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Travel Report: Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Deserted beach Rabbit Island.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

August 2020. It felt great to be finally taking our foot off the gas. While we had enjoyed all our field trips across Kep, for the most part each adventure had been quite the physical demand.

From The Crab Market and the abandoned villas to Kep National Park and Samathi Pagoda, there’d always been hiking involved, invariably in the unforgiving sun and sapping humidity. Now, at long last, it was time to take it easy and recharge with a day on Rabbit Island.

Koh Tonsay Rabbit Island.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Located just four kilometres off the town of Kep in The Gulf of Thailand, Rabbit Island (Koh Tonsay in Khmer) is a tiny land mass with an area of just two square kilometres. Back in the 1950s and 60s the island operated as a rehabilitation centre for convicted criminals, though no traces of those days remain.

Buoyed by the promise of white sandy beaches and a distinct lack of tourists during COVID times, we set off from Kampot in a tuk tuk bound for Kep Pier.

Ticket counter at Kep Pier Cambodia.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

On arrival, we saw that the so-called ticket office was little more than two guys sat at a wooden table. “Next boat one hour” said one of the masked men. “Or… you take private boat, go now”.

Kep Pier in Cambodia.

Kep Pier.

It took us about five seconds to decide we wanted the “go now” option. After all, the pier didn’t even have a sheltered waiting room. That, it appeared, was still being built.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Kep Pier Cambodia.

Catching the boat to Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Hence we paid the guy his requested $20 for a day return and off we went towards the only boat down by the rickety wooden boardwalk. We should’ve negotiated of course, but we couldn’t be bothered.

It was such a lovely day and I remember feeling blessed that we were about to head into The Gulf of Thailand on a private boat trip at a time when half the world was in lockdown. For that, Mr. Man could have his $20.

Private boat tour Rabbit Island Cambodia.

All aboard for Rabbit Island, Cambodia!

Climbing aboard, we exchanged brief greetings with the surly old boat captain. Communicating with us through occasional grunts and sharp, impatient gestures, he was not a pleasant man. Having dragged a number of bulging fruit boxes onboard, he noisily cleared his throat, spat into the water and fired up the engine. And then we were off!

Khmer boat captain Kep Cambodia.

On the way to Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

The crossing from Kep Pier to Rabbit Island took a brief but joyous twenty five minutes. For the first time in weeks it felt great not to have anything to think about. No Google maps to study, opening times to check or historical info to pin down.

What To See & Do, Kep.

Kep to Rabbit Island boat crossing.

En route to Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

It was just us, on a boat, feeling the wind rush through our hair as we motored through the alluring turquoise waters. Blue skies… fluffy clouds… not even our grumpy captain could sour the experience.

Getting off the boat was fun. Captain Cranky didn’t even bother to provide us with a stepladder, let alone any assistance. Thus we found ourselves having to perform a kind of half jump into the water. But then, wading to land, we immediately felt the rewards of Rabbit Island’s pretty and perfectly peaceful 250-metre main beach.

Rabbit Island Kep

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Unencumbered by the trappings of mass tourism, Rabbit Island is a genuine tropical escape from the world as you know it. Wandering down the beach that day, we realised there were no hotels. Just a short line of bungalow guesthouses set behind the palm trees.

Beach tents Rabbit Island Kep.

The cheap option.

For those on a tight budget, there are also tents for hire, or you can bring your own and pitch up in a free spot.

Khmer family picnic Rabbit Island Cambodia

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Here and there, Khmer families picnicked under the protective leaves of the palm trees. Some ordered from the scattering of restaurants on the beach. Others came armed with their own barbecue kits, in addition to bags of fresh fruit and veg, a cooler box for the meat.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Hammock chilling Rabbit Island Cambodia

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Towards the end of the beach, we came across a perfectly positioned hammock right by the water’s edge. A simply incredible spot to take a load off and stare out to sea. Highly Instaworthy, as the cool kids would say.

Jungle path Rabbit Island.

A mysterious path through the jungle.

We were just about to pick out a beach bar and settle down for the afternoon when I caught sight of a dirt track at the end of the beach leading into the jungle. Poor Sladja, from the moment I said “ooh, where does this go?” she sensed we were about to take a walk.

Grandmother and daughter Rabbit Island Cambodia

Rabbit Island.

Not only that, but the track turned out to be really wild. With waist-length grass and bushes seemingly working against us, we fought our way forward, eventually passing a friendly grandmother and her little girl heading in the opposite direction.

Finally, around fifteen minutes after we’d set off, the path brought us to the entrance of a deserted beach. With not a soul in sight, it felt like we were the only two people on the planet.

