Swimming With Sparkling Plankton on Koh Rong’s Long Beach

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If I haven’t already convinced you to visit the beautiful Cambodian island Koh Rong, you’ll be packing your bags after this post.

The Best Travel Day at Koh Rong's Long Beach

This winter I spent a few days in Cambodian island paradise, cut off from the internet, technology and sometimes electricity! On my last full day, my newfound friends and I decided to make the trek to Long Beach, a stunning white sand beach on the opposite side of the island.

We met in the late morning to grab cheap Vietnamese sandwiches for lunch. With our food packed and ready to go, we set out on the hike through the jungle to Long Beach.

Hiking Through the Jungle

The hike started out easy enough, but soon we were actually rock climbing through the jungle. By rock climbing, I mean lowering myself down steep rocky cliffs with a rope. Let’s just say tote bags and flip-flops are a bad idea. Had I known, I definitely would have brought a backpack.

To get a better idea, here’s a quick video:

That said, it was a pretty fun adventure, and the sweaty hike made it all the more sweet when we finally glimpsed the perfect beach.

Koh Rong Long Beach

Beautiful Long Beach

Long Beach: The Perfect Beach

Even in high season, Long Beach was practically empty! We had almost the whole beach to ourselves. Besides, the beach was huge, so if we wanted to get away from the fifteen other people we shared the beach with, a ten-minute walk would get us away from the non-existent crowd.

I stepped onto the soft white sand, so fine it crunched like snow under my feet. I’m not kidding! The only difference? I normally don’t traipse through the snow barefoot in a bikini.

Seriously, this was the best beach I visited on my whole Southeast Asia trip.

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Koh Rong Long Beach

GoPro selfie!

While the sand was great, I couldn’t help but run headfirst into the crystal blue water.

My friends and I spent the afternoon alternating between swimming and sunbathing. A few hours in, I decided to do some snorkeling with my GoPro in and amongst the rocks. It was my first time using my GoPro underwater, and part of me was really scared the waterproof casing wouldn’t work. Thankfully, my GoPro wasn’t ruined and I was able to take some fun underwater videos.

Koh Rong Long Beach

Best day ever!

Sea Urchin Attacks!

Unfortunately for me, about five minutes into my snorkel, a wave pushed me back into a rock, and my foot was attacked by a sea urchin! If you haven’t already read the whole story, it was pretty awful and resulted in me getting surgery on my foot to get the leftover pieces out back in China… oh and I got blood poisoning.

Despite this painful encounter, I was determined not to let a sea urchin spoil my day. Once the locals told me it wasn’t an emergency, I decided to wait until the evening to talk to the doctor. Who knew all I had to do was pee all over my foot and the spines would’ve come right out?

Lesson learned. Pee on everything.

That, and buy travel insurance.

Koh Rong Long Beach

This puppy joined us to watch the sunset

Spectacular Long Beach Sunsets

After an afternoon of swimming, sunbathing and sea urchin disasters, it was time to watch the sunset. Somehow over the last hour or so, the beach had filled with eager spectators. The sunsets on Koh Rong’s Long Beach are legendary, so I can understand why people would make the hike for a beautiful photo.

Coming from Seattle, not many sunsets rival ours in the summer. Koh Rong was the first time I had ever seen a sunset as beautiful as the ones I see from my porch at home (The second time was in Koh Tao!) 

After a spectacular sunset, my friends and I climbed aboard a boat to see the sparkling plankton! We had to wade out into the water with our bags over our heads to climb aboard. I was so scared I was going to drop my tote bag or my phone would fall out! I guess I should invest in a waterproof bag or at least a tote bag that closes shut.

Hanging out on the beach at sunset

Hanging out on the beach at sunset

Sparkling Plankton on Koh Rong

Once we got to the boat, we sailed around to the side of the island, where there were no lights aside from the stars. We waited until it was completely dark when the captain told us to jump in.

The group of us leapt into the water, which was pretty chilly at this point. But we didn’t mind when we saw the water glitter and sparkle as we waved our hands through the water.

The swimming amongst Koh Rong’s bioluminescent plankton can only be described as “magical”. I honestly felt like I was in James Cameron’s Avatar. The plankton reacts to movement and lights up when you swirl the water with your hands or feet. The longer we stayed, the more sparkly the water became!

Koh Rong Long Beach

Hop on one of these boats after sunset!

One of the best ideas we had was to test out my snorkeling mask underwater. We all took turns putting on the mask and spinning around in a spiral underwater. It was like a glittering sparkle tornado! If you go to Koh Rong, be sure to bring a mask and try this out for yourself. Everyone was really glad I brought mine!

The only downside? The plankton BITE you. Yeah, I’m not kidding. It feels like a little

Yeah, I’m not kidding. It feels like a little zap. But to be honest, the experience was so incredible, I didn’t even care! The bites got more and more intense until it got to the point where there was about one or two every second. At that point, the captain turned on his lights and called us all back on the boat. Noooo! Don’t make me!!

Koh Rong Long Beach

Don’t make me leave!

