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, located in the central portion of the country (north of our previous stop at Tanna Island).  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.



Our intrepid explorer with one of the men from Ranon village who welcomed us and escorted us up the path to the pressed earth clearing where the Rom dance was going to take place, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu


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.



After we all assembled in the clearing, two Ambrym chiefs came out and welcomed us (our expedition leader speaks Bislama — a Creole language that is today one of the principal languages of Vanuatu, along with French and English — and translated for us), Ambrym Island, Vanuatu



The men, half in masked costumes and the other half nearly naked (except for their penis sheaths, called nambas in Bislama), have begun the Rom Dance, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu


“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 a 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, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu



The outfits worn for the dance are destroyed immediately after the dance is finished so the spirits won’t haunt the dancers, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu



Each outfit is individually hand made and not seen by any of the villagers (or guests) until the dance begins, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu



We were joined in the audience by many villagers who also immensely enjoyed this special performance, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu



Details of the superb hand carved and painted masks, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu



This costumed dancer is not some one you want to meet in your nightmares, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu



Two young villagers who were also captivated by the Rom Dance, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu


3 thoughts on “Ambrym Island, Vanuatu

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s