I've been to Kep almost 10 times now while living in Cambodia. One feature of the landscape that always sticks out for me is a small island 8km off the coast. The island (Koh Karang) can be seen from the hillside or the sailing club on a clear day but most people don't even notice it. The island very much resembles the classic small sand bump with a single palm tree where pirates are cast off, thrown a bottle of rum, amd destined to sit for all eternity growing their beards long and eating coconuts.
For a couple years now, my friend Tim and I have been dreaming about marooning ourselves on this island for a night (a sliver of the real marooning experience of course). Finally this weekend the dream was to be made reality. Tim now has an inflatable kayak which can be worn like a backpack and transported relatively easy. This was the craft that we used to set off to the island this late friday afternoon.
The sea was calm when we departed the Kep shoreline and we made good time, averaging a few kilometres per hour. As we got closer and closer to the island we were shocked to realise that it was a lot larger than we had seen from shore. Closer still revealed quite a bit of activity on and around the island. When we finally docked just before nightfall, we noted the island was at least a couple hundred meters in diameter, with a couple small shacks and some small fishing camps. Also, at least 10 mysterious boats were docked on shore. Some people came to talk with us and we used the normal ignorant and naive foreigner story of accidently arriving on the island. Although suspicious, the island dwellers let us throw up our hammocks for the night. We saw some suspicious activity so we didn't ask too many questions.
The island is 1/3 of the way to the Vietnamese controlled island, Phu Quoc, so it would not be surprising that some illegal smuggling or fishing activities go on with the small island as one of the hubs. One activity Tim observed from previous boating in the area involved petrol smuggling where natural currents were used to float canisters of petrol from Vietnam to Cambodia where they finally rested in the bay of a small island near the popular tourist spot, Rabbit island.
All in all, our stay on the island was quite uneventful and we enjoyed hammock camping and cooking over a driftwood fire. The island was like a hub for pirates but relatively nice ones. The next morning, the wind picked up and the sea was so choppy it took us twice as long to get back to Kep shore (3+ hours)