A nation in the south pacific made up of a group of islands nestled between Fiji and New Caledonia, Vanuatu is a place many people never would have heard of if it weren’t for the 9th season of Survivor filming there.
Officially known as the Republic of Vanuatu, these mostly volcanic islands were first inhabited by Melanesian people. From the early 1600’s on various European countries claimed the islands under a variety of names. Captain Cook named them the New Hebrides in 1774 and that name stuck until the island nation gained independence in 1980.
Threats to Vanuatu include cyclones, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, pollution, deforestation, overfishing, and overpopulation. Introduction of non-native species and decline of some native species is also an issue.
The climate is tropical and often wet with rainfall averages from 93-160 inches per year, the higher averages in the northern islands. The economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and offshore financial services. The majority of residents live in rural areas.
Tourists enjoy Vanuatu’s beaches, reefs, and sealife. Other attractions include caves, waterfalls, villages, markets, wildlife, native culture, a water park, and an underwater post office. Not a post office formerly on land and now flooded, but an actual functioning post office under the sea where people can dive in and mail waterproof post cards.
Mystery Island – Still a Mystery
On our first Pacific crossing we missed Bora Bora – the port I most wanted to see – due to bad weather. The lagoon surrounding Bora Bora is supposed to be like swimming in a tropical aquarium and we had a snorkel excursion booked.
Crossing the Pacific again on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas we were supposed to stop at Mystery Island in Vanuatu where we had a snorkel excursion booked that was to go to a place called the Giant Aquarium, one called Daydreamer’s Reef, and a turtle resting grounds. Once again we missed the port we wanted to see most, and on this cruise the only one where we had booked an excursion through the ship. Maybe it’s bad luck to pre-book snorkel excursions on Pacific crossings. This time we missed the port due to a passenger medical emergency. They said we were too far out and the weather too cloudy for a helicopter rescue. We bypassed Vanuatu to head straight to New Caledonia for the evacuation. We ended up stopping briefly at Lifou and tendering the patient to shore for a flight to Noumea from there. Rumor had it the patient had actually died and been brought back to life on the ship before reaching land. Lifou was a scheduled stop for the next day. After evacuating the patient the ship left the area and returned as scheduled the following day.
Mystery Island is unpopulated other than when cruise ships stop by. Locals from a nearby island sell their crafts in booths on cruise ship days. The island has an old airstrip from world war 2 days, amenities for the cruise ship passengers, and beaches and trails.
Excursions other people missed included glass bottom boats, kayaking, other snorkel adventures, and a village tour – which is on another island since Mystery Island is uninhabited except when cruise ships come in.
Cruise itineraries are never set in stone and always subject to change due to weather or emergencies. It is disappointing when you are looking forward to something for a long time and then miss out. Ship’s excursions and port fees are automatically refunded, but it’s still a disappointment. Of course the patient and their family are quite grateful for the rescue and most other passengers understand and realize that somebody’s life is more important than whatever they had planned for the day.
The ship’s schedule of activities was pretty sparse for the day since most passengers were expected to go to shore, but they added on more to have things resemble a normal sea day.
During a flowrider announcement one of the guys working there said Mystery Island is such a mystery we couldn’t find it so we didn’t stop there. It got the name from early ships that would go there and it was always a mystery as to whether they would get their lifeboats to shore or not due to weather and sea conditions. For us Mystery Island remains a mystery.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019