Song Saa Island is a model for sustainable tourism , eco -conscious without skimping on luxury and comfort . Jose Jeuland spent four days on the island to find out how this wellbeing resort helps its visitors to recenter themselves while giving back to the local community.
Song Saa is a little patch of paradise. Located in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago, the island is just a 45-minute boat ride from Sihanoukville Port. The resort had promised a serene, luxurious escape from the chaos of Phnom Penh and we were not disappointed. We were taken care of from the moment we stepped onto the boat that would take us to the island and we enjoyed glasses of chilled prosecco, courtesy of the resort, as the beautiful island came into view. We docked on the beach where we were greeted by the resort team who immediately made us feel at home. It felt very special, like stepping into a nature reserve, there were no roads or concrete buildings, only pristine beaches and a simple wooden walkway to the main area of the resort.
The First Day
Our villa was incredible—spacious, beautifully decorated and with all the modern amenities a lifestyle of luxury requires, it had a breath-taking view of the ocean and its own private pool. I later learnt that the villas have been built using salvaged wood from the mainland and most of the furniture and fittings, such as oil drum lamps and driftwood tables, are repurposed or upcycled from things that would normally be thrown away. Song Saa has managed to find a way to make sustainability look sexy.
After dropping our bags off and changing into more resort-friendly clothes, we decided to check out the massage and spa treatments available, and we were right in the middle of nature. This is because Song Saa provides a sanctuary, a place surrounded by the natural environment where mind, body and soul can be recalibrated and restored to their natural balance. Needless to say by the time we left, we were glowing yet filled with a sense of inner peace.
The sun was setting by the time we had finished at the spa and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous sunset and take a few photos. I thought I’d order some dinner and, because I was still shooting photos outside, I asked the staff just for something light but they came and set up a full dinner for my companion and I, complete with candles. The resort encourages guests to eat wherever they want on the island so they can enjoy all the beauty that nature has to offer. I was overwhelmed by their attentive service and how they would go the extra mile to look after us. After dinner, with an early start the next day, it was time for bed and it goes without saying that the beds were both plush and extremely comfortable.
The Second Day
The next morning, I sat sipping a cappuccino at the resort’s Vista restaurant, I still couldn’t believe that a place as beautiful and tranquil as this could exist. We were sitting on the waterfront with an incomparable view of the shore. I had to pinch myself—I felt like I was dreaming. The breakfast was delicious, I had fresh fruit, refreshing and shockingly cold from the freezer, and a pastry braid with salmon and cheese. It was good to know that everything we ate was organic and locally sourced from the resort’s gardens or nearby villages.Even the bread was baked on site.
Breakfast over and we decided to get a little closer to nature and go on a mangrove kayaking trail. The resort took us to the island’s mangroves in a motorboat where I shared a duo-kayak with an instructor from the island, and together we paddled our way into the mangroves. It was lush, green and very peaceful, a feeling of being the only people on earth. The instructor was very good at spotting and identifying the local wildlife and, after a spot of bird-watching, we paddled back to the boat for a tour around the island.
We capped off the evening with dinner and champagne at Vista and the pleasure of some idle chatter with the other guests.
The Third Day
After another fabulous breakfast at Vista, we visited Prek Svay Village with representatives from the “Song Saa foundation”, Melita and Daphne, to see the sort of work the foundation is doing on the island. Mel is the owner of this little slice of paradise and founder of the Song Saa foundation. She explained to us that the foundation is dedicated to protecting and improving the islands’ unique coastal environment and works closely with local communities in the archipelago.
Most of their work goes into conservation and the foundation funds a coral nursery and a tropical marine conservation programme that focuses on sea turtles, mangroves, and Cambodia’s rare seagrass meadows. The foundation also seeks to foster social and economic development within the local communities through education and by providing opportunities for employment. The beautiful resort that we have been staying in is, in fact, the backbone of a hugely important social improvement programme, and demonstrates how ecotourism can be both sustainable in the long-term, and ethical.
We had our last dinner on the island at our villa’s private pool with only the ocean and the stars to keep us company.