02 Nov 2015

Ambrym Dancing

Today the Spirit of Enderby added a new island to her extensive list of destinations visited when we anchored in the sheltered waters adjacent to the village of Ranon on the northern coast of Ambrym. Landing on the black sand beach was a great contrast to the glistening white sands of Champagne Beach yesterday and a reminder of the volcanic origins of this island. Our actual destination for the morning was the village of Fanla, home of the distinctive Rom Dance and a 45 minute walk away through an exceptionally dry forest. Our visit was a treat for us but also for the community of Fanla, as they have in the past performed their famous Rom Dance for visiting ships but never on their own village arena.


We arrived in Fanla and relaxed in the shade of a large fig tree while the dancers made their final preparations. The beating of the tamtam summoned us to the arena, but before we could enter the sacred dance area there was a welcome dance and gifts to exchange. The Rom Dance began with a rhythmic beating of drums, pounding of feet and chanting by the chief and his men. Only men can perform this dance and their women are forbidden to even watch the spectacle which took us back to the time of their ancestors. The pounding feet set the ground shaking as the giant tamtam watched over the proceedings. Half the men were naked but for their nambas or penis sheaths, while others were completely hidden beneath masks and cloaks of foliage as they represented various spirits. As quickly as it had begun the dance ended when the spirits departed back into the forest.


During the afternoon we searched for Dugong and had some great encounters from the Zodiacs with two or three of these enigmatic animals. The last day of our ‘Secrets of Melanesia’ voyage ended as we sailed along the coast of Ambrym admiring the brilliant red sunset while the resident volcano fired ash into the darkening sky.

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