No less than sixty Cambodian islands dot the azure Gulf of Thailand. Easily accessible from Sihanoukville, Kep and Koh Kong, a growing number house rustic bungalows for overnight stays. They may not have roads, cashpoints or mains electricity, but this is a small price to pay for squeaky-white beaches, warm translucent seas and an escapist, easy-going vibe. Controversially, a number of these islands have been leased to developers, mooted for super luxury resorts, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how long this rustic tranquility will remain. Time is of the essence if you wish to see them in their humblest form. Here are the best of Cambodia’s islands:
Best for escapism: Koh Totang
Koh Totang, a tiny dolphin-shaped island in the Koh S’Dach archipelago, is an escapist’s fantasy. Just seven people, plus a handful of roosters and dogs, live permanently on this wooded 650,000 square metre isle along with the owners and guests of the Crusoe-esque Nomads Land, an idyllic, five-bungalow retreat set on its sand-swept eastern shores. If what you’re looking for is complete tranquility, a chance to channel your inner yogi, time for beach-combing on deserted sands or a perch to explore neighbouring islands, few can beat this little gem.
Best for volunteering: Koh S’Dach
With over 2000 inhabitants, this small island houses the largest community across the Koh S’Dach archipelago. Fishing is king here and the authentic, yet surprisingly prosperous village is unaffected by tourism. Shallow Waters, a British marine NGO, has a base on the island and encourages wannabe marine conservationists to volunteer their services surveying coral reefs, collecting data and getting involved in community projects. You stay in over-water dorms, and non-divers learn the ropes on arrival.