Song Saa Private Island, a new eco-resort in the emerging Indochinese haven of Cambodia, once a hotspot for despots and human suffering, is now an emerging hotspot for adventure tourism.
Song Saa is a pair of postcard-perfect islands belonging to the Koh Rong archipelago, in the Gulf of Thailand’s relatively unspoilt tropical waters. Cambodia occupies a small stretch of South China Sea water frontage between Thailand and Vietnam. Song Saa sits across the Gulf of Thailand from Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Their name means “The Lovers” in Khmer.
The Koh Rong archipelago is being likened to the laid-back treasures that were Thailand’s islands before Leonardo DiCaprio frollicked on them in The Beach and inspired every backpacker from Birmingham to Bundoora to do likewise.
The conjoined islands of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong have been painstakingly and sustainably developed by Australian couple Rory and Melita Hunter, who hope to set a development standard in the region and steer Cambodia’s islands away from some of the excesses of their neighbours.
The 27-room resort, built with local materials, “brings exciting opportunity but also an incredible responsibility to set a benchmark in sustainable development, to pave the way for future development in this untouched region of south-east Asia,” says Rory. True to their word, the Hunters have set up a team of marine biologists and scientists to survey and protect the surrounding marine reserve and have created opportunities for local communities in hospitality, agriculture and aquaculture.
But enough with the social responsibility. Time at Song Saa will largely be spent marvelling at one’s own good fortune, holidaying among the pristine rainforest and dreamy white beaches of coastal Cambodia and communing with dugongs, seahorses and exotic reef fish.
“Time at Song Saa will largely be spent marvelling at one’s own good fortune, holidaying among the pristine rainforest and dreamy white beaches of coastal Cambodia …”
Accommodation channels Cambodian fishing-village chic with its stilted bungalows above the ocean, on the beach or in the jungle, fitted with sundecks and plunge pools. There’s also a two-bedroom Royal Villa with private jetty, for those so inclined.
Dining is distinctly Khmer in flavour and makes the most of the gulf’s rich bounty of (sustainable) seafood. Balance the indolence with yoga or meditation, kayaking, snorkelling, village visits, or whip up your next feast at a Khmer cooking lesson.
Cambodia’s weather is most settled during the dry season, which roughly corresponds to our summer (December to February). It is wet from June until early November, and the humidity builds to super-sweaty levels from April.
Fly to Bangkok or Singapore and on to Phnom Penh, then take a private car (booked through Song Saa) for the three-hour lift to Sihanoukville. Song Saa is a 30-minute speedboat ride across the sea from Sihanoukville.
Song Saa’s “Always Inclusive” rates cover everything once you arrive, from canapés to liquor cabinet. Priced from $US668-$1288 ($A645-$1244) per villa per night. (Children five and under stay for free.)
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