As the global population increases and world travel becomes more accessible for many people, it is increasingly difficult to find dive sites that offer spectacular marine life and minimal tourism. Many areas of world class diving are overrun in peak season with boats and large dive groups, which is a far cry from the serenity and peace of scuba diving that most of us seek. There are however some lesser-known diving locations to explore, if you are prepared to go off the beaten track and begin a travel adventure both topside and underwater.
Cambodia, in the heart of Southeast Asia, is one such destination. This predominantly Buddhist country offers a warm welcome and is less developed than its tourist-heavy neighbour Thailand. Cambodia is known for its spectacular World Heritage site Angkor Wat, made famous by the film Tomb Raider. Angkor Wat is a temple complex that constitutes the largest religious monument in the world and is not to be missed during a trip to Cambodia. Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is a hub for Khmer culture and delicious local cuisine and Sihanoukville is the tourist gateway to beaches, tropical islands and mangrove jungles. Various airlines offer flights to both areas from Auckland.
The waters of Cambodia are tropical and remain at a constant 28-30C for the majority of the year. Diving is available year round and visibility ranges from 6 -30m depending on the season. The wet season occurs from June to October and the dry season is more popular for visitors. There is a great array of marine life on offer and highlights include coral reefs, seahorses, rays, a multitude of colourful nudibranchs and various tropical fish species. The shark-like cobia can be found at some dive sites and whale sharks are found in Cambodian waters.
Sihanoukville is one of the main destinations for scuba diving and the tropical islands of Koh Rong, Koh Rong Saloem and Koh Kon are reached by a two-hour boat ride from there. Scuba Nation and The Dive Shop both offer trips to these islands and there is a variety of dive sites and marine life to experience.
If you are looking for a truly remote diving experience, coupled within an authentic Cambodian island community, Koh Sdach (King Island) and it’s only dive centre Octopuses Garden is the place to visit. This small island, with almost zero tourism, offers a fascinating insight into island life and the chance to live within a traditional community. The facilities on the island are rustic and the nearby dive sites are shallow, consistently calm and suitable for novice and experienced divers alike. Projects Abroad offer volunteer diving and marine conservation placements for those looking to experience the diving on offer whilst also contributing to conservation of the surrounding environment. If diving the reefs of uninhabited islands and seeing no other tourists for week on end is your idea of scuba heaven, this is the location for you. The waters surrounding Koh Sdach are well worth exploring now before mainstream tourism companies realise what they are missing.