Cambodia boasts a smattering of tropical islands that dot the waters off Sihanoukville. These remote and undeveloped slices of tropical paradise are a short boat ride away from the coastal city, with Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem being the most popular. Before you visit, here are the top things to do on the island of Koh Rong Samloem.
They’re home to turtles, myriad species of reef fish and rare marine mammals including dugong and Irrawaddy dolphins – no wonder the reefs around Koh Rong Samloem have fabulous snorkelling and diving. The archipelago has been protected as a marine park since 2018, but coral close to the beach attracts litter, so you’ll need to take a snorkelling trip or dive expedition to reach the pristine outer reef. They’re easily organised through the PADI-certified Dive Shop on Saracen Bay beach.
Koh Rong Samloem’s quietest beach is a sleepy place – just a few simple shack restaurants and guesthouses on the sand in a bowl of forested hills. It’s the best spot for sunset, which drops golden over the ocean, silhouetting the distant rocky islets of Koh Pring and Koh Tang. See it from a hammock slung between palms, cold beer in hand – or a kayak, easily rented on the beach.
A path from the southern end of Saracen Bay cuts through sandy bush, climbs steeply over rocks into jungle and drops to the half-moon cove at Lazy Beach. It’s an easy 20-minute walk, although it can be hot in the middle of the day – guesthouses on the beach offer shade and cold drinks. If you feel like walking more, another trail climbs over the cape to the north towards Sunset Beach, a further 30 minutes away.
It’s a sweaty 90-minute walk from Saracen Bay to the abandoned lighthouse in the far south of Koh Rong Samloem, but the views from the top of the tower make it worth the effort. The whole island spreads at your feet, lush rainforest dropping to rocky capes and sandy coves fringed with turquoise reef. The trail is tough and rough, cutting through steep jungle – with nowhere to buy water en route, bring your own and wear shoes, not flip-flops.
The sea around the Cambodian coast is filled with bioluminescent plankton. Some nights the beach glimmers as waves hit the shore, and when you swim, your body shimmers blue as it passes through the water. Dive shops and boat tour operators on Saracen Bay can take you to dive, swim or snorkel in the most plankton-rich spots. Here the reef itself glistens in the darkness, and the prow of the boat glows lambent as it cuts through the sea.
Imagine yourself lying on a shawl in the shade on white sand, waves lapping and sea breezes whistling in the casuarina pines, while a skilful masseuse kneads all the tension from your travel-weary muscles. Few island experiences beat a beachfront back-rub. On Koh Rong Samloem, they’re easy to come by – masseuses set up shop on all the beaches from early morning. Top tip: avoid the twilight hours, when mosquitoes appear in numbers.
Cambodia’s national dish is a rich, spicy seafood curry with white rice and salad. It’s cheap as chips, delicious and served fresh at beach shack restaurants throughout the Koh Rong islands. For the best, made by local fishermen, try dining spots such as Kunthea Khmer Kitchen in M’Pai Bai. Ferries from Koh Rong and the mainland dock here, or you can catch a taxi boat from Saracen Bay.
It’s worth waking early for sunrise at Saracen Bay. It’s a magical sight, as the sky lifts from starry blue to lemony orange, and the sun bursts over the Indian Ocean. Take in the beauty: the jungle trees glinting and silhouettes of fishing boats on the mirror-calm water. Take a walk along the bay as the island wakes, have a refreshing swim in the shallow water, and feel invigorated for the rest of the day.
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