Written by Lucie, photos from Mark and Caroline.
In January 2019, some of the Adventure Gang were in south east Asia and completed the ‘D’ of the Alphabet Challenge with a diving adventure!
We were in Cambodia; Jon completed his PADI Open Water course and the rest of the team went out for a day’s SCUBA diving off of the coasts of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloen.
The lead in, part one
Getting to Koh Rong was, in itself, an adventure.
Jon, Vanessa, Mark and Lucie were getting the ferry from Sihanoukville. We were told that it would take about an hour to the main port on the island, and then a short distance more to get to the stop especially for our resort. In practice, it was a little different.
We arrived at the crowded pier to discover that lots of different ferries run every day and there was no real system or infrastructure in place to manage this – just a huge throng of confused people. Our 1:30pm ferry was an hour late, but we made it to Koh Rong without issue. However, we were then told that the waves were too big to reach our stop and that we needed to get a transfer by truck. No problem! We hopped out and a stressed man on the beach told us the truck would arrive in one hour. We went for a swim, ate some snacks and at about 5pm we were told (along with the other people for our resort) to get on a dive centre boat. We figured this meant that the waves had calmed down and the ferry company was asking for a favour from the dive centre.
The dive boat took us around the island and one of the staff members was constantly on the phone. It turns out that she had just been dumped with us with little explanation and didn’t know where our resort was. It was a bit choppy and took a looooong time. We reached the resort bay as the sun was setting and then there was panic – there was no pier! Just a long shallow sand bank and an isolated platform a fair distance out. The dive boat could not take us to shore and she could not get a connection to phone the resort. The boat pulled up to the platform but the staff realised that the water was exceptionally shallow and the hull was scraping sand. We were very quickly ushered out of the boat, bags were thrown onto the platform and the boat disappeared. Now what?!
Jon and another man, Luis, swam to shore (half wading because it was so shallow) and the rest of us sat around laughing and got our headtorches out to set up a beacon. We could see movement on the beach and after a while a kayak emerged from the dark – Jon and Luis had returned to say that a boat should be on its way. A few minutes later we heard an engine and a little boat pulled up. We loaded the bags, climbed aboard and huddled together (due to lack of space) in the dark.
We finally arrived back on land about 7 hours after our scheduled departure time for a one-hour crossing. We checked in and continued to exercise our patience in the busy (disorganised) restaurant. The food took ages and our veggie curry first came out full of chicken and then we got two vegetarian versions! What a day!
The lead in, part two
A couple of days later, after some beach walks, snorkelling and kayaking, Jon had a fractured foot, Vanessa was in bed with a bad cold, and we were waiting for Caroline and Jens to arrive. They had already had some adventures with their luggage not arriving in Phnom Penh and a lot of messing around trying to sort that out and change pre-arranged transport. We had heard from people on the island that a storm was blowing in – the tail end of a cyclone over Thailand – and that ferries to and from the islands might be cancelled, but we decided to keep that information to ourselves.
We sat on the beach looking out and saw a ferry come across the bay. We text Jens and determined that it was them, but the ferry kept on going. The sun set and a while later we saw a light coming back across the bay… and keep going. Then it did a U-turn and came back to the little platform. We went out to the tiny dock in the mangroves and met Jens and Caroline when they finally arrived – Jon limping along with the aid of hiking poles. We debriefed over a late dinner, amazed that we were all in the same place, despite our many mishaps, and went to bed.
Finally, the diving! With the whole team together and sort of in one piece, we all went scuba diving. We first had to get a lift in the back of a truck down to 4K Beach. From there, we took a water taxi across to the main beach and pier, where the scuba company was.
Once we reached the diver centre, Jon went off to do day three of his course. The rest of us got fitted out with our gear and set off on a different boat.
There were a few other divers on board and we split into groups of three for the dives: Mark, Jens and Caroline were in one group, Lucie, Vanessa and another person were in a second group.
The water was really warm. The visibility was not great (approximately 5m), but there was so much to see – plenty of coral and lots of fish, large and small – that it didn’t matter. Unfortunately, nobody had an underwater camera so you’ll have to image the scenes.
After dive number one at Long Beach we had lunch on board while we moved to a different dive site at Temple Island and then we went again.
After our two dives we returned to the dive shop to return our gear, picked up Jon who was also just finishing up, and then we wandered slowly along the shore to 4K Beach. There we went for a swim before catching the truck back to our resort for a shower, dinner and relaxing.