You don’t actually have to do anything on Koh Rong Sanloem, but if you want to, these are the best activities on the island.
Many of the guesthouses offer snorkeling gear for rent for $5 per day, and there are daily boat trips for snorkelers, run by most of the dive outfits listed below. The Dive Shop has a snorkeling trip from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for $25 that leaves from Saracen Bay and includes lunch. The best snorkeling can be found on the western side of the island, where there are rocks and reefs that make great hiding spots for fish and other sea life. The beach on the southern end of M’phey Bei Village also has a good snorkeling spot.
There are several dive outfits on Koh Rong Sanloem that can organize anything from PADI certification to fun dives. Dive shops operate on all of the popular Koh Rong Sanloem beaches, but if you’re looking to do a course, it’s best to organize it from Sihanoukville — Reef Dive Resort, The Dive Shop Cambodia, and EcoSea all have shops on Serendipity Beach Road. The Cambodian Diving Group has a place in M’phey Bei Village but can be contacted in advance online. It’s possible to set up a course once you’re already on the island, but if you want do something specific you should check in advance. While many of the diving outfits have bungalows on Koh Rong Sanloem for divers, those interested in more serious diving head to the outer islands, such as Koh Tang and Koh Prins.
PADI courses aren’t cheap — expect to pay $300 and up for an open water course — but they also have less expensive fun dives and multi-day diving packages that can take you around the islands.
Cambodian Diving Group
The Dive Shop
Reef Dive Resort
Kayaking and paddleboarding
Both kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available for rent at many guesthouses and dive shops around the island. The cost is $5 to $7 per hour for kayaks and $5 per hour for stand-up paddleboards. Both activities are easier for beginners on the Saracen Bay side of the island, where the water is calmer.
The obvious first choice of activity on Koh Rong Sanloem is lying in the sand and reading a good book. We recommend wearing ample sunscreen, but you’re also free to work on your tan if you so choose. The walk down Saracen Bay is an easy — and beautiful — one, and offers plenty of opportunities to stop and have a refreshing cool beverage.
You can catch a boat trip from any part of the island. There are daytime snorkeling trips that take 5 to 6 hours and include lunch, and afternoon trips that include dinner and a drink as well as a bit of snorkeling and sunset-watching. The cost for boat trips is around $25 per person. On Saracen Bay the Dive Shop sets up daytime snorkel trips and Kem, who has a sign up next to Octopussy Bar and is usually found there or at nearby Sunny Bar, offers sunset cruises. Drop by or give him a call at 096 640 8791 to make a reservation.
Koh Rong Sanloem has a stunning array of flora and fauna that can be appreciated on the treks listed in the section below. Or head east past Paradise Villas, where there’s a beautiful estuary that doesn’t require any arduous hiking. Notice the rock carving (graffiti, really) that’s dated 1876, during the French protectorate period. On a walk there we passed wild orchids and fruiting cashew trees, and we’ve seen hornbills on the island, too. Deeper in the jungle are long-tailed macaques, Asian palm civets, and many species of birds and lizards. There aren’t any large mammals, though, because in the period before tourism came to the islands the families who lived there were completely self-sufficient — there were no supply boats back then — and they over-hunted anything large and edible.
Koh Rong Sanloem, like everywhere else in Cambodia, is threatened by illegal logging, and the removal of jungle trees is already impacting the wildlife on the island. There’s a fantastic conservation organization, Wonderful Wildlife of Sanloem, that is working to help document the array of flora and fauna on the island. They have a website and Facebook page where you can check out some of the local wildlife and learn about their efforts to preserve the island’s biodiversity. They’re also in the process of building an information center at the Dive Shop in Saracen Bay, and if you’re interested, you can stop by and have a chat about local wildlife. See their Facebook page for more information.
The island has several trekking options. The most popular is a well-marked path that leads from Saracen Bay to the lighthouse, a rare remnant of the French protectorate period. The path starts just past Paradise Villas and the trek takes about four hours to get to the top and back. The stunning views of the island’s jungles and bay make the trip worth it! Make sure to bring water, and don’t neglect to tell someone at your guesthouse where you’re going.
Another trekking path goes from Saracen Bay to Sunset Beach. The path doesn’t lend itself to wearing flip-flops, as there are rocky parts and steep parts and jungle ants that like feet. The path from Saracen Bay to Lazy Beach is much easier — it’s a flat sandy track that takes about 20 minutes. We once managed to get lost in the jungle at night and had to be rescued by a fisherman bringing his water buffalo home, so we suggest that if you head over to enjoy the sunset, make sure to bring a flashlight.
Full moon party
Every month during high season there’s a full moon party on Koh Rong Sanloem in the jungle behind Saracen Bay — it’s the one night of the month that this usually quiet island lets its hair down. The music is what you’d expect: psy trance, jungle, and techno. Theoretically the party starts at 9 p.m. and goes until past sunrise, but at the time of writing the Tourist Police have been insisting that the festivities end by midnight. It remains to be seen if the organizers will be able to reach an agreement with the police to allow the party to run into the wee hours for high season.
Tickets cost $5 in advance or $10 at the “door.” Tickets can be bought in advance at Serendipity Pier in Sihanoukville and, on the island, at Sunset Beach in M’phey Bei Village and at Saracen Bay Resort.
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