As Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sonloem are becoming more popular, domestic travelers are seeking alternatives, and Koh Sdach is the candidate of choice for many. Koh Sdach (literally “King Island”) is a small island off the coast of Koh Kong’s Kirisakor District. On the map, you can find it adjacent to the lower-left (south-western) corner of the “rectangular” section of Cambodia’s coastline.
The island is surprisingly accessible, taking less than 5 minutes on a speedboat from the nearest port. There is much to like about the island, but like visiting other nature’s gifts in Koh Kong, commuting within the province is the tricky bit. Nonetheless, this can be overcome, so if you are genuinely seeking a natural feel of Cambodia’s coastal environment and community, then Koh Sdach deserves your consideration.
KOH SDACH, AN IDEAL GEOGRAPHY
The whole island of Koh Sdach is a bit more than 1 km2, but its location makes it one of a kind. We’ve already mentioned above how very close it is to mainland. The active speedboat services make getting on the island feels like taking a stroll, and very much so for the locals of about 1,000 families.
Wondering why a small island has that many people? – Fishing. Despite its history of logging, the island has grown to where it is today due to its active fishing activities. Koh Sdach owes this advantage, again, to its geography. It is not a single island, but one in an archipelago of twelve. Many of the islands are home to modest coral communities that provide shallow-water habitats for saltwater fish and other marine species, making the surrounding waters bursting with colorful ecosystems.
But even before you go underwater, Koh Sdach has plenty that soothes the eyes and the souls. Its rocky coast is regularly lined with shallow, gently-sloping sandy beaches.
As our boat touched the sandy shore, we found ourselves surrounded by bluish-turquoise water. The anticipating manager of Koh Sdach Eco Resort soon greeted us and helped unload our belongings. After settling down and taking a shower, we made the most out of our first evening on the island watching sunset on the private beach.
KOH SDACH, THE RING LEADER
Now, if the above is not enough to convince you that Koh Sdach is a worthwhile alternative to other coastal destinations in Cambodia, we have a bit more to share. Visiting Koh Sdach is never about visiting Koh Sdach island alone. The Koh Sdach archipelago has more to offer. For instance, the three northernmost islands in the group (Koh Andeuk, Koh Totoeng, and Koh Chan) have many diving sites. Interestingly, the services are provided by centers Octopuses Garden and Kuda Diver based in Koh Sdach!
VISITING KOH KMOUCH
Other islands also have their own attractions, so at the recommendation of the Manager, we arranged for a boat trip for the second day. Services provided by the diving centers and other speedboat operators can be costly, at least for the local standard, so we went by the Manager’s suggestion and engaged his friend who’s an experienced fisherman who knows the area inside-out.
We started with a small, uninhabited island immediately to the southwest locally known as Koh Kmouch (“Ghost Island”). This island has attracted many tourists due to its quietness, white sandy beach and crystal-clear shallow water on its eastern side. The island has recently been renamed to Koh Riek Reay (“Happy Island”), for reasons you can guess. For those interested in life under the sea, the waters around the island also host a lively shallow-water coral community.
With our new fisherman friend and his friend (who’s also an experienced swimmer), we spent the first bit of the morning swimming and testing our snorkeling mask, before snorkeling off the concave southern coast of the island. Although the corals weren’t as colorful as those we’ve seen on TV, it was our first snorkeling experience! And it felt otherworldly to be swimming with schools of fish, passing by sea porcupines and capturing species of corals and vibrantly-colored clams to share with you here (:
VISITING KOH SMACH
Our next destination was Koh Smach.
After a physically active morning, we stopped at Koh Smach for a quick lunch of instant noodle. Koh Smach is the biggest of the island group, but has very few houses. When we arrived, we saw a group of about 20 people camping along the beach. We went for a walk up the eastern side of the island ourselves after lunch. We continued to be amazed by how clear the water was and how many fish there were swimming around Koh Smach (there were a lot!). Indeed, Koh Smach is well-known for having the biggest and longest sandy beach of all the 8 islands in the cluster, making it perfect for swimming.
OUR ACCOMMODATION ON KOH SDACH
There are only a handful of accommodations on Koh Sdach, most of them are homestays and guesthouses located in or next to the fishing village. If you want to learn about the village and its people, then a range of options is available for you. Yet, as said above, the southern end of the island is more quiet and private. This was exactly why we chose Koh Sdach Eco Resort.
We took full advantage of the place, spending about an hour star-gazing on the pier, which extended a good 120 meters (~400ft) into the sea. Calmed by the cool breeze and lulled by the gentle wave’s white noise, we slept in a tent on the beach the first night. The next morning, we woke up early to see the sunrise!
We tried the bungalow the second night. The current owner, a pleasant young man from France, took over this place a couple years ago. And though the construction has slightly aged, it made for a decent stay on an island far away from the city.
As mentioned above, there are two options of accommodation you can choose from: bungalow for $45/night or tent for $15/night. Price may change based on seasons.
TRANSPORTATION TO KOH SDACH
Direct bus from Phnom Penh to Koh Sdach is not currently available. To reach Koh Sdach, we took a local van at Mondial that usually leaves at 7:00 am, and arrived at Kirisakor district at around 4:30 before taking speed boat to Poy Barang, located in the southern part of the island and also where our accommodation is located.