Cambodia couldn’t quite challenge other countries in Southeast Asia as a complete holiday destination until it boasted a truly luxurious boutique beach resort—and Song Saa is just that.
We were very excited to learn about a project set to transform two tiny islands into a haven of exclusive, authentic luxury. Soon enough, we found ourselves boarding the Song Saa speedboat, ready to transport us from Sihanoukville to the resort.
Half an hour later we were greeted by its smiling staff, serving us chilled welcome drinks and handing around cool face towels—with the Cambodian friendly attitude.
Luxury meets responsibility
Song Saa Private Island was born from a desire to create the first eco-chic luxury resort in Cambodia. Behind the project are Australian couple Rory and Melita Hunter, who honeymooned in these remote parts—and fell in love with the picturesque islands of the Koh Rong Archipelago.
Captivated by its beauty, Rory and Melita took the greatest care in making as little impact on the environment as possible when building the resort—for example hiring scientists from abroad to advise on the best conservation methods.
The Australians also recognized that their responsibility extends to local communities, thus the Song Saa resort has been involved in various development programs in the area.
The waters around islands are declared a marine reserve and conservation is an important theme at the resort. The Life Centre provides information about the local environment and the efforts to preserve it, and organizes conservation tours—though the range of activities and excursions extend well beyond the eco experiences.
Proximity to nature goes well with Song Saa’s focus on relaxation and slowdown. The spa and gym are built in the dark, tranquil part of the larger island, along the water edge. Nearby, the footbridge leads to the smaller island: a haven of dense rainforest, available for walks and birdwatching.
The twin isles of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong are locally called The Sweetharts—or Song Saa. This name fits the hotel’s low-impact design and the tailored private experience.
The resort’s design draws some inspiration from local architecture. Built from sustainable materials, they have a rough-hewn aesthetic, with recycled driftwood used to make furniture and tree trunks to support the stone slabs of washbasins.
The twenty-seven villas are comfortably spacious, with an open-plan bedroom organized around a four-poster muslin-draped bed. Bathroom with rain-shower and sunken bath, outdoor shower and a private infinity pool with an outdoor daybed right by complete the picture of a perfect holiday villa.
Of course some villas are more equal than other. The exceptional two-bedroom Royal Villa is the largest, and offers the best privacy—and its own jetty for arrivals and departures.
The cuisine spectacular
The cuisine is absolutely sublime. Each serving different, each day unique: the chef Neil Wager, formerly employed by the celebrated North Island in the Seychelles, creates mouth-watering sensations from local produce in his “Deconstructed Cambodian” cuisine.
The focal point of the hotel is the overwater complex containing Vista Restaurant, bar and lounge. Here the menu may include things like Bowl of Birds (Tamarind and Honey Roasted Quails), banana blossom salad or frogs’ legs.
More laidback dining offers the beachside Driftwood Bar. Here Wager served us chocolate pizza—as odd combination as it was delightful.