Cambodia - Getting to know Cambodia's Southern Islands
For many years Cambodia's southern islands could rightly be accused of under-performing on a tourist level, with idyllic waters and white sand beaches offering little beyond the occasional cluster of backpacker huts and interesting fishing villages. All this changed in 2018 when the last of three new responsibly-minded luxury resorts opened across three small islands, taking the count to four. Whilst the mainland continued to be destroyed by development, these resorts became a beacon of hope, showing that tourism can be delivered in a environmentally, socially and economically aware way.
Koh Rong & Koh Rong Samloem in focus
The islands of Koh Rong and its tiny southern neighbour Koh Rong Samloem, sitting in crystal waters just 45 minutes boat ride from Sihanoukville, combine an idyllic desert island vibe with high-end luxury and a connection to something pristine and unspoiled. Several exclusive resorts have arrived in the archipelago, including the remarkable Song Saa private island, which has gained a reputation as the crème-de-la-crème for discerning travellers looking to get away from it all. On the island's west coast is The Royal Sands, lacking nothing and arguably offering a more understated vibe. Both are well away from the crowds and offer the very highest levels of service and facility.
Koh Rong still has a backpacker scene with the busiest beach (well away form both the above resorts), while Koh Touch, offers a bustling array of beach bars, restaurants and boutiques making it the island’s main hub. You don’t have far to go to find true seclusion, however, on the long stretches of sand around the coast on Palm Beach, Coconut Beach and Lonely Beach, where you can spend undisturbed hours gazing at postcard-perfect views.
45 minutes away by boat, Koh Rong Samloem is a different fish. The main beach runs along Saracen Bay, with many rustic beach hut-style villas on the shoreline. Whilst undoubtedly more crowded, the barefoot nightime vibe will appeal to many.
On either island, when the sun goes down, away from the glare of city lights, you can enjoy the night sky in all its glory, and the magical spectacle of bio-luminescent plankton sparkling in the shallow waters.
Which other islands to consider?
Whilst Koh Rong is home to two world-class resorts, there are several other islands to consider. The first is Koh Ruseey and the Alila Resort. A smaller island than Koh Rong certainly, there's not much else in the way of life on Koh Russey, however another resort is expected soon.
Nearby is the Koh Krabey, home to the Six Senses, covering the entire island and certainly making the most of the steep terrain. Both islands have private ports along the coast from Sihankville (a very good thing!) making airport transfers very smooth.
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