What if you could travel to Cambodia for a stay at one of the world’s most exclusive hideaways and know that your time contributes to saving lives at local medical centers or preserving the sea life habitats that support communities along the coast?
Song Saa, literally “Sweethearts” in Khmer, is the realized dream of Rory and Melita Hunter who envisioned a luxury resort in the Gulf of Thailand built on principles of sustainability. Their chosen spot: a pair of pristine private islands in the Koh Rong Archipelago.
The Australian couple fell in love with the land, the location, the people and promise and saw their lifetime purpose in the creation of Song Saa Resort. Since its opening four years ago Song Saa has proved itself as an unparalleled vacation experience for guests in one of the most remote settings they can imagine. As the first to develop a private island in this Archipelago, the Hunters acted on the responsibility that comes with such an undertaking, knowing that whatever they did would have a lasting impact on the surrounding environment. They developed programs to preserve and ensure the future of local communities and decided to lead by example and set benchmarks for others to follow by showing that luxury property development, environmental conservation and community engagement are not mutually exclusive concepts.
A stay at Song Saa can be fully inclusive (although there is an option for a Room & Breakfast rate) with days as replete or as quiet as desired. The resort spreads along two jungle islands connected by a footbridge where villas over the water and at water’s edge keep guests steeped and comfortable.
Song Saa Simplicity
Each villa, whether one- or two-bedroom, has a private pool and such features as a romantic four-poster bed, a sunken bathtub, Bose sound system, high-speed Wi-Fi, outdoor shower, sun deck and daybed and even a dedicated Guest Experience Ambassador.
Days at Song Saa might begin with early morning yoga overlooking the Gulf, then extend to a swim in the large resort infinity pool, flow into a creative spa treatment in the Wellness Sanctuary – perhaps an ionized bio-energy scrub or a rainforest facial – and then ease into a private picnic on the beach for an afternoon of snorkeling in the clear waters or diving into preserved marine habitats.
Nights will start with a sustainably minded dinner under the stars with creative international cuisine that is sourced locally. It might move into an evening beach walk or stroll on the islands’ footbridge as the amazing night show nature puts on with bio-luminescent plankton flickering in the waves comes to life. There may be a lecture or a lesson in meditation or spirituality to top off the evening before another perfect day begins.
Paradise with a Purpose
Into this bliss put the possibilities of learning about local culture or participating in programs to preserve natural settings in lands that are fast changing and succumbing to the ravages of overuse.
Song Saa has a vested interest in its place in the world and the people that make it work. The Song Saa Foundation was started in 2013 to develop programs to prevent overfishing and habitat destruction; programs to prevent deforestation and preserve biodiversity; and programs that monitor the decline of precious resources and bolster education and health services. Among those programs: the Boat of Hope, a mobile education and marine resource center that helps local communities manage sustainable marine and fishing practices. Other programs teach organic gardening and sustainable farming, while still other agendas work with local universities to create innovative ways to protect and sustain the underwater environments.
The launch of the foundation in 2013 represented a culmination of eight years’ work and commitment to the Archipelago delivering transforming results to conservation that are the pride of the resort. In 2006, Song Saa’s community and conservation project created the Archipelago’s first marine reserve. In 2013 this reserve increased 100-fold from its original size.
In September 2013, the Foundation coordinated the biggest medical outreach project ever undertaken in the Archipelago. Completed in collaboration with the US-based organization, International Medical Relief (IMR), the project resulted in 1,000 people receiving medical attention over a five-day period. This amounted to being able to tend more than half the Archipelago’s population.
Over the next two years, the Foundation aims to raise enough funds to launch The Boat of Hope, a mobile sustainability unit that will spread Song Saa’s philanthropic work to more remote parts of the Archipelago and deliver health, education and livelihood services to communities rarely reached. Other initiatives include The Sea Turtles program, which has improved the protection of sea turtle nesting sites. The resort foundation also runs on-going marine conservation programs that have increased knowledge of the marine habitats found in the Archipelago, as well as mangrove and rainforest restoration projects.
Guests on the island can receive first-hand information at the Foundation’s dedicated Discovery Centre. The resort’s Executive Director, Dr. Wayne McCallum, is available to guests to answer questions about the Koh Rong Archipelago’s unique environment and people.
Every year, the resort introduces the “Journeys of Change” programs: five-day trips with flexible itineraries meant to blend relaxation at Song Saa with cultural and ecological journeys into the neighboring communities and areas where forests are threatened to help guests connect with life in the Koh Rong peninsula. The package also donates the revenues for three guest stays each month during selected months to keep the Song Saa Foundation afloat.
If Journeys of Change guests desire it, they can participate in a range of activities that flow from the mission of the Foundation.
*An island safari into the natural and social world of the Koh Rong Archipelago, including a visit to a local Khmer fishing village.
*Workshops that engage local youth, such as the Song Saa Sea Turtles project. Guests also visit some of the remarkable landscapes of the *Archipelago and enjoy a picnic on the shores of a five-mile beach.
*A visit to organic garden projects.
*An afternoon in a Sustainable Cuisine workshop, following a dish from soil to plate with trained cuisine experts.
*A chance to learn the local basket rituals and go through the steps of creating a traditional Khmer basket.
A “Pack with Purpose” ethic asks that each guest use whatever minimal free space they have in their luggage when preparing for their vacation at Song Saa to bring school supplies – pens, pencils, paper, whatever they can manage as a donation to local schools in the community.
Journeys of Change is a specific package based on a four-night stay and telling the booking agent that it is a Journeys of Change package that is wanted.
Other packages in play at Song Saa include a Stay 5, Pay for 4 offer through January 5, and a Wellness Retreat selection at Song Saa Sanctuaries to restore peace in mind, body and soul through a complimentary spa program available to guests staying 5 or 7 nights.
Getting to Song Saa
Song Saa Private Island truly invests in the concept that the journey is as important as the destination. From Phnom Penh International Airport, a journey to Song Saa starts with a pick up in a private vehicle for a 3.5-hour drive to Sihanoukville Port. There a luxury speedboat awaits and whisks guests away for the 40-minute boat transfer to the island resort. Guests who would prefer a faster transfer to the resort can skip the drive and fly Bayon Air, a 40-minute flight connecting Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.
Guest visiting Angkor Wat at Siem Reap or staying in Phnom Penh for a few days can find daily services to virtually all Asian gateways, including Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Kuala Lumpur. Flights from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville Port depart fairly regularly through Cambodia Angkor Air and take 50 minutes. Boats to and from Song Saa run on regular schedules with two departures daily in both directions.
Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates– Curator of undiscovered luxury travel locales with insider info and news from our worldwide portfolio of hotels, wellness retreats, and eco-resorts. View our portfolio on our Online Directory.
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