Also known as Anatom or Keamu Aneityum Island is the southernmost island of Vanuatu, in the province of TAFEA. The largest village is Anelcauhat on the south side.
There is an airport, not on the main island itself, but on the tiny island to its south, Inyeug or more commonly known as Mystery Island, across the main village, which has twice-weekly flights from Port Vila and Tanna.
The island is 159.2 km² in size. It rises to an elevation of 852 meters in Mount Inrerow Atamein. Aneityum consists of two coalescing, dominantly basaltic Pleistocene volcanoes. Both the NW side of Inrerow Atamwan volcano and the SE side of Nanawarez volcano are truncated by large erosional cirques. Volcanic activity ceased during the uppermost late-Pleistocene to Holocene.
Anatom has a current estimated population of 1250 (officially? 550). It is believed to have had a population of possibly as larger than 12,000 prior to the arrival of the Europeans in 1793. Introduced diseases and blackbirding are believed to have been the major factors in the depopulation. [down to less than 200 in 1930].
Aneityum was first discovered on the 16 April 1793 by French navigator D’Entrecastreaux. In 1844 James Paddon set up a trading station, selling Sandalwood and Kauri. By 1852 most of the forests were cut down. He then moved to another island called Erromango, with the Pacific’s largest single sandalwood forest. Whalers would use Aneityum’s sheltered harbour right up until the 1870s to melt whale blubber into oil in large metal pots (one of these pots can be found in the main street of Port Vila outside the National library) although locals prefer informing tourists the other version; "pot for cooking white people".
The Presbyterian missionary John Geddie arrived in 1848 and proceeded to convert more than three quarters of the population to follow the Christian faith. He built a large stone church capable of seating all of his flock. Wrecked by a Tsunami in 1875, the church remains, although most of today’s villagers have no recollection who built it and why.
The main island is home to 84 species of orchids, the largest collection in Vanuatu. Aneityum’s climate is even better than its northerly neighbour Tanna. Temperature ranges between 23°C to 30°C fromJanuary to March (wet season), and 16°C to 23°C the rest of the year with little rainfall.
The people are less traditional than other islands but are just as super friendly and are easy to communicate with.
Flight to Mystery Island by Air Vanuatu Domestic airline departs every Tuesday and Saturday from Port Vila via Tanna Island.
By going to Mystery Island you get to see quite a lot of the southern islands. Make sure you get a window seat on the left of the plane (facing forward) going down to Tanna Island in order to obtain the best views. After Tanna, sit on the right side for great views of Mystery Island.
You would need to bring as much of your own food and drinks as possible. Limited supplies are available from the shop at Anelcauhat Village on Aneityum Island.
There is a "restaurant" on Aneityum at Williams Guesthouse (telephone +(678) 68899) with fish, local vegetables and fruits; all very fresh and healthy. On Mystery Island, you’re more on your own except for the help of Louise from Williams Guesthouse who will bring you supplies and also cook for you.
Other essentials to bring are a basic first aid kit, especially for coral cuts, bug bites and sunburn. Also insect repellent is highly recommended. You may not need any of this, but once there, it’s too late for regrets.
You would most probably have the island to yourself as no-one lives there (folklore states that the people of Aneityum won’t live there as they believe it’s haunted by the spirits). It’s your chance to be Robinson Crusoe! You can arrange with the boat owner to come and pick you up (400 to 500 vatu) whenever you want, to take you around the main island (around 10,000 vatu).
Aneityum and Mystery Islands are not the sort of places you plan an itinerary for. Here you wake up, have a swim, and decide your day over a char grilled lobster on the beach. Check out our growing selection of
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 (black birding) 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.
Aneityum has few buildings and no cars apart from the few vehicles of the kauri replanting forestry project. It is ideal for the keen bush walker, 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.
Aneityum’s main source of income is tourism (cruise ships) followed by small scale logging of the pine plantations. If planning a private and quiet retreat to Mystery Island then check the cruise ship itineraries with the Vanuatu Tourism Office in Port Vila before setting out. There are very few other visitors and no accommodation on Mystery Island (Mystery Island Bungalows, Mystery Island closed in 2012) so you needn’t worry about crowds at other times. Most visitors have Mystery Island to themselves.
Aneityum is far from Port Vila and it’s an expensive flight. To get the most value out of your airfare then, and if you have time, visit Tanna and/or Erromango on the same ticket (it costs only a few thousand Vatu more).
There are two flights per week to Aneityum. Check with Air Vanuatu domestic. The grass airstrip is on Inyeug Island. There are no regular shipping services to Aneityum. The tourism project has a dedicated speed boat with transfers to and from the island free for guests (about 200 Vatu for non-guests or when travelling in other boats). Anelgauhat, in the south is Aneityum’s main settlement. There are a couple of basic stores, telephones, and a medical dispensary. It’s a good idea to have a warm shirt when visiting Aneityum and a light rain jacket in the cooler months (around August).
There are basically two choices for accommodation on Aneityum:
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