If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to walk around a deserted tropical island, a cruise to Mystery Island, Vanuatu will show you. The island won’t be completely deserted when you visit, though. Locals from the neighboring island of Aneityum, which is located a short boat ride away, come across the water when a cruise leaving from Australia or New Zealand to the island arrive.
Spending a day on untouched paradise, mingling with locals and learning about customs and traditions in Vanuatu make a cruise to Mystery Island a popular stop for travelers.
Mystery Island is edged with beautiful, white-sand beaches. The island is so small that you can walk along the entire shoreline in 40 minutes. While ambling along the soft sand, enjoy views of the surrounding ocean that shimmers in vibrant turquoise and teal colors.
Mystery Island is adjacent to incredible coral reefs that are rich in color and sea life. During a snorkeling excursion on Mystery Island, cruise passengers have the opportunity to see a variety of fish darting in and around the coral formations. Lucky visitors could even see seahorses, reef sharks, and sea turtles.
If you’d like a hairdo that reflects Vanuatu style, you can get your hair braided by local women while you lounge on the beach.
Getting your hair braided isn’t the only spa-like pampering you can have done on the beach of Mystery Island. A traditional Vanuatu massage will help you feel more relaxed after leaving this tropical paradise.
While in Mystery Island, you can take a short boat ride to Aneityum and tour the villages where the local people live and learn about their customs and day-to-day life.
Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a relaxing yet active way to spend a few hours. Here, you can go on a shore excursion to a calm area of the ocean between Mystery Island and Aneityum perfect for SUP newbies. Paddle around and enjoy the views both above and below the crystal clear water.
The food and drink available on Mystery Island depends on what the Vanuatu locals bring to sell that day. When a cruise ship is in port, the people who live on nearby Aneityum bring fresh catches from the nearby sea and other local delicacies for passengers to try during their cruise to Mystery Island.
Some local specialties you might see for sale include cooked spiny nosed lobsters and flat-nosed lobsters, homemade coconut oil, kava, and local coffee. Soft drinks and other food items are also sold.
Located in the Vanuatu archipelago within the rich blue of the South Pacific, Mystery Island offers relaxation and cultural activities to its travelers with a bit of mystique thrown in. One mystery is how the island got its name. According to locals, the island used to be referred to as Inyeug, which means small island. When Queen Elizabeth II visited in 1974, a reporter trying to find out which small island she was visiting got confused. In news headlines, he referred to the island as Mystery Island, and the name stuck.
Another mystery is centered around the local folklore regarding the island. Since residents who live on Aneityum island often visit Mystery Island, you may wonder why none of them live on the island. The island is actually steeped in superstition and locals believe it’s haunted by spirits.
Since seafood is such a big part of life in Vanuatu, life would also be more difficult living on Mystery Island since no fishing is allowed off its coast. Tourism is important to the area and this rule keeps the island pristine for visitors.
You’ll get a taste of the local culture when the people from Aneityum come to the island since, in addition to selling things at the market, they often put on performances for donations. Both children and adults often come to perform traditional dance and song on Mystery Island, and local bands set up on the beach to serenade visitors with music while they lounge on the sand. Dancers from Futuna Island also come to Mystery Island sometimes to perform for donations.
The local transportation on Mystery Island is local to you…your own feet! Since the island is so small, it is easy to walk around the entire thing in about forty minutes. There are no taxis or buses. However, you will find transportation offered for excursions to Aneityum, when a boat will pick you up near the tender jetty and take you on the short jaunt across the bay to see how locals live.
There is no town center in Mystery Island that you can stroll down to do some shopping, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to go home without a souvenir from your time on the island. Instead of ducking into shops or visiting markets like you might be used to when traveling, you’ll find that the souvenirs are brought to you. When a cruise ship is in port, the locals from Aneityum set up small display stalls along the beach. Many of the items you’ll discover in this makeshift market are made by hand right in Vanuatu and reflect traditional culture. You can also usually find postcards, t-shirts, and other typical souvenirs.
The official currency of Mystery Island is the Ni-Vanuatu Vatu. The Australian dollar is often accepted throughout Vanuatu, including on Mystery Island, but even if it’s accepted the change is not always available in Australian dollars. If you’re sailing to Mystery Island and want to ensure you can purchase whatever you’d like, exchange some money for the Vatu before leaving for your trip. You won’t find an ATM or a bank to do so on Mystery Island, and credit cards aren’t accepted at the market stands.
Tipping is not expected or desired in Vanuatu since the recipient will feel like they need to return the tip in some way due to local kastom traditions.