As a first time traveller to Ambrym I was curious about the islands reputation for spiritualism and strong custom practices. I was met by my host Sam and we got talking, he reassured me that I needn’t worry, and that I should consider doing Ambrym’s biggest draw card – a trek to the active churning lava filled volcanos. Treks, ranging from one day hikes to three day treks are challenging but ultimately very rewarding. The treks are being touted as soft adventure with local guides and porters to carry your gear and set up campsite on the volcano for those brave enough to visit. The local guides are absolutely superb, experienced guides who know their island inside out! So I asked them – Why should people visit Ambrym? Here’s what they say you will discover on Ambrym:
Hands down, the number one highlight are the majestic twin volcanoes!
Mount Benbow, which last erupted in 1913, and the active Mount Marum at 1,334 m (4,377 ft), are becoming popular with adventures who can usually get very close to the crater top and become mesmerized but the deep cavern of molten lava pools. The old lava flows and ash surrounding the neighbouring volcanoes creates a moon-like landscape and the surrounding scenery is simply breath-taking! You will see why they call this the ‘black island’.
Experiencing authentic, unique custom and culture will cast an enchanting spell on you.
The most significant cultural event for the people of Ambrym is the Rom dance which is an annual event usually held in the northern and western parts of the island around the harvest of the yam. The Rom dance (meaning ‘Masked’) is an ancient, secret ceremony where the dancer’s extraordinary masks are a piece of art. The Rom dance is so taboo that traditionally it is an all-male affair whereby the dancer’s natural pandanus costumes and intricate masks are burnt immediately after the dance to keep the dancers protected from the spirits. There is a lot of custom magic associated with the Rom dance and other dances hosted around Ambrym.
Hospitable, friendly people will make your visit unforgettable.
The Ambrym people are positively proud of their island and culture. They are happy to share their culture and lifestyle which can be experienced through authentic cultural tours and spending a few nights in a locally owned bungalow. Melanesian culture, food and lifestyle, while a bit more modern these days is very community centred and they are genuinely friendly when they see a visitor. You never know, you may find yourself taken with their locally carved, beautiful tam-tams or having to drag yourself away from the natural hot spring pools. I was fortunate to spend time with some bungalow owners and the tour guides – each and every one of them were engaging and openly ready to help make sure that I was being taken care of. So next time you decide if Ambrym is worth the visit, think about what you might miss by not visiting. And if you are lucky enough you may get to meet these fabulous people.
By Mereana Mills