If I ever had to describe ‘heaven’, that would certainly be the uninhabited island of Koh Kong, in southwestern Cambodia
As I wrote the other day on a post, when I arrived in Koh Kong in December, I directly went straight into the forest to see the waterfalls and later I walked around the famous mangrove forest that characterizes the coastline of southwest Cambodia. The following day I got up at 7am to start a new adventure: visiting the unspoiled islands of Koh Kong and snorkelling and kayaking around the area. In the expedition we were a French guy, Xavier, two Saudi Arabian, Qassim Ibrahim and Ahmed, and, of course, me. We got into a fast boat with four seats and left the port town.
As soon as we got out the port area, we entered the meandering river that surrounds the mangroves. The boat was really fast and we quickly moved away from the coast. I thought we were navigating at about 18 knots, so fast that our whole body jumped with each wave that hit the boat. It was basic to grab ourselves in the railing, I mean, basic, and I am a lover of sailing and the sea. The captain recommended us to put the lifejackets on. I asked to him ironically: Is that really necessary? And the Saudis responded me just by nodding.
First stop: the unspoilt island of Koh Kong
After about half an hour in the fast boat at full speed, we glimpse what is now defined as “paradise.” A inhabited island full of jungle vegetation and mangroves we could see from the where the sea and a small stream converged. The sea was crystal water, between blue and emerald green, warmer as the caress of a loved one. We got off the boat and a flea-ridden, mangy dog came to greet us. Then the captain provided goggles, completely spotless (the glasses I dived with in Shianoukville were full of dirt, rust with almost opaque crystals, and I decided not to use the breathing tube…). Ibrahim, Xavier and I immersed ourselves in the deep sea, crossing the coral coast of the island of Koh Kong, while Ahmed was waiting for us on the beach reading The Alchemist (he had been living for eight years in California and never, ever, had swam in the Pacific).
When some sort of flying bloodsuckers cover your whole body
It was the best snorkeling experience of my entire trip. We saw sea cucumbers; some intuit brunette and hundreds of colourful fishes, crammed into the rocks that appeared to contain nutrients. After two hours snorkelling with non-stop, we went back to the beach, completely isolated except for the Ahmed silhouette under a palm tree. Then I proposed taking a couple of kayaks and get into the interior of the island, among the mangroves. At first it was a disaster. Xavier and I were in a kayak and Ahmed and Ibrahim in the other one, but they were unable to row properly (Ibrahim had never had the chance to canoeing before) and they just went around in circles. In the end we opted to switch partners and it turned out well. Just when we got into the river, hundreds of some sort of flying leeches covered our bodies, especially mine (hairless). Xavier said those bugs were harmless, but I felt how their bodies were growing up while shucking my blood. There were hundreds of them on my body. At first I did not pay much attention to that matter, but two days later my body was full of bumps that would not know how to define precisely, but I felt more likely the symptoms I suffered were closer to leprosy than to any other disease. But this happened some days later.
After enjoying the kayak in the interior of the island, we set out to eat. They had prepared grilled shrimp, some fish (I would rather say it was a snake, and I still have my doubts…), rice and vegetables. An exquisite meal under a palm tree overlooking the paradise. After having another swim we came back to where the freshwater and saltwater converged and there our friend, the mangy dog, pay us a visit. First he went to Xavier, his closest friend, then to Ibrahim, who jumped into the river, and then to Ahmed, who, with his shorts, his impeccable shirt, his glasses Gucci and his camera, jumped into the water (including the camera) as if a buffalo stampede was running after him. And of course, our friendly dog was swimming after him.
When we could stop laughing – it was almost ten minutes later – we got back to the fast boat and went to another island, not such a paradise as the Koh Kong island, but equally beautiful. There we lay on the fine sand beach. We could feel the effect in the sand of the coral breathing. I talked to Xavier, about life, the future, the trip, and the pleasure of the moment, and after a little while, we were warned that we had to go back. The four of us wanted to stay there forever, but all good things have an end, so we returned to the fast boat and got back to the harbour, even faster than the first time.
The four of us went out for dinner, to a seaside restaurant where Ahmed and Ibrahim had eaten the last two days and they strongly recommended it. It was certainly the most exquisite place I ate in my entire trip, and also the most expensive. But it was worth it. It was an informal dinner, where we laughed and talked as if we knew each other of a lifetime. Then we said goodbye, knowing that it would probably be the last time that we would see each other, but with the awareness that we had shared one of the most memorable days of our lives.