minimal. The visitors are retirees who dress conservatively and come to view the culture for a few hours and then they leave. There is never more than 100 people, and they more or less stay in the area of the Rom dance on the edge of Ranon village so the place doesn’t seem overwhelmed by people when the guests arrive.

The main down side that we can see is jealously arising because some people benefit a lot more than others from the cruise ship visits. In particular the event organizer and the land owners receive a lot more income than the dancers and people who are selling handy crafts.

So on balance we would say the cruise ships are good for the local community however we are currently setting up a tourism task force that will include in its work monitoring the impact of tourism.

Posted by pippamatt 16:24 Comments (1)

Pentecost dare devils

We’ve heard so much about the land diving (Naghol) and from all accounts it sounded like a hoot, so we decided to take the plunge ourselves, not likely!!

Most of you would have seen pictures of the land diving on TV. We were lucky that this amazing display of courage occurs annually on Pentecost Island which is a 2 hour boat ride from our home village Ranon.

Our speed boat ride across was quite rough with 3m waves coming at us from all sides. The currents between the islands can be tricky causing an effect like being a cork in a washing machine. We are both proud to say we didn’t feed the fish!

Once safely on dry ground we found there would be a 4 hour wait so we had time to explore as our excitement about finally being able to see the land diving grew.

At the allotted time we were joined by 9 people from a chartered yacht and headed up hill to the 15m rickety tower made from logs, vines and bush rope where all the action takes place. The soil in front of the tower is cleared of rocks then loosened which apparently helps to reduce the chance of injury.

land diving tower.jpg

What we saw at the Naghol really was an incredible experience. One at a time the boys would climb the tower to their designated diving spot. Two vines would be tied to their legs.

Meanwhile around 40 men and women, boys and girls in traditional dress were singing and dancing and essentially egging the jumpers on.
men singing.jpg

Once tied “safely” to their restraints the jumpers walked to the end of their diving board and went through a series of gestures; back arching, clapping, deep breathes, praying, in preparation for their big jump. We were both really frightened for the jumpers and as they continued to gesture and psyche themselves to take the plunge the tension was intense.
arched back.jpg

Finally when the jumper was ready they would lean forward and plunge at breakneck speed towards the ground. Instead of a smooth slowing like the bungey we know, they reach the limit of the vines and then there is a big crack as there downward motion is halted suddenly and they are flung sideways into the dirt ground.
mid air.jpg

A cheering was raised by the crowd and we were most relieved to see all the six jumpers get to their feet after each jump.

We are both fairly adventurous people but quickly agreed that land diving would never be for us!!

Posted by pippamatt 16:09 Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]