Cambodia is exploding with culture and is calling out for the world to experience its beauty. Laying neatly between Thailand and Vietnam, the pristine waters off Cambodia are filled with amazing marine diversity. After viewing the astonishing freshwater dolphins on the mainland and cruising down the Mekong River, diving in Cambodia is an addition that is not to be missed. The beachside town of Sihanoukville is a door to a variety of tropical islands including Koh Rong Saloem, Koh Kon and Koh Tang. This region is filled with beautiful beaches, unique underwater creatures and exciting dive sites to discover. With an abundance of marine life and a plethora of outstanding reefs to explore, this unique destination is fast becoming a favorite. Cambodia is also home to Angkor Wat, one of the world's majestic wonders which boasts glistening temples and amazing landscapes which have to be seen to be believed. Cambodia is a destination with something to offer every type of diver and traveler.
When to go:
November through April are the best months to visit as this is dry season and visibility is at its best; however diving can be great year round.
When to Get the Best Deals:
Although flights might be cheaper outside of December and January, cost for accommodation typically remains relatively stable throughout the year.
What to Pack:
3/2 mm wetsuit, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, your PADI and DAN card, conservative clothing (covering shoulders and knees - if visiting temples). Most gear is available for hire, but it might be wise to book in advance during peak seasons.
Varies with location and season, but is usually around 25°C/77°F.
Usually remains around 30°C/86°. Cambodia has two seasons: dry and wet. Dry season is usually from about November through to about May and the wet season is typically from about June to around October.
While the Cambodian Riel (KHR) is the official currency, US dollars are accepted (and sometimes preferred) throughout the country including tourist areas. There are no ATMs on the islands, so bring some change with you.
Valid passport; check with your local immigration office for visa requirements. Some nationalities are eligible for a visa on arrival and it's advisable to enter into Cambodia with some US dollars for this method if eligible.
This should be included in your airfare, but check with your travel agent or airline.
Contact your local doctor regarding what is necessary.
What to Eat:
There is a range of delicious flavors floating around Cambodia. A well-known local option is the irresistible Loc-lak. This is a delightful stir-fried beef (which explodes with a sweet and sour flavor) - served on a bed of fluffy rice or friend potatoes with lime juice, cucumber and a side of tomatoes. Amok Trey is a mild fish curry which is also a popular local food for those looking to sample local cuisine.
What to Drink:
Cambodia has a delicious and interesting version of an iced coffee (where milk and water is replaced with condensed milk) and is well worth a try. Near the beach you'll never struggle to find fresh juice or a refreshing Angkor beer.
Once you have explored the magnificent Angkor Wat, a sunset cruise along the Mekong River is a fantastic experience. Once on the tropic islands, there are small towns to explore and mountain hikes that lead to nearly undiscovered beaches or breath-taking views. For a stimulating shopping experience head to the Russian market in Phnom Penh where you'll find touristy trinkets and souvenirs.
Customs and Culture:
When greeting in Cambodia, it is traditional to bring your hands together at chin level and bow. It is a good idea to be mindful of tradition such as wearing conservative clothing to view the palace in Phnom Penh. Also, consideration should be taken when touching the locals, especially on the head (as this is considered rude).
To celebrate the reversing flow of the Tonle Sap River - the Annual Bon Om Touk (water festival) is held in November. The festival is colorful, exciting and includes boat racing along the Sisowath Quay (Phnom Penh). Additionally, Khmer New Year is celebrated in mid-April.
Electricity and Internet:
220 V; Plugs A & C. Wi-Fi is available in most cafes and hotels in tourist areas.
Drink the water?
Bottled water is highly recommended and essential in most areas.
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer. English is spoken in tourist areas.
Amazing Marine Life
Growing up to 2 meters/6 feet long, cobia frolic throughout Cambodian waters. The most popular spot for these large fish is off Koh Rong Saleom at a dive spot called Cobia Point as well as off Koh Tang.
A huge array of nudibranch species are usually found off Koh Rong.
These interesting creatures are often spotted in large schools. They have been noted to join divers on their journey, usually around the Koh Kon dive spots.
These fascinating fish are well populated in these waters. Their bright yellow exterior makes them easy to spot. They are frequently seen off Koh Kon.
Although tiny in size, seahorse have had a huge impact on Cambodian marine conservation efforts. This well respected creature is known to breed off most of the islands along the coast.
These nocturnal predators can be hard to spot when camouflaged into the reefs that are abundant throughout Cambodian waters.
Changing color as they mature, spotted sweetlips are frequently seen in the waters around Koh Tang.
Butterfly Fish, Clown Fish and Angelfish:
These tropical beauties can be spotted in most Cambodian dive locations. Most popularly, they decorate the reefs and coral outcrops off the islands of Koh Prins and Koh Tang.
Top Dive Spots
The Corral (Koh Rong Saleom):
This is a great spot to see seahorses. The Corral usually offers fantastic muck diving opportunities as well.
Rocky Bay (Koh Rong Saleom):
This sheltered dive spot has a max depth of around 10 meters/33 feet and is a perfect location for spotting micro marline life that proliferate the colorful coral. Seastars, seahorses, seacucumbers and of course an array of fascinating nudibranch can usually be spotted here.
Last Chance (Koh Rong Saleom):
This dive spot is on the northern end of Koh Rong Saleom. Here you will usually find a great diversity of hard and soft corals. At times a mild current passes through this spot bringing with it larger fish such as barracuda.
Corner Bar (Koh Kon):
Located in the southern bay of Koh Kon, Corner Bar dive spot is a fantastic shallow spot to view some amazing coral life. Corner Bar also offers an array of marine life such as parrotfish, goatfish and boxfish.
South Bay (Koh Kon):
Here you will usually see bamboo sharks, blue spotted rays and a variety of eels.Although this is a popular spot for night diving, you'll usually also see an abundance of small tropical fish here during the day.
Explosion Reef (Koh Tang):
This less visited, almost undiscovered spot is well worth the 4-5 hour boat trip. This spot is known for its brilliantly colored coral and has a great reputation for usually having fantastic visibility. Without a doubt one of the best spots that Cambodia has to offer, Explosion Reef is usually home to a multitude of marine life including angelfish, spotted sweetlips, groupers, rays and in the more shallow a huge variety of tropical little beauties.
Three Bears (Koh Tang):
Another fantastic spot that Cambodian waters have to offer. Here you'll find a spectacular reef you may encounter a variety of fish including puffer fish, trevally and large schools of bat fish.
The latest must-visit island destination in Cambodia has featured whalesharks around December as well as May. This area also has an abundance of fish and deeper diving walls.