KOH KONG (KONG ISLAND)
Koh Kong is a quaint border province that has long had a reputation as a 'Wild West' frontier location. Situated at the southwestern tip of the country near the mouth of the Kah Bpow River, the city is only 10 kilometers from the Thai border and 280 kilometers from the capital. Koh Kong has a long coastline and a large forested interior that embraces part of the Cardamom Mountains and a section of Kirirom National Park. Its tourist attractions include a theme park, beaches, waterfalls and a rich mangrove forest.
There are many offshore islands nearby Koh Kong, the most interesting of which is Koh Kong Khoa, a practically uninhabited jungle paradise with seven magnificent white sandy beaches. This island is only about a forty five minute water taxi ride from shore.
Koh Kong has enjoyed quite a few tourism development projects that have turned the province into a great tour destination. The province is linked to Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk Province via Sre Ambel by National Route 4. This newly built road provides visitors yet another option to access the province by road. A drive on this road is highly recommended to those who love nature; the road winds through some of Cambodia's least developed and unspoiled regions - the Cardamom Mountains. Amidst thick forest, streams and charming waterfalls, the adventure rewards with scenic sites for stopovers and great photography.
Mangroves are spread along the coast from Kep to Koh Kong, and they cover an area of over 50,000 hectares in Koh Kong. Mangroves are specialized tropical trees that live on the edge where rainforests meet oceans. These ‘rainforests by the sea’ are rich breeding grounds for shrimps, prawns, crabs, shellfish, snails and fishes, especially the beautiful Mud skippers that seem to enjoy the surface more than being in water. They are also nesting sites for many shore birds, lizards, sea turtles, and many other exotic animal species.
Highlights of Koh Kong
Cham Yeam Resort- located about 10 km northwest of Koh Kong provincial town near the Cambodian-Thai border, it is a semi-natural site and one of the most beautiful resorts in Cambodia with several casinos and an international zoo, Koh Kong Safari World. It features beautiful coconut trees.
Khun Chhang Khun Phen Stupa- it sits on a rock in the middle of the sea tributary, about 1km from the provincial town. The site of its concrete stupa with 4m high has only 40 square meters and can only accommodate 10-15 visitors at a time.
Ta Tai Waterfall- a semi-natural site is located in Ta Tai village about 20km east of the provincial town. It has two stages: first stage is 5-6m high and second stage is 12-15m high.
Koh Moul or Koh Kong Krau- the biggest island in Cambodia with 22km long and 7km wide is located about 24km south of the town and 350m above sea level. It has many hills and is rich in natural scenery.
Koh Sdech- located about 81km south of the town, it features a long beach and the sea is filled with a variety of fish. It is excellent for snorkeling or scuba diving, as the water is clear and an array of coral can be seen growing at the bottom of the sea. SIHANOUKVILLE
Preah Sihanouk province is Cambodia's most famous beach town. Better known as Kampong Som to locals, it is about 230 km southwest of Phnom Penh and boasts pristine white-sand beaches, unspoiled tropical islands, and a dynamic nightlife.
Sihanoukville town sits in the center of a small peninsula that juts into the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Several beaches of fine pearl-white sand line the shore around the peninsula, all easily accessible from the town, each separated from the other as much by character as the rocky headlands between. The main beaches are lined with thatch roofed seafood shacks offering cold drinks, umbrellas and chairs, BBQ, evening parties and water sports.
Ochheuteal and Serendipity Beaches are the most popular and the busiest with plenty of nearby hotels, guesthouses, bars and restaurants. On the other side of town, Victory Beach at the base of the Victory Hill is also popular, offering a somewhat more tranquil atmosphere. Otres Beach is similar to Ochheuteal but far less touristic and has a much more relaxed feel.
There are dozens of untouched islands off the coast of Preah Sihanouk: Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samlon both feature blissfully uncrowded beaches with palm-shaded shorelines. Being a beach town, there are also many sea-based activities for adventurous visitors, including boating, island-hopping, fishing, diving and snorkeling in crystal clear waters.
In the evenings, the nightlife heats up, and those in search of pulsing bars and nightclubs won't be disappointed. Many entertainment venues, especially those on Weather Station Hill, stay open well into the wee hours.
Islands for Scuba Diving
The waters off of Sihanoukville and the nearby islands offer some good scuba diving opportunities. Coral encrusted rocky reefs surround many of the local islands, supporting abundant hard and soft corals, sponges, anemones and an assortment of fish life including sting rays, moray eels and so on. Good dives sites can be found around the islands such as Koh Rung Samloem and Koh Rung within a two hour trip of town.
Koh Rung- The largest island near Sihanoukville is located west about 2-3 hour boat trip from town. Koh Rung covers almost 70km square, but the island is sparsely populated with only four large villages. It also has at least 23 beaches and 2 waterfalls.
Koh Rung Samloem- Koh Rung Samloem offers some of the better diving within daytrip distance, taking about 2-hour one way by local boat. The island is home to a small fishing village, three major beaches and several minor beaches. Rocky reefs around both islands host a variety of marine life in both shallow waters and at depths up to 18 meters. Species sightings include cobia, puffer fish, moray eels, octopus, rays, crabs, cuttlefish, scorpion fish, lion fish, barracuda, yellow goatfish, parrotfish and so forth.
Kep is a coastal city and former beach resort, 173 km southwest of Phnom Penh. The city was founded in 1908 during French colonial rule and was originally named Kep-sur-mer. Many of the French-style villas are overgrown and run-down, but Kep is slowly being redeveloped and tourism is reemerging. The colonial influence is noticeable in the city's Provençal-style architecture and French cuisine. Nowadays, Kep is known more for its oceanfront crab shacks and relaxed tropical atmosphere.
A small section of the beach doubles as a regular crab-trading depot and the Crab Market (Psar Kdam) on the water’s edge serves as a popular tourist destination. Fishermen bring in baskets of crabs by the boatload, and waterfront restaurants cook them fresh, usually boiled with a few fragrant sticks of famed Kampot pepper. Fish, squid and prawns are also on offer, often cooking slowly over coals at the front of all the restaurants.
For a relaxing day trip, visitors often travel to a nearby island such as Rabbit Island (Koh Thonsáy), which is only a short boat ride off Kep's coast. Here, you'll find beautiful seaside views, bamboo platforms and basic bungalows, and plenty of rustic charm. A boat back during the evening sunset is not to be missed.
Those looking to take a break from beachside lounging may wish to visit some of the local limestone caves, some of which contain holy shrines.