With a glass of cheap local whisky loose in my hand, I’m deep in conversation with a group of travellers in Koh Rong, Cambodia, bundled up close to a flickering campfire. A mix of nationalities, some of the group I’ve known for weeks and some only a couple of hours, yet our mutual adoration of travel and adventure has bonded us instantly.
We’re all smiles, the conversation flowing effortlessly. I’m twenty-two years old and two months into an epic eight-month-long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Life is very good indeed and my new nomadic and unperturbed lifestyle is a welcome change after a difficult past year living in London.
We’re a short boat ride away from Koh Touch which is the main ‘strip’ of Koh Rong island if you can call it that, and earlier we’d decided to spend the night on Long Beach camping. I’d visited the beach in the day and it was the most beautiful I’d ever seen; all the clichés of a long stretch of white sand, still waters, and an unfamiliar quiet.
Now at around three am, there are only a handful of groups with the same idea as us. Each fire is sporadically set up across the beach, flames dancing wildly in the black.
‘Hey – it’s pretty dark out here, I bet we might be able to see some of the glowing plankton’ one of the English guys pipes up.
I stare at him nonchalantly. Swimming with glowing bioluminescent plankton was a travel dream of mine, and not one I’d expected to experience in Cambodia. It all sounded too good to be true.
‘No – surely not. Not here.’ I insist, dismissive.
Yet before I know it I’m plunging into the lukewarm waters, completely unconvinced but content with taking a spontaneous night time dip all the same.
Then it happens. With every delicate move of every limb, shimmering spots of cobalt twirl along, sparkling like fairy lights in the dark. It’s beautiful.
The chuckles from my new friends hum in my ears, but all I can focus on is the glitter dancing with me in the water and I’m laughing so very hard.
It dawns on me that I’m here, in the waters of Long Beach, the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m swimming with bio-luminescent plankton, something I’d only ever dreamed of doing. And at this moment, I’m happy, so very happy.
Did you enjoy this travel story? Read more of my wildlife encounters here.