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Koh Rong

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lonely beach relax
As a 40something couple we stayed 8 nights on lonely beach resort and it suited our desires really w...

By sgharbaoui

Koh Rong is quite possibly that cliched island paradise you've been looking for, boasting pristine white beaches, turquoise water and limited development. For years the island was almost completely undeveloped save for a diving outfit and a few bungalows on either side of the island.

In late 2010 and early 2011, a number of new operations opened up, as well as regular boats to the island. Since late 2012, more accommodation has been built and an increasing number of visitors have been discovering the beauty of island life here. But with still only 18 sets of bungalows on the 78 square kilometre island at the time of writing in early 2013, it still has a near-deserted feel to it with just enough going on to make it comfortable.

The island is truly gorgeous, and well worth the two-and-a-half hour boat trip from Sihanoukville. There are seven bays on the island, all teeming with marine life, making for great snorkelling and diving. The much-touted millionaires' hang-out Song Saa Resort is to the north of the island, but you can save your cash and get the same paradise views at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. There's enough to keep even the most active visitor busy, with diving, snorkelling, mountain biking, trekking, kayaks and motorbike treks, and plenty of sand, sun and sea for those with more relaxed tastes.

The Cambodian government has sold Koh Rong to an investment group based in Cambodia, which has plans to build an airport and "ecological" resort. There's currently little sign of development though apart from a rough and ready road which connects some parts of the island, and the WiFi and mobile phone signal which now service most of the accommodation. If you must make that call, Hello Axiata and Metfone seem to get the strongest signals, particularly on Koh Touch beach.

Koh Rong has 43 kilometres of beaches, but the majority of bars and accommodation is on the southeast, by Koh Touch village. There's a shop, laundry services and a choice of eating, but no ATMs or internet cafes. The clientele closest to the village are mostly backpackers and divers, with expats and couples preferring more seclusion further along the beach. Other one-off resorts are set around the island at the northeast and southwest – ideal if you're looking for real peace and isolation.

The interior of the island is largely undeveloped and travelling between beaches requires trekking or a boat. One of the most beautiful beaches, north of Koh Touch, is known as Long Set beach, after the farmer who lives there growing cashews, coconuts and mangoes. Thanks to the views, it's thought it will be the first one to be developed. Around the point to the west of Koh Touch, the white coral sand bay known as 7km beach, with Sok San village at one end, is also a potential development site.

So far the development group has left the bungalows alone and they appear safe for the time being. The operations pay rent and have signed agreements saying they will leave whenever they are ordered to.

So if you want to take advantage of Koh Rong's perfect beaches, diving, snorkelling and phosphorescent night swimming (subject to availability), go now.

Rooms are highly sought after in high season, and it's better to book before you go, or arrive on the early ferry to catch rooms at Koh Touch beach. Be aware that the island does not have mains electricity and resorts rely on generators for power. Water is also a precious commodity, and most bathrooms employ an economical bucket flush system.

If you're not keen on sharing your digs with geckos and falling asleep to the sound of frogs, Koh Rong is probably not for you.

One of the problems of deserted beaches is that undisturbed sand can be the perfect habitat for sand flies. These small black flies like to bite, and leave itchy red marks that can irritate for days. The best approach is prevention – bring along some good strong repellant with DEET and apply it first thing in the morning as well as after the sun goes down.

While you're enjoying the turquoise waters, don't forget to look for sea urchins or sea eggs underfoot. The spines are painful if they embed in your sole and won't pull out easily. However, the discomfort will wear off in a couple of days and these particular creatures are not dangerous.

Being a small, mostly uninhabited island, medical help is very limited. The very friendly Sarah, who works with Koh Rong Dive Centre, offers first aid treatment on a donation basis from the blue house on the first pier at Koh Touch. However, for anything halfway serious, you'll need to return to Sihanoukville or Phnom Penh. Bring some supplies of iodine and plasters with you, and take care of yourself!

Related reading

Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
The best islands in Cambodia
The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
Why you should go to Cambodia
Check Koh Rong hotel rates on Agoda. Best price guarantee!

Text and/or map last updated on 30th October, 2013.

Last reviewed by:
Abigail has been stoned by villagers in India, become an honorary Kenyan tribeswoman, sweet talked border guards and had close encounters with black mambas. Her motto is: “Live to tell the tale.”

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Reviews about Koh Rong

lonely beach relax
By sgharbaoui, 08 February 2014
4.0  stars

Ditto on the sand flies & play it safe
By mrdome, 15 January 2012
4.0  stars

Great place... but... errr... bug...
By Anandshivan, 18 August 2011
4.0  stars

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