Papua New Guinea is rocketing up the list as a favourite destination for Australian cruise travellers. In fact, it’s difficult to figure out why ships haven’t been going there for decades, but this can largely be attributed to the popularity of the South Pacific and New Zealand and the gluttony of spectacular destinations accessible within these parts of the world.
If you’re one of the ever increasing numbers of P&O Cruises passengers selecting Papua New Guinea as your cruise destination, more than likely you’ll be calling in a chain of islands known as “The Conflicts”. But what are the Conflict Islands? In one word – “paradise”.
Located just south of Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay Region is 375 hectares of idyllic island heaven stretched out over 21 individual islands surrounding what scientists dub as “the most bio-diverse coral reef system in the world”.
The Conflicts sit about 80 kilometres from the nearest points in Papua New Guinea and is so remote, on average each of the 30 or so New Guinea people who live there enjoy a generous 6.6 square kilometres each in terms of population density. Due in part to their sheer remoteness, there is no easy way of getting here on your own terms, making a cruise the perfect way to see them. This ensures the island chain retains its natural charm and status as being left largely untouched.
The Conflict Islands are very new on the cruising landscape and their access is a direct result of cruise lines’ eagerness to expand their horizons and deliver new ‘close to home’ destinations for their loyal Australian clientele. It’s this level of thinking which has led Papua New Guinea to open up its many natural harbours to cruise ships, which has led to a host of new ports in the country finding their way onto itineraries from Australia.
With multiple islands at their beck and whim and a reasonable distance between each, this allows cruise lines to schedule alternating island visits with days at sea. Cruise lines have taken their opportunities here, also developing new shore excursions to encourage their guests to explore onshore and not feel as though their only options are to sit on a beach.
P&O Cruises, which calls in at the Conflict Islands exclusively, offer a selection of shore excursions on the islands. Most of the activities are aimed at those eager to discover the natural delights of the island, from glass-bottom boat rides over the famed reef ecosystem to stand up paddle boarding adventures that take advantage of the calm lagoon and extensive underwater visibility, guests will undoubtedly be able to find plenty of things to do.
If your previous calls in PNG has seen you develop an appetite for something a little more involved and somewhat over the water-based activities, you may also be able to take part in a guided walking tour with a tribal leader brought across from nearby Alotau. He or she will be able to guide guests and explain the stories behind the aerial warfare that was conducted in the airspace above the island chain.
Guests not taking part in guided shore excursions should certainly bring some type of snorkel equipment with them. Recent studies have found Irai Island as offering the best coral reef snorkelling in the world, with more species spotted in a single dive than anywhere else on the planet. Encounters with everything from Manta Rays to Killer Whales have been noted in the waters surrounding the islands, however most guests will enjoy the smaller array of species on offer in the water, including rainbows of colourful fish.
While Papua New Guinea is loaded with amazing bays and islands worth exploring, you can be of the mind that if your cruise features the Conflict Islands specifically, you’re in for something truly special.
Have you visited The Conflict Islands? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!