It’s hard not to fall in love with Cambodia’s sweethearts. Surrounded by an azure-coloured ocean, the warm salty breeze caresses my face in a loving touch. There is no time here, just the rising sun to welcome the days beginning. The setting sun halos the days end on a secluded paradise that whispers sweet nothings in your ear. There is a calming sense like laying into the arms of the one you love.
A pristine island hideaway in Cambodia’s untouched Koh Rong Archipelago, Song Saa Private Island is Cambodia’s newest five star eco-resort. Named by the local Khmer’s as ‘the sweethearts’, this unspoiled island paradise is a short 20 minute speedboat ride from Sihanoukville.
Stepping onto the island is like stepping into a beautiful untouched world. There is an air of unassuming simplicity. It is intimate and stylish, yet not pretentious. There is no need for shoes, just the bare foot feeling of soft sand between your toes.
Dressed in white tunics and baggy blue pants, barefoot and carefree, the staff are as welcoming as the warmth of the sun on my skin. I am handed a cool, refreshing drink and I cannot help but feel excited with the anticipation to explore what the island has to offer.
Scattered throughout the main island are 27 environmentally sensitive, luxury pool villas. They are rustic looking but functional. Use of recycled timbers, bamboo and driftwood on the villas give a sense of belonging in the island’s natural surroundings.
Off the golden beaches and perched over the turquoise waters are the over-water villas. Venture further around the Island and you find the ocean view villas, looking back over the water to the mainland. Situated in the lush rainforest in the middle of the island are the jungle villas, offering spectacular views down over the island and out to sea.
A breezy over-water restaurant, the Vista Restaurant and Lounge offers dining with 360-degree views of the ocean. The natural timber continues its theme to the restaurant and lounge. After ordering a cocktail from the bar I found myself laying back on a day bed that swings freely from chains connected to the roof. Gazing across the waters, I see scattered fishing boats full of local anglers. A feeling of relaxation engulfs my body like a wave and before I can drift off into an afternoon doze, the most delicious smells dance into my nostrils.
Amazed by the beauty of this intimate place, I doubt my senses could indulge in anything more. I was mistaken. Ordering lunch from the delicious menu was a difficult task. I wanted to try it all. The modern cuisine uses locally sourced ingredients from Cambodia and Vietnam, including a range of exotic fruits, vegetables, fish and seafood, duck and pork.
After lunch I linger a little longer around the bar sampling a concoction of tantalising tropical cocktails. Content with my selections, and feeling rather lazy, I felt a need to do something more physical and set off down the boardwalk from the Vista Restaurant and Lounge to the main island to the discovery centre and activities desk.
Conservation and community are just as much a part of the island as the very sand that makes it. A team including two marine biologists and a naturalist live on the island and have helped establish a 100-hectare marine park around the islands to rehabilitate damaged corals.
The owner’s minimal footprint philosophy carries across to the second island of these sweethearts with a footbridge over the marine park connecting the two small islands. On this island you can explore along rugged paths that intertwine through the jungle terrain, discovering secret secluded beach spots perfect for a cooling swim.
The nearby islands offer guests an abundance of exploration opportunities and are easily accessible from Song Saa Island. Community welfare experts have set up Sala Song Saa, a community centre in the village of nearby Prek Svay. Here locals can learn about conservation and Song Saa guests can learn about the local culture.
With the afternoon sun beckoning me to bask in its delight, I decide to bypass the sailing boats and kayaks on offer and grab some snorkelling gear. With the marine park close off the shore, exploring the amazing underwater world proves just as calm and relaxing as the island it surrounds.
Refreshed and revelling in my newfound love, I find my way to the driftwood bar. The day comes to an end, the yellow-orange-red-and violet hues of sunset is intense yet offers a calming warmth. Like a great big romantic fire in the sky, the sun dips behind the horizon as if an orchestral symphony was quieting down. The sun’s rays wave goodbye like an old friend, but you know you will see them again.