Dec 04 2012
With some stiff competition in the beauty pageant of Cambodian islands, Koh Tonsay is the most easily accessible from the mainland and still under-developed enough for a proper castaway experience. With no motor vehicles, no mains electricity and few residents, welcome to the simple life. Only 20 minutes’ boat ride from Kep, Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island) makes for a pleasant day trip or a lazy few days of relaxing.
Boats leave the ferry ‘port’ in Kep regularly throughout the day — a return ticket will cost around $7 or pay $30 for a boat with enough seating for eight to 10 people. Travel agencies near the bus stop can organise tuk tuk collections, boat tickets and accommodation. Or just turn up at the jetty in the morning to make your own boat arrangements and find somewhere to sleep when you arrive. Weekends and public holidays get busy and may require booking ahead, but on a normal weekday the island will be beautifully peaceful.
The main beach is about 600 metres long, with a police station on one end (it’s a hardship posting, obviously) and a landing stage by the rocks at the other. There are eight ‘resorts’, each with a beachside restaurant shack and a collection of stilted bungalows arranged around a lawn with coconut palms. Accommodation runs the length of the beach, with a choice of single or duplex huts. The cheapest, at $6, do not have their own bathroom. Pay up to $15 for a sit-down toilet and cold shower, or between $8-$12 for a squat toilet, bucket shower and tap. Forget complementary toothbrushes and air-con — rooms come with a bed and a mosquito net. And that’s about it.
There are no rabbits on Koh Tonsay, despite the Khmer name translating as Rabbit Island. If you are a fan of animals, however, there are plenty of chickens, dogs, snakes and insects. That frog using your toilet as habitat is all part of the fun. Bring repellant, a torch and a sense of humour — lights go out at 22:00 when the generators are turned off, then there’s only the starry sky to light your way.
There are two ways to enjoy Rabbit Island. The first involves a hammock, a book and a plate of the freshest crabs you’ve ever eaten. Nothing beats watching the chef wade into the sea to select your lunch from a crab pot, then choose a newly-picked coconut to go in the curry sauce. A post-prandial float in an inner tube or a beach massage will take away the stress if things are just too hectic.
For more active types, the other option is making your own entertainment. Follow the jungle path which starts just beyond the jetty by the rocks, past kelp farms in the sea and several rocky little bays to a less used beach about 10 minutes’ walk away. At a steady pace, it’s possible to circumnavigate the entire island in a couple of hours with a visit to the fishing village on the other side, but be prepared to wade or scramble if you get lost.
Snorkels and masks are available to hire and there’s plenty of colourful fish to watch in the warm shallow water. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for occasional jelly fish and spiky sea anemones that will spoil your fun (although your friends will probably love an opportunity to try out pee-related first aid remedies).
Definitely not flashpacking, Koh Tonsay will float your boat if you appreciate a good sunset and you’re not averse to shower dodging. Come on over, the crab’s waiting for you!
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