Secluded beach Rabbit Island Cambodia.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing in the form of shade, and we felt ourselves burning fast.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

The Gulf of Thailand.

The Gulf of Thailand.

Knowing we wouldn’t be able to stay long, I decided to make the most of our brief visit and jump into the sea for a refreshing swim. The water was cool and clear, a wonderful feeling to have this little patch of Cambodia all to myself.

Swimming Rabbit Island Cambodia.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

After drying off, we began heading back the way we came. This was when we discovered the single wooden home nestled between the trees. I’d heard that local fishermen live right off the island’s smaller beaches and I guessed this was one of them.

The father or grandfather (I really couldn’t tell) gave us a wave, while the little girl seemed to glare at us with a look that said: “MY beach!” A couple of chickens and a black dog roamed around their home, a tiny wooden hut with fishing gear peppered around the yard.

Local family Rabbit Island Cambodia.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

The walk back to the main beach proved every bit as challenging. But now it was time to claim what we had come for… three to four hours of lazing around.

What To See & Do, Kep.

Beach restaurant Rabbit Island.

Simone’s Restaurant & Bar.

First, we opted to grab some lunch at Simone’s, one of the island’s largest restaurants and bars. Somehow, we found ourselves ordering with low expectations and boy oh boy were our predictions justified.

Lunch at Simone's Restaurant Rabbit Island Cambodia

A very “meh” lunch.

Nevertheless, it got the job done and we happily settled down on some sun beds at the nearby Nghan Soka Bungalows and Restaurant. Not the most comfortable set up on hard wood and no padding. But then nobody seemed interested in charging us a rental fee, so we just accepted it for what it was.

On the beach in Cambodia.

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Our remaining time on Koh Tonsay was spent napping and listening to podcasts, with the occasional swim in between. Definitely a much needed change of pace from our usual program running around Kep.

Beautiful Rabbit Island in Cambodia

Rabbit Island, Cambodia.

Like this? Read more of my travel reports from Kep.

Or go further afield with my many articles from across Cambodia.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Little Miss Traveller

    Rabbit Island seems rather like a tropical paradise and definitely somewhere peaceful to sail away to. I wonder if it gets very many tourists in normal times? Have a good week Leighton!

    April 26, 2021 - 10:54 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Marion, Kep is a bit off the beaten track so doesn’t get anywhere near the kind of foot traffic that Koh Rong sees. That said, it wouldn’t take that many tourists to flood Rabbit Island’s tiny little beach. Glad I got to see it like this, a really special experience. Thanks for reading!

      April 26, 2021 - 10:59 am Reply
  • Emily

    Wow what a beautiful place. Wish I could transport myself there right now! ❤️

    April 26, 2021 - 12:02 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think many of us feel like that right now. Thanks for reading!

      April 26, 2021 - 5:49 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a day on a “deserted island” right about now. No need to socially distance on the boat ride over. No pier to worry about docking at. Hammocks. A private swim in the ocean. Heaven. By the way, loved the his and her photos. At least you had no need for “Wilson” the volleyball.

    April 26, 2021 - 2:40 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I was half expecting to see a Wilson on that hidden beach we found!

      April 26, 2021 - 5:51 pm Reply

    There were some double edged sword moments last year, weren’t there, when it came to dealing with the effects of the pandemic, worrying about it all, yet seeing places virtually alone which would normally have been thronged. It all played with the emotions didn’t it.

    April 26, 2021 - 3:08 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. Once it became clear that we couldn’t leave Cambodia and be anywhere together long term (travel/visa wise) there came a huge relief in deciding to stay. And gratefulness of course that we could remain together. Then, when we started to venture out again to explore, a palpable sense of guilt. But hey, no regrets. You just roll with the punches as best you can.

      April 26, 2021 - 4:51 pm Reply

        Absolutely. First time, we had to get out of Vietnam; second time, we decided to stay in Turkey until it wasn’t sensible to stay any longer. “Not sensible” turned out to be when Erdogan closed all the bars and restaurants….

        April 26, 2021 - 4:55 pm
      • Leighton

        Ha ha we also ended up Turkey hopping (18 days) on our way to Belgrade. Other than “wear a mask” there were zero restrictions.

        April 26, 2021 - 5:55 pm
  • Lookoom

    So isolated that nothing that happens in the world would seem to affect the island.

    April 26, 2021 - 3:50 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s definitely a bubble location that goes about its business regardless of what’s going on in the world. Including COVID by the looks of it. Business owners don’t seem interested in offering more facilities, improved technology etc. I guess there aren’t too many places like this left in the world.

      April 28, 2021 - 3:19 pm Reply
  • travelling_han

    It looks gorgeous….apart from the lunch!

