Mystery Island, Vanuatu was a wonderful example of how regulated tourism can be so beneficial, not only at a local community level, but rippling through to the entire surrounding areas. Stunning Fauna coats the sand island, with proper structures and systems in place to ensure a clean, well maintained, sustainable environment for today and tomorrow. Mystery Island sure has some secret gems, but is well willing to share them with all who visit.
I found this island even more breath taking when comparing it to some of the islands i've previously visited in the likes of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Where everything is done for today, and each man for himself, clearly the South Pacific takes a refreshing, well-thought approach to tourism and exploiting the lands riches. Throughout our cruise, my mind was constantly wonderfully surprised at how clean and clear all the environments were, especially Mystery Island. Though there's plenty of traffic and human activity, the pristine waters are seemingly untouched. The variety of sea life was incredible! After swimming around the reefs of Thailand, The Phillipines, even The Great Barrier Reef, absolutely nowhere compared to swimming among the astonishing rainbow shores of this island.
No one was there to exploit you. Again a lovely comparison to South-East Asia. There's absolutely no harassment. They know, if you want a drink, dress, necklace... you will go to them. There's no point them wasting energy in the hot sun, pestering tourists.... hopefully one day S.E.A. will catch on....
There is a complete 'western' toilet block (flushing toilets, sinks with soap) and a small market where you can buy all the touristy knick knacks you could ever desire. And of course, it wouldn't be the South Pacific without a Hair Braiding stall.
This island is yours to enjoy as you wish. There are shore excursions you can purchase on board your cruise ship, or you can go with a snorkelling, kayaking, glass bottom boat or scuba tour from a vendor on the island itself, or just wing it and go exploring on your own. The island is very small. You can easily walk around it within 20-30 minutes, at a relaxed pace. The only reason i can see anyone benefiting from going with an organised tour is if you're unable (for any reason) to simply walk and swim by yourself. Apart from that, you literally walk into the water and by hip height your surrounded by all sea life imaginable. I saw Nemo and his family in a stunning light pink Anemone just a few metres off shore! So really, the tours are completely unnecessary. Don't waste your money and time, just enjoy the sand, salt and fresh air.
If swimming or being in the water is not your thing, don't worry! The island is inhabited by Hermit and Sand Crabs. We had a wonderful afternoon, relaxing under a palm tree, filming these little natives. Some as tiny as a grain of rice and some as big as my fist!
Strictly regulated, you cannot take any food, drink, animal or plant products onto the island. Though there is a few places to buy water, soft drinks and packaged chips, each item was around $5.
There's 3 ways you can spend a day docked at Mystery Island.
1) Spend all day there. Though unless you're keen to spend around $50 on food and water, I wouldn't.
2) About 90% of our cruise took this option. For many obvious reasons, this is the best options for families. - Leave the ship early and spend morning-lunch on the island and come back on board for lunch. This way you can fill up at breakfast, enjoy a full morning on the island and get back for the free buffet lunch. But with about 2000 other people going with that plan.... be prepared to line up and waste a lot of precious holiday time. The ferries started taking people off the boat around 7:30am. You could get a ticket for a ferry and that way were guaranteed to get on and made departure a bit smoother. After 10am there was no need for a ticket and ferries were coming and going constantly. Like i said, this is the best option for families because the timing works perfectly, you save money, you all get fed on time without much moaning and groaning and you avoid majority of the peak midday sun. Yet still enjoy around 5 hours on a perfect tropical island. Which leads us to option 3...
3) Chill on the ship in the morning, have lunch on board, then spend the afternoon on the island. We went with this option and it was so much more relaxing. No lines, no pushing, no waiting in the sun and no rush to get back for food and drink. The boat was an absolute ghost town in the morning so we had a bit of a wonder and enjoyed the serenity. We chose this time to go on the flowerider. I would highly recommend doing this as there was only about 5 other people there. So again, no lines, no waiting, just chilled out relaxing holiday mode. Then whenever you feel like you're ready, casually make your way down to the ferries and there's guaranteed to be one waiting for you.
Simply enjoy the wonders and beauty of nature. Take time to appreciate your family, the holiday you're on and the serenity the day has blessed you. Get a sun tan, rub your toes through the sand and let the salt play with your hair. Enjoy life.