“You booked on Hostelworld? But… there’s no internet here!” Having no record of our beach bungalow booking, it looked like our island escape at The Last Point on Koh Ta Kiev might be over already, and we’d be wading back through the waves and back on to the small boat that’d brought us over from the mainland.
Although the guy who usually phones in with their internet bookings had obviously taken that day off, there was luckily a free bed in the dorm. In island-logic this turned out to be a weird kind of upgrade. We were literally upgraded above ground level (away from the sand flies), to a mozzie-netted double bed on a raised bamboo platform. Set in a clearing just behind the shoreline, the dorm beds lay underneath a palm leaf roof, surrounded by just three bamboo walls. The sea-facing front was completely open, which gave us an incredible sunrise wake-up call each day, and an orchestra of jungle critters serenading us through the night.
The internet isn’t the only thing you learn to live without on the island. We’d chosen Koh Ta Kiev for its almost-but-not-quite Castaway credentials; no electricity, no plumbing or mains water, no roads, ATMs or shops. Overshadowed by Koh Rong’s party island reputation, we hadn’t even heard of Koh Ta Kiev before a recommendation from the owner of our favourite cafe in Kampot.
Mostly covered in dense jungle, the island is fringed with several beaches, home to a few Khmer fishing huts and four… resorts? Resorts is definitely not the right word. The Last Point is about an hour’s jungle trek from the three other places to stay; Coral Beach, Ten103 and Crusoe’s. Even at Ten103 and Crusoe’s, the biggest and most ‘developed’ places, everything is still very basic. Still no electricity, plumbing, or permanent buildings. Ten103 did have the luxury of a mirror though.
A forced separation from our phones turned out to be one of the highlights. Any sense of schedule immediately disappeared, we had no idea what time it was or the day of the week, and it didn’t matter at all; wake up with sunrise, eat when you’re hungry, sleep when it’s dark.
With 6km2 of island to play with, we settled into island life and exploring our little patch of paradise. After spending our first day snoozing in the hammocks, reading on the log swing, and trying (and failing) to walk the slack-line at our camp, we ventured further afield across the island. Ask a 5 year old to paint a desert island on a piece of wood, and you get an idea of our camp’s official island map. No problem, though, as there are only a handful of paths cut through the jungle, and hand-painted wooden signs almost always point you in the right direction.
The Last Point’s wood-fired oven turned out delicious pizzas each night. Breakfasts were a stack of pancakes, sometimes topped with mangoes grown on the island, other times topped with nothing when the cows got to them first. They’d learnt to stand on their hind legs and snatch mangoes straight from the trees!
Beyond hammock time, reading, swimming, and watching the cows’ mango-heists, island entertainment involved visiting the other camps, treks to find the elusive fishing huts, and to Elephant Point – the cliff-jumping rock on the far side of the island.
After stunning panoramic sunsets on Naked Beach, evening entertainment was either sitting at the camp’s bonfire, attempting long exposure pictures of the ridiculously bright stars, or, (easily the best) nighttime swims in bioluminescent plankton back on Naked Beach. Minerals in the water attract plankton that glow in the dark when the water around them moves. As our GoPro pictures and video came nowhere near to doing it justice, the best descriptions we could come up with were: Jumping in the dark water to be suddenly covered in tiny stars; underwater glitter bomb explosions every time you move; like wearing a glow in the dark version of one of those sensor-covered suits used in CGI films. Or something…
We loved the Last Point but, while we were there, a new camp, Kactus, was being built on Naked Beach. As beautiful as Long Beach but with nobody in sight, the best spot on the island for sunset, and with resident disco plankton at night, this will easily be the best place to stay once the bamboo huts are finished.
As with other Cambodian islands, there always seems to be rumour of large scale development, foreign investment, and casino resorts taking over. Work started, and ended, on Koh Ta Kiev with the ‘Chinese Highway’; a stretch of dirt track (leading from nowhere to nowhere) was cleared several years ago, before building work was cancelled, and the jungle started to take over again.