BY Lisa Lindblad
October 18, 2012
Song Saa is a glorious new property that has opened 30 minutes off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. Developed by a charming Australian couple with a stunning sense of style and social responsibility (the reach of their community projects is very moving), this is the place to wash off the dust of the Angkor sites and retreat from the hustle bustle of Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong – not to mention New York, Milan, London and Zurich.
There are 27 villas, all with private pools, some over water, some beach side, others nestled in the greenery of the fertile island. The stilted dining pavilion is connected by a bridge as is a second undeveloped island which beckons for yoga and meditation sessions, walks, bird watching, a quiet read.
The spa concept is appealingly unusual. The resident spa manager is an Ayurvedic master practitioner who, if requested, will consult with each guest at the outset of the stay to create a plan of daily therapies, menus and exercise. For others, the ad hoc massage can be had in any number of venues on the island – outside or indoors, as the spirit moves you.
The superb chef comes from a major hotel chain in the Maldives as does the onsite property manager who brings to the table valuable background in running an island resort.
Because of the huge Khmer staff – a large percentage of which comes from the community located on the nearby island – there is a real sense of cultural context. Additional cultural background is offered via guests from various fields of expertise who share their knowledge in informal talks and presentations.
In the end, it is the beauty, the quiet and the intelligence of Song Saa that is so appealing. To find a new resort with individuality – with its own vision – is hard to come by. Song Saa is the real deal.
She tangled with ghost nets and lost her flipper. The pain we cause to other creatures, through thoughtlessness and arrogance, is tragic.
When we travel, we expand our minds and open our hearts, breaking the unconscious rhythm of our daily lives. And when we become aware of the world around us, we are compelled to stop our foolish ways.When I was last in the Maldives, I visited Coco Palm, one of the islands in Baa Atoll. There is a resort here but, up a sandy path thick with tropical vegetation, is a one-room structure that sits next to seven large tanks shaded by tent-like tarps. The Olive Ridley Project and Coco Collection opened the Marine Turtle Rescue Centre in February 2017. It was all made possible by an official partnership formed between Coco Collection and ORP in 2015, as well as very generous donations from guests at Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu Resorts and other partners. The first fully-equipped marine turtle rescue centre in Maldives has laboratory and surgical facilities as well as a full-time resident turtle veterinarian, Dr Claire Lomas. The rescue centre can accommodate up to eight turtle patients at the time in seven tanks. Mohamed Didi, Chief Engineer at the Coco Collection, developed a fully-automated water-flow regulation system, which allows pre-programmed procedures for the tanks. When I visited the center and photographed Coco Chanel, above, who is missing one of her flippers but doing extremely well, another turtle arrived by the boat from the Four Seasons Landaa resort. She will be added to the turtle patients who are in various stages of recuperation, some doing better than others. Not only do the turtles lose their flippers - oftentimes more than one - but in dragging these tangled ghost net masses along with them, they tear their lungs which, ultimately, prevents them from being able to dive. Bouyancy becomes the killer. Dr. Claire, who had arrived only a few months prior to my visit, was hand carrying medicines from England in her luggage. She is not only the sole turtle vet, she tells me she is the only vet in the Maldives. She operates alone, a brave and capable woman.