Photo: Tides are changing.

Diving and snorkelling

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The best time of year to go diving or snorkelling in and around Sihanoukville is December to April when the dry season and currents mean that visibility is at its best.

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July to September tend to be the windiest and stormiest months, which obviously effects visibility, though it has become harder to predict in recent years. Dive operations generally operate all year round and a couple of storm-free rainy season days can equally provide a worthwhile window of opportunity. Furthermore, while conditions might be less ideal in quiet months you’ll get more of that ocean all to yourself.

There are debates as to the pros and cons of Sihanoukville diving compared to that in neighbouring countries but Cambodia does offer some of the cheapest scuba-diving in the region in some of the least crowded waters. There isn’t the wealth and range of sites of the Andaman Coast for instance and with the explosion in development on Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem you have to fear for a Koh Tao style future of trampled reefs and industrial scale marine tourism yet, for now, the underwater flora and fauna are diverse and not too crowded.

The waters off Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem offer a top launching pad for beginners and snorkellers with shallow waters and light currents. Heading out to the islands further offshore, Koh Tang and Koh Prins, with their deeper, clearer waters and visibility up to 30 metres, are excellent for more experienced divers who may be rewarded with sightings of whale sharks, as well as eagle rays, barracuda, stingrays and leopard sharks. Cambodia doesn’t offer much in the way of wreck diving, but there are two sites off of Koh Tang at 30 to 40 metres depth.

For those wishing to take their PADI course, the slightly tougher conditions are an advantage say the dive shops since they will conspire to make a better diver out of you. The number of dive and training centres has multiplied in the last few years, but they seem to be carving out their own oceanic spaces so that you never usually see any other divers than the ones in your boat.

Although mostly operating around the off-shore islands, the dive and snorkelling operations below will usually have mainland offices as well and you can just as easily participate in dive courses or day trips while staying in Ochheuteal or Otres. There’s not generally any price difference though it will mean spending more time on boats and less in the water.

Eco Sea offers PADI courses as well as introductory, fun dives and snorkelling options. They do all of their dives on Koh Rong Samloem where they also rent out bungalows but have an office on Serendipity Beach Road. Eco Sea propose open water courses from $360 (3-day 2-night) or $410 deluxe open water (4-day 3-night) including free dorm accommodation.

Karmakazi Tours are actually based in Otres with their day tours departing weather permitting at 09:30 and returning around 16:00. Their speciality—the only operator we found in these parts—is snuba diving which as you well know is a snorkelling and scuba hybrid involving a surface-fed air supply. Instruction is obviously included and the system allows you to explore the marine environment up to a depth of 7 metres. 2 snuba dives are a $45 supplement on top of their standard $20 3-island boat tour. Snorkelling on Koh Tres and optional cliff jumping on Koh Ta Kiev are also included as are lunch and drinks making for a good value day out. In addition, Karmakazi organises Ream boat trips for $20 per person and night-time plankton viewing cruises for a roughly similar price depending on number of takers.

Koh Rong Dive Centre has been operating around the Koh Rong islands since 2012 and also proposes a range of PADI courses from fun dives through to dive master. They also organise programmes for kids and coral reef conservation awareness classes and have addresses on Koh Rong Samloem and Ochheuteal. Introductory dives are $60 or 2 for $80 with PADI course going for: $380 open water, $350 advanced, 1-day course $120. (All include pick-up from your hotel.) Snorkelling or plankton tours are the standard $20 per person.

Scuba Nation is the longest-standing Sihanoukville dive operator and still one of the most popular. Unusually they have a Phnom Penh, as well as Ochheuteal office so you can do some training in the capital before heading down to the islands. They offer the usual range of PADI courses and refresher and fun dives as well as having their own dedicated dive boat for liveaboard trips out to Koh Tang etc. The latter, with five dives, is priced at $220 for Koh Rong, $275 for Koh Tang and $325 for Koh Prins. (Liveaboard prices include meals and soft drinks.) Snorkelling goes for $30 per day including equipment and lunch while a two dive fun day is $85.

Sunboat Tours don’t offer scuba diving but do have a very good island hopping and snorkelling day tour available. Their very comfortable and spacious boat departs from the mainland daily, weather permitting, at 10:00 and after a day spent touring and snorkelling the Koh Rong Archipelago returns to Sihanoukville at 17:00. Price including buffet lunch, tea and coffee, tuk tuk transfers and equipment is a very reasonable $25 or $12 kids 6-11 and under 6 free. Their boat even has on-board showers to wash the salt off as well more essential facilities like a fully-stocked bar. There are several operators now offering these 1-day “island hopping” tours but this bunch has the best boat and best feedback. They don’t have an office but you’ll find their brochure in most receptions and travel agents or you can book online at the below address.

The Dive Shop offers PADI and National Geographic Diver courses as well as introductory, open water, advanced, rescue and dive master courses with a base on Koh Rong Samloem and again an office on Ochheuteal. They also organise multi-day trips to Koh Tang. Prices are comparable to KRDC and Scuba Nation above.

Eco Sea Serendipity Beach Rd, Ochheuteal (Also c/o Koh Rong Samloem Villas, Koh Rong) T: (034) 934 631, (016) 953 610, (096) 456 927 Open Mo–Fr 07:00-20:00
Koh Rong Dive Centre Serendipity Beach Rd, Ochheuteal (Also at Lime Beach, Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem) T: (034) 934 744
Karmakazi Tours Otres Beach Rd, Otres 1 T: (093) 473 636
Scuba Nation Serendipity Beach Rd, Ochheuteal (Also Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh) T: (034) 933 700, (012) 604 680, (012) 715 785
Sunboat Tours T: (016) 396 201
The Dive Shop Serendipity Beach Rd, Ochheuteal T: (034) 933 664


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