Saracen Bay: White Sand and…Sewage?

Ok, I know this title is dramatic. But since we’re very honest in this blog, I just can’t write raving reviews about Saracen Bay, the most populated part of the island Koh Rong Samloem, like everyone else.

Don’t get me wrong – we had a fabulous time on this gorgeous Cambodian island. It’s just that the white sand beaches surrounding the cool, calm waters of Saracen Bay are tainted with sewage (and, for a few hours every day, tourists). If you stay on Saracen Bay like we did, here’s what to expect.

The Good

The Atmosphere

Koh Rong Samloem
Rainbows & beach bars at Green Blue happy hour

The island of Koh Rong Samloem is extremely peaceful. There are no motorized vehicles*, no roads, and barely any wifi connections.

Lazy Beach Koh Rong Samloem
*except for this handmade one that goes to Lazy Beach

Most places only have power from 6pm-6am, if that. This isn’t a party island; it’s a place where people come to be off-the-grid; to have a quiet holiday “away from it all.” People say that this island is what the more popular islands of Thailand used to be like. It was really great getting a taste of the remote island life; I wish there were more places like it. Speaking of that…

The Lack of Wifi

To be honest, we were terrified about not having wifi for 5 days. What were we going to do?! We were scared of getting cabin fever, of going crazy from boredom. I’m happy to report that we made it just fine; turns out that lounging around a beach, sleeping and eating are some of our favorite things! (JK we already knew that.) We loved our daily routine that included a morning workout on the porch of our bungalow, relaxing in our lounge chairs, and talking a nice stroll down the beach to find some food.

The Views

There’s no doubt that Saracen Bay, and the entire island of Koh Rong Samloem, is extremely picturesque. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so I’ll post a few here.



The Bad

Yep, you guessed it – the main drawback of Saracen Bay is the sewage.

Panorama Koh Rong Samloem

What’s Up with the Sewage?

While perusing hotel reviews on TripAdvisor to find a place to stay on the bay, I read some reviews about hotels dumping their sewage right onto the beach. I hoped that this was an exaggeration, or a misunderstanding. Alas, my heart sank when we walked down the beach & saw hotels that had sewage pipes leading directly into the bay or onto the beach. When the tide was low, the sewage collected in shallow pools, or created a “river” going into the bay. Like most others we saw, Pete and I usually got a running start to jump over these sketchy rivers.

While grabbing some beers on our last night in Saracen Bay, we overheard the workers talking about the conditions of the beach. One of them was warning the others not to go barefoot on the beach because of the fungi and infections many others have contracted. Nice, especially since Pete and I hadn’t worn shoes in days.

Heart-breaking and utterly disgusting. Not to mention that this really detracted from the enjoyment of our daily swims. Because there’s nothing like seeing human waste pour into a gorgeous bay that makes you wanna jump right in, am I right?!?

Day-Trip Tourists

In the spirit of keeping things real, I have to share the only other drawback (in our opinions) of Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem. It’s the dreaded tourists.

The daily dose of tourists outside our bungalow
The daily dose of tourists outside our bungalow

I’m not talking about the people who come and stay on the island (like us *angel emoji*). I’m talking about the hoards of people who come, almost on a daily basis, to visit the bay for a few hours. Almost every day around 2pm, boats would dock at the piers and tourists streamed out. These crowds stormed the beaches in a loud, selfie-stick-carrying parade and made themselves at home right in front of our bungalows. For a few hours, the peace and quiet that we loved so much about this island was completely shattered. We were there in low season (September), so I can’t even imagine what high season looks like. At least they provided some entertainment…

Have you been to Koh Rong Samloem, or an equally remote island? What did you like/dislike?

2 Comment

  1. Jaya says: Reply

    Hi, nice review, I myself going to spend one month quite and lazy holiday in koh rong samloem, just wanna ask a question, In terms of prices of food and quite ambiance which one you recommend, saracen Beach or mpai bei. Thanks.

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      Thanks for your comment! That sounds like a wonderful holiday 🙂 We never got the chance to visit M’Pai Bei, but if I was to go again, I’d probably stay there. It sounds like they have a good number of food options and probably a quiet ambiance as well. That being said, the whole island is pretty darn quiet 🙂 If you’re interested in scuba diving or snorkeling, they have some options in M’Pai Bei. I’m guessing it’s a quieter area, since the tour boats dock in Saracen Bay.

      Here is some info from Travelfish about places to eat on the island:

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

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