Aneityum Island (Mystery Island)
Aneityum, also known as the Mystery Island, is the southernmost inhabited island in the Vanuatu archipelago. As with all the major islands throughout Vanuatu, it's origins are volcanic and the landscape mountainous. Rich volcanic soils and a slightly more temperate climate encouraged the growth of magnificent stands of sandalwood trees.
Prized in the Orient for its aroma, sandalwood traders ravaged the island in the previous century. Its population was also ravaged by disease and slaving (blackbirding) and today stands at around 550, down from an estimated 12,000 prior to Europeans arrival in 1793. The island was the first centre of the Presbyterian Church and the haunting remains of the once largest missionary church in the Southern Hemisphere now stand in ruins.
The modern Aneityum has few buildings and no cars apart from the few vehicles of the kauri replanting forestry project. It is ideal for the keen bushwalker, offering many well-defined tracks and paths through vegetation that is quite different from the hotter and more humid northern islands.
Over 80 species of magnificent, delicate orchids adorn the forest. Several waterfalls and hot springs can also be visited. The island is surrounded by live coral reefs offering excellent snorkeling.
The only airport is not on the island itself but on the much smaller nearby Inyeug (or Mystery) Island. Air Vanuatu services the island twice weekly from Port Vila and Tanna. Inyeug is periodically visited by several hundred tourists arriving on cruise ships, reached by launch from cruise ships anchoring inside the magnificent turquoise waters between Inyeug and the mainland.
A visit to Aneityum Island is not to be missed.