Cambodia is a beautiful country with a rich history and amazing getaway islands, some of them still untouched by development. Koh Ta Kiev is one Cambodian island where you can spend your days and nights lazily in a hammock, watching the sunrise off your bungalow porch, sunbathing or swimming, and drinking tasty cocktails at sunset. It opened to tourism about 8 years ago, and lies in close proximity to other islands, such as Koh Russey (or Bamboo Island), Koh Krabey (Water Buffalo Island), and Koh Chraloh, which are all smaller.
Koh Ta Kiev Island is great for recharging your batteries and reconnecting with nature at the same time, but you should know that it can be the perfect holiday destination only as long as you don’t mind sacrificing your privacy for the duration of your stay. Most camps have shared bathrooms, and even the private bungalows are open to the elements and to the curious peers of people walking by.
About the island
Koh is the Khmer word for “island” and is pronounced like “gaw”. Khmer is the official language spoken in Cambodia, and camp staff and boats people will usually only speak a little English.
Koh Ta Kiev is a 28 square kilometer island, four kilometers long and about three kilometers wide. It is only 10 kilometers off the southeastern coast of SihanoukVille, in the Bay of Thailand. Koh Ta Kiev is a tropical paradise that was virtually untouched by 2014, despite the island being leased to French and Chinese companies (like most other islands in the country). Consequently, Koh Ta Kiev remains underdeveloped, with only a road recently built through the jungle. Still, walking is the only means of transportation on the island, which boasts a hill, a thick tropical forest, and sandy beaches.
Koh Ta Kiev Bungalows
Koh Ta Kiev Bungalows are set very close to the yellow sand beach covered in pine needles from the surrounding trees. Litter occasionally washes up from SihanoukVille, but the beach is still worth it.
Koh Ta Kiev Bungalows provide cozy accommodation right next to the pier where tours from SihanoukVille stop throughout the day. The resort is composed of five ensuite bungalows and five open-roof bathroom bungalows. The former are built from sturdy tin and have thatched roofs. Each of these bungalows has its own private bathroom and private balcony with a hammock. There is also a lounging area with bamboo frame beds, thick mattresses, pillows and mosquito nets. The other five bungalows, on the other hand, have less sturdy matting walls, and share an open-roof bathroom. Inside each room, you will find just a double bed. Regardless of the type of bungalow you decide to stay in, you will get electricity every evening, but only from 6 pm to 10 pm.
There are a restaurant and a bar, as well, and a small shop selling fresh fruit and sometimes biscuits. Since the food comes by boat, the prices are a bit higher than what you would normally expect.
Coral Beach KTK
The newest addition to the accommodation list, Coral Beach even has its own bay in a truly secluded spot, and you can get there through the bar area of Ten 103. Coral Beach is the right choice when you need complete privacy from the other bungalows nearby, but note that you will have to share bathrooms with the other guests (and shower with a bucket).
The bungalows themselves are private though, and those that are stilted have two floors and hammocks underneath. The view of the sea from the second floor (about two-and-a-half meters above the ground) is gorgeous. Finally, there is also a huge dorm room, thatched and set on two floors. It is rather comfortable, especially since fans and mosquito nets are provided.
Coral Beach also features a restaurant right on the beach. There is a wooden platform lifted above sea level. Also on the beach, there is a badminton net, and you can always doze off in one of the hammocks scattered around. And at night, all guests can charge their phones and other devices.
The foreign companies that have taken over the island have ambitious plans to build high-end boutique hotels, but there still is a long way to go until then. Whether this is a good or a bad idea is up to you to decide, but right now anyone visiting the island can go back to nature and enjoy untouched beaches and jungles to the fullest.
Monkey Maya Ream National Park
Offering a sun terrace and views of the sea, Monkey Maya Ream National Park in the Preah Sihanouk Province Region, 18 km from Sihanoukville. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar.
Certain rooms include a seating area to relax in after a busy day. All rooms are fitted with a private bathroom fitted with a shower.
You will find a shared lounge at the property.
An array of activities are offered in the area, such as canoeing and hiking. Duong Dong is 47 km from Ream National Park, while Koh Rong Island is 50 km from the property.
Offering a sun terrace and views of the sea, Kactus is situated in Koh Ta kiev Island, 16 km from Sihanoukville. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant.
Some units include a seating area where you can relax. A balcony or patio are featured in certain rooms.
You can engage in various activities, such as snorkeling and fishing. Song Saa Private Island is 48 km from Kactus, while Koh Rong Island is 46 km from the property.
