The waters off Cambodia are shallow and warm, with many rivers bringing nutrients to the Gulf of Thailand and creating ideal conditions for coral reefs to prosper. Intense fishing pressures from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have reduced what were probably huge fish populations though there is still much to interest SCUBA divers. With average annual water temperatures of around 29.5°C there are no end to calm, shallow, well lit dive sites ideal for snorkelers, inexperienced divers and those who enjoy gentle reef dives and especially macro life photography. There are also deeper sites available further from land but with so much to look at just off the shore it’s certainly not a necessary trip to make.

Due to the shallow waters (diving is often no deeper than 10m), steady if gentle currents (easily swum against) and regular rain storms, visibility is generally not more than 10m and can be as low as a couple of meters when exploring sandy areas. Not that this is much of a problem as coral and nudibranchs don’t move fast, though you may be surprised by the occasional speedy sea urchin! The cloudy waters can sometimes even add to the atmosphere – we encountered 4 Cobia’s (large fish of a meter or so with a swimming style similar to sharks) that appeared out of the gloom coming straight for us before they vanished back in to the mists, reappearing silhouetted above us as they dashed through a school of small reef fish.

In just 2 weeks (11 dives) with Projects Abroad on the island of Koh Sdach I have been fortunate enough to find 12 different species of nudibranch/flatworms (6 on one dive!). That in itself should be enough to encourage many divers to venture in to these waters but there are plenty of beautiful corals, cowries, scorpionfish, anemones and reef fish to enjoy too.

With such shallow diving, it’s easy to fit in 2 dives of an hour or more in just half a day leaving plenty of time to relax. Having said that, Koh Sdach itself is very remote. There are 3 (very tasty) restaurants on the island and a beer will only set you back approximately US$0.5 but there is not much else to do barring walking through the island’s jungle or to the beach. Other diving areas of Cambodia may have more infrastructure nearby.

Around Koh Sdach and neighbouring islands the Projects Abroad team do regular DAD [Dive Against Debris] dives and while some sites do have a lot of rubbish (including many fishing net remains) any dive centre should have good knowledge of the clearest sites. Octopuses Garden are based on Koh Sdach and I can guarantee they can point you to some nudibranchs. I found 3 species just snorkeling around their hut!

Night dives are also great here as phosphorescence is always around to a greater or lesser degree. Turning off the torches for a bit and watching my bubbles create sparkles of light was my highlight from night diving, but scorpionfish are more easily found at night and plenty of crabs are scuttling around too. On a clear night with a bright moon in clear water it’s unlikely a torch would be needed at all for more experienced divers.

Our favourite dive here so far wasn’t expected to be anything special. More an exploratory dive over reef blocks and sand at around 9m depth and indeed much of it was nothing especially noteworthy over any other dive site. However, 2 different species of delicate nudibranch and Kathryn’s find of what we later discovered was an egg cowrie turned it in to a great dive. The last 15 minutes though were the best. A remora appeared from nowhere and decided it liked us, but couldn’t decide who or where was the most suitable spot for it to hang out. It even tried to burrow up the leg of Kathryn’s wetsuit! Fortunately our boat was nearby as the time to end the dive approached – the remora swam off to see what the noise was. Had the boat not distracted it, I think we’d have continued playing with the remora until our air ran out!

Cambodia offers some fantastic diving, though I would recommend divers check what amenities are available to ensure they’ll be comfortable. Some regions are far from common luxuries like mains water and arriving unaware and unprepared will only reduce the enjoyment of the trip.