By Emily Martin
Responsible Tourism Cambodia – Song Saa Private Island
The “Responsible Tourism Cambodia” blog series is concentrating on high-quality businesses who are dedicated to their social responsibility in Cambodia. All of these businesses focus on responsible tourism and are supporters of Phare and our social mission.
Song Saa is a private island hideaway off the coast of Cambodia. Most of the islands in the Gulf of Thailand remain undeveloped and are covered in rainforests, tropical reefs and glistening white beaches.
‘Song Saa’ is Khmer for ‘The Sweethearts’ and if you’re looking for a place to escape the world for a few days, this is the place to lose yourself in nature. It’s Cambodia’s first private island luxury resort… but it’s also built on the foundations of the Song Saa Foundation and their dedication to conservation and community work.
“The Song Saa family is setting new standards for sustainable tourism in Cambodia, and we take great pride in fostering local talent and providing young Cambodians with world-class skills in a range of hospitality areas.” Says Wayne McCallum, executive director of the foundation.
The Song Saa Foundation was formally registered on the 4th of April 2013, however, many of its programmes were initiated before this – since the resort opened. The idea of a resort built with sustainability and responsible tourism in mind was started by Song Saa’s co-founders, Rory and Melita Hunter.
“When they first journeyed to the Koh Rong archipelago, in 2005, they took inspiration from the beauty of its islands and the smiles of its people… the programme conserves these values. They established the Archipelago’s first marine reserve and solid waste management centre.”
Soon after this new initiatives started developing and now they support and promote the development of not just their own piece of paradise but the sea, land and people around Koh Rong.
Education – At the forefront of the Foundation’s education endeavors is the ‘Boat of Hope’ project, which entails the conversion of a traditional Cambodian fishing boat into a mobile education and marine research centre. The Foundation’s youth education initiative, the Song Saa Sea Turtles, meanwhile, reaches out to the island’s young people, helping them to become the conservationists of the future.
Environment – With a legacy of pioneering marine reserve management in Cambodia, the Foundation continues to nurture and support endeavors to protect the archipelago’s unique ocean environments. Collaborating with local fisheries groups to promote the sustainable management of marine life and supporting the studies of Cambodian university students are just two ways that this is being achieved.
Community – The Foundation is exploring options to extend its solid waste management programme, while working alongside villagers to support new employment opportunities. At the hub of this work is the Sala Song Saa Sustainability Centre, which operates as a training and education facility. Organic gardening and fish farming are two of the innovative projects being trialed at the Centre.
Other initiatives include on-going English classes, yoga classes, training in community hygiene and welfare, as well as detailed vocational training.
“It makes good corporate and ethical sense. By investing in communities and the environment you are sustaining the social and physical capital upon which your investment is built. From an ethical sense it aligns with our beliefs, those of us who work for the Song Saa ‘family’ about how we should work and live in the world,” says Wayne McCallum.
“Through commitment we can ensure that the land and sea resources of the Koh Rong archipelago are sustained for future generations to enjoy.” Rory and Melita Hunter (co-founders of the resort and foundation)