Oh my goodness, where do I begin?
I absolutely loved my time on this island, and cannot stop raving about it to everyone that I meet. Seriously, I can't recommend it enough!
I had heard about the island from a few other travellers, so when I heard that there was a boat that left from Otres beach, I thought I would check it out.
I caught the one boat that goes to the island at noon for Coral Beach (it leaves the island at 8:30am and returns from Otres near Footprints hostel at around noon every day). I knew it was going to be a cool place when everyone sitting near the landing area came up to the boat and introduced themselves.
I shared a bed in the dorm with a friend I've been traveling with for a while for $6 (you can also get a hammock for $3 or your own bungalow for $15). It was the best dorm I've been in yet - a big bungalow right on the ocean's edge.
We trekked across the island one day (only 30mins on a pretty well-groomed path, although covered in centipedes) to a white sand beach with nothing and no one on it - no bungalows or people in sight. A rare and beautiful thing.
We went snorkelling one morning at around 7am when the ocean was still quite calm in front of Coral Beach. Really impressive coral, although LOTS of sea urchins. Tons. Freak me out!
We also rented kayaks - there were only three on the island, and four of us, so after failed attempts at trying to ride double, I let them head off. I expected them to come back soon, but got a bit worried when it started to get dark after the sunset. I almost got a boat to go out in search of them when they wandered in and said they had caught a ride on a boat after trying to go around the island. Turns out it's bigger than we thought ;)
The best part about my stay at Coral Beach wasn't just the amazing scenery or the surprising amount of activities, but it was the familial atmosphere. We would have breakfast whenever, but then everyone would order lunch after the boat arrived at around 12:30 and again at 7:30pm.
There were always three amazing options - it helps when it's a French chef making the food(!!). We would all hater together in the cool tree house bar and just hang around afterwards in the candlelight at night after the generator gave way. (There was only power for cooking at night and no running water. Bucket showers for the win).
There is only four places to stay on the island, and two of them were closed for Khmer New Year so there was tops 30-40 foreigners on the island.
The staff was amazingly friendly and played this hilarious game where you would have to do ten push-ups whenever you said 'mine'. They were good at trapping me: 'Anna, whose bill should I put that on?' 'Mine, obvi' 'Adding another point to your scorecard - drop and give us ten'.
It was a friends birthday while we were on the island, so I made due with what I had and made a cake of Oreo cookies piled on a plate with a candle in the middle. I know, pure genius.
It helped that we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner there - we only had to pay when we left. It ended up being just under $30 per day, which is pretty good considering island life is usually more expensive and we were getting gourmet meals and cocktails (real wine!).
Although I have to admit that Cambodia as a whole has been a lot more expensive than I expected. Everyone always said that Cambodia was super cheap, but I guess prices have doubled or tripled in the last few years. Nothing totally crazy, but instead of $2 for a meal, now it's $4. Not bad, but it sure does add up!
Anywho, I could go on forever about this place, but overall I loved it and would recommend it times a thousand. Only trick is that they close for the rainy season (May) so time your visit accordingly!
Also, some Chinese businessmen have purchased the island recently and are planning to build huge resorts and a casino in the island, most likely displacing the fishing villages there, such a shame. So def go before construction changes it too much!