The Conflict Islands are comprised of 21 untouched and, for the most part, uninhabited islands, located in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea. They were named after the HMS naval survey ship The Conflict which discovered the islands in 1886, not because of warring tribes. The Conflict Islands in Papua New Guinea are also home to Panasesa Resort, a modest privately owned and operated eco-resort with six beachfront bungalows and a larger communal lounge and dining area that houses the restaurant and activities hub. Panasesa Resort in the Conflict Islands is used as a base for cruise ship visitors.
Carnival Cruise Lines, which includes P&O Cruises Australia, Carnival, Princess Cruises and Cunard, is the most regular visitor to this tropical paradise and marine wonderland. The list of visiting cruise ships is growing each year, with the likes of Holland America Line and small expedition ships being added to the list of vessels stopping at the Conflict Islands. While it’s possible to book the entire island for a stay with friends, it’s much cheaper and easier to visit the Conflict Islands for the day on a cruise ship.
For cruise ship visitors, there is a smorgasbord of activities to choose from and perfect sandy beaches to explore or laze on if you don’t want to do a tour. One point of note for the Conflict Islands is there are no facilities for wheelchairs or passengers with mobility issues. This is due to tendering and the fact the islands are all sand with no pathways to accommodate wheelchairs or those who have trouble walking on uneven surfaces.
What to bring to the Conflict Islands
As is the case with Papua New Guinea in general, the constant heat is your greatest challenge, so remember to bring water, hats, and sunscreen with you. Dress for a hot and humid day, wear light coloured clothing and – most importantly – bring your swimmers so you can enjoy the crystal clear waters surrounding the island. It’s also the tropics, so have some wet weather gear on hand like a poncho or small umbrella as heavy rain is not uncommon, even if the weather looks perfect when you get off the ship. Most importantly, remember snorkelling gear if you have your own as the Conflict Islands have some of the best reefs in the world and they can be explored right off the beach.
How to buy things on the Conflict Islands
You cannot buy food, drinks or tours as you normally would on the Conflict Islands so bring some cash ashore. Australian dollars and PNG Kina are both accepted but you cannot use credit cards as there is no EFTPOS when you’re in the middle of the ocean in a developing nation. Instead, cash is used to purchase vouchers at a stand on the island which can be exchanged for food, drinks, hire of water sports equipment, island tours, etc.
Purchase these vouchers with caution as there is NO REFUND on unused vouchers if you misjudge how many you need. Many activities and tours can be pre-purchased from the cruise line either online or at the shore excursions desk. There is little difference between these prices and those onshore. If you have your heart set on a particular tour, it is best to purchase this online in advance in case it sells out.
Conflict Islands tours and activities
There is no shortage of activities available on the Conflict Islands, with choices including glass bottom boat tours, a Conflict Islands turtle conservation tour, reef snorkel tour, and outrigger canoe rides. You can also hire kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, snorkelling gear, and beach chairs. If you’re not to keen on spending money on an excursion, the reef is easily accessible from the beach. If you have your own snorkel gear, bring it with you rather than spending money on hire fees. Relaxing on the beach and enjoying the tropical surroundings is also a terrific way to spend the day.
Conflict Islands food and drinks
Food and drinks are readily available on the Conflict Islands thanks to some palm-thatched bars and kiosks. All locations have beers, soft drinks, chilled coconut juice, and rainwater for sale, while the Coconut Bar offers alcoholic slushies such as Pina Colada, Mojito, and berry flavours. The central kitchen is located at the back beach and serves a range of fresh food options such as grilled locally caught fish, vegetable or chicken satay, rice & bean salad and sweet potato chips.
Next door at the dessert bar there are fruit salads, grilled and fresh pineapple, chocolate-coated bananas, vegan brownies, and ice cream. Just remember these are all paid for with the voucher system, so have an idea of what things you want to pay for and pre-plan your voucher purchasing accordingly. There is no need to buy lots of vouchers when you first arrive as they won’t run out, even the island is busy.
Something interesting about the Conflict Islands is that the majority of food is harvested on the island itself, and staff come from many of the neighbouring communities around the area. The Conflict Islands’ cruise port offers local employment and, more importantly, eco-education as the islands operate sustainably and help to create economic prosperity for the islanders. Think of it as the perfect excuse to buy another cocktail.
Disclosure: The writer visited Papua New Guinea at his own expense.
Want to know more about cruising in Papua New Guinea? Don’t miss our Ultimate Guide for Cruising in Papua New Guinea and our tips for cruisers visiting Kiriwina, Kitava, Rabaul and Alotau. We’ve also got some tips for Cruising in Papua New Guinea with Kids.