Experiencing the ritualistic Rom dance Ambrym Island, Vanuatu
Being one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world, Vanuatu's traditional practices including ceremonial dance, magic and ritual are alive and well. Ambrym Island is considered to be the black magic epicentre of Vanuatu and it's where The Rom dance is performed.
The Fanla or Rom dance is connected to circumcision and initiation traditions for young boys and is an ancient ritual shrouded in secret knowledge. Costumes are kept in strict hiding until the ceremony begins and some of the masks can't be used more than once.
Deep in the dense forest, there is a clearing where large hollowed out drums sit. The rhythmic beating of drums and shakers begin as warriors dressed to represent evil spirits emerge, adorned in a mix of leaves and huge, brightly painted cone like masks. The men stomp their feet to drums, eerie chanting and soft flute music. Make no mistake about it, this will give you goosebumps. This is no tourist show, this is genuine myth, heritage, and belief wrapped in the supernatural and rich in symbolism and it will move you!
The dance while a form of magic, is also a method for the younger members to move up in the ranks of society. They say the fertility of the crops is affected when these dances are performed and masks are burnt at the end of the ceremony to ensure that evil spirits do not haunt the wearer or plague the village.
- The carvings that Ambrym people are famous for (remember to take cash as there’s no ATM machine)
- The traditional villages and pretty houses made from bamboo and thatch
- Take plenty of time to chat with the locals. There are so many legends and stories to be shared
- The dance will leave you absolutely spellbound
- Take mozzie spray – the jungle can be alive with little critters but there’s nothing to be seriously afraid of here. No poisonous sakes or spiders
- You may like to have your own snacks as the shops are pretty bare of treats
Air Vanuatu flies to Ambrym Island a few times a week. Check the domestic schedule and remember if you book when in Vanuatu with your international ticket in hand, you get 20% off your domestic flight price.
Book everything else through the Vanuatu tourist centre either in the provinces santo.travel or go into the office in Port Vila.
There is a 50 minute walk from the airport to Fanla which was a simple but hot walk. Transfers by bumpy truck take about 20 minutes.