The emerging, yet still sleepy, city of Koh Kong offers those lucky enough to discover this far south-western province some of the most breathtaking and rewarding forest and coastal scenery anywhere in South East Asia. From untouched beaches to stilted fishing hamlets, deserted offshore islands and the glorious jungles of the fabled Cardamom Mountains, this largely unexplored destination is looms as Cambodia’s potential eco-tourism epicentre.
There are dozens of sparkling waterfalls, alluvial mangrove forests and pristine inland waterways that provide spectacular day-trips, while scuba diving and island hopping offer crystal-clear ocean and white sanded beaches.
Botum Sakor National Park, Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary and the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor all teem with rare fauna, untamed jungle and stunning waterfalls; though seeing them on your own is a challenge, so making tour bookings all but essential. Most hotels can organise day trips over land or water, with the latter being the most scenic thanks to a network of streams and tributaries. Oasis Resort and Neptune Guesthouse specialise in excellent, consistently praised adventure tours, with the former also renting dirt bikes – although only the most experienced riders should attempt jungle safaris.
One official PADI diving outfit, Koh Kong Divers, provides professional trips to outlying reefs and the picturesque Koh Kong Island, while for those who prefer more sedentary activities, the family-friendly Safari World features exotic wildlife and animal shows, and the border casinos are always happy to relieve you of your holiday funds.
Boat trips in Koh Kong
The highlights of the region are best explored by river, estuary or ocean. Boat trips to destinations such as Koh Kong Island, various waterfalls and several wildlife sanctuaries can be organised through your hotel. Alternately, you can also stroll down to the boat dock at the intersection of Street 1 and Street 9, where several operators are based.
Prices vary with destination, the further you go the more petrol required, but expect to pay US$60-$80 for a private motor boat for a full day’s hire, with the best option being the loop to see Tatai Waterfalls then over to Koh Kong Island for a beach lunch and Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary on the way back to town.
There is 20,000 sq/kms of breathtaking beauty, endangered wildlife, incredible biodiversity and the largest mangrove forests in Southeast Asia. Remote and almost inaccessible except by guided tour, a multi-day 4WD excursion is the best way to explore this astonishing ecological masterpiece, though the engines can scare off animals such as pangolins, bears, tigers and elephants, so park and wander – with a guide.
Koh Kong Island
The largest island in Cambodia, Koh Kong Island features seven pristine white sandy beaches that will surely be snapped up by investors one day – so see them while you can. Near deserted year-round, there is one small fishing village on the east coast, at Alatan. The waters around the island offer spectacularly visibility and perfect snorkelling of the beach, although the forested interior is off-limits.
Beaches and swimming
A decent, nameless beach lies four kilometres south of the city along Street 1, while across the river, just past Resort 2000 is a small, often muddy beach, with food and drinks that is popular with picnicking locals. Far better is the white-sandy Koh Yor Beach, a further six kilometres past the Resort near Ba Blong Village, with several tasty Oceanside seafood stalls, including the acclaimed Crab Shack. In town, Oasis Resort has a very nice swimming pool available for non-guests to use at only US$2 per day.
Waterfalls in Koh Kong
In the wet season the rivers that run from the Cardamom Mountains create spectacular waterfalls, which slow to a trickle in the dry season. The Tatai Waterfalls are the most easily accessible and impressive, the two tiered falls cascading some 20ft. The Koh Por Falls feature immense boulders and rapids in a jungle gorge, while the impressive Kbal Chhay Falls are a decent day trip up river.
Koh Kong Safari World
More akin to a real tourist theme park, the sprawling Safari World, located on the Thai border, features a modern zoo with a range of animal shows including crocodile feeding, orangutan games and dolphin gymnastics, with at least one show per hour, all day, and every day.
Note – the shows may not always endear themselves to everyone but the animals seem to be well fed and cared-for.
There are also monkeys, tropical birds, bears, ostriches, sea-lions, deer and even a kangaroo, amongst others. There is a wide beach to laze on and a reasonable restaurant, making it a perfect outing for families. Thai tour groups swarm here on holidays, but other than that you can have the complex largely to yourself.
Koh Kong Divers
The city’s first and only PADI operator, featuring the full range of dive courses, diving and snorkelling trips to nearby reefs and islands and longer, two – five day, tours with island accommodation. They also offer jungle trips with unique river dives in the wet season.