Squeaky sand and sexpats

Golden Lions roundabout

Golden Lions roundabout

I originally wrote this in June 2013 but didn’t get round to posting it; I can’t remember why not.


Leaving Gili Trawangan my plan was to spend a few days sampling the diving in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Afterwards I’ll have a few days in Phnom Penh before moving on to the Philippines to try the diving there.

The diving at Sihanoukville gets very mixed reviews; some people rave about it, others slate it, still others rate it as mediocre. Sihanoukville is a port town undergoing a phenomenal amount of development. In addition to the port there are a number of beach areas, numerous casinos, a “downtown”/city centre area and about half a dozen dive shops.

There is no diving at Sihanoukville itself, most of it takes place around the nearby islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. Day trip dive excursions leave from the pier at the bottom of beach road or from a pier at the port. Most of the shops use converted fishing boats which take about two and a half hours each way to the islands. The boats leave around 8:00 in the morning, some provide a breakfast onboard. There are a dozen or so dive sites around the islands, the dive shops choose which to use on the day depending on conditions and experience of the divers. They offer snorkelling too for those who want it. After the morning dive they generally provide lunch onboard during the surface interval, then a second dive in the afternoon and then the long slog back to Sihanoukville. Accommodation is available on both islands for those who want it. Koh Rong is the busier, more developed island. Koh Rong Samloem is the more sleepy, less developed option.

The dive shops are spaced out along the road from the (in)famous Golden Lions roundabout down to the pier at the north end of Serendipity beach. Prices are pretty similar, both PADI and SSI are represented for anyone wanting to acquire a qualification. None struck me as being obviously better than the others and I opted for Scuba Nation, the closest to the pier. I did a two dive day trip and rate the diving as mediocre. The water was warm enough, about 28C, but quite turbid with about 5-8m visibility on shallow dives, both less than 12m deep.  The corals and fish were unspectacular, not as good as at Tioman or anywhere on Koh Tao. We saw lots of polka dot nudibranchs, a rather large scorpion fish and a selection of the “usual suspects”. Two dives were enough, I didn’t feel the need to do any more. They told me the diving is a lot better around the more distant Koh Prins and Koh Tang islands which they offer as a “liveaboard” whenever there is enough demand.

Sihanoukville is blessed with many long sandy beaches which from a distance look quite appealing. Up close they’re not very clean and are lined with beach shacks selling cheap beer and food. Walking along Serendipity beach the two things which struck me most are the way the sand squeaks underfoot and the large number of sexpats sat swilling beer and slobbering over their rent-a-girlfriend(s). My RTW travel companion, Hannah, would have shuddered at the sight and probably had a disapproving word or two to say about them.


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