Nusa Island Retreat – A Bit of Paradise

After a four week stint working for the Games News Service at the Port Moresby 2015 Pacific Games, a holiday was due, maybe overdue. A colleague, Phil, and I decided to join another colleague, Joanna, and her sister, Lucy, at the Nusa Island Retreat in New Ireland, in the north of the country.

Nusa Island Retreat Seen from the Sea
Nusa Island Retreat Seen from the Sea

To get there, we needed to take two flights from the capital, Port Moresby. We flew on Air Nuigini, which has a fleet of 24 planes, to Raboul in the province of New Britain and then on to Kavieng in New Ireland. The view out the window during the trip was beautiful. The country is so green and mountainous. We flew close to a volcano, Mount Tavurvur, which last erupted on August 29, 2014. There was still smoke coming out of it a year later.

View from the Plane of the Volcano Mount Tavurvur
View from the Plane of the Volcano Mount Tavurvur

At Nusa, I met a man who caught the eruption last year on video. His wife was telling me it went viral. It’s now got over 17 million hits. They showed me the video of the Mount Tavurvur eruption which you can see online. It was fascinating. You can even hear the loud shock a few seconds later. He caught it all by accident.

Upon our arrival at the airport in Kavieng, we were picked up in a truck by a member of Nusa’s staff and taken to a nearby jetty for our short speed-boat ride to the island. The eight minute ride to get there coincided with a beautiful sunset. It was the start of a holiday that I had been craving for quite some time.

When we arrived on the island, we were taken directly to our bungalow which was about a 20 step walk from the main dining and meeting area. The bungalows were more like high-end chalets. The bungalow Phil and I had, B10, faced the ocean as all the cottages do and it could sleep up to six people.

New Island Retreat Cottage Entrance
Cottage Entrance

The windows were made out of bamboo, but you never have to close them. There were mosquito nets surrounding the beds too, although we were told you didn’t have to worry about mosquitos in New Ireland. The décor was very stylish and set in nature’s colours.

My Bed Inside the Cottage at Nusa Island Retreat
My Bed Inside the Cottage

There was even a footbath at the bottom of the stairs before you come up to the cottage so you could rinse your feet. There was no need to wear shoes at the retreat. You didn’t have to worry about theft either, but there was a locked box if you wanted it.

Our cottage at Nusa Island Retreat.  Notice the foot bath at the bottom of the stairs.
Our cottage. Notice the foot bath at the bottom of the stairs.

The retreat is quite small, and it sits on a tiny corner of the island. It has 12 bungalows, all on stilts with some stretching out onto the ocean. Some cabins have ensuites, while others have shared facilities. Nusa shares the island with at least two villages where you can visit to see the local’s way of life and to buy local souvenirs. There are bilums (colourful over-the-shoulder bags unique to Papua New Guinea), seashell jewellery and carvings, all at a good price with no pressure to buy.

Local market in Kavieng.  A must see.
Local market in Kavieng. A must see.

It’s a 10 minute walk to the furthest village and about a 20 minute walk back along the ocean.

The owners of the retreat have tried to make it as environmentally friendly as possible. They have coined it as a green retreat rather than an eco-friendly one. There are dry compost toilets and the owners utilise the ground water and collect rainwater.

The Communal Eco - Toilet about 25m Away
The Communal Eco – Toilet about 25m Away

Nusa Island Retreat was established in 1997 by three siblings who have spent about 30 years in the area. What’s it like at Nusa? It states on the website, “It exudes a relaxed and easy going feel from the moment you set foot on the beach and bury your toes in the sand.” Well, that couldn’t be more true. It’s one of the most laid back places I have ever been too.

Relaxing on my colleague's porch-terrace having pre-dinner cocktails.
Relaxing on my colleague’s porch-terrace having pre-dinner cocktails.

Clients have included prime ministers, ambassadors, Australian actors and the Hollywood star, Matthew McConaughey. Sorry to blow the whistle on your hidden paradise, Matthew.

With only about 20 people on the island when we were there, it’s like you have a bit of paradise to yourself. There are either lots of things to do, or very little, it’s up to you. There’s surfing, diving, snorkelling, kayaking, fishing, ping pong and swimming. Some of which you have to pay an additional price for.

Looking to the Next Island at Nusa Island Retreat
Looking to the Next Island

The surfing and diving could be some of the best in the world. In my wildest dreams, I could never imagine being able to swim to another island from the one I was staying at. Relaxing in the ocean was like lying in the bathtub. The water was so warm. There was no need to have to ease yourself in whatsoever. And I am a chicken too.

A typical dinner menu at Nusa Island Retreat.  We had lobster three of the four nights.
A typical dinner menu. We had lobster three of the four nights.

Breakfast and lunch are a la carte, while dinner is a buffet. And what a buffet it is. We had fresh lobster three of the four nights we were there. The staff was cleaning the lobster on the beach in the morning and we were devouring them in the evening. The cost of breakfast and lunch was between $10 and $15. Beer was about $5 a bottle. Dinner was about $30 and worth every penny.

The kitchen staff preparing our lobster.
The kitchen staff preparing our lobster.

The dishes were treated with tender loving care by the chefs who created them. The chefs are locals from the island, some of whom have worked at the retreat for years. The owners of the retreat hire locals as they want to give back to the community. After their shifts, the staff are more than happy to take a walk with you to the other side of the island. (Just so you don’t get lost.)

Another picture of the kitchen staff preparing our lobster at Nusa Island Retreat.
Another picture of the kitchen staff preparing our lobster.

The owners are clear in who they want at the resort. The clientele are aged 45 and up, families are welcome and backpackers are not welcome. It’s a grown up playground where you can kick back, relax and enjoy a place that not many people in the world will ever get to.

A Cottage Near a Swimming Area
A Cottage Near a Swimming Area

As the owner, Shaun, told me, “It’s not about the experience of luxury but rather the luxury of the experience.” He was so right too. I know I’ll be going back.

A four night package including flights, transfers and lodging was about $850. Drinks and meals was about $300 more.
Rates from June 2015 to April 2016
Single with shared bathroom – $155, premium with ensuite bathroom $185
Twin with shared bathroom – $174, premium with ensuite bathroom $205
Meal packages – adults $95, children – $45

Nusa Island Retreat
PO Box 305, Kavieng, New Ireland, PNG, 631
Ph: +675 723 18302; +675 723 18300
Email: [email protected]
Internet address:

James Cowling
James Cowling

James Cowling is a freelance journalist. He was brought up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and has lived in London, UK, for 20 years. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation during the election that brought Nelson Mandela to power in 1994. James came to London shortly after that and has worked for the CBC, NBC and CNBC. He also worked for NBC Radio where he covered the Hong Kong Handover in 1997, the Death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and the Bosnian elections in 1998. James worked for press operations for the last two Olympic Winter Games covering figure skating and short track speed skating and at the last Olympic Games in London, he covered gymnastics. Since 2013, he has been freelancing for BBC World Service radio where he previously worked full time for seven years.

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