The island of Ambrym owes its name to Captain Cook who anchored off there in 1774. It means “here are yams” (ham rim in Ranon language).
When you go inland, you will be struck by the greenish vegetation (a sort of moss) that covers the ancient lava flows. However, stay longer and you will see that Ambrym is first and foremost the “black” island due to its volcanic ash and because of its ‘black magic’ steeped in mystery. In the villages, the ancient customs play a significant part in day to day living. The “Man blong Majik” are treated with the utmost respect and practice sorcery and magic beyond all imaginings.
In addition to the two volcanoes which you can visit on foot from the coast, Ambrym prides itself on some unique characteristics, such as the sculpted tam-tams, sand-drawing, fern masks and local dances. Famous for its magnificent tam-tams (or slit gongs) sculpted out of tree trunks, they represent the some of the most impressive items of art in Vanuatu. The dancing areas in the traditional villages are decorated with Tam Tams planted in the ground, which can measure several metres high. They are used to beat the rhythm for the singing and dancing during ceremonial rituals.
Mt Benbow (1160 m) and Mt Marum (1270 m) volcanoes are constantly making their presence felt. They are located in the middle of the island and form a huge caldera some 10 to 12 km diameter.
Magnificent sand drawings are also found here. Originally used to depict a story and were drawn as the story developed. At the end, the finished picture would represent a turtle, a canoe or a human face, which would be in relation with the story. Nowadays, such drawings are more often used to leave a message. The most skilled artists can continue drawing until the picture is finished without lifting their hand once.Back