Koh Rong Samloem has been one of Cambodia’s best kept secrets for a long time, until now that is! The little island (9.2 sq. miles) to the much bigger Koh Rong Island (30.12 sq. miles) is littered with pristine sand beaches enclosed in a tranquil bay. This is literally a vagabond’s dream island and I couldn’t wait to start this relaxing leg of my journey.
To get there is a rather simple affair: board an overly PACKED school bus from Kampot with other like-minded backpackers and head to the port city of Sihanoukville. Don’t expect much in terms of glitz and glamour, even for Cambodia’s standards, when you arrive here. Locals and expats alike told me it’s a shell of its former self.
The once beautiful port city and now a gateway to foreign real estate investment for casinos, resorts and overly large penthouses. This influx of business would be amazing if it didn’t destroy the surrounding ecosystems and resulted in such a polluted wasteland, so to speak. But we’re here to do one thing: board a fast ferry to the little oasis 45 minutes out at sea.
NOTE: You can buy one way or roundtrip ($24 USD) ferry tickets, but know that the boats come ONLY TWICE a day. There are NO ATMs ON THE ISLAND and THEY DO NOT TAKE CREDIT CARDS!
I hopped off the ferry and quickly sunk my feet into the hot sand as warm ocean water washed ashore. I looked around for a road, street or any type of pavement to get my walking done, but alas this little island offered nothing of that sort. Kick off your shoes and hop it bare foot because there is NO ROAD on this island, vagabond style, I dig it.
Looking forward to spending a week away from busy city streets, not worrying about catching a bus somewhere, there is plenty you can be occupied with:
Become a Beach Bum
What else is better after two months on the road than just lounging about on a beach chair, catching a tan and reading a good book? There are plenty of hostels and resorts on the island that boast prime real estate for all day sun bathing. My hostel, Onederz Koh Rong Samloem, overlooked Saracen Bay and was amazing for sunrises and the staff was always super accommodating.
The ocean water is surprisingly warm, making it a good dip morning or night. Often time you can find people laying about for hours in there. Don’t forget sunscreen, the STRONG stuff. Here the good ole sun is BRUTAL and if you don’t take precautions you will be met with the WORSE sunburn of your life.
I heard months before I arrived that a whale shark made its way into the bay! That snorkel session would’ve been intense!
Grab a cold adult beverage and chill out, lay back, kick them tired feet up, you made it this far, you deserve it.
Hike to the Highest Peak – Samloem Light House
Tired of the ocean views? Then head into the thick jungle for a two-three hour hike towards the Samloem Light House. The highest peak on the mountain and makes for a great view of the island itself, Koh Rong (big) neighboring and Cambodia’s mainland in the far distance. There is a guard on duty from stories I heard that will allow you to go up the lighthouse albeit for a SMALL fee. Have fun trekking my friends!
Catch a Sunrise/Sunset
What’s better than walking a few feet out of your front door at 5:30am to catch an epic beach sunrise? Catching said sunrise with new friends and some cool dogs is what! Seriously the sunrise colors here were AMAZING and I was so glad I woke up early to catch it. Sacrifice one more of sleeping in and do yourself this solid, you won’t be disappointed trust me.
Not an early riser at all? Sunsets more your deal? Don’t worry this place has you covered. In the middle of the island is a small inroad, mainly used by ATVs to get things around, but you can walk it to the other side of the island. Here you’ll find Lazy Beach, aptly named if you asked me, where many go to see the sunset. It’s quite a beaut of one if I say so myself.
Swim with Bio-Luminescent Plankton
One of the fun things I did while on the island was hopping on a boat at night and making my way to the middle of Saracen Bay. Simone (who I have ran into on THREE separate occasions while in Cambodia) and myself along with a dozen other people were gearing up for a night time snorkel swim with bio-luminescent plankton. The captain of the boat tossed us fins and a mask and told us to have at it.
If you cant swim a life jacket is provided but the best way is to be submerged underwater. When you jump in the agitation of the water breaks causes the plankton to glow, making it a sight in such darkness. Once below water if you clapped your hands, paddle or any motion really it becomes a nighttime light show. One of the things I think you should definitely treat yourself to experiencing.
Grab a Drink and Watch a Fire Dance
Cambodia is the land of the $0.50 beer and on the island you can find that the drinks are flowing. One of my favorite bars on the island has to be The Big Easy. It has that chilled vibe I always am down for and is manned both by locals and expats. The music is always on, the owners are super nice, the food surprisingly GREAT, and the drinks STRONG. Check it out and don’t miss the nightly fire show out front!
I spent about a week on the island and I regret nothing. After two months of constant moving, traveling through dozen of cities and three countries I wanted to have an undetermined pause on my adventure. I am glad I found myself on little Koh Rong, the island life is something you need every once in a while. Both expats and locals have such a vibe about them that their mainland counterparts doesn’t possess.
This place is a real gem for the country because NOT SO MANY tourists even know about it making it the perfect getaway. Come recharge your weary batteries of life on the road, get your mind straight, your body back on track and onwards to your next destination. Keep this Cambodia’s little secret for as long as you can!