At the time of writing the town of Sihanoukville was an uncontrolled and unmanageable building site with roads destroyed and traffic backed up for miles.
The onslaught of mainland Chinese casino investment projects has overwhelmed the city and its once glorious beaches. The International Airport and advent of direct international flights has turned this once sleepy fishing village into flashing-lights Las Vegas of the east.
The provincial capital is a sprawling concrete high-rise mess over the top of Victory Hill down into Kampong Saom commercial port to the north. The tourist beaches run to the south and north from the Golden Lion five-way roundabout.
There are currently sixty or more Chinese casino resorts operating in Sihanoukville with dozens more in the pipeline. You could be forgiven for thinking the entire area was a casino province of China.
The capital Phnom Penh is only 200 kilometres north, but the journey can take up to four hours by bus or private taxi due to the sometimes-poor condition of the two-lane highway. It’s worth the ride to get an idea of the country and its people.
We mention only a few of our favourite anchoring spots, but it’s possible to anchor anywhere in a comfortable depth off the several beaches all separated by rocky headlands.
The main tourist beaches are lined with thatch-roofed shacks offering cold drinks, umbrellas and chairs, BBQ seafood, evening parties and water sports. However, recently many have been cleared and roads diverted to make way for the high-rise developments going in at a rapid pace.
US dollars are king in this casino town and it’s best to convert whatever currency you have into dollars prior to arrival. The exchange rates are unpredictable − except for the US$. At the time of writing 1 US$ was equal to just over 4000 Riel.
Sihanoukville is currently exploding onto the beach ‘Casino Capital’ of the South China Sea. As always, the young backpacker crowds, having forged the way are fast being forced out to find cheaper, more environmentally sensitive, spots.
Cruise ships already stop by at the port, albeit infrequently, during their voyages in Southeast Asia. Other private casino ships, serviced by daily ferry and wildly adorned, are permanently moored just offshore near Koh Pous. These vessels are regionally known as “Cruise to Nowhere” casino operations.
>>> Click here for a complete list of anchorages in Southeast Asia Pilot.
Anchor in 6-8 metres in sand off the busy concrete jetty at Serendipity Beach in the north of Ochheuteal Bay. This is the main town and tourist centre of Sihanoukville.
The bar on the jetty head offers cold beer and a chance to observe the daytripper antics on the party boats during the high season. The road leading up the hill is lined with bars, hotels, casinos, restaurants and spas.
It’s easy to get a motorbike tuk-tuk and most local destinations are US$7-15 with the airport drop between $20-25. On the top of the hill the road splits at the Golden Lion Monument roundabout to the town centre, or north and south to the many other regional beaches.
Five miles southeast is Ostres Beach in the southern limit of Ochheuteal Bay. Anchorage here is best off the creek in the south in 4-7 metres at 10°33.268N, 103°33.247E. Just south, and in close offshore, are the nearby islands of Koh Tres, Koh Praeus, Koh Russy (Bamboo Island), Koh Ta Kiev and the new luxury Six Senses resort on Koh Krabey. Calm anchorage in most conditions can be found anywhere amongst these islands in 5-10 metres off the fringing reefs. Best is down at Koh Russy (Bamboo Island) on the east side off the sand spit in 5-7 metres at 10°30. 010N, 103°33.856E.
During the northeast season the west bay is best at 10°29.607N, 103°33.299E. There are resorts on both sides and a paved road connects the two. Contact the management at Six Senses prior to any visit ashore at Koh Krabey.
3 miles from Serendipity Beach
Anchor in 6-8 metres on a sandy bottom in front of the Victory Beach Pier. Ashore is the base of the KAMSAB in the building just over the road at the top of the small incline.
Depth at the jetty head is around 3 metres, making it possible for shoal draft vessels to tie up alongside.
We mention this location as a short stopover to clear into the country, but recently we’re told that some visiting yachts have been diverted back to clear in at Koh Kong near the Thai border. Best check online prior to visiting Cambodia by yacht.
Be careful taking your dinghy ashore here on the north side of the jetty at night because there’s a life-sized concrete buffalo half submerged in the water near the beach.
This is a relaxed beach with plenty of seafood ashore. Half a mile south is the massive bridge to the island of Koh Pous. This was built to provide access to the private island where a casino, hotel and villa developments were meant to be well underway.
Between editions of this book, Koh Pous remains undeveloped but Sihanoukville has undergone massive transformations. Air draft and depth on the bridge is not a problem for normal yachts.
5 miles from Serendipity Beach
Entering Kampong Saom Port from the west, keep Koh Dek Koule (Mirax Private Island) to starboard and beware the clearly marked drying rocks to port just off the entrance.
From a distance the wind generator on the south wall is clearly visible. Once safely inside, keep well clear of the busy port docks on the south. The low breakwater around the port provides shelter for anchoring yachts anywhere out of the commercial traffic at a comfortable depth.
Directly east of the entrance are plenty of wooden and concrete piers for easy shore trips by dingy. Since last writing the Marina Oceania in the northwest corner has been abandoned and broken up. Some local eclectic vessels remain at broken docks and one sailing yacht was anchored off a pontoon and tied stern-to.
We’ve dropped this option for visiting yachts and now recommend anchoring much closer to the southeast corner, since it’s a long way around by Tuk Tuk on a horrible dirt road. Best anchor nearer to where any fibreglass vessels are already alongside the docks and ask around for anyone who can speak English. Plastic will get caught in your prop.
South of the port enclosure is the Customs office, with several fibreglass speedboats and some new luxury Taiwanese-built motor cruisers alongside. Sihanoukville town and the beaches are only a 25 minutes Tuk Tuk or taxi ride away, but the road is a nightmare.
4 miles from Serendipity Beach
Anchor in 4-6 metres on sand anywhere in the bay. A casino and 5-star resort are planned for the beach, but for now this is still a great sheltered anchorage close to all the action but far enough away to be peaceful.
While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.
The copyright holders of all content, in print and digital editions, are: Published book © Phuket Publicity Services Ltd. Part. / Texts © Bill O’Leary, Andy Dowden & Grenville Fordham / Design, layout & charts © Grenville Fordham / Photography: © as indicated in photo credits. All rights reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means - graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or otherwise – without the express permission of the publisher, Phuket Publicity Services Limited Partnership, and the other copyright owners.