A few days ago (November 2017) we went to stay at Kactus on Koh Ta Kiev. Wow, what a great trip! Ko Ta Kiev is an island off the coast of Sihanoukville. To get there, just book at Kactus and you will get picked up by their boat outside 'Wish You Were Here' on Otres 1. It costs $13 per person along with the $20 a night room cost.
Arriving at the nearly completely unspoilt island, you are greeted by a ramshackle and Swiss Family Robinson, romantic structure on stilts peeping out ogf the jungle. In front of it is a lagoon cut off from the sea by rose gold coloured sand dunes. The clear water lapping gently on the shore. It's a really great view to arrive to. When you get inside, in turns and with fantastic customer service, you will be shown to your room or dorm (we had a hut in the jungle (which you can see in the photos below)) and it was very romantic and charming. It's a really chilled change from the chaoctic Cambodia, hectic Sihanoukville or dusty Otres. There is no wifi (Inna says "where in the world can you sleep without wifi or electromagnetic signals bombarding you?") nor much lighting/electricity (take a torch!) so it really is a return to basics. Showers are from a water bucket, but we just made sure we went for a good swim in the sea and avoided those!
The food was excellent, they serve family dinners at 1pm and 7pm (with a breakfast from 7-10am). The atmosphere was electric, with friendly staff, nice chats with fellow travellers and a very laid back ethos. We didn't want to leave when the time came! Because it's an island, it's a little bit more expensive and we spent about $190 (all in) for two people, including drinks and snorkel fees) for two nights.
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But man was it worth it! The hands down highlight (and one of the best in my life, beating my previous plankton experiences in Maylasia and Thailand) was the flipping glowing plankton! You have to go into the night time water (but it is safe, as long as you don't go too deep! It's very shallow and you don't have to anyway...) and we found more plankton in the colder water. Oh wow! It was like being in a magical world with every step or movement you make exploding in a shower of sparkles, glitter and glowing light! Just incredible! We made it even better the next night by borrowing some snorkels and trying that out. That was even more AMAZING! Seriously, you have to go just for the plankton. We went when there was no moon which is recommended though not essential. They have clear skies too with very little light pollution so the night sky along with the plankton is numinous! Inna saw a shooting star while I was playing with the plankton next to her!
Apart from that, there's a coral reef on Coral Beach you can check out (a marine biologist we met there said it was still a good reef, though, like all the reefs in the world, it was slowly dying) and there's a bunch of deserted beaches you can find. The one outside Kactus was deserted enough when we were there...I mean, just us on a very long golden sanded, clear blue water beach! There's also what everyone else does which is watch the sunsets from the Kactus deck, those were worth the trip on their own! There was a great live music night from 'Miserable Man' on Saturday night, and there are other events at the other guesthouses/hostels during the week. In short though, there's lots to do, but most of that involves doing nothing!
There are a few other places to stay. There is the highly recommended (not as much as Kactus though!) Ten 103, as well as the more grotty but fun backpacker 'Last Point' (Last Point do boat trips from their beach too.) In high season more places will be available and, as usual, booking.com or tripadviser et.c. does a better job at helping you find those than we can. But, if you are following our curated trips, you want to stay at Kactus!
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All of the islands off Sihanoukville are spectacular, some are better than others but overall you will be hard pressed to find anywhere so unspoilt, with so many pristine and deserted beaches anywhere in the world. For us Koh Ta Kiev was the best, but Koh Rong Samloen and some of the lesser known ones are amazing too; see our reviews using the menu. The whole area is under attack from Chinese investors, casinos, gold courses and resorts. One resort bought half of Koh Ta Kiev this year. Kactus is on military land so it's future is safer but the general future of these islands and beaches off Otres/Sihanoukville is uncertrain and it is likely that within 3 years a lot of the character will be lost. So you really do have to hurry up! Check out our Otres review for more.
On a practical note, there are lots of insects (especially mosquitos and sand flies) on the islands so, take lots of deet; there are no ATMs so take enough cash (if you run out you can use your passport as a credit note maybe); there is little electricity (charging stations in bar areas) so take a torch and other considerations if you like your tech. We are told there is a high risk of bed bugs on many of the islands, so depending on where you stay take a day bag with just a few clothes in it. Then you can wash the whole lot and take a shower on the mainland to ensure you don't have any cast aways from the islands. There's various other itchy things too but what's the point of focussing on the negatives, you'd miss or spoil an amazing experience if you do!
Other practicalities are that Kactus charge a relaxed $2.50 an hour for snorkels (relaxed because they only charged us for one when we had two) but Last Point have them for $2.50 a day. Kactus' ones are much better quality though. There's not much shade on Kactus' beach so sun tan lotion is a must!
In sum, buy a flight to Phom Penh, get out of there as quickly as possible, get to Sihanoukville, get out of there as soon as possible, get to Otres, try not to get sucked into it yet, get to Koh Ta Kiev, and have the most memorable desert island, glowing plankton, romance filled, magical experience you will ever have (and do it within 3 years from now!), then go back and get sucked into Otres! You'll never leave :)
Check out our photos below for more enticing!
Ko or Koh Ta Kiev photos: Click on the arrows to scroll, or on the image for a larger version (in a pop-up)
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