1. For nightlife: Koh Rong
Recent years have seen sarong-wrapped backpackers heading to Cambodia’s second largest island for its satiny, crescent-shaped beaches, stained at the shores by gentle surf. And where such nomads converge, the party scene is cranked up.
At Koh Toch village, all-night dance fests spill out from bars, backed by fire dancers, and DJ set lists of techno, drum and bass, and electro music. Free-flowing drinks and repetitive beats aside, do make a stop at the laid-back Dragon Den Pub to sample its home-brewed craft beers. On moonless nights, leave the glare of string lights framing Koh Toch behind and head to Lonely Beach or Coconut Beach to feast your eyes on bioluminescent plankton. By day, work up a sweat at High Point Adventure Park, which has an obstacle course as well as three zip lines that will take you whizzing through the forest.
Travel with: Your most gregarious buddies
Must-pack: A money belt to store cash; most establishments do not accept credit cards
Best room to book: A seaside villa at peaceful Sok San Beach Resort
2. For marine exploration: Koh Rong Sanloem
Fringed by 37km of pearly white coastline, Koh Rong’s laid-back little sister has some of the dreamiest beaches in South-east Asia, with limpid waters that make for an exceptional snorkelling experience.
Paddle off from the western side of the island to view marine creatures darting about rocks and reefs. And though it is the island’s most developed beach, the yawning Saracen Bay boasts pristine waters perfect for swimming in. If you prefer to explore deeper, sign up for a diving trip with The Dive Shop Cambodia, which runs PADI certification courses.
Travel with: Water-obsessed siblings whom you suspect were born with gills
Must-pack: A cover-up for transitioning from sea to land activities, as locals are rather conservative
Best room to book: The Deluxe Dome, a surreal dome-shaped bungalow with a private terrace that sits right on the beach, at Moonlight Resort
3. For wildlife: Koh Thmei
If you’d rather have a close encounter with an endangered brahminy kite than a ruddy sunbather, head to this 40 sq km island that is part of Ream National Park. Only a small cluster of local fishermen live on the 40 sq km Eden, whose main inhabitants are of the feathered and fur-coated variety.
Swinging, slinking and fluttering beneath the thick cover of vegetation are langurs, lizards, wetland felines and more than 100 species of birds. Spot them on a guided trek – book it at the Ream National Park headquarters (tel: +855 016 328 882) – during which you can also discover the island’s two main peaks, creeks, rivers and estuaries. Backed by gnarled mangroves, Koh Thmei’s shoreline is more or less devoid of tourists, and you may spot dolphins and sea eagles from here. Visit now, while the vibe is still languid; we hear that a portion of the island is being developed to build a resort.
Travel with: Your family, which fancies itself the real-life Thornberrys
Must-pack: Mosquito repellent and hiking boots
Best room to book: There’s only one resort on the island: the eco-friendly Koh Thmei Resort, which gets its electricity from solar panels and biodiesel, and allows you to stay close to nature in its rustic wooden bungalows
4. For exclusive luxury: Krabey Island
Exclusivity is the latest buzzword in the realm of Cambodian tropical getaways. For that, look to the private, previously uninhabited Krabey Island, where luxury brand Six Senses is set to open Six Senses Krabey Island this year.
Here, you can expect 40 sustainably built villas with individual plunge pools; a spa offering ancient Cambodian healing treatments; sleep ambassadors to help you achieve a restful sleep; and more. Couples especially will be well set up for blissed-out moments with the outdoor cinema, observatory and elevated bar overlooking the sea.
Travel with: Your romantic partner in decadence
Must-pack: Chic resort wear, for dining at on-site restaurant Indochine
Best room to book: A Retreat and Reserve villa, which comes equipped with a mini wine cellar
– TEXT BY CARA YAP
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED, ALAMY (CLICK PHOTOS), 123RF.COM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.