Fresh off the boat from our Castaway(ish) escape on Koh Ta Kiev, and not yet ready to take on city life again in Phnom Penh, we extended our time on the coast at Ream National Park. The park is one of only 7 protected national parks in Cambodia and lies just 15km south of tourist-hub Sihanoukville. It’s possible to book day trips to the park by boat, but the newly opened Monkey Maya offers the only chance to stay overnight inside the park.
A one hour boat ride from Sea Garden on Otres 2 beach, or an extremely bumpy tuk-tuk ride through the forest, the park covers 200km2 of protected mountain, jungle, and coral reef, and is home to a huge range of wildlife- and hardly any humans. It’s fringed with mangroves, but also a long sweep of picture perfect beach.
Even though the park’s not far from the parties in Sihanoukville, it felt very disconnected. There were fewer people even than on the tiny island of Koh Ta Kiev. Nevertheless, the cabins were simple, but a luxurious step up after our time at the island camp. We now had an en-suite bathroom with running cold water, a fan and electricity for a few hours each evening, plus our own private balcony overlooking the sea!
The main activities at Monkey Maya involve either the bar or the sea. The bar sits high on the headland, with a beautiful sunset-facing view across the bay. There’s a small volleyball court behind the beach, a fire pit on the headland, and long shallow waters for swimming and snorkeling. As on many Cambodian beaches, litter can sadly wash up onto the shores during rainy season. You hardly notice it here, though, as Monkey Maya put their guests to work, offering free beers for each rice bag filled with rubbish collected on the beach.
To explore the jungle’s plants and animals, including monkeys, boars, and birds of prey, you can arrange tours with the park ranger who’s based a short drive (or long-ish walk) away in the village at the edge of the park. For us, this was mainly a few lazy days of prolonged beach time before heading inland to Phnom Penh.