A white sandy beach lined by countless coconut trees awaits travellers off Cambodia’s southwest coast in Koh Kong province’s Srae Ambel district, about 170km from Phnom Penh.
Over the past few years Nesat beach – a name inspired by a nearby fishing village – has seen more and more tourists surge to its shores after its popularity surged through pictures of its glorious scenery emerging on social media.
“Recently, Nesat beach has seen a large number of tourists arrive due to social media. As Sihanoukville has become a major spot for Chinese tourists, Cambodians have started to look elsewhere for quieter beaches,” says Soeung Sopheap, a manager at a small, nameless resort sitting on the beach.
High costs as a result of increased demand in Sihanoukville have forced low and medium-income tourists to shift away from the town’s main beaches Ou Chheuteal, Independence, Otres, Prek Treng and Prek Chak.
Watching his three children playing on the beach from distance, 45-year-old So Vuthy says he came to Srae Ambel district after a friend recommended it.
“Hotels and guesthouses in Sihanoukville are very, very expensive. It really affects lower income people who want to stay there during the holidays,” he says.
His first visit to Nesat beach, Vuthy says he has travelled to almost all 25 provinces, but he believes Srae Ambel district has the potential to become the next hot tourist destination in the Kingdom. But he adds that with more tourists should come greater responsibility to maintaining its beauty.
“Nesat beach has a great scenic view and it has every potential to attract tourists,” Vuthy says. “For us as real tourists, we can’t accept other people littering their waste on the beach. Both visitors and resort owners are to be blamed. Resorts do not organise well, especially with installing rubbish bins.”
On national holidays the beach welcomes between 200 and 250 cars a day, while on the average weekend there are about 30 to 40 cars per day.
“It is an overwhelming number of tourists who visit the beach now compared to few years ago when we saw no more than 10 cars per day on average,” Sopheap tells The Post.
However, as the beach’s popularity is relatively new, it still lacks much of the infrastructure in terms of accommodation, food and even parking for people to stay overnight.
“This area is not developed yet. There is only one guesthouse under construction on the corner of the road. We also have a plan for new accommodation next year, but I don’t know the details yet,” Sopheap says.
To promote the tourism potential of Srae Ambel district, the department of provincial tourism has conducted training sessions for tourism promotion.
“We conducted a three-day training for communities about Asean hospitality. So in future, supported by relevant authorities, Nesat beach will become a registered resort,” says Chhun Sokhim, acting president of Koh Kong provincial tourism department.
“Our main potential is the 3.5km beach stretching along the sea, as well as the mangrove forest and seafood. Today we have two communitties in Srae Ambel - a fishing community and a natural protection community – who want to provide tourism services. If villages find out that tourism can be good for them, they will consider running a business like hotels, guesthouses or homestays,” he added.
However he says the demand must be there before anyone builds accomodation as “villagers cannot afford to build any high standard hotels and wait for their guests for years”.
Nesat beach is located in Chhouy Svay commune’s Nesat fishing village, Srae Ambel district, Koh Kong province 20km from National Road 48.