When he heard he was going somewhere with a reputation as a Wild West frontier town, Dermott thought he was off to north America. He was in for one big surprise when his flight headed to Cambodia. Destination: Koh Kong in the country's south-west.
Until fairly recently, access to Koh Kong was extremely limited and its isolation made it a place of illegal logging, wild animal smuggling, banditry, gambling, prostitution and a soaring rate of HIV/AIDS.
The building of the Thai-Cambodian bridge across the Kah Bpow River, road upgrading, industry and investment have contributed to cleaning up the town and it is becoming a tourist destination. There are many traditional fishing communities which have remained untouched.
Koh Kong has a long, undeveloped coastline and a mountainous, forested and largely inaccessible interior embracing parts of the Cardamom Mountains and Kirirom National Park.
4Rivers Floating Lodge is a 15-minute boat ride from Tatai, next to the Thai border, halfway between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. The five-star eco-friendly resort is right in the middle of a jungle. Staff was carefully chosen from local regions.
Remote but accessible, getting to 4Rivers Floating Lodge is by boat. There are no roads and no neighbours just nature to enjoy in the very stylish 12-tended lodge, set on floating pontoons on the crook of the south-west Tatai River.
From the moment he set foot on the floating resort, Dermott said he felt an overwhelming sense of relaxation. Valantin Pawlik had just that in mind for his eco-friendly resort.
As they dangled a line, Valantin told Dermott they could pack up and move out without leaving the trace of a footprint. The countryside would be left the way they found it.
Exploring the area by kayak Dermott learned that because of years of civil war and other conflicts, the Koh Kong Conservation Area has pretty much been untouched. The waterway system is beautifully pristine.
One of a variety of outings is Time Travel Day. You cruise deep into the mangroves to Koh Sralao fishing village. Villagers are shy but welcoming. Men tend to their boats, women mend nets and children play games in narrow alleyways between the stilt houses.
A maze of small bridges and walkways connect neighbourhoods. People are predominantly Buddhist, with the exception of one Muslim section and everyone gets along famously.
Dermott's guide Francois Lamontagne purchased a crab with promises of enjoying it for dinner that night.
Cuisine at 4Rivers is prepared and cooked using produce from local markets. The restaurant is central to the lodge. Breakfast is continental, American or Asian and lunch and dinner fare changes daily. Most dishes are international or a twist on Cambodian favourites using seafood, chicken and beef, vegetables and fruits.
Other outings include visiting Tatai Waterfall. It's calm between October and April and a powerful jet at other times of year. There are guided tours to the Cardomom Mountains and nature spotting is fantastic. Rare Javan rhinoceros, cloud leopards, tigers and Asian elephants live in the mountains.
Gibbons, deer and wild pigs wander around the lodge and there is over 500 bird species, dragonflies, butterflies and other beautiful insects.
Koh Kong, Cambodia's most south-west province, 10 kilometres from the Thai border.
4Rivers Floating Lodge costs $148 per tent, including breakfast, boat transfers and use of aqua equipment. Day excursions on the Tatai River start at $23 per person. Lunch is provided.
For further information
4Rivers Floating Lodge
#313 Sisowath Quay
Hotel Cambodiana Office SW2
Ph: +855 2321 7374
Visa: Australians require a visa which can be issued electronically evisa.mfaic.gov.kh.
Electricity: 230V 50Hz. Three types of plugs are used, to take along an international plug.
Time zone: GMT+ 7 hours.
Currency: Riel, though the $US is preferred.
Telephone code: +855.
It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.