Camp it up!
Providing ample opportunity to get back to nature, Crusoe Island specialises in DIY accommodation, renting tents with mattresses and pillows for happy campers to pitch. The even more budget-conscious can stay in just a hammock, while those who err more towards glamping can opt for one of the four open-sided bungalows for added comfort.
Choose from the already established camping spots with seaviews, or select your own favourite spot under the trees. If you don’t know a guy-rope from a fly-sheet, they’ll even put up the tent for you. It’s worth mentioning that one couple we spoke to who were camping found their particular tent not so waterproof when the monsoon heavens opened, though staff were happy to swap their mattress they described as ‘a swimming pool’ for a new, dry one — the owner told us the next day another staff member had given them an old tent by mistake. Ask for a newer tent, as they do have them.
Individually-styled and secluded double bungalows are also available. Two are ‘ensuite’ and cost the same: ‘The View’, which has a toilet supposedly hidden behind a curtain away from the bed platform and ‘The Explorer’, with a bathroom lacking any privacy at all. Open to the elements — no window or shutter — all bungalows come with a bed and mosquito net and are not suited to those with serious privacy issues, since it’s easy for anyone walking past along the path to the beach / camping sites to have a peek in. ‘The Explorer’ has a tree branch walkway to a small wonky-looking private deck over the beach, while ‘The View’ has a view of its own patch of beach.
We stayed in the latter last time and found it to be attractively built and decorated, with colourful orange drapes and patterned floor mats. These touches make these premium bungalows easily the best decorated on the island and one of the most memorable across Cambodia’s islands, though a little at odds with the simplicity and basic level of the dark adjoining bathroom, which was decked out with only a shelf, toilet with no lid, bucket shower and minimal privacy for when mother nature calls. We also walked past ‘The Hut’ but it looked so basic from the outside we reckon you’re better off saving the money and camp instead.
‘The View’ and ‘The Explorer’ have solar power for lights only which turn on at 18:00 and should last until the early hours of the morning. Note that there are no power sockets at Crusoe Island, even in the communal area or behind the bar — this is reserved only for staff purposes as it drains the solar panel that lights the bar and bungalows. We had to head to Ten 103 to borrow their power instead; Coral Beach also has power for guests at night. However, the owner of Crusoe Island, Liam, has an ingenious environmentally-friendly idea to solve the issue of lack of power and has created a bicycle that can be pedalled to generate power. This still needed some fine-tuning at the time of our visit so wasn’t quite yet up and running. For those looking to just lay down on the beach, it might make you think twice if you really needed to charge something.
The jungle camp centre sometimes has fires by the bar and restaurant area though the place seemed to have been a little unlucky with staffing issues when we last visited, meaning not much was going on and the communal areas looked uninviting, though with the potential to be a social and laid-back retreat. For campers there are two bush showers and bucket flush toilets, which you might need to queue for when there’s more than a few guests.
The menu is comprehensive though for dinner you need to get a pre-order in around sunset (staff forgot to mention this to us on arrival) — the restaurant doesn’t stay open late. Popular breakfast items include affordable build-your-own baguettes. Water refills are available at 50 cents a pop.
Crusoe Island has several boats so it’s easy to arrange a trip around the island for fishing, snorkelling or cruising.
As camping isn’t as fun in the rainy season, Crusoe Island is not open all year round, so check ahead if you’re planning a visit between May and October. Direct boats run from Otres beach leaving at 11:00 from Rise Guesthouse which run when they have bookings, so you will need to book ahead. Alternatively you can arrange a pick up from Ream, collected from Ream Beach Guesthouse. The only way to confirm a bungalow is to pay online in advance; campers should have no problem to turn up and pick a spot, providing the boat is running that day, so check ahead. The boat returns to Sihanoukville from Crusoe Island usually between 08:00 and 08:30.
By Caroline Major
Last updated on 5th December, 2014.