Conflict Islands, Papua New Guinea
Isolated and predominantly uninhabited, the Conflict Islands region is one of the most remote destinations of the Coral Sea. Part of Papua New Guinea, the Conflict Islands is made up of 21 tropical islands and is named after the survey ship that first chartered the waters in 1886, ‘The Conflict’.
Privately owned by entrepreneur Ian Gowrie-Smith and his family since 2003, the Conflict Islands are part of a unique conservation plan. Gowrie-Smith is a passionate conservationist, dedicated to preserving the natural beauty and diverse, revered ecosystem of the islands. In 2015, security measures were put in place to protect turtles and sea cucumbers from illegal poaching in the waters of the Conflict Islands.
The islands are part of an atoll, with a coral-shaped reef and enclosed lagoon forming part of this beautiful area. As the area is largely unpopulated, visiting the Conflict Islands is an intensely private experience. Water activities such as diving, snorkelling, boating and fishing are popular here; the untouched region shows off many species of animals not found in other areas of the world.
The atoll is currently being considered as a World Heritage site, due to the diverse marine and coral life found in this region. The marine fish range in size from tiny to giant, with more than 1,000 different species found throughout the islands. The main island of Panasesa is home to a private resort and airstrip and in recent years has been a holiday destination for some rich and famous visitors (including David Bowie and Mick Jagger).
In June 2016, Conflict Islands will receive its very first cruise ship passengers thanks to an arrangement with P&O Cruises.
Conflict Islands is located within Milne Bay, 128 kilometres due-east of Papua New Guinea. The islands are part of an atoll within the Coral Sea, surrounding a lagoon. The islands are a 2-hour flight from Port Moresby and cover 375 hectares in total land area. As the area is difficult to access, infrastructure and transport is limited.
Due to the unique conservation plan in place for Conflict Islands, a structured port is not currently available. Therefore, limited facilities are available. It is highly recommended that you bring essential items with you from the cruise ship, such as money, sunscreen and towels. Panasesa, the main island of the atoll, features private beach houses, an airstrip and some facilities available for hire.
How to Get Around
As a remote group of islands, the main attraction is the beach and beach activities. The islands are mostly uninhabited, with little opportunity for dining or shopping. Most areas of the islands can be accessed on foot or via water craft. There are no taxis available in the area. While there is an airstrip at Panasesa, it is for short-haul or charter flights only.
Currency - The currency used throughout Conflict Islands is the Papua New Guinean Kina (PGK), which is available in 5, 10, 20, 50 toea and PGK1 coins, as well as PGK2, PGK5, PGK10, PGK20, PGK50 and PGK100 notes.
Time Zone – The Conflict Islands operate on Papua New Guinea Time (PNG), which is 10 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – The Conflict Islands enjoy a tropical climate, with a consistent temperature between 24 and 27 degrees Celsius. The highest periods of rainfall are between December and April. Expect high humidity and regular showers, particularly during the summer months.
Diving – Considered by National Geographic Magazine as one of the top 3 diving sites in the world, visitors are spoilt for choice in the Conflict Islands. There are more than 50 dive locations to choose from, each offering spectacular sights. More than 400 coral species can be spotted throughout the area, as well as many fish species not found elsewhere. The limited access to Conflict Islands ensures small dive groups and unspoilt dive sites.
Wildlife Spotting – Ocean species such as manta rays and killer whales are as common to see during migration as tree kangaroos and many bird species. The sandy beaches are the perfect location for Green Turtles to nest, just another aspect of the island’s conservation efforts.
Kayaking – Shallow water reefs are best explored from a kayak. The clear waters allow for excellent visibility and are perfect for passengers without dive training. The stunning variety of colours and shapes both in and out of the water will keep you busy spotting. Having the freedom to stop at any shoreline to get out and explore is just one more reason Conflict Islands is a perfect getaway.