The Conflict Islands comprises 21 picturesque islands surrounded by a blue-on-blue lagoon that is home to what marine biologists say is one of the most biodiverse reef systems in the world. Here are three highlights of a Pacific Eden cruise to the island chain.
Visit the Wanigili Cultural Centre to meet the locals and for an authentic local craft market and both traditional and modern cultural dances and music. Take a ride in a war canoe manned by indigenous crew and walk back to the ship so you can stop at the Alotau International Hotel in for a beer at the garden bar overlooking the bay. The waterfront Hauswin Restaurant and bar also serves food on the cool verandah along with flagon white wine and local beer.
Our stop at Kitava was cancelled due to a big swell and the prevailing winds making it hard to find shelter. This only happens in less than 25 per cent of cruises and the resulting sea day was well programmed with activities and onboard options. The landing site is surrounded by stunning white sand beaches lined with trees and the island life is said to remain as it was thousands of years ago with very little external influence. Just offshore lies the picture-perfect sandy atoll Nuratu Island.
Hire a local outrigger to take you out past the shore reef to snorkel and bring you back – a great additional experience that will save you painful coral cuts at low tide. Don’t wait until the higher prices at the Conflicts; bargain and buy local arts and craft souvenirs from the markets. Look out for the wooden carvings (bowls, turtles, totems and walking sticks), which are beautifully hand-made and inlaid with shell. They are relatively inexpensive for the work that has gone into them, but make sure you declare them to customs when you arrive home. pocruises.com.au