Life on the island
There is no public water, sewers, garbage collection, or electricity on Koh Ta Kiev. The bungalows and restaurants are solar powered, even though its use is restricted. Moreover, some places also use a generator, but again electricity is only available for a few hours at night. Fresh water is brought from the mainland, while telephone service and internet are accessible at most bungalows.
In past years, only the local military used to live on the island, which is now inhabited by a dozen people, usually the staff working at the handful of bungalow camps therein. In fact, the few bungalow places make up for less than 1% of the island, most being located along the west side, on Long Beach. All bungalows can be found near or right on the beach, and there are tracks for guests who wish to explore the forest or even reach the secluded beach on the south coast. The strands of sand themselves aren’t as pristine as in other parts of the world, but they are still lovely. Some areas of the beach are covered in pine needles, while others in the rubbish that washes up on the island from time to time.
No matter how physically active you are, you will certainly find something to do that is suitable for you. The sandy beaches of Koh Ta Kiev invite people to get a tan or spend some time in a hammock at the shadow of the trees. Other equally relaxing, but more engaging activities include boating, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Or, if you’d like, you can also explore the island on a jungle trek, take survival classes, cooking classes, or go parasailing, and the best part is you don’t even have to go far to do any of them.
Beaches and accommodation
Koh Ta Kiev boasts three budget-friendly, easily accessible beaches with yellow sand and a wealth of shady pine trees. Because of the high tide, the beaches are rather longer than wide, and the abundance of pine needles covers the sand in places, making the beach feel less pristine than it actually is. Even though they may not be picture-perfect, the sense of calm and relaxation these beaches offer is unparalleled.
Accommodations range from hammocks, tents or dorm rooms right on the beach to quite comfortable bungalows in the jungle. Neither option is expensive, with accommodation choices on the west side of the island including Koh Ta Kiev Bungalows, Crusoe Island, Ten 103 Treehouse Bay and Coral Beach. All are quite secluded, but within walking distance from one another. From north to south, there is Crusoe Island, followed by Koh Ta Kiev Bungalows, Ten 103 Bungalows, and Coral Beach. The basic setup of each bungalow is waist-high walls and no curtains, sheltering but without providing complete privacy to a single or double bed protected by a mosquito net, and in larger rooms, also a table and a chair.
Crusoe Island is not always open during the rainy season, between May and October, which means you will have to check in advance with the owners if you want to visit then. You have two options to get there: one is from Rise Guesthouse on Otres Beach, the other from Ream Beach Guesthouse on Ream. There are direct boats from Otres Beach, but you will need to book your spot beforehand. Crusoe Island guests enjoy free boat trips.
Once you get to the destination, you can choose between hammocks, tents, and the somewhat more comfortable bungalows. Crusoe Island features a camp centre, but other than the occasional fire by the bar, there isn’t much there in the way of entertainment options. As far as bathroom facilities are concerned, these come mostly as bucket flush toilets and bush showers, and sometimes you may have to wait for your turn.
You can rent your hammock or tent in one of the established camping spots, but you also have the freedom to set them anywhere else you find suitable. While you are generally expected to put up the tent yourself, the staff will do it for you if you ask them to. Each tent comes with mattresses and pillows, but make sure to ask for a newer tent that is waterproof, especially if you visit during the rainy season.
Moreover, there are four bungalows with open-sides, but these are obviously more expensive. Some are individual, while others are double, but all are secluded, though not exactly what you would call private. Two of these bungalows, ‘The View’ and ‘The Explorer’, have their own bathrooms; more specifically, ‘The View’ has an adjoining bathroom next to the bed platform, with a toilet with no lid hidden behind a curtain, while ‘The Explorer’ comes with a bathroom with no curtain and no privacy whatsoever. Inside the bathrooms, you may also find a bucket shower and a shelf.
The bungalows themselves provide no more privacy, either, since there are no windows or shutters, and anyone passing by can see whatever you are doing inside. The bungalows provide views of the beach, are fitted with a bed and a mosquito net, and some are also beautifully decorated. ‘The View’, for instance, boasts orange drapes and floor mats with patterns.
Note that not even at these two bungalows will you be able to charge your phone, MP3 player, laptop or whatever else that requires electricity. The reason is that the place uses solar power, but this is reserved for lights only, from 18:00 until early in the morning. Moreover, Crusoe Island has no power sockets for guests; only staff has access to the sockets behind the bar in order to avoid overusing the solar panel. So, if you really need to charge something, you can pedal the special bicycle that thus generates power. Or, you can just borrow power from Ten 103 or Coral Beach.