    April 26, 2021 - 4:22 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Great island! Crap lunch! Thanks for reading Hannah.

      April 28, 2021 - 3:20 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    What a lovely place to find a respite from the going and doing of your travels.

    April 26, 2021 - 4:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers, it already seems so long ago. But actually just under a year, when any notion of a vaccine was still a long way off. How time flies.

      April 26, 2021 - 5:54 pm Reply
  • Travel with a Pen

    That’s a beautiful beach! I was surprised to read how much it cost for the private boat. I honestly anticipated that it would cost way more.

    April 26, 2021 - 4:45 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha thanks. Actually I think we could’ve negotiated it down, but you now, a fair price is a fair price. Thanks for reading.

      April 26, 2021 - 8:11 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    You found a perfect place for a bit of adventure and recharging your batteries.

    April 26, 2021 - 6:20 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You need these kinds of days sometime, right? Not the prettiest island I’ve seen, but still some welcome respite.

      April 26, 2021 - 10:29 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    Looks amazing! I’d love to be there now. Maggie

    April 26, 2021 - 6:55 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cambodia is in a state of lockdown right now. So I’m guessing it’s even quieter than when we visited! Thanks for reading Maggie.

      April 26, 2021 - 7:20 pm Reply
  • Nic

    A piece of heaven! It looks so nice (with the exception of Cranky Captain and Meh Lunch). Still, all worth it if you can get some rest and a nice swim in such clear waters!

    April 26, 2021 - 10:00 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Nic, yup not even crap food and a cranky captain could spoil this one. Thanks for reading!

      April 26, 2021 - 10:21 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    What the paradise it is! To have a private boat take you there for $20 is a solid steal; other places in the world would charge double, if not 5x that amount! I can imagine that a dip in the cool waters would be so refreshing for a blazing-hot day, and it looks to be a lovely, idle time away from the city!

    April 27, 2021 - 5:52 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Yup, a private boat tour to a tropical island looks very good to me right now on this rainy Belgrade morning!

      April 27, 2021 - 9:28 am Reply
  • elizawrites

    I’m completely envious of your photos. It looks so ideal.

    April 27, 2021 - 12:31 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and commenting Eliza!

      April 27, 2021 - 12:36 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    That’s not a bad price to pay for a private boat ride, even if it was with Captain Cranky. This looks like a lovely place to explore, even more so with none of the tourists around.

    April 27, 2021 - 1:03 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re right, the boat ride was a bit of a steal. Rabbit Island feels like a dream on this grey, rainy Belgrade afternoon. Thanks for reading!

      April 27, 2021 - 1:58 pm Reply
  • Pinned on Places

    Major travel envy going on here, Cambodia looks stunning and your posts/pictures are just unbelievable, you seem to capture the story well! 🙂

    April 28, 2021 - 11:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers! It’s strange to think I’m closing in on my final batch of Cambodia articles. I’ve been posting about Cambodia on and off for the better part of a year, just Phnom Penh to go now and I’m done. Thanks for reading!

      April 29, 2021 - 8:34 am Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    A lovely respite, would love to be there!

    May 2, 2021 - 4:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Ruth!

      May 2, 2021 - 4:37 pm Reply
  • BANDD Blogs

    Wow. Looks amazing. Loved reading that and Cambodia is definitely on our bucket list. I look forward to trawling through and reading more. Thank you

    May 8, 2021 - 2:06 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey, very much appreciate you reading, commenting and following. There’s a fair chunk of articles from across Siem Reap, Koh Ker, Battambang, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong, Kampot and Kep. And a string coming from Phnom Penh at some point next month. Hope this fuels your Cambodia wanderlust! Thanks again.

      May 8, 2021 - 8:33 am Reply
  • pam@ichoosethis

    I had heard the beaches in Cambodia were nice! thanks for the tour!

    May 11, 2021 - 2:50 pm Reply
  • Chocoviv

    That looks so beautiful!

    June 19, 2021 - 8:46 am Reply
    • Leighton

      A peaceful and somewhat underdeveloped off Cambodia’s southern coast. Thanks for reading!

      June 19, 2021 - 8:48 am Reply
      • Chocoviv

        Angkor wat still amazes me…. That’s when I was there over a decade ago…

        June 19, 2021 - 8:50 am
  • vip 1 nasıl olunur

    I love the sense of adventure in your writing. Rabbit island looks like alot of fun so cool that you went to find the isolated beach to hang out

    March 26, 2023 - 2:56 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks! Rabbit Island was indeed a bit of an adventure, I’m glad that we took the time to find that empty stretch of beach. Appreciate your comment 🙂

      March 26, 2023 - 4:13 pm Reply

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