Incorporating the Andaman Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia… and more

Southeast Asia Pilot by Bill O’Leary & Andy Dowden

Cambodia Koh Rong Group

Racer MarinaSailing Yacht AsiaIMAGE asia

Fifteen miles offshore are the dozen islands of the Koh Rong Group. Koh Rong is the second largest in the country behind Koh Kong at the Thai border. The main island has four small villages: Koh Tuich, Dam Dkeuw, Prek Svay and Soksan. There are more than 15 guesthouses and bungalows on Koh Rong and smaller Koh Rong Samloem, many of them foreign owned.

These islands are earmarked for high-end, environmentally planned, resort development. The Royal Group, headed by Kith Meng, has been granted a 99-year lease by the government to develop the main islands and they have already begun construction of the main north-south road and electrical infrastructures.

Koh Rong is already setting the benchmark for luxury tourism with the recent opening of Song Saa Private Island on a pair of islets in the northeast bay. Song Saa means ‘Darling’ in Khmer.

The east and west coasts of both islands offer plenty of year-round anchorage opportunities in the many sheltered beaches and bays. Forbes Magazine recently rated the pearl-white sand beaches of Koh Rong as some of the best in Asia. Certainly the three-mile powder white sand beach on the west coast of the main island rivals the best in Thailand. South China Sea water clarity cannot compete with the fast-recycling Andaman Sea, but around Koh Rong the visibility runs up to 10 metres with plenty of healthy coral and abundant tropical marine life.

Southeast Asia Pilot co-author, Andy Dowden, checking out 5-mile Beach on Koh Rong - Photo by Bill O’Leary
Southeast Asia Pilot co-author, Andy Dowden, checking out 5-mile Beach on Koh Rong - Photo by Bill O’Leary

A SOUTH KOH RONG 15 miles from Serendipity Beach

SOUTH KOH RONG. 10°40.584N, 103°17.336E

Anchor north of Ilot Sud off the Pura Vida Bungalow development in 4-6 metres on a sandy bottom. The main access jetty servicing Paradise and Treehouse bungalows, Koh Rong Backpackers and Rudy’s House are tucked in with the fishing village in the southwest of the bay.

Ilot Sud is surrounded by shallow reef and is one of the favourite diving and snorkelling daytrip destinations for charter boats from Sihanoukville. There are numerous bungalows and restaurants in this bay because of its close proximity to the mainland. Hitching a boat ride back to Serendipity Beach is easy from here.

B 5 MILE BEACH 18 miles from Serendipity Beach

5-MILE BEACH. 10°40.20N, 103°15.28E

Anchor in 4-6 metres off the Broken Heart Guest House or anywhere north along this magnificent silica white sand, all-tide beach. In the north end is The Anchor Chum guest house with four higher-end bungalows. Nicknamed ‘5-Mile Beach’, this three-mile stretch of pearl-white sand is superb, definitely one of the last true paradises in the South China Sea.

Scarily reminiscent of Phuket’s long west-facing Bang Tao Beach in the 80s, this currently peaceful and undeveloped gem has the potential to be the likely location for The Royal Group’s most up-market managed hotel brands. We can only hope Jetskis will be outlawed here.

C NORTH BAY 21 miles from Serendipity Beach

NORTH BAY. 10°43.57N, 103°11.75E

Anchor in 5-8 metres off the small headland in the middle separating the two main beaches. There is an all-tide creek mouth on the right beach close to the rocks. Take your dinghy for a wild exploration a mile up into the mangrove creek.

The small right indent beach at the entrance provides shelter if a southwester blows in and has a private dwelling ashore that could be a future bungalow development.

D SONG SAA PRIVATE ISLAND 16 miles from Serendipity Beach

SONG SAA PRIVATE ISLAND. 10°46.08N 103°15.85E

Anchor at least half a mile to the north of these islets in 5-9 metres. The village adjacent on northeast Koh Rong has two jetties with rustic shops and some facilities ashore. Many of the management and staff for Song Saa live here and can help sort out fuel and some supplies for visiting yachts.

The Song Saa Private Island is the most exclusive luxury resort in the country and, as such, requests that all visiting yachts first contact the management via email before approaching their private jetty. The restaurants and facilities are strictly for paying guests. info@songsaa.com

Over-water Villas at Song Saa private island - Photo by Bill O’Leary
Over-water Villas at Song Saa private island - Photo by Bill O’Leary
Koh Rong Samloem

Three miles south of Koh Rong is little sister island, Koh Rong Samloem, the third largest in the country. As with many names in Cambodia, this island has many spellings – it’s also known by Koh Rung Samloem, Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Rong Samlon and Kaoh Rung Samlem.

The Marine Conservation Cambodia Organisation has discovered seven species of seahorse around the island and is educating the locals on how to best protect this unique and rare marine resource. www.marineconservationcambodia.org

Koh Rong Samloem is completely owned by the Cambodian Navy, who maintain a significant base here in north Saracen Bay. At the time of survey the Cambodian Government has not yet sold a 99-year lease on this amazing island. Perhaps they’re saving the best for last.

E SARACEN BAY, KOH RONG SAMLOEM 13 miles from Serendipity Beach

SARECEN BAY. 10°36.10N, 103°18.26E

Saracen is a heart-shaped east-facing bay on Koh Rong Samloem, providing great shelter in the southwest monsoon. Anchor in 5-8 metres off the jetty in the north of the bay.

The road from the jetty takes you north to the small fishing village of M’Pei Bei (‘Bay 23’ in Khmer). The village and some excellent beaches are tucked into the shelter behind Koh Kon. M’Pay Bay Bungalows, Ecosea and Island divers are all located here.

South in Saracen Bay is ‘The Beach’ resort and beach club, where anchorage can be found off the long beach in 4-6 metres. The resort welcomes visiting yachts.

F LAZY BEACH, KOH RONG SAMLOEM 15 miles from Serendipity Beach

LAZY BEACH. 10°33.84N, 103°18.04E

Anchor in 3-5 metres in sand directly off the jetty for the famous Lazy Beach bungalows. Yachties are welcome ashore at the restaurants and can use the beach without fuss.

Koh Dek Koule - Photo by Bill O’Leary
Koh Dek Koule - Photo by Bill O’Leary

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.

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