Booking depends on the type of accommodation you pick; thus, tents and hammocks can be rented on the spot, while bungalows must be paid online before you get there. If you don’t want to stay for the night, but only snooze in a hammock, then make sure to check in advance whether there are boats to the island on the day. Return hours to Sihanoukville are from 08:00 to 08:30.
The restaurant and the bar feature comprehensive menus, but the restaurant closes early, so make sure to pre-order your dinner ahead of time, around sunset, or you’ll go hungry for the night. Note that water refills are not free of charge, but one costs around 50 cents, which is very affordable. And when you get bored sunbathing, you can rent one of the boats from Crusoe Island in order to go fishing or snorkeling, or simply for the pleasure of cruising.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to spend the night on Koh Ta Kiev, there are boats that can take you there and back to SihanoukVille (just 10 kilometers away) for different fees and at different speeds. Thus, it only takes 15-20 minutes to get to the island from Otres Beach in a speedboat, and 55 minutes in a fishing boat. Most trips leave in the morning and come back in the afternoon. If you come from Ream, you can get to Koh Ta Kiev in about 10 minutes when renting a boat at Ream Beach Guesthouse or from the seafood shacks on shore. It costs about USD 50 (one way) to rent a boat that accommodates up to 20 people.
Getting to Koh Ta Kiev
The Crusoe Ferry operates daily during the high season. It leaves from Otres beach and takes less than an hour to get to the island. The journey is through semi-protected waters so you can expect a quick and pleasant cruise to the island on most occasions.
Ferry From Otres Beach
$13 per person, open-ended return ticket
Departs Otres: 11am Returns to Otres: 9am
Call 088 608 1900 for pickup location.
You can also take one of the various boat tours that stop here for a couple of hours on their way to other nearby islands. Many of these tours start from Otres Beach in SihanoukVille or Ocheteaul Beach. In fact, each of the bungalows on Koh Ta Kiev has its own mainland boat it prefers. Stopping on the island for an hour or two gives tourists the chance to swim, snorkel or fish, explore the island, jump off cliffs, or merely grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants located right on the beach or above the sea.
If you decide to go on a 3 island trip that only stops by Koh Ta Kiev Island for an hour or two, then you will have to pay $15; lunch is typically included.
Scuba diving and snorkeling
Many tourists come from SihanoukVille to Koh Ta Kiev Island to scuba dive. So, if you too would like to learn how to do it, make sure to enquire with one of the many mainland dive shops (there are no dive shops on the island itself). Experienced divers will also find here plenty of scuba diving opportunities.
And if you only need snorkel gear, you can get it from any of the bungalows on Koh Ta Kiev. Day-trippers can rent the snorkel gear, while the bungalow guests can get it for free. The coral reefs off the island are perfect for snorkeling.
Trekking and wildlife-spotting
The tropical jungle is still largely untouched by development, with only some trekking paths for the adventurous to follow. The blue markers on one path will lead you eastwards to the local fishing village, while if you follow the red markers you’ll get south, to Naked Beach (about 40 minutes away).
Koh Ta Kiev provides the best setting for spotting wildlife, and birds in particular; there are over 150 bird species to be seen here. The island shelters no bears, lions, or tigers, but there are insects and carnivorous pitcher plants, so beware whenever you adventure out. Moreover, the monkeys on the island are notorious food thieves, so guests are advised not to leave anything edible in their bungalows.
The Syn distillery
This is the absinthe distillery owned by Ten 103 Bungalows. People taking a day boat trip to Koh Ta Kiev often visit the distillery to taste a strong absinthe cocktail at the bar or to take a tour of the distillery itself. The place is open not only to the guests on the property and to day-trippers, but also to guests from neighboring bungalows. Even musicians go there for a drink.
Their drink called Abyss is made from 13 certified organic herbs, including Wormwood, in 69% alcohol, with no sugar or preservatives. Wormwood contains Thujone, an active compound that is either banned or limited in other countries, and Abyss has more of it than most other absinthe. The beverage can be bought in 3 different varieties, namely clear, red and green (this one with the largest amounts of Wormwood). You can have a drink at the bar on the beach or take a bottle back home.
Tasting sessions and tours of the distillery are free, and bottles can be bought anytime Sunday to Friday on the island. If you would like, you can even stay overnight in the distillery room. Boats are available daily as they go to Otres Beach for supplies each morning. Tourists can thus catch a ride to the island and back for only $13.