Back to the Koh Rong Main Beach

Once we were all aboard, we powered back to the main beach. While I was soaking wet and freezing, and my foot hurt like hell, I couldn’t wipe a smile off my face. Who swims in magical sparkling water (that bites you)? How is that even a thing?!

After a quick pit-stop at the doctor (who gave me horrible advice and told me to leave the sea urchin spines in my foot), I ran limped back to my bungalow room to take a quick shower and change for dinner.

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Koh Rong BBQ

Koh Rong Beach BBQ!

The group of us met again for a great final meal: BBQ on the beach! I ordered the pork belly and it was absolutely incredible! I was also really excited about the garlic bread, which I hadn’t had in who knows how long. The meal was absolutely fantastic, incredibly cheap for how authentic it was, and the restaurant even had a cheap happy hour!

Drinks in hand, we ended the night chatting, watching the waves lap the shore.

Koh Rong Long Beach sunset

Despite the sea urchin disaster, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect travel day.

Heading to Koh Rong? Be sure to read my Koh Rong island tips before you go!



About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

16 comments on “Swimming With Sparkling Plankton on Koh Rong’s Long Beach

  1. Pingback: That One Time A Sea Urchin Almost Killed Me - Adventures Around Asia

  2. Omg! It’s so weird that the plankton bite you!!! In Puerto Rico we have bioluminescent bays but the plankton definitely do not bite!!

    • Yeah I have no idea why, but the locals all knew what we were talking about when we asked. I didn’t know Puerto Rico had bioluminescent plankton. I want to go!!

  3. Hi, thnk so much for sharing ur experience. Which bungalow did u stay at? Do u recommend any bungalow? Where can i book a boat to watch plankton?

    • Hi Xuan, I actually found my bungalow by wandering around. It was in the village up the hill (I have no idea what the name was) and it’s owned by an Australian guy. I talk a little bit more about where I stayed in this post. To be honest there are tons of different options from dorms to crappy bungalows to really nice places, so you can just wander around and find something you like. As for the plankton, you can just find a man with a boat on Long Beach and he’ll take you with a group. Chances are, people will come right up to you and ask you so you don’t even really have to worry about it!

  4. Hi Richelle,
    Thank you very much for sharing. I’m planning for a trip to Koh Rong this month and of course your experience helps much. I’m confused about the Long Beach you mentioned. As I locate on the Google Maps, there is a beach named Long Set Beach on the south eastern of the island and on the other side (south western) is a very long beach named Sok San beach, these beaches are of the most beautiful beaches of Cambodia. So, I just wonder which one is the Long Beach you did mentioned. I booked for a bungalow in the Long Set Beach, on the same side with the Koh Rong harbour.
    Thanks again.

    • If it’s near the harbor, then that’s the main beach, not long beach. Long Beach actually doesn’t have much accommodation at all. When I was there only a few rustic bungalows existed, but I heard they’re building a resort over there. There is also only one place to get food. I would recommend staying on the main beach and then going to Long Beach for the day.

  5. Hi there,

    In regards to seeing the plankton on long beach, if your accomodation wasn’t on long beach, how did you get back to your accomodation on the main beach after you had seen the plankton at night? Did you trek through the jungle at night or does a boat take you back? Thanks!

  6. Hi Richelle,
    Just wondering how long the hike to Long Beach was? Planning on visiting Koh Rong and hiking to Long Beach in March.

    • Hey Megan! I think it took about an hour if I’m remembering correctly. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes (not flip flops) because at one point you have to kind of rock climb down a section. Also, a backpack is super helpful for that portion. But other than that, the hike isn’t too intense.

  7. Hi Richelle,

    We was at Long Beach few days ago, it’s really beautiful, but we didn’t hear about the plankton tour from long beach (usually only have on main beach – cost 5$). How much did you pay for that from Long beach and what time was it? I will be back to Koh Rong next month :)

    Thank you.

    • Hi Mai Anh Duy! I honestly don’t remember how much I paid, but I think it might’ve been something around $5-$7 for the plankton and the boat ride back (this was 2 years ago). You just have to ask the boats if they will stop to see the plankton. It was just after sunset that we left, so be sure to get there before sunset. Hope this helps!

  8. Hi Richelle,

    Great post! I was wondering why all the posts Ive encountered on koh rong’s bioluminescent plankton dont have pictures of it? Is it because of the flash? Also do you have recommendations on where I can stay if I want to be just far away enough from the party scene to be able to have a peaceful sleep yet not have to walk too far away (and safely) if i go and come back at night from there?

    • Hey Nadia, Great question! It has to be pitch black in order to see the plankton, which means there isn’t enough light in order for your camera to properly take a photo. You’ll just have to go and see it yourself! Granted, I’m sure google has some images that will somewhat do it justice. As for where to stay, I recommend going up the hill in the village. That way you’ll be away from the beach with all the music, and surrounded by locals and other guest houses. You’ll just have to worry about noisy chickens in the morning.

  9. Pingback: Koh Rong Cambodia: A Slice of Island Heaven - Adventures Around Asia

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