It might only be a drop in the South Pacific ocean but the tiny island of Inyeug, or Mystery Island, Vanuatu has captivated the hearts and imaginations of Australian cruisers.
Mystery Island, or Inyeug (as it's known by the locals), is an uninhabited paradise on the southernmost tip of Vanuatu. From a distance, the coconut trees and sandy beaches look inviting, but it's not until you're nearly at the dock that the true magnificence of this unspoilt tropical island becomes apparent.
Island life moves at a different pace and one of the first things visitors are enveloped by is the serenity. There are three sounds that will tickle your ears here: the sublime harmonies of the locals that fill the humid air; the lapping of gentle waves; and the hacking of machetes against young coconuts. There is a fourth sound -- a twin-engine Air Vanuatu plane, however only a handful of people witness this rare occurrence (twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays).
The beauty of Mystery Island is that you can do as little or as much as you want. If snorkelling and swimming are what you desire, then this island provides some of the clearest, pristine waters in the Pacific. If you'd like to explore the island on foot, it's an easy half-an-hour walk -- just don't stumble onto the grass airstrip. Local tours are available, and the operators are organised and friendly. Cruise passengers can also peruse the market stalls for souvenirs or get your hair braided.
Getting to Mystery Island via cruise ship tender only takes a few minutes, but due to the rough swells, it's also a port that is sometimes missed. The island itself is uninhabited (according to local legend, it's haunted), so the local tour operators arrive every day from nearby islands such as Aneityum. Ensure you bring adequate bottled water with you, as there is no fresh water on Mystery Island (although fresh coconut water is sold for AU$3). Food and drink is very limited.
Sunscreen and hats are essential and reef shoes are a good idea due to the amount of coral. Take a first-aid kit as any cuts or scrapes can be treated immediately. Also be mindful that, at certain times, bluebottle jellyfish are in the water and deliver a nasty sting. There are limited bathroom facilities (just a bush toilet).
Hair braiding on Mystery Island is well organised and there are quite a number of local women who deftly create a number of different styles. Prices range from AU$10 to $25 and a full head takes about 20 minutes to complete. It's not necessary to take your own combs and elastics, but the braiders appreciate any extra accessories visitors bring ashore.
If you're bringing school supplies ashore, a note from a Customs Officer must be obtained from the ship prior to arriving (see reception the day before for details).
Australian dollars are accepted on Mystery Island and it's best to take small denominations. Most souvenirs are under AU$20 and some start from as little as AU$3.
Due to the constant visitors, most locals communicate well in English, however many speak French and also native languages.
If you're feeling hungry on Mystery Island, you might prefer to head back to the ship for lunch. While some of the market stall vendors sell a small variety of packaged snacks (such as potato chips) starting from about AU$5, there isn't much else to purchase to eat. There is no running water, so it is a good idea to bring bottled water ashore. Fresh drinking coconuts are available to purchase for AU$3 and the friendly locals will happily open them (with a machete) for thirsty visitors. Once you've guzzled the juice, ask the vendors to cut open the coconut so you can enjoy the sweet, delicious flesh inside.
Shell necklaces, flower wreaths, sarongs, shirts, magnets and other trinkets are available to purchase at very reasonable prices.